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Category Archives: The Making Of
Those of you who like their daily cup(s) of the dark brew know about the coffee moment. Even on safari I would not want to miss it. Being out the whole day to get the perfect shot can be tiring. So a coffee stop now and then is more than welcome. At home we are quite picky about the coffee we drink. Freshly roasted beans are ground and brewed into a perfect espresso by a serious espresso machine. Topped with freshly foamed milk it is turned into the perfect latte for our coffee break(s). On safari the ritual and the ingredients are somewhat different. At first you have to find the perfect spot: scenic, shady and not too windy. Then you hope that all the necessary items have made it into the picnic bag at four o’clock in the morning. Mostly the choice of coffee is: from the thermos, instant, plunger or espresso cooker. Milk can be powdered or fresh, sometimes even frothed. Whatever you choose, it tastes great. The coffee moment is magic, because you are in the middle of a wide open plain, having a bush latte, accompanied by freshly baked cookies (or dutch stroopwafels). We are looking forward to our next safari!
The Great Wildebeest Migration, is one of the most impressive events in the natural world, whereas more than two million animals migrate back and forth from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya in order to find fresh grass to eat. On their trek their path is cut several times by rivers. Watching the frantic herds crossing can be very spectacular; there are often scenes of great panic and confusion. The wildebeest fear the water and the creatures that may hide in or near it. Sometimes tens of thousands gather and wait to cross and for no apparent reason, they turn and wander away from the water’s edge. Other times herds may cross back and forth, because they see others of their kind either in the process of crossing the river or grazing on the lush grass on the far side. Hence a lot of people call them “bewildered beest”.
Home again from a two week trip to the Mara, Kenya. The rains have turned the planes into a green meadow, resembling a golf course. Although the big migration has moved on to the Serengeti, there was plenty of game left to see. We had some great sightings. A cheetah with four cubs, amazing lions, beautiful sunsets and massive thunderstorms. One afternoon we saw The Big Five within 30 minutes after leaving the camp. And the good thing was that we did not have to share what we saw with lots of other cars. The advantage of being in the Mara off-season. We took some great pictures, some of which we will post on the Wild Picha Facebook page and on our website in the coming weeks.
Driving through the Namib desert was a great experience, an art which we as “town clowns” do not master. It does not always bring out the best in people, but when you do succeed to cross this sea of sand as a team, after getting stuck many times, it feels like quite an accomplishment. To begin with you have to be patient and take your time to decide which route to take or you might end up in a sink hole. In the glaring light it is difficult to judge depth of field. To drive up a dune in sugary soft sand can take more than a few attempts. But if you stay in the same track and prevent the wheels from spinning, every run compacts the sand further and finally you reach the top. Then comes the drive down over nearly vertical slopes. The first time I refused to stay in the car. I walked down and watched from below. My heart nearly stopped when I saw the car going over the edge. But the sand seemed to carry it down. It made a muffled sound, like driving through fresh snow, though the temperatures were far from that. The days could be hot with more then 40 degrees Celsius and the nights cold from the winds and the fog being carried in from the ocean. The stunning landscape with its beautiful colors and shapes is full of life with creatures who have adapted to this harsh climate. Little beatles, toktoks, lizards, snakes, scorpions, they all leave their tracks to tell their story. We even spotted a few oryx and a brown hyena walked past our camp on an early morning patrol, hoping to find a few scrapes of our food, just like the crows who kept on following us.
During our recent trip to Namibia we drove up all the way to Angola, along the Skeleton Coast. Due to the cold Benguela Current, the coastline was blanketed by mist most of the time, making the remains of the ships of the poor souls who stranded there even more eerie. Although the area is desolate, the wildlife is amazing. We saw seal colonies and predators, like jackals and brown hyena. We even spotted one of the famous desert lions who had managed to kill a porcupine. Not an easy prey, but in this environment you can’t be choosy. Some of the desert lions are monitored and are known to cover hundreds of miles to find their prey. Camping on the beach was quite an experience and the nights sleepless because of the wind and the harmless but noisy crabs trying to find a way into our tent.
