Category Archives: Parks

World’s Largest Canyons, Blyde River Canyon, and Changing Names

Our next stop was for some magnificent views of Blyde River Canyon, which is the world’s third largest canyon, (although I’d never heard of it before). In fact, would you like to see photos of the world’s largest and second largest canyons? Do you know their names? I wasn’t sure! America’s own Grand Canyon is the largest canyon in the world, although Copper Canyon in Mexico’s Chihuahua state is a group of six canyons with a combined area that’s even greater, and Peru’s Colca Canyon is twice as deep. Nevertheless, we’ll keep our Grand Canyon as Numero Uno!The second largest canyon in the world is also in Africa. It’s called the Fish River Canyon: 550 meters deep and 160 km long! The Fish River Canyon is in Namibia. We didn’t get to see it on this trip, but it’s a popular tourist attraction and reported to be gorgeous. In 2011, they began an annual ultra marathon along the banks of this river! Can you imagine???We were blessed with a beautiful day and had the leisure to walk along the rim of Blyde River Canyon, luxuriating in the views and learning a little of its history.  There are over 1,000 different species of flora in this area, including many beautiful wildflowers in the spring. The canyon is part of the Blyde River Nature Reserve, one of South Africa’s most stunning geographical features. This 29,000-hectare (71,660-acre) park is carved from red sandstone along 60 km of the Blyde River. Our guide shared with us that the river was first named “Treur,” which means “mourning” in Afrikaans, because in 1844 some distraught settlers feared that their leader, Hendrik Potgieter, and all the members of his pioneering expedition had perished. However, shortly thereafter, the men returned, and the river’s name was changed from Treur (mourning) to Blyde (happy; joyous). This made me think of how the Lord works in us, to change our mourning into joy: “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Since returning home, I’ve discovered that now there is a push to revert back to the canyon’s most ancient name: “Motlatse Canyon Provincial Nature Reserve.” Motlatse means “a river that is always full.” That’s also a wonderful name, especially in an area that has been beleaguered with drought for twenty years!Do you have any idea what your name means? My name means “pure,” but I used to mourn that—hard as I tried—I couldn’t live up to my name. However, the Lord has comforted me, changed my name to “Christian” and filled me with joy, because I now know that Jesus Christ was pure and gave me his name when I accepted him as my savior from sin: “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6). How about you? Have you made “the plunge” into the canyon of God’s love and experienced the life-changing depth of his forgiveness and grace?

For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands. O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.” (Psalm 92:4-5)

O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee! (—S. Trevor Francis, 1875)

(The photos of the Grand Canyon, Fish Canyon, and the last photo of the Blyde River Canyon are used by permission of Wiki; the rest are mine, taken November, 2016, at Blyde River Canyon.)

Bourke’s Luck Potholes in Mpumalanga: Not All Potholes are Problematic!

                Do you go crazy trying to avoid all the potholes in spring? In Michigan, the winters are so brutal that by springtime roads are pocked with depressions where the ground has heaved, leaving broken asphalt and treacherous traps just waiting to pop the tires of unwary commuters. So, when we were told we were going to stop along the Panoramic Route between Kruger National Park and Johannesburg in South Africa to see “the potholes,” I wasn’t particularly impressed…until I saw them!  These potholes have been created by the confluence of the Treur & Blyde Rivers                                                      at Blyde River Canyon, where centuries of wear have formed deep, cylindrical depressions in the sandstone bedrock. They are indeed potholes, but they’re not the dangerous ones we see in America. These potholes are grand and spectacularly beautiful formations in layered shades of rust, amber, brown, and taupe.  Their name refers to Tom Bourke, who was an unsuccessful gold prospector in this area, but I think he found something better than gold! Today, tourists (like Alan and me) come from around the world to marvel at the natural beauty of this area. So, the next time you see a pothole in your road, please avoid it to be sure, but remember that some potholes can be beautiful. How about us? Is the wear and pressure in our lives revealing natural color and creating unique patterns of beauty in us, or are we becoming broken and depressed? God intends the floods of time and pressure to transform us (particularly at the confluence of ourselves with another “river”).He cutteth out rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every precious thing. He bindeth the floods from overflowing; and the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light. But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? (Job 28:10-12)   But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour (Isaiah 43:1-3)

(All photos taken on our trip to South Africa at Burke’s Luck Potholes,  2016.)

Anticipating the View from God’s Window

“God’s Window” is in South Africa and was our first stop on the Panoramic Route between Kruger National Park and Johannesburg.* For  those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you might notice that I haven’t written anything about Africa for a month, and that I have as yet to say one word about our safari in Kruger National Park, which is likely to be even more interesting to you than the view from God’s Window.

