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~ I dont blog about things to be liked. I blog about things that I like ~ ... so that one day, on my death bed, I will have said and done what I wanted to do, and die peacefully without regrets.
Live your life in such a way that when your feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan shudders & says..' Oh shit....She's awake'

Friday, February 27, 2009

Blog Header Image Elephant Eye Cave

As you are walking back down the hill from Elephant Eye Cave towards the Fire Block House, you have this stunning view over Constantia, Tokai and False Bay.  Im not sure if I ever used this image for the header though, but if I did, it must have been for a very short while.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Scorpion Stings

Stay away from the thick tails (and the thin tails will hurt too)...

Scorpions often live under rocks.

Scorpions with big tails and small pincers have more toxic venom. In South Africa, scorpion stings are not usually fatal. Immersing the sting in hot water denatures the venom, so will help with pain if you do not have anti-inflammatories.

Pic © Alex Aitkenhead
(Click on image for larger version)

The term scorpionism is the medical term used to describe the syndrome of scorpion stings. We focus here on the thick-tailed scorpions in the family Buthidae, which are the most dangerous scorpions in South Africa (See Dangerous scorpions: how to identify them). Find out here about how to prevent being stung, the signs and symptoms of scorpionism, and scorpionism management.


In South Africa we are fortunate to have a fascinating and diverse scorpion fauna and yet a low incidence of scorpionism, unlike areas in the south-western U.S.A., Mexico, east-central South America, north Africa, the Middle East and India where the incidence of serious scorpion envenomation is high.

Deaths worldwide

Worldwide, there are about 100,000 cases of scorpion envenomation resulting in approximately 800 deaths per year. Locally more than 95% of cases of scorpionism results in no more than local pain lasting from several minutes to about 4 hours with most of the Ischnurid stings resulting in no more than a pin prick. In South Africa there are only 1 to 4 deaths a year resulting from

Parabuthus envenomation (nothing in comparison to car, crime, sport or health related deaths).

A Case Study in the Cape

A case study of 42 serious scorpion envenomations, occurring in western Cape over 5 summers (1986/7 to 1991/2), recorded 4 fatalities of children. Parabuthus granulatus was found to be the main culprit, responsible for 3 deaths. Parabuthus capensis was the alleged culprit of the fourth death but as the specimen was lost it cannot be verified. Parabuthus transvaalicus is the major cause of serious scorpion envenomation in Zimbabwe with recorded cases of death. Parabuthus mossambicensis has also been implicated in cases of serious envenomation.

All Parabuthus and especially P. kalaharicus, P. schlechteri and P. villosus must be regarded as potentially lethal.
The reason for the high number of envenomations by Parabuthus granulatus is probably due to its habit of actively foraging unlike most scorpions' sedentary ambush strategy.

When do most stings occur in Southern Africa?

October to March is the period when most stings occur, with a peak in January / February, with about 75% of stings occurring at night. The victims are usually stung on the foot due to open footwear or no footwear. Scorpions are a greater problem in the north-western Cape than snakes.

What is their venom and what part of our bodies does it affect?
All scorpions posses a neurotoxic venom that affects the central nervous system but there are some exotic species with cytotoxic venom. Less than 5% of stings result in signs and symptoms requiring medical attention. The non-Buthidae families normally result in no more than a mild to intense pain at the sting site with possible mild local inflammation (swelling and redness). The family Ischnuridae with its thin tail and small stinger can hardly penetrate the skin although some of the larger species can execute a mild to painful sting.

Scorpions, as with spiders and snakes, voluntarily deliver venom that is expelled by 2 muscles surrounding the venom gland in the vesicle. Sometimes, the animal can deliver a dry sting and the victim, due to sheer hysteria, can show false signs and symptoms. The depth of the sting will also determine the severity of the envenomation as will the health and size of the victim. The effects of a sting can be reduced if delivered into a bony area or thick clothing can prevent venom entering soft tissue below the skin. A deep sting into a fleshy area will result in more severe symptoms.

