Category Archives: Cape Town

Through the Looking Glass

Through the Looking Glass 1

This is an untouched photo. So what is it, if I haven’t been playing around post production?

Well, it’s a very rare phenomenon. Something we don’t see that often here in Cape Town. Something we thought we might never see again!

RAIN!

Specifically, it’s a close up of my window with rain running down the outside of the pane and the poinsettia in the garden in the background.

Through the Looking Glass 2

Here is a view of the syringa tree.

Of course, you would have guessed sooner if, instead of a nod to Lewis Carroll and Alice, I had gone with my alternative title: Looking Through the Glass!

Yes, we got good rains on Wednesday; one centimetre. Heavy enough to soak the garden and even raise the level of my pool a little.

Hooray!

Through the Looking Glass 3

Above is Window Pane Art!

Little Monkey didn’t know quite what to make of it. She kept wanting to go outside, as she normally does all day long, but stopped two steps out on the stoep, hanging her head and blinking her little eyes as the heavy rain drops spattered down on her. She turned round and came straight back in again!

More rain is forecast for next week. I wait with anticipation to see if any of this will finally raise the level of the dams. The total amount today stands at 20.6%. 

I have never watched the weather so much my whole life as I do now. Several times a day I check the Norwegian weather site’s ten day forecast, in the hope that rain for Cape Town has miraculously appeared there.

Through the Looking Glass 4

Many of you in the North may think the above photo is such a dreary outlook; I’m sure you are all heartily sick of your cold, wet or snowy winter. For me, it was a sight for sore eyes. I couldn’t stop looking outside, or standing at the open door and enjoying the freshness.

I’m also happy to report that it rained without my having to resort to doing a Rain Dance in a grass skirt, as suggested by one of my fellow bloggers. (Thank you Mitza!) Though I think another blogger may have Rain Danced on my behalf. (Probably not in a grass skirt!) (Thank you Scooj.)

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GOBBET

Here’s an extra little bit of information for you. We had fires raging in Cape Town a few days ago. The first I knew was the acrid smoke I could smell right here in my house. (Quick check to see there was nothing burning in the house!) It made my eyes sting and water, and stuck in the back of my throat making me cough. Being asthmatic, I may overreact to any air pollution, but still, it was bad. Looking outside, you could see that distinct yellow tinge to what looked like clouds, but was actually smoke.

One of the fires started at Skeleton Gorge above Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. At first it was thought that it was arson. Sadly a lot of fires are started this way.

However, further investigation revealed that this particular fire had natural causes; a massive rock fall. Apparently some large boulders had come loose and crashed down the mountainside, causing sparks as they hit other rocks. This was enough to ignite the bone-dry grasses and veld. Fire!

The firefighters are amazing and quickly extinguished that fire, only to have it flare up again and again over the next few days as it spread to other areas.

So the good rains on Wednesday were very welcome. Hopefully they have put out the fires for good now.

We live miles away from those fires and it was bad enough here; I can only imagine how horrible it was for the people living right there and the poor firefighters themselves.

I am surprised we have not had more fires, with our hot temperatures and the vegetation so dry from the drought. Hopefully we will get even more rain now as we head into winter and our rainy season.

But if any of you wish to perform a Rain Dance on our behalf, please feel free!

 

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Autumn’s First Gold

Vine Leaf Autumn Gold

 

Haiku 51

Catching golden sun

Tucked in lavender for fun

Has Autumn begun?

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I found a few golden vine leaves caught in my dried up lavender. The morning sun was just starting to illuminate them with its warming rays.

Autumn in the Cape is a beautiful, albeit short, season.

Temperatures start to drop now. I may have to dust off a jersey!

 

Preparing for Winter

Little Monkey and Hair!

Little Monkey is shedding again; getting her new winter coat.

Judging by the amount of hair coming off her at the moment, I guess it’s going to be a cold winter.

Are you thinking snow blizzards and Beasts from the West (our weather comes from the south west) like the UK has had recently?

Unlikely. Here in Cape Town it rarely goes below nine degrees – centigrade!

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post script: Yes I know many of you will have shaggier dogs that moult way more, but this is still a noteworthy amount of hair from one brushing of a short-haired dog with no undercoat in a hot country!

Also, I love that she has her little front teeth! She is my only rescue dog to have good teeth like this. All the others had worn their teeth down to the bone by chewing; perhaps on wire cages, chains or stones. Those dogs would also have had poor diets most of their life and therefore worse teeth to start with. 

Little Monkey is lucky. Even if she did come from a rescue centre, she has never been on the streets fending for herself.

 

Contemplation

Little Monkey

Little Monkey contemplates the small amount of rain water that collected in our homemade rain gauge last week.

“Seriously? Is that all the rain we got?”

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I love how intent her gaze is. I was so interested in taking photos of the cut-off plastic bottle, I guess she thought it must be worth further investigation.

It didn’t look like food, but who knows?

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If you can’t see the line in the gauge, it’s below the 20 mark. We got about 1.5 mm.

 

Day Zero

Where’s All the Water?

Day Zero

The day they turn off the taps in Cape Town.

The photo shows Sparky the squirrel looking in my pool, wondering where all the water has gone. The top white line shows where the water used to be and the bottom line where it is now.

