Discussions about total failure of power grid in South Africa…Very concerning…Baboons in the garden…

Baboons always have scowls on their faces. Not pretty animals.

Yesterday, the following article popped up on my phone. After reading this, we both wondered, as we have in the past, if there was a total blackout in South Africa and how it would impact us. Our biggest concern would be figuring out a way to leave the country when most likely, the airports would be closed, especially if we couldn’t be online to conduct research for possible flights.

Of course, we could make ourselves stressed by worrying about this possibility, but we have decided to go about our lives, knowing that we’ll be leaving in five months. No doubt, we’d be concerned for the friends we’ll have left behind and how they will function in such a dire situation. It’s beyond our comprehension.

There’s always hope on the horizon, as described in the article below from this site (text copied verbatim):

US Government warning about Eskom — time to think about total grid collapse

The United States Government has advised its stakeholders in South Africa to start thinking about disaster management plans for a total collapse of Eskom’s power grid.

Although a blackout remains unlikely, the risk has increased due to how unreliable Eskom’s coal fleet has become. This is evident by the higher levels of load-shedding South Africa is experiencing. The consequences of a total blackout would also be devastating, making it worth preparing for even if the likelihood is low. The US Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) convened a meeting with stakeholders last week to discuss business security concerns surrounding Eskom and load-shedding.

Representatives from several large US-based corporations with operations in South Africa and large local companies participated in the meeting. MyBroadband has viewed a recording of the meeting. After speaking to one of the participants, we learned they were all asked to agree to the Chatham House Rule.

It should be noted MyBroadband was not a party to the agreement. However, we chose not to identify any participants by name to avoid them being punished for speaking their minds. A US Government minerals and energy expert focusing on South Africa said that they are still not very worried about a total blackout.

He was looking for a place to get into some mischief!

“I have a lot of faith in Eskom System Operators. I think they really know what they’re doing,” they said.

“But when you start to get this level of load-shedding, and the amount of power plants that are tripping, I think it’s something we need to start thinking about.”

They said that although a total blackout presents several dangers, the primary threat is the time it takes to bring a system back up from that total collapse.

“Eskom estimates, in the best case scenario, it would take 6–14 days to restart the power grid,” the official said.

South Africa’s grid topology makes a “black start” like this challenging because it’s so spread out and because Eskom is in a power island.

“There are a few feeder lines from other countries, but not enough to help with a black start situation,” the US Government official said.

“To start one unit at Medupi would require a 60-megawatt generator. It’s massive power to get a Medupi unit started.”

Citing an Eskom presentation, they said the power utility believes there would be looting and civil unrest if the grid collapses. They quoted an unnamed individual as saying, “What’s left after a blackout would be what was left after a civil war.”

The official emphasised that Eskom was talking about the ruinous consequences of a blackout to illustrate why load-shedding is critical. Eskom has repeatedly explained that load-shedding is necessary precisely to prevent a total collapse of the grid. Gauteng residents may have an advantage over the rest of the country due to the density of the electricity network in the province. However, the US Government official said Eskom would not confirm how long it would take to bring Pretoria back online after a blackout.

Eskom has publicly stated that it would have to restart the system in islands, beginning with the interior network.

“I think our power in Gauteng would come back faster, but that’s just supposition,” the official said.

Constantly on the lookout for food and being very strong, they’ll overturn and destroy anything they think may provide an opportunity

Network outages, water shortages

Major considerations for organisations developing blackout plans is the eventual failure of South Africa’s telecommunications networks, and water and fuel shortages. The official said Eskom told them in 2021 that mobile sites would be available for 2–4 hours, and to expect telecommunications backbone failure within 8 hours. They acknowledged that this information was old and the backup power situation had likely improved since then.

Based on feedback MyBroadband has received from South Africa’s network operators, fibre networks will be able to operate for some time, provided that data centres and Internet exchange points can remain powered. However, batteries at cellular sites will start running empty after 4–6 hours, severely impacting mobile communications in South Africa.

This baboon didn’t find any opportunities for destruction in our garden.

