Update

I’ve got some bleeding on my knee which has meant further tests and prodding in hospital today. I’m doing all I can to get myself sorted as soon as possible, but in the meantime it’s painful and debilitating.

So here’s something to just fill some space today.

Monochromatic barns from Caledon, taken about this time last year, before all this nonsense began.

Fingers crossed for a big improvement tomorrow.

6000.co.za on grida.no

Indeed.

While I was enjoying the hospitality of the local… er… hospital yesterday*, some of my recent photos of Theewaterskloof

…were being used (with permissions and credits, I hasten to add) on the website of Norwegian environmental NGO, GRID Arendal.

GRID-Arendal was established in 1989 to support environmentally sustainable development by working with UN Environment and other partners. We communicate environmental knowledge that strengthens management capacity and motivates decision-makers to act. We transform environmental data into credible, science-based information products, delivered through innovative communication tools and capacity building services.

Now you know.

 

GRID-Arendal have been doing a lot of work on water provision and sustainability across Africa, and this article (with my photos) details Cape Town’s current plight for their readers around the world.

As I mentioned earlier in the year, I’m also looking forward to having some of my snaps published in other publications this year (and some in a book due for publication in September 2019!).

 

* with apparently what should be a positive outcome [champagne bottle emoji] [I’ll keep you informed emoji].

A fire

I was heading back up towards the homestead from the magnificence of the Claremont CBD with the boy yesterday evening when we spotted some smoke (lots of smoke) billowing up from somewhere local. Well, we could have gone straight home, or we could have gone fire-chasing.

We went fire-chasing.

Since this had been a quick trip down to a local fitness centre, mostly populated by children, I hadn’t brought my camera with me. It’s just not the done thing. But that was a bit of a drawback when we inadvertently went fire-chasing. Still, I think my phone did ok, all things considered.

The fire was in Trovato Park, just above where the M3 goes over the top of Edinburgh Drive. There’s quite a population of homeless folk that live there, and the fire crews present were certainly of a mind that they were the cause of the blaze. It had taken on the dry grass and pine needles very quickly, and had leapt up the trunks of at least three of the trees in the park.

That said, it wasn’t much of a blaze and was already under control when we got there. The smoke was more of an “all mouth and no trousers” affair, although with the sun heading down over the mountain, it did allow for some nice shots through the trees, and prime Instagram fodder.

You can see my mini set of 9 very similar images* here.

 

* because of the nature of what I was ‘togging, it was rather difficult to get any other angles. I would have got burny feet syndrome. 

We went to Theewaterskloof

Theewaterskloof being the biggest dam supplying Cape Town with water.
And we weren’t alone. Because Drought Tourism is a thing.

Some TWK stats for you from Wikipedia:
Total capacity: 480 406 000 m³
(for lovers of comparisons, that’s about 15 times the size of Ladybower Reservoir in the UK)
Catchment area: 500 km²
Surface area: 5 059 ha

Of course, that’s what it should be like. It’s not like that at the moment.

Theewaterskloof is divided quite neatly into 2 halves by the R321 bridge.

Most of my photos (link below) were taken from near the red dot (just left of centre) on the map above. Those of the dam wall and associated infrastructure were taken near the green dot (bottom right).

And while there is still some water in the Eastern (lower) half, the Western (upper) half is one big – very big – sandpit. Of course, we knew this before we headed out there, but it was still a wholly shocking sight and nothing (including my photos, I fully admit) prepares you for – or allows you to grasp – the sheer scale of what you’re confronted with.

What you’re looking at here is the only water in the “top” half of the dam. The water is about 100m wide at its widest point, and that sounds ok, until you realise that the far side of the dam is over 5km away. Aside from that 100m strip, it’s all just sand. And laterally, there’s almost another 6km to the left that should also be covered in water. But there’s none. Nothing at all.

And everywhere you look, dead trees. Usually they’d be submerged, but they’re high, dry and seemingly petrified. It’s weird: very disconcerting, yet also strangely beautiful.
It’s like every photo you’ve seen from the Namibian Tourist Board.

I’m not going to be like that “vlogger” and tell you how much water we’re “losing” through the outflow from the dam wall, and how the coffee and chocolate farmers of the region are “stealing” “Cape Town’s water”.
I’m not going to ask you how much water you’re using: if you’re in Cape Town, you should know that already, and if you’re not in Cape Town, then it really doesn’t matter to me.
And I’m not expecting my photos or words to effect any change in anyone. If you’re not panicking even just a little bit by now, too few blue pixels on a computer screen aren’t going to make any difference to you.

But even for a realist like me, it was a very sobering sight.

On a more practical note, photography was incredibly difficult. The light was completely overwhelming, there was nowhere high nearby to get a decent vantage point, and what should have been water is now just a wide open space with no landmarks to get any sort of scale or perspective.
Even the Mavic up at 120m struggled to take it all in. No wonder NASA used a satellite.

Theewaterskloof is very, very big, and it’s very, very empty.
Consequently, it’s my humble opinion that we should all be very, very worried.

Photos on Flickr here. Video to follow.
And hey, if you’re the guy who chatted to me on the dam wall this afternoon and asked where he could see my drone photos, you made it. Welcome!

Photos

I’m not quite sure what’s going on this year, but I’ve already had requests to use my photos from National Geographic Kids, several from Adobe Stock, and now one from a heritage magazine in the UK. Not of these pay well (indeed, some of them don’t pay at all), but money isn’t everything, right?

Of course, if I were even close to being any sort of professional photographer, money would be everything, and I might feel rather differently.

But since I’m (far from) being anywhere near professional, I’m just chuffed to get a bit of recognition.