I apologize. At the most interesting sites, I take hundreds of photos,
and it takes hours…no days!…to choose and process the best to share. This requires unhurried days at home without any heaven-sent opportunities to interact with family and friends
(which often fill many days to overflowing).

That aside aside, I want to share three favorite stops along this famous Panoramic Route in the coming week before April begins and I try to finish telling tales from our adventures in Southeast Asia last spring. (I will return to African experiences sometime, though, because they were great!)Renier, our travel guide in Africa, explained that God’s Window was a special place in Mpumalanga along the Drakensberg escarpment where the cliffs drop over 2,200 feet to the “lowveld” (low grassland) below, opening up vistas of the entire Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, and on a clear day you can see some 150 miles to the border of Mozambique!**                         That’s pretty close to “On a clear day you can see forever!”                                                   We were all super excited! Unfortunately, by the time we actually got there, clouds had filled the canyon and we couldn’t see anything but a sea of mist. So disappointing!  😦  But, how like life on earth! We have hopes and dreams and prayers for vision, and sometimes it does seem like we can see everything clearly from God’s window…from His perspective. However, other days our vision is totally obscured, and we have no clue what the future will hold. No matter how clear or cloudy the present is, may we keep calm and carry on with what we know to do (even if that means not going very far), waiting patiently for the clouds to lift and the Lord to give us more vision for the next steps in our journey.  And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys: But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up (Exodus 40: 36-37).

(Photo credits: *First photo from South African Tourism: http://www.southafrica.net/za/en/articles/entry/article-southafrica.net-gods-window
**Photo from Wikipedia
I took the animal photos during our safari in Kruger National Park and the rest on our trip to God’s Window and along the Panoramic Route in South Africa.)

Song of Solomon (227): Fish Eyes? Fishy Eyes?

Song of Solomon 7:4 “Thine eyes like the fishpools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim…” Although we have probably all been privileged at some point in our lives to enjoy an oriental fish pool and catch the glimmer of goldfish darting about in the clear, green waters, there is much in the imagery of this praise which the western mind would miss without studying the ancient city of Heshbon and the culture of the times.   Heshbon was located about fifty miles east of Jerusalem. It is mentioned thirty-seven times in Scripture and was a powerful city in ancient Palestine. In Numbers 21:25-30 we learn that Heshbon was originally a Moabite city but was conquered by Sihon, the king of the Amorites, who made it his capital. Later (Numbers 32:37) it became part of the inheritance of the tribe of Rueben, and although it eventually reverted back to Moabite rule (and both Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied of coming judgment because of its evil), during the reign of King Solomon it was part of the inheritance given to the Levites as a city of peaceful refuge for the families of the priests. It was a beautiful city, a powerful city, and a city of peace.   The name Heshbon means “he that hastens to understand or build.”1  Already we find rich ore for the mining! For the bride to have her eyes compared to the fishpools in Heshbon would have brought to the ancient eastern mind thoughts of beauty, power, peace, and a heart to understand and build. Oh, that in our eyes our Lord might see beautiful spirits…peaceful spirits, but spirits with a passion to eagerly pursue wisdom and growth!   Recent excavations of Heshbon (now in Jordan) have uncovered the remains of large reservoirs near the city. The word for “fishpools” is the Hebrew berekot, which does not refer to springs or fountains, “but the deep reservoirs which the springs supply. The sense here is one of still, deep calmness rather than the sparkle and shimmer of flowing springs”(2).   The translation “fish pools” followed the Latin Vulgate rendering piscinae, referring to pools for fish, but there is no actual intimation from the Hebrew text that the pools were so used (3). Fish pools were typically shallow, and the deep reservoirs near the gate of Bath-rabbim were more likely used for the city’s water supply, particularly in light of the name Bath-rabbim, which means literally “the daughter of multitudes.” Ah, and here is another resting spot for meditation!  How often the names in Scripture tell a story in themselves. The deep reservoirs supplied life-giving water for multitudes. The task of carrying water from the city well to the family dwelling place was one of the housekeeping responsibilities of the women and was normally assigned to daughters (if there were any) who were old enough and strong enough for such work. (For examples, Rachel, Rebekah, and the woman at the well in Sychar.)   So, the reservoirs supplied water for the “daughter(s) of multitudes…” and through them, the entire city. Anyone who came to the wells could drink. Everyone who came could drink. It didn’t matter if the person was a beautiful and virtuous young virgin like Rebekah or a five-time has been with no real family of her own like the woman Jesus redeemed by the well of Sychar… everyone who came was allowed to drink. Oh, to be a woman whose eyes are deep, peaceful, reservoirs of life-giving spirit, open in compassion to the poor and prepared to minister to the needs of all the daughters of this earth!