“Water reserves would be severely impacted. There would be no sewage pumps,” the US Government official warned.

“Data centres and power stations could run out of water.”

While there are 48-hour water guidelines for municipalities, they don’t all have them.

“Liquid fuel would be a challenge for everybody. Eskom would [also] have a hard time getting liquid fuel to their [open-cycle gas turbines],” they said.

All they had done was leave several pits from marula trees and other fruits on the veranda.

The US Government warned attendees that they would be unable to rely on South Africa’s national security structures as they would be stretched too thin. One attendee from a major South African financial institution added to this, saying that any disaster management plan could not rely on the government at all.

“If any mitigation plan has any reliance on the state, you’ve got a very poor mitigation strategy in place,” they said.

All of us here in South Africa continue with a high level of frustration over the ongoing power outages. Right now, as I write this, the power is out, and it’s not during a period of scheduled load-shedding. An outage isn’t scheduled until 1:00 pm, 1300 hrs. After researching online, it appears there is a problem at the “Main sub in Komati. Eskom locals on site, waiting for Eskom people from Nelspruit to assist.”

It could be hours before we have any power today.  Since we got the new clothes dryer over a week ago, we’ve yet to have a single load that can dry fully. We’re back to hanging clothes on the rack. TIA. Life in the bush.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 21, 2022:

Last night, Tom spotted the porcupine at the edge of the veranda. We were shocked when it didn’t run away when we opened the door and the screen, allowing me to take these three photos. What a thrill! For more photos, please click here.

Bumpy roads, baboons, and broken baked clay…

We shot this photo of the Crocodile River while standing at the brick overlook. With the five-day May Day holiday and many tourists in the park, we won’t be returning for several days. 

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Happy caterpillar dancing across the floor!

The five-day holiday observation includes today’s Freedom Day (Freedom Day is a public holiday in South Africa celebrated on April 27th each year. It celebrates freedom and commemorates the first post-apartheid elections held in 1994), then the May Day celebrations begin. See this link for details.

Once again, Marloth Park is packed. All of Louise and Danie’s holiday rentals are booked (not unusual for their exceptional properties. There’s an endless stream of vehicles along our ordinarily quiet dirt road, and the shops and restaurants will be packed over the weekend until Tuesday when the festivities come to an end.

Yesterday, we didn’t see any wildlife along the Crocodile River, although the scenery is always stunning.

With company coming for dinner tomorrow evening (friends Kathy and Don), we plan to stay put over the next several days. We have plenty of food, drinks, and supplies on hand and a plan to make a great dinner not only tomorrow but for the remaining evenings as well.

With the post done and uploaded yesterday around noon, we decided to take one more bumpy drive on the dirt roads in Marloth Park to see if we’d discover any unique sightings.  Whether it’s a turtle or a lizard on the road, a parade of elephants along the river, or a bloat of hippos lounging in a pool of water, it all matters to us.

We didn’t see much wildlife on yesterday’s drive in the park.  This ostrich made the day!

As we drove over one outrageously bumpy road after another, seeing very little, which can be attributed to the increased traffic in the park, we decided to call it a day and head to Daisy’s Den for more birdseed and a few items we needed for the weekend.

Male ostriches typically have black feathers, while females and youngsters are a greyish brown color.

It’s such fun going to any one of the three small shopping centers here in Marloth Park. Talk about a small-town feel! These are oozing with charm and quaintness, leaving both of us enjoying any necessary shopping runs we may make throughout the week to fill in on any items needed.

The pickings are slim in either of the two little grocery stores carrying just the basics. At times, we’re surprised by the excellent produce and odds and ends we may find that prevent us from the necessity of the long drive to Komatipoort for only an item or two. 

A male kudu resting in the bush from the hot midday sun was looking our way as we shot this photo.

The drive to the Marloth Park shops is three minutes. The purpose to Komatipoort is 20 to 25 minutes, depending on what big trucks we’re stuck behind on the two-lane road. 

