Janis and Clark's 1998 Africa Trip


Janis and Clark Williams went to South Africa to visit the sawmills in the area and address the inaugural meeting of South African Saw Doctors’ Educational Association. We spent most of our time in Nelspruit, a town of 50,000 located in the Lowveldt region of South Africa, surrounded by plantations of pine, eucalyptus, citrus, sugar cane, bananas, tomatoes and avocados.

Our hosts, Barry and Helen Collier took us first to a privately funded cheetah breeding station where we climbed into a special Land Rover for a Night Ride. Our vehicle meandered slowly through this private wild life sanctuary and the guide and spotter pointed out kudu (really large stripy taupe antelope with curly horns and large soft ears), a small herd of cape buffalo, warthogs, zebra and impala, and then lion with a kill.


As it became dark, they shone their spotlights into the bush and we were able to see nocturnal animals like the aardvark and bushbabies. At one hushed moment the spotter revealed a rhino a few yards to our left. Illuminated it seemed more an apparition than a giant beast. We spent that night in fantastic tent lodgings that were right out of some old safari movie--complete with zebra and kudu rugs on the (concrete) floor of our tent.

Barry Collier's BBQ

Barry made us breakfast on a really clever two-burner stove that puts American camp cooking gear to shame. These stoves don’t need a table, the cooking height is adjustable, it is protected from wind and there is even a yellow (so as not to attract bugs) lantern centered above the two cooking areas.

Later that morning we drove into the Kruger National Park. I thought we would be viewing the animals over a distance. Barry brought binoculars for each of us and a zoom lens camera, but we didn’t need them. What is most striking is the incredible diversity of animals and birds that live in this area. Here there are kudu, steenbok (only two feet high!), dik dik (even smaller), impala, nyala....and those are only the ones we actually saw! Then there’s zebra and the incomparable giraffe, warthogs, hyenas, baboons (one sat on our windshield!), huge herds of buffalo, monkeys, elephants, hippos, crocodiles.

And birds! The place is full of birds! The bird-finder guide listed more than 350 kinds of birds: the weaver birds that construct fantastic woven nests, the brilliant lilac breasted roller, the magnificent martial eagle, the odd-looking ground hornbill, agile bee-eaters and loud-mouthed purple crested louries, mousebirds with fluffy breasts that looked like mouse fur, and the kori bustard as big as the neighbor’s golden retriever--only on two legs.


We stopped in the shade of a tree just a few feet from the edge of a water hole to watch marabou storks nesting in a tree a dozen yards offshore. Suddenly this crocodile, just a few yards from us thrashed around in the water. When it rose again, throwing something up in the air, we could see the pale flesh of the croc’s belly. We realized that it was trying to crush an impala haunch into pieces it could swallow. The impala was probably caught some days before and had been marinating in the muddy bottom of the watering hole.

The hyena was one of several playing alongside the road. Zebra. Right! Elephant, right! We must have seen 2,000 impala, they are as numerous as the chipmunks of our western USA parks.

We left South Africa, returning home via Perth, Australia, to visit more sawmills (and also Clark’s sister Jalayne). Jalayne drove us south of Perth to Manjimup to the Karri forests. We drove along the Indian ocean and then cut inland through rolling fruit orchards alive with springtime blossoms.


Karri are an enormous variety of eucalyptus, the trunks as big around as Sequoias--and they grow as tall. One stand had white calla lilies going at the base of each tree. Alan Kelly, the saw doctor at the mill we visited, was born here so he took us to his favorite places in the national park. We didn’t see another soul for most of the two hour trip after we left the touristy area .

Plenty of birds in Perth, including large black parrots, lovely white ibis, green parrots, and a beautiful deep blue wren. The whole countryside seemed to revel in Spring. Jalayne and Janis watched dolphins play in the Swan River estuary.


Clark & Janis Williams



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