We just returned from a great trip to Namibia. Our first stop was Desert Rhino Camp in Damaraland, where they have the largest free-ranging population of black rhino in Africa. The rhinos are well protected due to a unique conservation approach where the local community plays an important role, together with Save the Rhino Trust and the government. We hope that this model will be able to withstand the changing rules of the game, where poaching has become a multimillion dollar business. Around Desert Rhino Camp the sweeping valleys are dotted with scattered euphorbia and ancient welwitschia plants, with impressive table top mountains in the background. In the early mornings trackers will go out and try to find the rhinos, who seem to prefer the most remote areas. It is amazing that they are able to survive in this rocky desert. We were lucky to witness the last traces of the rain which had turned part of the area into a green meadow for a short time. This resulted in a concentration of mountain zebras, oryx and springbok on the grassy plains. Even a big family of lions had a feast in this short time of plenty. We enjoyed most of our meals outside, around the campfire, while listening to the staff singing songs and Chris Bakkes reciting poems. He is a noted South African writer, but also a passionate guide and conservation who has lived and worked in this area for years.
A few months ago a dear family member gave me the opportunity to write in his garden studio. It is a small house and a great writers retreat. To write and translate a children’s book is a challenge which needs concentration. Like the first book, the new Tata&Squack will be published in three languages. The silence of the garden with a red squirrel as only distraction saved me from getting lost in translation. In one language a sentence can sound great, whilst in another it can be absolutely “ugly”. Together with Tanja I worked on the text and the illustrations. The storyline, the words, the color, the texture, the subjects and the objects, the reflections in text and illustrations. Everything was carefully chosen with lots of discussions, emotions and hours of work, believe me. The squirrel researches and collects for the future. We researched the largest mammal walking the surface of the earth and hope to collect children’s interests in a future with wild elephants. Tata&Squack – Mission Elephant, will go into print next week and will be published in March.
De herfstbladeren vallen, het is vroeg donker, de potten op het terras weer ingepakt in afwachting van de winter. Na weken alleen achter onze computers gewerkt te hebben aan de nieuwe Tata & Squack afgewisseld met Skype momenten, eindelijk weer eens samen, deze keer in Nederland. Dicht bij de natuur met eekhoorns op de carport hebben we weer genoten van dit live brainstorm moment. De nieuwe Tata & Squack bij de olifanten neemt vorm aan. Schrijven en illustreren zijn eenzame beroepen en de sessies, waar we samen zijn een prettige en creatieve afwisseling. In beeld de herfstkleuren, paddestoelen, een uil en een olifant. Een uil en een olifant. Tijdens onze recherches zien we veel berichten langs komen over afgeslachte olifanten. Hoe gaat je daarmee om in een kinderboek? Wat is wijsheid? Ook hier spraken we over. Als het boek begin volgend jaar naar de drukker gaat hopen we op een kindvriendelijke wijze een bijdrage te hebben geleverd aan de bescherming van deze prachtige dieren.
The illustrations in my books are a mix of photographs, drawings and collages. The picture of the elephants on the left was taken by us in the Masai Mara on one of our safaris. I used it to illustrate the change of seasons in the savanna, where thunderclouds building up announce the rainy season. For the illustration I changed the background of the picture and the light on the elephants became more dramatic. More animals were added to the scene, as Phanhabs is a wildlife activity book with an abundance of animals, where children can search for and name the animals. Curious? Would you like to have a closer look? The FlipPages on our website allow you to flip through our books.
The picture on the right is a segment of an illustration from Phanhabs Savanna. Phanhabs stands for “phantastic habitats”. They are creative impressions of the habitats of wild african animals.
The making of the next Tata&Squack is in full progress. The pictures we took during our visit in Samburu, Kenya last year are valuable input for our work. But the little plastic elephant has to do some posing for me as well. Elisabeth Visser is working on the storyline in Amsterdam and I am creating the visuals in Hamburg. Now and then we meet to brainstorm or we use Skype to talk face to face. The illustrations will again be a creative mix of photographies, drawings and collages. I love this stage of the creative process, because all the options are still open. What will Tata wear? How will the “lead-elphant” look like? Which scenes of the story are we going to illustrate? The creative team is back on the drawing board…
The next Tata&Squack adventure will published in 2014. For more information about the books, have a look on our website.