How to photograph lightning

Have you ever looked at a thunderstorm and wondered how to take a perfect picture to capture the beauty of lightning?

In South Africa, we get some very powerful thunderstorms and perfect opportunities to photograph lightning.

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As I was looking for content for this edition, I decided to explore Casterbridge in White River Mpumalanga.

Was I surprised and impressed with everything they had to offer! Staying in the Lowveld for most of my life I couldn’t imagine why I didn’t do this years ago! Then I wondered, how many others are there like me? Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre is an exceptional lifestyle destination with serene gardens, unusual independent shops a boutique hotel and even fitness centre.

They got a huge variety of shops, something for everyone from Coffee Shops and Restaurants to vintage cars, and everything in between.

Sabie Valley Coffee Shop and Roastery

Start your journey with COFFEE

Tim Buckland, owner of Sabie Valley Coffee, and his wife Kim are your hosts. This friendly couple’s passion for coffee is catching, one cannot help but listen to every word they say, their knowledge of these precious beans is astonishing and they are more than happy to share that knowledge and expertise with their clients.

As you enter the shop the welcoming aroma of freshly brewed coffee welcomes you. In the shop, they got a variety of coffee gadgets from years ago to the latest on the market. Add one of their mouth-watering homemade dishes to your experience and you will have something to talk about for years to come.

Valley Spices

Maybe you need the perfect spices to turn your next Biryani into a masterpiece

Valley Spice is a hidden gem of exotic, Indian and Middle Eastern spices. They stock a wide range of difficult to source food ingredients and hand mix spices to your taste.


Wine or Gin tasting anyone?

Rottcher Wineries and Distillery, which has been a landmark of the Lowveld for the past 50 years, is well worth a visit.

At this cellar, unique alcoholic orange beverages are fermented in the old fashioned way. Pop in and come and taste the “Pride of the Lowveld” – their version of dessert wines, Sherries and ports.

The Distillery produces several citrus based products

– Their very own version of Limoncello Liqueur.
– Rottcher Slowveld Mampoer
– The first citrus based gins in the world! – Slowveld Gins



Shautany Chocolatiers reminds one of the sweet shops you went into as a child where you pointed at the glass jars and said, “I’ll have that one please”. Glass display cabinets abound with locally handcrafted Belgian and Swiss chocolates, while shelves are laden with pure cocoa chocolate bars and exquisite gifts. The ultimate chocolate fantasy begins…

They encourage a new way to love chocolate that is as appealing as appreciating the traditions of fine wines and coffees. The seduction of chocolate on all human senses is irresistible. This ceremony of chocolate tasting is enhanced by a casual, easy, ambience of intimate excitement.

Shautany is the new chocolate culture: sexy, nostalgic, and forever an object of fantasy for children and grown up children.


If history and classic cars fancy your interest, this is the place for you

The charming owner, Angie Bunyard welcomes you with her friendly warm smile and when she is not around the equally charming Marilyn stands in for her.   Their love and knowledge of History and Antiques are remarkable.

In this unique ‘destination‘, nestled in the Vintage Car Museum, a treasure trove of artistic fusion of funk & functional, past & present pieces creatively combined into bespoke genres by Angie.

The collection comprises of a superb assortment of antiques, fabulous ‘jewellery’ items for décor processes and personal homes, general collectables, historical memorabilia, books, artworks, porcelain, mirrors, carvings, imported French wares combined with traditional African artefacts, stone works, carvings and more. An exciting mixture of traditionalism and innovation, indeed something for everyone.

The delightful owner, Angie Bunyard with her boundless energy has the exceptional ability to point one in the exact direction to find ‘what you never knew you were looking for’.

Creative Union

An eclectic mix of function and design – from repair and restoration of vintage/antique clocks and lighters, custom lighting to furniture design and manufacture.

Vintage Car Museum

The White River History & Motor Museum is home to a large collection of perfectly restored vintage motor cars, tractors and bikes.

Here automobile enthusiasts can see a wide variety of vintage vehicles, including the Willys-Overland, the Swift and the celebrated Model T Ford, the 1929 Austin Seven, various MGs and the 1936 Jaguar SS100, amongst others

A must see for petrol heads visiting Casterbridge.

If these are not enough to keep you busy for a day, they also got an Art Gallery, a Second-Hand Bookshop, a Spa, a Cinema and many more interesting shops.

