World Science Day for Peace and Development

Established by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 2001, the World Science Day for Peace and Development (WSDPD) is celebrated on 10 November each year.

The purpose of the World Science Day for Peace and Development is to renew the national, as well as the international commitment to science for peace and development and to stress the responsible use of science for the benefit of society. The World Science Day for Peace and Development also aims at raising public awareness of the importance of science and to bridge the gap between science and societies.

The WSDPD’s objectives are :

  • To strengthen public awareness on the role of science for peaceful and sustainable societies
  • To promote national and international solidarity for a shared science between countries
  • To renew national and international commitment for the use of science for the benefit of societies
  • To draw attention to the challenges faced by science and raise support for the scientific endeavour

SADC Malaria Day 2018

Commemoration of Southern African Development Community (SADC) Malaria Day on 6 November every year aims to create awareness about malaria and mobilise the community to participate in the malaria control programmes.

Communities are mobilised through health education to:
– recognise signs and symptoms of malaria
– provide more home-based treatment
– seek treatment when they become ill
– use personal protective measure.

Facts about malaria
– Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female mosquitoes.
– About 3.2 billion people – almost half of the world’s population – are at risk of malaria.
– Young children, pregnant women and non-immune travellers from malaria-free areas are particularly vulnerable to the disease when they become infected.
– Malaria is preventable and curable, and increased efforts are dramatically reducing the malaria burden in many places.
– Sub-Saharan Africa carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden. In 2015, the region was home to 89% of malaria cases and 91% of malaria deaths.

The Heart of the Garden Route

The Heart of the Garden Route must be somewhere here among the lakes of Wilderness, hidden in the emerald green of the Goukamma valley or lurking in the waters of the lazy Knysna Lagoon. This is South Africa’s most popular holiday refuge, where pleasurable pursuits include paddling up the Touws River, trading softly through the Knysna forests in search of elephants, cruising serenely across the lagoon to the Knysna Heads, exploring the forest streams where gold was panned –  and where gold may still be found.

The name of the Kaaimans River, translated literally, would mean ‘cayman’ or ‘alligator’, suggesting that the river was once home to many crocodiles. The name is, however, more likely to be a corruption of Keeroms (turn around river). Three rivers join here, within just a few hundred metres of the coast – the Kaaimans River, the Swart River and one of its small tributaries – and each of the three runs through a steep-sided ravine. In the old days farmers and traders travelling by ox-wagon found it extremely difficult to cross the rivers, the Kaaimans in particular, and the track they followed twisted and turned around on itself many times – perhaps the origin of the unusual name.

Before reaching the sea the rivers form a small, romantic lagoon, notable for its unusually dark water and for the picturesque rocky walls of the narrow gorge that has formed where the Swart River twists away westwards from the Kaaimans. On the steep western bank of the lagoon there are several quaint holiday homes dating from the turn of the century, whose occupants still have to row across the water to reach their front doorsteps.

At the seaward end of the lagoon the opposing forces of outflowing river water and inflowing tides have formed an attractive sandy beach (scarcely visible as you drive past on the N2), and at the mouth there is a raised tail bridge, mounted on tall pylons, which carries the famed Outeniqua Choop-choo across the water twice a day on its round trip between George and Knysna. A short distance upstream there remains an old causeway, accessible from the N2, which crosses the Kaaimans just above the point where the Kaaimans and the Swart Rivers join. This leads to a small spit of land between the two rivers where members of the George Skiboat Club maintain a launch ramp under shady trees.

As you travel eastwards on the N2 you cross the Kaaimans on a broad, curving bridge, then you climb the coastal headland that forms the eastern bank of the lagoon. As you round the headland there are two parking areas alongside good view sites. Looking westwards from here you have a fine view down over the lagoon mouth and the rail bridge. Looking eastwards you are treated to a splendid vista: the holiday refuge of Wilderness, the Wilderness lakes in the distance, and along the coast as far as Walker Point.

Garden Route Lakes

South Africa can offer the traveler few vistas so serene and gentle as the view down from the coastal hills to the perfectly calm waters of Swartvlei, backed by rolling hills smothered in dark green pine forests, and with line after line of ever-higher hilltops stretching away into the hazy distance until the eye settles on the jagged blue-grey outline of the Outeniqua Mountains.

