The endangered Cape mountain zebra isfound in the area of the Tierkloof trail.(Image: Cites) The rare Mimetes chrysanthus, or GoldenPagoda, a member of the protea family,on the slopes of the Gamkaberg reserve.(Image: Plants of Africa) A seldom-seen resident of the area – theAfrican black oystercatcher.(Image: African national parks) A lone hiker on the vast sand dunesof the Oystercatcher trail.(Image: Oystercatcher trail website)Janine ErasmusThe Oystercatcher trail near Mossel Bay on South Africa’s southern coast, and the Tierkloof trail in the Gamkaberg reserve are among the world’s thirty most spectacular walking trails. This is according to a new BBC publication titled Unforgettable Walks to Take Before You Die.The fifth book in the BBC’s Unforgettable series focuses on a breathtaking selection of global rambles ranging from leisurely to arduous in a wide variety of settings and on all the major continents. There are two other walks located on the African continent. These are the hiking trail through the sandstone-dotted territory of the Dogon tribe in Mali, West Africa, and the ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.Each walk takes no longer than two weeks to complete, although some are more taxing then others. A stroll through the intricate network of canals in Amsterdam or around the temples of Kyoto, Japan, contrasts sharply with a climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro or a trek through China’s 22-km long Tiger Leaping Gorge, which is believed to be the deepest gorge in the world.The selection of adventures caters to many interests, from ancient legends and history to religion and nature. Other walks featured in the book are the Yellowstone National Park in the US and Peru’s 45-km Inca Trail which winds through the mountains to the sacred Inca city of Machu Picchu. The Freedom Trail in Boston, a red path leading to sixteen significant historic sites, and a walk along the 32 km of paths on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater estate in Pennsylvania are of interest to history buffs.The Tour du Mont Blanc is an 11-day trek through the French, Italian and Swiss Alps on a circular route around Mont Blanc. The amazing monasteries of Meteora in central Greece, most of which are perched upon towering sandstone cliffs, are a sight to behold. There are many other fascinating walking trails mentioned in the book, which is illustrated with glorious images throughout its 256 pages.Homegrown adventureThe Oystercatcher trail wends its way along the southern-most coastline west of Mossel Bay to the mouth of the Gourits river. Not only has the trail featured in Getaway magazine’s top 10 South African hikes but as part of the Ker & Downey Splendours of the Cape safari it has snatched a place on National Geographic’s 2007 list of the world’s best tours.The trail can be negotiated over three or five days. Luggage is carried by porters. Along the way hikers are sure to spot Southern Right whales, dolphins and sea birds. The trail is named after the African black oystercatcher, an endangered bird. It is said that hikers are more likely to catch a glimpse of a whale than of one of these solitary birds, which find their food among rocks and on the beach. Estimates put the number of African black oystercatchers left in the world at no more than 5 000.The Tierkloof trail lies in the Gamkas, an isolated mountain range in the south-eastern part of the Little Karoo in the Western Cape province. It lies between the Swartberg and Outeniqua mountains near the town of Outdshoorn. The name originates in the word gami, meaning lion, which is taken from the language of the Khoekhoen people, the aboriginal herders of the Cape.The Gamkaberg (Afrikaans, meaning Gamka mountains) reserve, a natural habitat of the endangered Cape mountain zebra, was established in 1974 to help conserve the rare animal. A relatively flat mountain plateau covered with mountain fynbos towers over dry bush below. Deep gorges cut through these extremes of terrain. Lying between South Africa’s winter and summer rainfall regions, the reserve experiences gentle soaking rain in winter and thundershowers in summer.Gamkaberg is renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life. Here observers can see Cape mountain zebra, leopard, and honey badger, as well as eland, red hartebeest, grysbok, duiker, baboon, caracal and many others. The recently discovered and rare Mimetes chrysanthus, a member of the protea family, is found here.The six-hour Tierkloof trail, which is actually the first stage of the two-day Oukraal trail, is picturesque and moderately strenuous. Hikers trek up the deep forested Tierkloof ravine up to the fynbos-covered plateau, gaining almost 700 m in altitude. Here they can put their feet up at the Oukraal camp and admire the views of the Swartberg and Outeniqua mountains on either side.Essential travel destinationsThe BBC’s Unforgettable series tracks down essential sights and experiences around the world. Seasoned travellers, photographers and writers Steve Watkins and Clare Jones tour the world in a quest to find the most inspiring and exciting travel destinations. The other books in the series are Unforgettable Journeys To Take Before You Die; Unforgettable Islands to Escape to Before You Die; Unforgettable Things To Do Before You Die; and Unforgettable Places To See Before You Die.For their latest book Watkins and Jones travelled for nine months to 24 countries and took over 60 000 images for the 30 walks featured in the book.Useful linksThe Oystercatcher trailGamkaberg nature reserveHiking trails in South AfricaNature reserves in the CapeBBC shopNational Geographic best toursGetaway magazineKer & DowneyPlants of AfricaCites (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species)