End the perfect day out with a scrumptious lunch at one of the restaurants in Casterbridge.

In the small town of Barberton in Mpumalanga history and architecture have been coexisting for many, many years. This little town in Mpumalanga is often overlooked, so is the road between Barberton and Kaapmuiden.

The town had two stock exchanges, countless saloons and a hotel, as well as the richest gold field in the surrounding Makhonjwa Mountains. It has been home to quite a few colourful and notorious characters. Famous ones include Cockney Liz, Percy Fitzpatric and the Barber cousins who discovered profitable gold in the De Kaap Valley. The life and adventures of Percy Fitzpatric and his dog, Jock, has been immortalised by a statue of this terrier in front of the town hall.

The town, which was proclaimed in 1884, survived and thrived throughout the Gold Rush era.  The discovery of asbestos at the nearby towns of Bulembu and Msauli, also known as Diepgeset close to the border of Swaziland in the late 1960s, attracted new prospectors. The two mines and the town of Barberton were linked by a cablecar system to transport the ore, supplies and even passengers.

Many of these characters are well documented and honoured by plaques or statues and framed photographs in several private collections. One such location where numerous interesting items are found under one roof is the Barberton History and Mining Museum in De Villiers Street.  The old building has been renovated in recent years and now serves as the offices of Wynand Engelbrecht and Pieter Visser of Dusty Tracks. They use the building as the base for their tour operation.

Originally the structure housed the Transvaal Hotel that later became the Impala Hotel.  After moving in they found the building had ample space and decided to display several items they have stumbled upon while guiding tourists and 4×4 enthusiasts through the area. Since they opened the museum in 2016, the collection of items has grown through generous donations from residents and patrons wanting to preserve a small part of the town’s history. The collection ranges from geological finds of rare green stone to fine porcelain, old photographs, old bottles, mining tools, a replica of a penny-farthing bicycle, and, what could most likely be the last 1958 Zündapp combinette motorcycle ever made.

Among all these rare and precious collected items is the artwork of the wandering German artist, Conrad Frederick Genal, dating back to the 1930s. Unfortunately, not much is known about him and a Google search doesn’t turn up much more than references to those murals found in the Barberton building and the Diggers Retreat. It is rumoured that he would offer to decorate the walls in exchange for a place to stay for a few days.  The paintings vary in colour. Some are in full colour and others in monotones of sepia and/or black and blue ink. Over time Genal’s art was painted over and some parts of the walls it will require time and effort to uncover the originals behind the black paint that covers them. Looking at the older buildings in Barberton, one might speculate that there are more of his work hidden behind the high ceilings and covered with new bland layers of white PVA.

How much of these scenes that Genal painted as record of his travels are not known.   At Diggers Retreat on the road between Barberton and Kaapmuiden his work has been well preserved though. The hotel in the vicinity of the old Sheba Mine, the renowned Eureka City and the Golden Quarry have several rooms decorated with his works. In the dining room of the hotel, the works of Genal show the old Zeederberg coach, transport riders with their ox-wagons and the Guya Falls in northern Rhodesia. Some say they also depict the life of Jock of the Bushveld.

The Zeederberg Coach Service was established by four Swedish brothers in the 1800s. They transported mail and passengers and started the first mail coach service between Johannesburg and Kimberley in 1887. They expanded their services to the north and eastern towns of Leydsdorp and Pietersburg in 1890. The mail coach service from the CH Zeederberg Ltd. company operated in 1910, and by 1930 the Zeederberg family decided to close the coach services in favour of a car-hire service.

It is interesting to see the different scenes painted in shades of sepia, a brownish antique colouring.  The scene of the Gonye Falls in “N.Rhod” proves that nature and man have changed over time. The waterfall is situated on the Zambezi River in western Zambia and is known today as the Ngonye Falls or Sioma Falls and situated few hundred kilometres upstream from the Victoria Falls.

Definitely, a road trip to add to your bucket list if you haven’t been there yet…

WRITTEN BY:  Nicolene Olckers

Author: Ina Stevens

“One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble, not much between despair and ecstasy.    One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble, can’t be too careful with your company…” Do you still remember these lyrics from the popular song?’

Thailand is most renowned for its GoGo bars, golden temples and tropical beaches… Phuket, Pattaya and Kho Samui are synonymous with white sand, palm trees, cocktails, and its adventurous and sun-seeking tourists. Once you start to peel back the layers, an array of wonders unfolds that reveal the true essence of this awe-inspiring eastern gem of Asia.