Back at home by 2:00 pm, the moment we stepped out of the little blue car we realized we had visitors…unwanted visitors…a troop of baboons. Luckily, there isn’t much they can destroy on the veranda at this house. Sure, they could ruin the cushions on the outdoor chairs, but the potted plants are simply too heavy to tip over.

At a distance, we could see these two young baboons playing in the yard.

There are some decorator items on the stucco walls and both a gas grill and wood-burning braai (grill), neither of which seem to appeal to baboons on one of their destructive rants.  Weeks ago, we knew they’d been here when we found poop, baboon poop, all over the veranda and cushions from a few chairs tossed about.  We cleaned up the stinky mess and put everything back in order.

As we kept a watchful eye on yesterday baboon invasion after closing the doors to the house, we heard several loud crashes coming from next door. Maybe they were heading our way next! Tom grabbed his big stick designated for precisely this type of situation, which if he holds over his head cause the baboons tend to freak out and run away. It worked perfectly. 

We immediately shut the doors to the house.  Once baboons enter, they can tear a home apart.

After we were assured they were gone from the general area, Tom walked next door to check out the damage, taking these photos we’ve shown.  If they’d turned over a trash bin, he could set it upright to avoid more baboons and Vervet monkeys coming to eat from the garbage which often occurs. That’s why homeowners have wired or steel cages to hold their trash until pickup arrives.

It didn’t take long to see we were surrounded by destructive animals.

Luckily, they never returned the remainder of the day. We spent the evening as usual, on the veranda enjoying our dinner and watching a variety of “friends” come and go.

We heard several loud crashes from the house next door, where no one is living right now. Rina and Cees had left to return to The Netherlands. The baboons broke many clay pots, as shown in these photos.

Tomorrow, we’ll share the heartfelt story of an injured animal we’ve come to know and love and how we’ve attempted to help him a little as he hopefully recovers soon. 

We’ll be sharing some hard-to-look-at photos of his awful injury and why some animals in the park are treated by volunteer vets and others are not or in some cases euthanized by shooting. Please stop back for this story.

What a shame. I suppose this lighter-weight pottery makes no sense in the bush.

Have a lovely day and evening!

Photo from one year ago today, April 27, 2017:

Clouds above the pretty beach in the Isle of Pines, a port of call on last year’s cruise. For more photos, please click here.

First time visitors….We were surrounded…Tom carries a big stick…Caution is advised and exercised…

While this “infant” baboon was perched in a tree checking us out, her/his parents were busy making themselves at home in our yard.

A few days ago while on a walk in the neighborhood, a baboon crossed our path, holding up its “arm” as if injured and with a huge bloody looking injury to his torso. Concerned that he could be dangerous in this injured state, we contact Louise. She, in turn, contacted the Marloth Park game warden with the hopes that they could locate this baboon to handle the situation as necessary.

We saw him in the single-file line as they made their way toward us. Obviously, he is the dominant male again as shown below.
He sat on watch duty the entire time they were here staying in this general area. If a 6 foot tall, 1.83 meters, human sat next to him, they’d have been of equal height. As with humans, baboon males also have nipples.

We’ve yet to hear if the baboon was located.  On Friday night while dining at Jabula Lodge, owner Leon (he and his wife Dawn are our new friends) explained how we must protect ourselves from dangerous animals in the wild. 
Leon explained it was imperative to do the following:
1.  Don’t run.  Back up slowly to safety.
2.  Try not to show fear.
3.  Wave and hold your arms over your head to appear larger.
4.  Do not leave any animal “cornered.”  Back away slowly to provide an easily accessible path for the animal to take.
5.  If possible, keep a large stick or branch handy at all times, especially when walking, if an injured animal is in the area.
6.  Never, in vulnerable situations, (walking in the bush, during bush drives, lounging or working outdoors) allow ourself to become complacent, failing to stay on alert.

They wandered about the yard looking for a shady spot to relax.
Some nibbled at vegetation in the yard determining if our greens were more appealing than other locations.