Swartvlei is the largest of a string of six lakes stretching for over 40 kilometres along the southern coast from Wilderness in the west to the Goukamma River valley in the east. From west to east they are the Touws River lagoon at Wilderness, Island Lake (also known as Lower Langvlei), Lanvlei, Rondevlei, Swartvlei and finally Groenvlei.

The lakes have existed in their present form only for some 2000 years, but they are a result of several million years geological vacillation, as the world swung back and forth between ice ages and interglacial warm spells. Each successive ice age saw a massive increase in the size of the polar icecaps, and as the water froze the level of the world’s oceans dropped dramatically. When the weather became warmer the ice melted and the level of the oceans rose again. Each movement of the sea built up a line of dunes along this stretch of coast, and the lakes were formed by various low-lying areas of land being blocked from the sea by the dunes. Langvlei, for example, is simply an inundated area caught between the dunes. Swartvlei is a drowned river valley. Rondvlei is thought to have been a shallow pan excavated by wind, which has gradually filled with water.

The lakes and the area surrounding them are now incorporated in the Wilderness National Lake Area, and the aim of the National Parks Board has been to zone the entire area in such a way that the goals of conservation and of holiday recreation are both adequately catered for, appealing not only to the nature lover and the conservationist but also to the angler, the board sailor and the yachtsman.

The Touws River lagoon and Island Lake have been set aside for predominantly recreational use. Langvlei and Rondevlei are zoned for wildlife conservation and together form the ‘conservation heart’ of the lake region. They offer an unspoiled world where coastal fynbos mixes with semi-aquatic reeds, sedges, rushes and water grasses, and they constitute one of thee richest refuges for waterfowl in the whole of South Africa: of the 95 species recorded throughout the country, 75 can be seen in this relatively tiny area. This is also one of the few places in the southern African region where both the marsh harrier and the grass owl are known to breed.

Swartvlei is not only the largest of the lakes but also the deepest – and many would judge it the most beautiful, having a distinctive grandeur of its own. Although the reed beds that fill the floodplain at its eastern end are zoned as a conservation area, the main body of the lake has been set aside for recreational use.

In some ways the most interesting of the lakes in Groenvlei. Several thousand years ago Groenvlei was linked to Swartvlei but the two were eventually separated by windblown sand. Groenvlei then converted gradually to a freshwater lake, the only one in the region. Algae growing in the freshwater environment give the lake a greenish tint – hence its name. It was formerly also known as Lake Pleasant. Another consequence of its being fresh water is that it has become home to a large population of the North American black bass, the prized quarry of local and visiting anglers.

At the western end of Groenvlei there is a stylish old hotel and a large holiday resort, both of which retain the old name of Lake Pleasant. Immediately behind the hotel you will find a gravel track that leads south over the coastal hills and that brings you after 4 kilometres to a small parking area overlooking a wild stretch of beach at Platbank – also known locally as Groenvlei Beach. Wooden steps lead down to the beach, which is especially popular with surf anglers.

The N2 runs along the crest of the huge dunes that separate most of the lakes from the sea, and it offers splendid views. But it is also possible to explore the region more intimately by following any of a network of mostly gravel roads leading among the lakes then climbing the forested hills behind them.

Bone Marrow Stem Cell Donation and Leukaemia Awareness Month 2018

Leukaemia is a group of bone marrow diseases involving an uncontrolled increase in white blood cells (leukocytes). There is around a 30% chance of a sibling being a bone marrow match, meaning that there is a 70% chance that someone will need a transplant from a non-related donor. Each year, 35 people in every million learn that they have leukaemia of whom five will be children.

As opposed to a few different blood types, there are millions of different types of cell tissue. The success of a patient’s transplant depends on finding a match, otherwise their body will reject it.

The Sunflower Fund was formed in 1999 to create awareness for the need of donors. It was formed by parents whose children had contracted leukaemia, and in some cases had lost their battle against it.

World Sight Day 2018

World Sight Day (WSD) is an annual day of awareness held on the second Thursday of October, to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment.

According to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB):

  • Approximately 285 million people worldwide live with low vision and blindness.
  • Of these, 39 million people are blind and 246 million have moderate or severe visual impairment.
  • 90% of blind people live in low-income countries.
  • 80% of visual impairment is avoidable, being readily treatable and/or preventable.
  • Restorations of sight, and blindness prevention strategies are among the most cost-effective interventions in healthcare.
  • The number of people blind from infectious causes has greatly decreased in the past 20 years.
  • An estimated 19 million children are visually impaired.
  • About 65 % of all people who are visually impaired are aged 50 and older, while this age group comprises only 20% of the world’s population.
  • Increasing elderly populations in many countries mean that more people will be at risk of age-related visual impairment.