Travelling to Thailand’s northern capital offers an escape from the whirlwind pace of life in the southern part of the country. A leisurely stroll through the back streets reveals a city that is still firmly Thai in its essence, atmosphere, and attitude. Chiang Mai is blissfully calm and laid-back. This is the place to relax after the chaos of Bangkok where you can recharge your batteries in the forested foothills and local villages in search of its mysterious longneck inhabitants.

Visiting the Karen Long Neck village in Thailand offers one of the most exotic experiences on the planet. The mystery and beauty of the brass rings used as caricatural jewellery are something one needs to experience for yourself, as the narratives in books do not do justice to this practice. While it may seem that the Karen women have unusually long necks, these traditional brass rings actually force their shoulders and rib cages downwards, making their necks appear longer. These rings, which they also wear around their shins and arms, are made from solid pieces of metal and are therefore quite heavy. Each time a woman adds a ring to her neck, she gets a new piece that coils around her neck. During our visit, many of the women wore more than 25 rings around their necks! The rings are not only worn for aesthetics but serve a practical, more traditional, purpose as well. In the early days of the Long Necks, the practice of the brass rings had the objective of protecting them against wild-tiger attacks. Walking through the village you will see many women busy weaving, creating beautiful scarfs and garments to sell. The men still work the land and travel by ox-cart which, in itself, was a treasured experience of a long-forgotten era. Life in the village is content and relaxed.

The main occupation of these Thai hill tribes is farming. In fact, they have preserved their way of life for the past thousand years and things have changed very little. Of course, this different and unique way of life has considerable appeal for inquisitive travelers who love to experience cultures worlds apart from their own. Heck – that’s the reason why most people want to travel, isn’t it?  The road less traveled presents an opportunity to open the treasure chest of unforgettable life experiences, making new discoveries that are destined for very few.

Many people visit Thailand to see the elephants. Farmers have been using these gentle giants for centuries to assist them with hard labour. We took the opportunity to visit an elephant sanctuary; it must be one of the very few places on earth where you can watch an elephant painting itself on canvas while its handler keeps the brush in its trunk steady! An elephant painting an elephant! After lunch, we also did some bamboo rafting on a slow-flowing river through the lush tropical jungle of the Chiang Mai countryside. Vegetation and trees border the riverbank and the roots of the huge trees reach deep into the water, making it seem as if the branches are trying to scoop up a few drops. All this provided a magical backdrop to the experience.

A few kilometres south-east of Chiang Mai, local artisans produce the world-famous Sa Paper umbrellas. You can watch the whole process during which these artists meticulously craft the paper fans and umbrellas by hand. From making the bamboo struts and covering them with paper to putting them out to dry before they are hand-painted. The artists at the handicraft center, who skillfully decorate the umbrellas, are always willing to paint a variety of beautiful designs on any items that you bring to them (I had my small handbag painted). They traveling a design for you and add a name or date. Even very complicated scenic designs can be painted on your object right in front of you within minutes. They are truly masters of their trade.

There are a staggering 40,717 Buddhist temples in Thailand and 33,902 of them are still in use today. They are without a doubt the most beautiful and impressive structures you are ever likely to see. Luckily there was still time left to visit one of Thailand’s most sacred golden temples… Gleaming like a star from the heights is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This temple, situated in the mountains, is one of the most historically and spiritually significant places in Thailand and, as such, large numbers of Thais and foreigners alike come to experience the special magic of this holy place. It is decorated in a blanket of golden leaf, the sweet aromas of incense and lotus blossoms fold snug around you like an invisible cloud, creating a magical sense of calm, peace and tranquillity

We decided on the less straining option of travelling by lift to the top. However, we braced ourselves and descended via the 306-step staircase flanked by magnificent mosaic serpents! A little girl with a charming smile, and dressed in traditional attire, posed ever so sweetly for a photo, but the moment my husband snapped the pic she stretched out her hands in a begging gesture and, with a tiny firm voice, she said, “You must give me money!” This quickly became our catch phrase at every shop where we wanted to buy something. “Dad you must give me money,” I would say, with a sweet and innocent smile on my face…

