Our South African Journal

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


The topography around Newcastle consists of gently rolling hills surrounded by some distant higher hills and mountains. The land is covered with knee high grasses everywhere you look. There are trees scattered around but it is mostly grasslands. Even empty lots in the city are covered with these native grasses. That is why this is cattle country. There are a few cultivated fields but they are not common. Mostly you just see cattle and some horses grazing on all that grass.

This is the view of Newcastle from Signal Hill. I didn't take this picture.
It is early winter here. This is their dry season so the grasses have all dried out. Every day when we are driving around Newcastle or out to Madadeni or Osizweni we see grass fires. I have heard that the farmers will burn their fields after harvesting their crops. We don’t see that here because there aren’t crop farms in the immediate vicinity. We saw a building lot that was set on fire in order to burn away the weeds and grass before they began building. That was in an industrial part of the town. We wonder if all these fires are deliberately set or are accidental. The fires we see are never attended.

This is my best picture because the fire was near the road and there was room
 for us to pull over and take a picture.

These kids saw me taking a picture so they decided to photo bomb the fire.

One night I was sitting in the office and I could hear some unusual sounds coming from outside. I listened for a second and realized it was the crackle of fire. I looked out the window and sure enough the empty lot across the street was on fire. There are couple of bushes and small trees on that lot and they were burning which made the fire bigger. I expected a fire truck to come any second but no one came. I knew by this time that these fires do not create a big fuss but I hated to see this fire so close to homes and property. Finally I called the fire department and they said they would send someone out but I got the distinct impression that they were humoring me. Anyway a few minutes later a truck came by and put out the fire. I have seen a lot of fires but that is the only fire truck I have ever seen here. I didn't think to take a picture of that fire.

Because of all the fires the air is smoky most days and often I can smell smoke when I go outside. We had a couple of windy days this past week and it was sure nice to have clean air for a while, but the smoke is back now. I don’t know how long this will last. Someone call the EPA!

Elder Hind took this picture from Signal Hill and you can see how smoky it is.
This day is not as bad as some days.

A burned field on Signal Hill.

A burned hill and smoky valley
An iconic flat topped African tree standing in a burned out field

Smokey air can make for beautiful sunsets

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