(Click on image for larger version)

Are they good pets?
Scorpions, like spiders and snakes, do not make good pets and invariably succumb to neglect. The scorpion becomes stressed with continual handling and prodding and may end up stinging its keeper when he picks it up to impress his friends. If they are to be kept, only those who know and understand them should keep them.

How to prevent being stung by a scorpion:
1. Wear protective footwear especially at night.

2. Exercise caution when lifting rocks, logs and when collecting firewood.

3. Do not handle scorpions with bare hands.

4. When camping try not to sleep directly on the ground.

5. Shake out footwear, clothing and bedding to expel unwanted creepy crawlies.

6. Learn how to distinguish a highly venomous scorpion from a harmless one and the area they occur in.

Signs and symptoms of scorpionism
The severity of envenomation depends on various factors such as the health and age of the victim, the sting site and species, size and degree of agitation of the scorpion. A person with heart or respiratory problems will be at greater risk.

Some or all of the following sings and symptoms may result:
1. Immediate and intense, burning pain at the sting site that lasts about 30 minutes. Mild inflammation may be present, with the sting mark not always visible.

2. Signs and symptoms only develop after 30 minutes and sometimes only after 4 to 12 hours, increasing in severity over the following 24 hours. The pain can be local as well as distal with abdominal cramps.

3. Paraesthesia, an abnormal sensitivity, includes a burning sensation and pins and needles usually in the hands, feet, face and scalp.

4. Hyperaesthesia, an excessive sensitivity of the skin to clothing and bedding with the patient even sensitive to noise.

5. Ataxia, a lack of muscle coordination with a stiff legged or drunken walking action. Involuntary movements, tremors and muscle weakness.

6. Tachycardia, an increased pulse rate of 100 to 150 bpm for Parabuthus granulatus and below 55 bpm for Parabuthus transvaalicus.

7. Raised blood pressure in Parabuthus granulatus. Normal in children but raised in some adults in Parabuthus transvaalicus cases.

8. Dysphagia, a difficulty in swallowing especially with Parabuthus transvaalicus and excessive salivation.

9. Dysarthia, a speech difficulty.

10. Excessive perspiration in Parabuthus transvaalicus cases.

11. Headaches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

12. Ptosis, patient has droopy eyelids.

13. Restlessness and anxiety is a prominent feature seen in children with Parabuthus granulatus. Hyperactivity and infants crying for unexplained reason.

14. Urine retention.

15. Respiratory distress is a major complication and can result in death.

Differential diagnosis
The following possibilities must be considered when making a diagnosis: Alcohol withdrawal, Botulism, Diphtheria, Drug overdose, Encephalitis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, Hysteria, Meningitis, Myasthenia gravis, Myocardial infarction, Organophosphate poisoning, Poliomyelitis, Subdural haematoma, Tetanus.Scorpionism management

1. First aid treatment is the application of a cold compress, if the hyperaesthesia will allow and an analgesic (Asprin, Paracetamol) to relieve pain and transport to a hospital. 2. Monitor cardiac and respiratory functions and treat as required. 3. Patient with systemic symptoms, especially children and the elderly must be hospitalized for 24 to 48 hours. 4. Immobilize and clean wound. 5. Antivenom must only be administered in the case of severe systemic envenomation. 6. Antihistamine and steroids only to be administered in cases of allergic reaction to antivenom. In the event of anaphylactic reaction, which must always be anticipated, administer adrenaline. 7. Atropine may be administered in cases of confirmed Parabuthus transvaalicus envenomation to control excessive secretions. 8. Intravenous administration of 10 ml of 10% calcium gluconate IV over 10 to 20 minutes may provide relief from pain and cramp, but is only effective for 20 to 30 minutes. 9. Administer a tetanus toxoid to prevent infection. 10. Envenomation of the eyes must be flushed with water or any bland fluid (milk, urine). In severe cases antivenom can be diluted 1 to 5 or 1 to 10 with water.