Thailand is such a diverse and interesting destination that each and every visit is sure to provide you with new places to discover and fresh adventures. From its street food, that includes a huge variety of fried insects, to its majestic Golden Kinnaree Restaurant, the biggest in Asia that can seat 4 000 guests with ease. Then there are the ice bars where not only the floors, walls, and seats are completely constructed from ice, but even the glass you drink from! Their floating markets and exotic orchid gardens are also something to behold.  From the King’s Grand Palace to crossing the famous bridge over the river Kwai – The death railway, a haunted relic from WWll. You can also explore sites such the ancient ruins in a tuk-tuk. Snorkelling in its turquoise waters and sipping from coconuts are all in a day’s work. Get swept away by the pulsating nightlife of Patpong, Bangkok’s infamous red-light district with its numerous massage parlours on every corner. The list is never-ending!

But that is a story for another day…

Ever thought of using coffee as a medium for artwork?

Introducing David Staude, whose love for coffee has taken him to places not dictated by only a canvas and a brush

David was born in Middleburg, grew up in Natal and matriculated from Lowveld High School in 1999. He comes from an artistic family and background and though influenced by his family, he taught himself through experimentation of traditional media and adopted mediums such as coffee and polymer silicone. With no formal art studies, though he holds a B-tech international diploma in multi-media design, David currently works and lives in Gordon’s Bay.

“In 2003 I went on a working holiday stint in England, which lead to my first ‘coffee art’ experimentation. It all started while having my daily espresso in a local coffee shop waiting for my girlfriend at the time to finish her work shift for the day – spending the time doodling on napkins and scrap paper by dipping matchsticks or toothpicks into coffee. Realising the effects and colour coming from the ‘rough sketches and doodles’, I quickly changed my scrap paper to water colour paper and experimented as much as possible. From water colour to more textured and thicker viscosities  – the thicker the coffee mix the more unforgiving medium it transformed into.”

David’s freethinking approach in creating coffee art allowed the use of untraditional applicators. Instead of using conventional brushes he applies his ‘paint’ with various other tools including syringes, nozzles, pipette droppers, straws and sticks.. Pretty much anything and everything he can think of to get away from the boring brush.

Depending on the subject and composition chosen, each art piece comprises his foundational espresso mixes. David grinds the coffee beans, makes a quick cup for himself and then mixes it with one or two other selective additives – getting it to a certain viscosity, colour or hue and texture. Many hours are spent prepping each tone and colour. “Did I forget to mention the wonderfully fresh brewed smell at the same time? It’s deliciously comforting.” Well, that must be where all the inspiration comes from, David…

“Preparation is everything as I usually only have one chance to do the artwork. No room for errors made it stressful in the beginning but I quickly learned certain techniques and ways to accomplish the most technical movement and application within a layering process on any particular art piece.”

David adds that visually, the coffee’s hue seems the same to an untrained eye; however, it is dictated by the strength and application of layers. Various tones stand out more than others and colour variations range from desert sand/ light sienna to dirty rustic orange, burnt sienna and dark chocolate – essentially getting about 11 workable tones in turn making it possible to create the depth and light he needs for each masterpiece he creates. The deeper, darker hues need more layers from the initial mix while making it more opaque and less transparent. Depending on his subject and final look and feel, he incorporates various Indian Inks to define shadows, silhouettes, inner/outer lines and fills; hence accentuating the overall fills hue ( ie Baobab tree and custom tree).

“Subject matter has always varied between each artwork and is mostly customised to what my clients want and feel. I am inspired by the awesomeness of nature and technology us humans create while striving to generate beautiful contrasting works fulfilling its meaning and purpose.”

“It means a lot to me – more than anything, to know and have one of my art pieces in someone’s personal space knowing that they were a part of the creative process, loving and appreciating this medium just as much as I do. It gives me great pleasure to be a part of someone’s life like this. Not standing out but in the background, a subtle statement as to who they are and what they like and love.”

David’s objective, apart from what he said before, is that all his coffee artwork pieces have a high contrast look and feel. This is why most of his creations have untouched and clear white backgrounds. The physical attributes include raised and embossed layers. A new addition to a particular look and feel within some works are creating air bubbles forever seeming as if they are going to pop out (but they don’t).

“And of course, in between all of this the main objectives are to have fun, experiment, learn and evolve in creating appealing and interestingly different art. And why coffee again you ask? Because it’s the world’s most popular drink, it’s delicious and I love it!”
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