Exploring the enchanted depths of the high forest

Stretching for 177 kilometres between the mountains and the sea, the high forest of the Garden Route is one of Southern Africa’s richest botanical treasures. Slanting shafts of sunlight lance down into magic glades where trunks of ancient hardwoods rise like cathedral columns. More than 80 kinds of trees grow here, from venerable giants soaring towards the sky to exquisite small shrubs with dazzling blossoms and haunting perfumes. Many of the trees produce valuable timber used in building, the making of furniture and craft work. Elephants, leopards, monkeys and many birds have their homes in the forest’s enchanted depths. It is a place of beauty, mystery and, for those who wish to delve deeply into its secrets, a place to learn.

The high forest of the Garden Route is the largest indigenous forest in Southern Africa. Originally it covered more than 110 000 hectares, but fires and the predations of man have reduced this to around 40 500 hectares. This area of naturally growing trees is greatly enlarged by softwood plantations of pine and gum trees.

The name “high forest” refers to the height of the trees rather than the altitude at which they grow. The giant among them is the common Yellow-Wood, which can reach up to 50 metres and live for 1 000 years. In several areas, the forestry department has constructed special paths which take visitors to particularly impressive specimens. One of the most famous is a Yellow-Wood known as King Edward’s Tree, which is 46 metres high with a girth of 9,5 metres and thought to be about 700 years old.

The timber of the common yellow-wood, hard and handsomely coloured, is much in demand for furniture. Selected trees are auctioned before being felled and carted away by the buyers. The hard, pale timber of a slightly smaller species, the real yellow-wood, is also highly prized.

Many a pioneering railway has been laid on the hard, durable sleepers produced from another forest giant, the Black Ironwood tree. Today, railway sleepers are usually made of concrete, but Ironwood is often used for flooring and veneers. In March, the blossoms of the ironwood spread a creamy canopy over the forest.

South Africa’s history also owes much to the Stinkwood tree. Its timber was used to build the trek wagons, surely among the toughest vehicles ever built. This tree takes its name from the characteristic pungent odour of the wood when it is first cut.

Some of the smaller trees, while not so highly valued for their timber, nonetheless enhance the beauty of the forest, displaying attractively coloured foliage and sweetly scented flowers. Among these are the Keurboom, with its fragrant pink blossoms, the Wild Pomegranate, with its clusters of red flowers, and the mauve-flowering Cape Chestnut.

One of the best places for exploring the forest is an area known as the Garden of Eden, 16 kilometres from Knysna along the trunk road on the way to Plettenberg Bay. There is a picnic site with paths branching into the deeper parts of the forest, and many typical tree species are identified by numbers. The Garden of Eden is also a favourite haunt of elephants.

Wild pigs and small forest antelope such as the Blue Duiker can also be seen.

Because of almost permanent dampness of the forest floor, however, most of the wild life consists of tree-dwelling species, including monkeys, leopards, tree hyraxes, snakes and birds.

Many varieties of ferns and creepers decorate the forest, and the Dale of Ferns, is a happy hunting ground for specialists in this field. For all its marvels, Southern Africa has always been short of rain and the regions where forests flourish are comparatively few. This makes the great forest of the Garden Route more precious – a place of rare wonder.

A walk through the leafy Wilderness

“In some places you see hill rising behind hill, like billows on the sea, each fainter in the distance, an each clothed with dark, glossy evergreen woods. In others, you have glens where lofty trees of giant growth, heavy with lichens, support their living roof of leaf-clad branches high overhead, whilst a tangled wilderness of underwood, itself composed of trees and tree-like creepers, fills the space between…”

So did the Duke of Edinburgh describe the Knysna forest during his visit to the region in 1867. Large tracts of this forest still exist within a few kilometres of Knysna, remaining virtually untouched by man. To walk through the depths of this forest is to all but lose yourself in a still, dark, grey-green world, the home of the last few Knysna elephants and of a wide assortment of birds, whose striking calls occasionally rupture the almost tangible silence.

To experience the forest at first hand, follow the 20 kilometre Elephant Walk from the Diepwalle Forestry Station – reached from the R339 towards Uniondale.