1. Do not use traditional remedies such as incisions, suction, tornique or the application of ointments. 2. Do not use alcohol as it will only mask any symptoms. 3. Do not administer antivenom if no signs or symptoms of severe envenomation presents itself. 4. Do not administer spider or snake antivenom. 5. Do not administer atropine to reduce salivation in the case of Parabuthus granulatus stings as it may lead to unopposed adrenergic reaction. 6. Do not administer barbiturates, opiates, morphine or morphine derivatives as this could greatly increase convulsions and cause respiratory distress.

Research on local venomous species
Research in the Western Cape was done to improve the treatment for victims stung by Buthidae scorpions as it was felt that the treatment previously administered was not very effective. Eventually the scorpions responsible for the stings were obtained when patients were stung and it was established that in the majority of cases it was Parabuthus granulatus that was responsible. Once this had been established, a more specific anti-venom was developed. This proved very successful and patients thereafter recovered rapidly from stings.

In just about all the cases that were researched, patients were stung under very similar conditions:
- at night
- not wearing shoes on gravel roads.

Similar research in Zimbabwe isolated Parabuthus transvaalicus as the main culprit.

Source: Biodiversity Explorer

Verdict from the editor:

  • Scorpions do not make cool pets
  • Stay away from the thick tails
  • Wear thick protective gear (especially at night)
  • Always check your clothing before you put it on
  • Do not sleep on the ground
  • Stings will cause lots of burning, some swelling, redness and tingling sensations.
  • Stay calm if stung and get medical assistance

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro Day 1

When you plan to climb mount Kilimanjaro, you plan to do a trip of a lifetime. Many can only dream to achieve this remarkable journey.

Peter Leonard and Daniela Radley hiked up Mount Kilimanjaro in late December 2008.

The first thing Dani said to me whilst giving me the run down for this article, is that you need to travel in the shoes that you will be climbing with.

Dani mentioned that if you loose your luggage en route, its the shoes that you will not be able to replace. Everything else is replacable.

The Jouney before the climb:

Dani and Peter took the train from Cape Town station to Johannesburg. They said it was an awesome thing to do and comes highly recommended. (celebrated the entire 2 days travelling to johies)

Then they flew from Johannesburg in South Africa, to Tanzania. (loads of celebration took place on the flight)

A toyota hi-ace bus is the standard form of taxi transport, which takes you direct to your hotel.

Once the two travellers checked in, they head straight for the bar and enjoyed a local beer. Celebrating their arrival. (Pisscats actually, but we will keep it low-key! - Ed.)

Dani mentioned that the accommodation was not as good as they were promised.

Meeting the guides and one other travel partner:
(from left to right:)
Stuart Hoy (hiker), Elipokea Mosha (guide), Peter Leonard (hiker), Frank Malisa (guide) and Daniela Radley (hiker).

After spending one night in the hotel, they headed towards the challenging mountain. Which by the way, they had still not seen. It was covered in clouds almost all the time.

Day 1 officially starts at dawn with a bus drive from Moshi to the Machame village (1500m).

This board explains the estimated times of arrival from one point on the route to another.

Once the porters, guides and hikers are ready, they head up onto the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.

The first part of the hike is a long walk through a very dense rain forest.

Soon the hikers go above and outside the rain forest ...

Late that afternoon the party arrived at the Machame Hut (3000m). The porters errect the tents, provide some hot water for a washing up, and start preparing supper.

Soon the temperature starts to drop below freezing.

Dani and Peter were pleasantly suprised by the awesome meals which were prepared for them throughout the duration of this trip.

(Day 2 soon to follow...)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro Day 2

Early am at Machame Hut (3 000m). Its cold and the porters are preparing for breakfast and the meals of the day.

Most of the path on this route is in good condition with occassional rock scambling.