Yesterday, Tom removed the thick wooden handle from the pool net and now we’re equipped. From that point on, he’s kept that handle within easy reach at all times when we’re outdoors.

Scratch that itch!
Baboons can mate throughout the year. The notoriously red butts are an indication of mating readiness in the female and an attractive point for the male.  Although it looks inflamed and painful, it has few nerve endings and is not a sign of infection or discomfort.

The first indication of the arrival of the baboons was a loud sound on the roof above our heads. Very loud. Tom grabbed the big stick (thanks Leon!) as a giant male baboon stood 15 feet, 4.6 meters from us on the carport roof as he swung down from the roof. Without a doubt, he was here to check us out and to see if we had any possible food sources. 

Infant looking at mom for guidance.
Although this photo could be construed as kissing, in reality, the smaller one is grooming the face of the larger female.

He was huge and intimidating. Tom stood up, holding the 8 foot, 2.4-meter stick, waving it in the air and yelling.  I grabbed for the camera knowing Tom would cover my back. But, the adventure had just begun.

This other male watched the activities while sitting at the edge of the swimming pool.

The huge baboon, startled by our display of dominance, took off running toward the back of the house, the opposite side of the veranda to join the remainder of the large troop of baboons surrounding us. There were dozens of them, following along a worn-by-the-animals path that makes its way around most of the grounds.

Our resident zebra hung around while the baboons visited.
Grooming and babysitting continue.

Through the trees and bush, we could see the single procession of one baboon after another of varying sizes, walk along the path, making their way into the yard. The dominating males were clearly evident.

Picking on a hangnail, perhaps?

No less than a dozen made their way into plain view of us, parking themselves in comfortable spots with a clear view of us and then, much to our surprise, proceeded to entertain us with their usual antics and interaction with one another.

This photo further illustrates the enormous size of the dominant male.  This female to his left appeared to be a similar size of the other full-grown adults.

Although Tom kept the stick in his hand, there was no further need to wave it or show dominance. No more than a minute or two after they got themselves situated, a single zebra appeared, parking himself near the veranda.  In a funny way, we almost felt as is he was here to protect us although neither the baboons nor the zebra appeared threatened by one another.

Infant in the tree while mom sat below playing with her fingers.

During this entire period, I was taking these photos while Tom maintained a careful watch. We took no chances by walking off the veranda onto the driveway. The heavy railing does offer us some protection which we haven’t ignored. Although some of the wildlife appear relatively comfortable with humans in the general area, they are none the less, wild animals. 

A few stragglers had stayed behind for a few minutes as the others made the scattered mad dash to keep up with the dominant male. Our male zebra left minutes after the last baboon. It was the first time, he’d visited on his own.

Tourists and locals have been injured or killed by animals in the wild, most often as a result of carelessness and ignorance. Also, on occasion, members of The Big Five have been known to enter Marloth Park resulting in rangers and residents immediately alerting one another.

One must exercise caution from the many breeds of animals that naturally live in Marloth Park. A few days ago, two enormous roaring wildebeest ran through our yard, much too quickly for us to take a photo. They can weigh as much as 600 pounds, 272 kg, certainly large enough to kill or maim an unsuspecting human in their path.  The same goes for the giant kudus, weighing as much as 750 pounds, 340 kg, again large enough to cause serious damage. 

In general, most of the wild animals in this area aren’t known to attack unless provoked. On rare occasions, baboons have been known to attack for no reason at all. It’s best to consider all wildlife as potentially dangerous and to enjoy them from a reasonable distance, respecting their size, their strength, and the fact that we are intruding in their territory.

Today, the watch continues to see what wonders, if any, will come our way in the heat. With temperatures expected now at 100F, 38C, we wonder who may actually stop by. We’ve been outdoors for almost four hours now, as we write today’s post, sweat pouring off of us. But, we hesitate to venture inside to turn on the instant-on AC for fear we may miss something. That’s life in Marloth Park!

As we’ve learned in our travels, “the bigger the motivator, the more discomfort we’re willing to accept.” Need I say, we’re highly motivated?