You might have heard about Day Zero in the international news lately.

Actually, our drought has been going on for the last three years, caused by below average rainfall in our winter months of June and July.

People cite bad planning and foresight and an increased population. However, although the population of CT has increased over the years, the water consumption has not. The main reason for the drought is hotter temperatures than usual and three bad winter rainfalls.

Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate with winter rainfall. Normally enough rain falls over those winter months to fill our many large dams and supply the whole of the Cape Town area with plenty of drinking water to last right through the long dry summer months.

Dam Levels over the Years

This has not happened for the last three years. The dams have not filled after the winter rains. In fact, last year, 2017, our dam levels got as low as 19% before we finally got some rain. It just wasn’t enough rain.

The dams are currently at a total capacity of 24.6%. When the level reaches 13.5% they turn off the taps.

The last 10% of water in the dams is very difficult to use. Basically it’s just sludge. So before they reach this, they turn off the taps at 13.5 %.

Dam Levels

They won’t turn off the taps for essential services, such as hospitals, or for the townships and the CBD.

This leaves a few % left in the dams for the above uses and also for manual distribution where you queue for your own personal ration.

So you, and the other 4 million Capetonians, will have to queue every day, at one of the 200 odd distribution points that will be set up around the city, for your 25 litre ration of drinking water

This is Day Zero.

Day Zero is a prediction that changes depending on how much water is used each week and whether it rains. It was as close as 12 April at one point.

It has very recently been pushed back by a few weeks because farmers at Grabouw released 10 billion litres of water stored in their own private dams to the CT dam system.

The estimate I most trust is currently at 30 April.

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Most Capetonians are doing their very best to try to avoid Day Zero. Our daily allowance of water was 87 litres per person per day. This has been further reduced to 50 litres per person per day. When the taps are turned off you will be allowed just 25 litres per person per day, which you will have to go and queue for. Any pets you may have will have to share your ration.

You are not allowed to water your garden, wash your car, top up your swimming pool, or waste water in any way. There are serious fines for doing so. This is why my pool is so empty in the squirrel photo.

It is up to each individual to reduce their water consumption as much as possible right now and the majority of us are doing just that.

How?

By re-using water as much as possible.

Grey Water 

This is water previously used, for washing etc and then re-used to flush toilets or water plants. Bore hole water is also Grey Water. It is not clean enough to drink.

How to reduce water consumption.

Take a 90 second shower, fitted with a special shower head, and with a bucket in the shower to catch water. Or take a bath in only a bucket or two of water and keep the plug in. Then you can scoop out every last drop of bath water. This Grey Water can be used to flush the toilet.

Wash dishes once a day in a small amount of water.

Wash clothes once or twice a week on the shortest cycle. I have a sink that my washing machine empties into. I put the plug in and scoop all that Grey Water out to re-use too.

If the water is not too soapy you can put it on your plants. Otherwise, you can pour it down your loos and never have to actually flush again.

In toilets in shopping centres they have turned off the water in the taps and replaced the soap in the dispenser with hand sanitiser.

At many restaurants they also have hand sanitiser out for use instead of soap and water. They also limit the amount of water they bring to you. This is a hot country and many posher restaurants would serve you a tall glass of ice water when you sat down.

There are signs up at the airport when you arrive in Cape Town, alerting you to the drought and asking you to save water.

Most hotels also encourage you to save water by taking a short shower.

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What is CT doing about the drought?

The Cape Town government website has a lot of information and other links to click on. This is where I got the above graphs from.

There are several projects being developed, such as desalination plants, recycling, finding ground water, but none of these is finished yet.

The following clips are about 5 minutes long and will give you an idea of what is really going on here and not just the news stories.

CT water crisis.

What’s the government doing?

Watch a little for the CT accent if nothing else!

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What do I think of Day Zero?

I think we’ll run out of water towards the end of April; maybe mid-May if we’re lucky. I think we’ll have at least a month with no water in the taps, before it rains and the dams start to fill  up. Sometime after this, like next year, I think the desalination plants will start to come on line. So hopefully we won’t go through all this again next summer.

I think Capetonians will rise to the challenge and adapt, with a sense of humour. If there’s nothing you can do about it, then just make the most of it. Here is your chance to learn a new language, or finally start that book you’ve always been meaning to read (War and Peace?), while you stand for hours on end every day in the water queue!

Or if there is no water, drink your vodka neat – no ice cubes! (Every bit helps!)

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post script: This post took me many, many hours to write, with 27 revisions. Several of my readers have been asking about the drought, so I hope I have answered most questions.

 

Oh I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside

Beside the Sea 1

And you can’t get much closer than this!

Beside the Sea 2

This is the view from a parking lot in Kalk Bay, Cape Town. The railway runs right along the coast from Muizenberg to Simonstown. A scenic commute.

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post script: I found an ancient recording of Basil Rathbone singing I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside, from Sherlock Holmes, 1939. Enjoy!

 

Sunday Musings #117

I wonder if clouds ever look down on us and say, “Hey look, that one is shaped like an idiot!”

– Unknown

 

I’m thinking of clouds and rain as the drought continues here in Cape Town.

It’s not surprising really, as our rainy season is winter; June/July. Any rain we get before that is a Godsend.

As to idiots . . . Let’s not go there!