Video of Shira Camp:

The temperature drops to below freezing at night and sleeping becomes more uncomfortable.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro Day 3

Its not often that the hikers can see the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro because of the endless misty cloud cover...

Here Dani gets a glimps of the peak early on the morning day 3 from the Shira Hut / Camp (3 840m)

After breakfast the hikers set of for a 6 hour hike to Barranco Hut (3 950m). This next camp is only 100m difference in altitude, but for the hikers to acclimatise they have to hike up to the Lava Tower (4 600m) to get their bodies prepared for the altitude changes in the next 2 days.

Video: After leaving Shira Hut, the hikers reach Shira Plateau (3 950m)

Video: Getting closer to Lava Tower...

The Barranco Hut is located in a valley below the Lava Tower.

These giant plants create dense forests so high up on the mountain. The leaves are designed to not fall off, but rather just collapse ontop of one another to protect the bark from the extreme temperatures.

Video: Arriving at Barranco Camp (3 950m)

Peter said that he felt snug like a bug in a rug with his First Ascent sleeping bag and it comes highly recommended.
After supper the hikers head for the comfort of their warm bedding and their second last night ontop of the Kilimanjaro mountain.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro Day 4

This is the second last morning for the hikers and they have a very steep hike ahead of them (having to climb the Barranco wall).

Video: Early morning of day 4 at Barranco Camp (3 950m)

This is Peter commenting on the unusable frozen face cloths. Bathing on this hike is a luxury not many dare to attempt. Wet wipes and face clothes is about as good as its gonna get.

The almost verticle Barranco Wall takes you up to about 4 200m.

After reaching the top of the Barranco Wall, the hikers descend down into Karranga Valley.

The Karranga Valley is the last possible stop for fresh water. Hikers are urged to fill up here and ensure they have enough water for the rest of their trip to the summit.

Its vitally important that the hikers continue to drink no less than 3 to 4 litres of water per day. This helps to keep the right amount of oxygen in the bloodstream and therefor avoiding the dreaded altitude sickness.

Dani took this picture to remind herself of the difficult slate rock which she had to climb over on this route.

Video: climbing up to Barafu Hut (4 600m)

Video: Barafu Hut (4 600m)... Peter shows us the views from the camp and the route for the last part of the climb.

Next step, get to bed very early, and start the final climb at midnight ...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hiking Kilimanjaro Day 5

This is by far the most difficult part of the climb. The hikers wake up at midnight to start the climb. They have a special summit pack and leave the rest of their gear behind at the camp.

The temperature is extremely cold and the air very thin. The altitude causes for head aches, servere shortness of breath and nausia.

Hikers walk on tiny step at a time. Like they would say in swahili: "pole pole"

The first award for this momentus morning, is the most beautiful sunrise you have ever seen!

The time you spend on Uhuru Peak will depend on the weather conditions. More often, the hikers spend an average of 30min here, before they head back down again.

Video: At the top of Mount Kilimanjaro (Uhuru Peak 5 895m)

The route back down is almost a straight path. Descending from this ultitude in one day is not a problem for the body to adjust to at all.

The hikers return to their camp, collect their gear and head straight down as quick as they can. One needs to be prepared for wet conditions when you go back down through the rain forrest.

A very proud moment for Peter and Dani, receiving their official certificates for reaching the summit!

Well done to both of you and thank you for sharing your awesome experience with us!

New to reading blogs?

I have heard so many people saying they are new to reading blogs. Here is the 'low down' of what you need to do:

1. The blog is written in date order. Latest posts are at the top and older posts below them. Older posts have a link to them - find the link if you scroll right to the bottom of this screen - see Older Posts.
2. Click on the post header if you wish to make comments below the articles. Comments are most welcome :)
3. I blog our hikes to help other people find nice hiking routes, but also because we love taking pictures on our hikes.
4. On the right column are images of some of the hikes we have done so far. Click on the images to read about those hikes.
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Thanks for reading my blog and hope you enjoy the read.

There is an old saying...

The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.