A BULL ON MY DOORSTEP

We soon got used to goats and cattle sharing the beach with us during our brief sojourn along the Wild Coast.

One afternoon, however, I heard a soft banging against the wooden deck attached to our rondavel. Bang, bang, bang. Who could it be? I looked out:

Before long this bull moved to the bottom of the wooden steps and really looked as though he would like to mount them!

“Good Afternoon, Bull,” I said, “Are you hoping for a cup of tea?” He blinked his moist eyes at me, shook his head, and went to munch on some grass instead.

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SWELL ECO LODGE

The Swell Eco Lodge is tucked into such a quiet area along the Transkei Wild Coast that if it hadn’t been for intrepid members of my family I wouldn’t have heard of it – and what a tranquilly beautiful place it is!

This self-catering accommodation is situated within a peaceful rural Xhosa village in the area of Mngcibe, with spectacular views of the rolling hills, the sea and the nearby Mdumbi River – which is great to swim in.

This corner of paradise is definitely off the beaten track, so just getting there is an adventure of its own as one has to follow a series of ever-deteriorating roads to reach it. As we left the last of the towns and the tar behind, the dust became thicker and the roads more populated with livestock.

These included cattle, goats, pigs and even geese.

Once there, we were able to enjoy the pristine beaches mostly on our own, sharing it with goats and cattle – which didn’t bother us at all.

I highly recommend this as a place for complete peace and a recharge of the soul.

CHASING THOSE URBAN COWS

The Urban Herd (one of them) was at it again: invading a suburb and chomping anything green they could find. We came across this woman chasing a herd of about forty of them away from her home, using a floor mop!

The cows didn’t seem too perturbed. Most ambled down the street, while a smaller group broke off to munch at decorative shrubs planted outside the gates of a home. The woman persevered.

Hoping to avoid them altogether, we turned down a side road – only to meet the herd at the next corner.

This one decided to turn the tables on us and refused to budge, so we had to turn tail and drive the other way!

NOTE: Click on a photograph if you wish to see a larger view.

AND STILL THEY COME

The Urban Herd continues to expand – there seems to be no intention by the municipality to curb their intrusion into the urban area. Here a small group is peacefully chewing the cud in open land on the outskirts of the suburb I live in. While they look relaxed and comfortable in the late afternoon light, they would have wandered through the town and up the hill before settling on this temporary resting place.

These cattle have been around for so long that we have seen some calves being born and witnessed others growing up, like this one grazing on a pavement outside a house.

This one is taking a rest while its elders graze on.

They do a lot of resting … or waiting.

On some occasions we can count over 30 head of cattle moving together.

This dam they frequent is now dry.

And still they come, fanning through the suburbs to graze in public open spaces (is that why the municipality seldom mows them anymore?), along pavements, pulling at overhanging branches of trees, and feasting on any garden plants within their reach.

THE URBAN HERD AGAIN:2

The Urban Herd(s) continue to expand their territory and are becoming an increasing menace on the streets. These cows are making short work of the Strelitzia growing on the verge opposite my back gate.

This is one of the same herd that has moved further along the street.

A fine looking bull is browsing on a Bitou bush next to the road on the edge of town.

While driving through a less salubrious part of town, we came across this cow and its attendant Cattle Egret – it is easy to see why the cattle prefer private gardens and school sports fields!

This is in sharp contrast to this one grazing on a grassy verge in the suburbs – also with a Cattle Egret in attendance.

And this healthy looking bull just off the highway, on a ridge overlooking town.

Our latest tally whilst driving through town recently was four herds of cattle that together totalled over sixty head – all in an excellent condition. The Urban herd has become an unstoppable phenomenon we have to be on a constant lookout for.

OAK TREES

Although oak trees, many of them English Oak, can be found in a number of South African towns, they are not indigenous to this country but originate from the early European settlers, who tended to plant what they were familiar with. It is believed that many of the oaks in parts of the Western Cape probably originate from trees imported by the Dutch East India Company as a source of wood for the manufacture of wine casks.

Under the right climatic circumstances, oaks have a life expectancy of between 300 – 600 years and so it is not surprising to find mature oaks still growing in a number of the older towns and cities in this country. Our little town, established as a military post in 1812, still has a number of streets lined with oak trees – what stories they could tell of the changes that have taken place over the past two centuries!

Here a group of schoolgirls is inspecting a relatively young oak tree growing next to the tennis courts on their campus.

Not all of the oak trees are old – saplings abound, many of which have been left to grow into mature trees. There are even the odd oak trees growing next to the roads, possibly remnants of deliberately planted trees or ‘escapees’ that found favour in the soil. We are used to the presence of oaks and love them for what they are.

The Urban Herd, which regular readers will be familiar with by now, continue to wander through the suburbs at will – munching on the grass verges, as well as any flowers, shrubs or leafy plants they can reach. I watched some of them doing just that and was surprised by the odd loud crunching noises, until I realised they were eating the acorns that had fallen onto the pavement! A little further on, I spotted this bull – which we have dubbed ‘The New Year Bull’ – reaching up to pull clusters of acorns from the trees.

THAT URBAN HERD AGAIN

We have become so accustomed to seeing herds of cows, bulls and calves all over town that we can recognise individuals by the patterns on their hides, the curve of their horns or simply by association with each other. Thus, there is The New Year Bull’s herd, the String Bull, the Golden Cow, Caramel Cow and so on. Efforts to have the livestock removed from the urban areas have proved to come to nought – the animals are back within a day or two.

It was with some concern then that I heard loud mooing coming from lower down the hill where we live the other day. It sounded frantic and came from more than one animal at a time. Had someone driven into them on the road? That is always the danger. Only the other night motorists had to come to a halt in the dark as there were black cows standing in the middle of one of the main streets in the suburbs. I peered out of my gate.

The small herd that I could see were on the trot and mooing as they did so. See their tails raised and their quick gait. Then I saw two men shouting at them from behind and waving long sticks. They were really too far away to be very effective – until a municipal tractor arrived to drive alongside the animals, the driver too adding to the cacophony.

The animals had been interfering with traffic near the bottom of the hill – a busy part of town now that the schools and university are operating again after the summer holiday. I can just imagine the order, “Get them out of here, anywhere, just get them away from here!” The hapless men were not going to extend themselves. Why should they? By afternoon that same herd was back grazing on the lawn below our house!