Aircraft such as the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 are helping reduce airline greenhouse emissions. The ability to access social media on aircraft will give airline passengers a greater voice in influencing the way cabins are configured, a senior Airbus executive believes.Head of A350 XWB marketing customer affairs Marisa Lucas-Ugena said wi-fi connectivity would give passengers a greater ability to praise or criticise aircraft interiors as they were flying.She said the Internet was also increasingly shaping the way passengers chose how to fly and agreed that the ability to tweet from aircraft could reverse the current trend to squeeze more people into economy class to maximise revenue.“Any passenger having a great experience in flight can report it real time,’’ she said. “And while a few years ago that report would be when you arrive and have a nice dinner with your family, today you can spread it all over the world with social media.’’Airlines have adopted new seat designs to cut seat pitch – the distance between a point on a seat and the same point on the seat behind it – and many are reducing seat width by adding a seat to each row in planes such as the Boeing 777.Airbus has been heavily pushing the fact that its planes are designed to maintain a minimum seat width of 18 inches, a campaign rival Boeing discounts as marketing hype.The cabin of the new A350 is six inches wider than the rival Boeing 787 and Airbus says this means it can offer a comfortable, wider seat in nine-abreast economy configuration as well as eight abreast in premium economy and four abreast in business class. Vertical wall panels and sophisticated lighting give a sense of space and the airline has boosted this in business class by increasing the size of overhead lockers and doing away with the central bins.Like the rival Boeing 787, The A350 has higher cabin pressure and humidity that helps people better handle long trips and is significantly quieter than older aircraft.While the Lucas-Ugena said the 350 was not as quiet as upper cabin of the company’s Airbus A380 superjumbo, she claimed it was six decibels quieter than the 787’s interior. She said Airbus had focused on passenger comfort when it designed the A350 because of its long range of about 8,000nm (14,800km). “And that is a lot of time,’’ she told reporters at a briefing at Airbus’s Toulouse headquarters on Thursday. “We don’t want to stay 17 hours in the office, we don’t want to stay 17 hours on our sofa at home and the office and the sofa are normally more comfortable than an airplane.“So that’s why at Airbus, and in particular on the A350, we are obsessed by comfort in the cabin.“This is one of the features we consider most important and it cannot be decoupled from efficiency and it cannot be decoupled from the range ability of the aircraft.’’The A350 is set to become a major player in the Asia-Pacific with big orders from airlines such as Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific.Singapore has ordered 67 of the fuel efficient aircraft – including seven ultra long range aircraft – and is taking delivery of the sixth A350-900 on Friday. The delivery will be key milestone for the manufacturer becasue it also mark Airbus’s 10,000th aircraft delivery.The Singaporean carrier was instrumental in developing the ultra long range version of the A350-900 which it intends to use to re-launch flights on the Singapore-New York and Singapore-Los Angeles routes. It previously operated the flights using four-engine A340-500s but was forced to abandon the routes for economic reasons.The A350-900ULR provides an estimated 25 per cent improvement in efficiency and uses a modified fuel system and aerodynamic improvements to increase the range to about 8700 nautical miles and a flight time of about 19 hours. Operators can also switch the plane back to the standard long-haul A350-900 specification if necessary.Singapore’s head of sales marketing, Campbell Wilson, said the airline had yet to decide on the number of seats on the ULR or the exact cabin configuration, including what classes would be involved.Airbus is preparing to flight test a bigger version of the A350, the A350-1000, and Lucas-Ugena would not rule out the development of a long-range version.Steve Creedy travelled to Toulouse courtesy of Singapore Airlines.
Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest I like my barn cats very much, and I appreciate the great job they do of keeping vermin out of my barn, but I like to keep their numbers in check. I’m a big fan of spaying and neutering barn cats and all of my cats have had these surgeries.Last fall, three kittens showed up in my barn. They were obviously just weaned from their mother. These little critters were cute, but also really wild.The kittens decided to make my barn their home, and I spent all winter and early spring trying to tame them down enough that I could catch them so they could also be spayed or neutered.As luck would have it, one week before their scheduled surgeries, one of the kittens that had now grown into a juvenile cat gave birth to three kittens. Uh oh.The kittens are cute, but I don’t need more mouths to feed. They are also a testament to just how quickly young female felines become fertile. This little cat was not quite full grown herself when she gave birth to her kittens.The good news is that I have already found homes for the little ones if I can still find them and get ahold of them when the time comes for weaning. The bad news is that I will have to act quickly once they are weaned to make sure this accidental cat pregnancy doesn’t happen again.Thank goodness for the nice folks that run low cost spay and neuter clinics for cats.