The full walk is divided into three great loops, each of more or less the same length, so you may, if you wish, undertake only one third of the full distance. The route leads past the giant King Edward VII Tree, a massive Outeniqua yellowwood, and takes in several picnic sites. Along the way you can appreciate the rich variety of species the forest contains – Cape Beech, Knobwood, Blackwood, White Pear, Bladdernut, White Stinkwood and tree Fuchsia. Although the odds against seeing an elephant are high, walkers have glimpsed them along this route.

A second, shorter trail, known as the Terblans Walk, leads through the Gouna forest several kilometres west of Diepwalle (reached by driving from Diepwalle along the side road known a Kom-se-pad). The walk, with a natural swimming pool en-route, is circular and only 6,5 kilometres long, but you could take a whole day to enjoy the forest at your leisure – and you are more likely to spot an elephant in this remoter part of the woods.

Knysna history – European settlement

The first Europeans arrived in the area in 1760, and the farm Melkhoutkraal (literally translating from Afrikaans as ‘milk wood kraal’) was established on the eastern shore of the Knysna Lagoon. Stephanus Terblans, the first European farmer to settle in the area, was given a loan permit to farm here in 1770.

Upon moving to Knysna George Rex, a British-born entrepreneur credited as being the founder of Knysna, acquired the loan rights to Melkhoutkraal in 1804 and later, in 1816, to the farm Welbedacht, which he renamed Eastford. He gave 80 acres (32 ha) of Eastford to the Colonial Government, on which the Royal Navy established the township of Melville. Rex’s properties were sold when he died in 1839.

In April 1817, the transport brig Emu, belonging to the Cape Town Dockyard, was the first European vessel to enter the Knysna heads. She struck a rock, now known as Emu Rock, and was holed. Her crew ran Emu ashore to prevent her sinking. In late April HMS Podargus arrived to render assistance. After surveying the area, Podargus sailed safely into the Knysna and retrieved Emu’s cargo.

The next major settler in Knysna was Captain Thomas Henry Duthie, who married Caroline, George Rex’s daughter, and bought a portion of the Uitzigt farm from his father-in-law which Rex had named Belvidere. The construction of a small Norman-style church was commissioned by Duthie on his property, and was consecrated in 1855. The settlement’s population grew slowly, and Englishmen such as Henry Barrington and Lt. Col. John Sutherland, who established the settlement of Newhaven on a portion of purchased land, settled in the area. At the time, Knysna was a field cornetcy of Plettenberg Bay within the Magisterial Division of George. In 1858, Knysna became a separate Magisterial Division, new stores and accommodation facilities were opened, and Knysna became the new commercial centre of the region.

On their way to New Zealand, the Thesen family who were travelling from Norway fancied the little hamlet of Knysna so much that they decided to stay, bringing with them their knowledge of commerce and sailing. Soon, timber was being exported to the Cape from the vast areas of forest surrounding Knysna, and a steam sawmill and small shipyard were established. Later, these were relocated to Paarden Island, later known as Thesen’s Island.

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Passes Route

The first gravel road linking George and Knysna was laid in the 1860’s along a rough wagon trail. The road remained the principal route between the towns until the trunk road was built after the Second World War. The modern road follows the coast, while the old road, known as the Passes Route, runs inland. It is a delightful 82 kilometre drive through lushly forested areas.

Where the route crosses the Swart River it rises to a pass through the forest, then winds from a plateau to the Kaaimans ‘crocodile’ River and the bridge over the Silver River. At Ginnesville a branch road leads to Wilderness. The ravine crossing of the Touws River (river of the ford) is another of the passes on the Passes Route.

After crossing the Kleinkeur River the old road reaches Woodville forest station. A permit can be obtained here to explore a circular drive to Bergplaats and Kleinplaat forestry stations.

The Passes Route again crosses the Swart River and climbs to a plateau beyond Karatara, where there is another forestry station. East of Karatara River, is Barrington, with the forestry reserve of Farleigh to its north.

The road now enters the forest of the Homtini Pass and winds to the bottom of the turbulent Homtini River gorge.

Beyond the eastern summit of the pass a turn-off leads to the abandoned gold town of Millwood.

The road forks again after passing the forestry settlement of Rheenendal and the left-hand gravel road leads through the Phantom Pass to a steep but easy road from which glorious views of the Knysna River valley can be seen.