(1) Lockyer, Dr. Herbert. Love Is Better Than Wine. Harrison: New Leaf Press, 1981, p. 113.
(2) Carr, G. Lloyd. The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary. Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1984, p. 158.
(3) Patterson, Paige.  Song of Solomon. Chicago:  Moody, 1986, p. 105.

 

Waimea Canyon: Don’t Stop ‘Til You Can’t Go Any Further

the-glory-of-waimea-canyonDid you know there’s such a place as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific?” waimea-canyon-panoramic-viewIt was so named by Mark Twain over a hundred years ago, waipaoo-falls-waimea-canyonbut it sprang into glowing reality for me personally just recently kauai-canyons-and-waterfallswhile visiting Hawaii’s “Garden Island,” Kauai. waimea-canyon-2Waimea Canyon (its official name) is about ten miles long first-view-into-waimea-canyon-kauaiand over 3,000 feet deep. waimea-canyon-kauaiThe canyon was formed originally by the collapse of the volcano lava-ionizing-in-waimea-canyonwhich is the bedrock of Hawaii’s Kauai Island, waimea-river-running-through-waimea-canyonbut Waimea has further eroded by the flow of the Waimea River.grand-canyon-of-the-pacific-waimea-canyon-kauai Waimea Canyon a mesmerizing study in color! stratified-layers-of-rock-in-waimea-canyon-kauaiThe stratified reds and browns come from layers of black volcanic basaltred-rocks-in-waimea-canyon  that have oxidized over millennia into bright red, iron soil. waimea-canyon-hawaii-grand-canyon-of-the-pacificLush patterns of green lace weave in and out…gifts of foliagewaterfalls-streaming-down-mountainside-in-kauai-as-seen-from-kalalau-lookout flowing from Mount Wai’ale’ale, Kauai’s central peak, waipoo-falls-in-waimea-canyonfamed for catching clouds and being one of the wettest places on earth! waimea-canyon-beautyOne of the highlights of Waimea Canyon’s 1,866-acre state park is Waipao Falls, waipoo-falls-in-waimea-canyon-closeup-2which cascades 800 feet down the canyon wall waimea-canyon-helicopterand can be seen at various lookouts along the 18-mile stretch road-up-to-waimea-canyon-kauaiof Highway 550 that takes you to the top of the canyon. waimea-canyonThere are many great hiking trails in the park, and if you have the time, glory-bush-tibouchina-urvilleana-kauai-by-kalalau-lookoutit would be easy to spend your entire day exploring.waimea-canyon-lookout-parking-lot-with-chickens Although most tourists stop here, steep-road-up-waimea-canyon-kauaiHighway 550 winds its way up past Kokee State Park (lovely rain forest) kalalau-lookout-sign-kauaiand ends at the Kalalau Lookout,kalalau-lookoutwhich has magnificent views of the Na Pali Coast. waipoo-falls-in-waimea-canyon-close-upThe concierge at our hotel showed us some photos on her i-phone heading-to-waimea-canyon-highway-50and said that no matter what the forecast, go anyway, kalalau-lookout-viewand don’t stop until you get to the end of the road! (Such great advice!!)predicting-rain-for-waimea-canyon-kauaiThe prediction had been for rain the day she went, bi-plane-in-kauai-01-25-17but rain is a common part of the forecast and usually doesn’t last long. lantana-blooming-in-kauaiBesides, it’s great for the flowers and often produces sparkling rainbows. clouds-and-distant-trees-waimea-canyon-kauaiThe day we went, we didn’t get to see any rainbows, oxidized-volcanic-rock-on-kauaibut the weather was much better than anticipated, waimea-canyon-kauai-copyand the clouds scuttling across the sky above the canyon formed beautiful cloud-formations-over-waimea-canyon-kauaipatterns of light and dark that made the contrasts even richer. waimea-canyon-roller-coaster-roadsPersevering to the end of the road was well worth the time and twists, waimea-canyon-grand-canyon-of-the-pacific-kauaiand being filled with the beauty of this wild, deep canyon distant-waterfalls-from-kalalau-lookout-kauaibrought to mind the words of Scripture:

waimea-canyon-kauai“…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19, ESV).another-beautiful-sunset-in-kauai-hawaii(I took all these photos on the day we went to Waimea Canyon in January, 2017. As you can see, the weather changes a lot over the course of one day, so never let the weather stop you from enjoying the incredible beauty of God’s creation!)

Riding Up the Na Pali Coast on a Blue Dolphin

kathi-on-south-coast-of-kauai-blue-dolphin-boat-toursWhat? You don’t think this is a blue dolphin? blue-dolphin-charter-ii-in-eleele-kauaiWell, truly it is: “The Blue Dolphin II” Charter catamaran! gorgeous-and-rugged-napali-coast And, here is Na Pali’s unbelievably romantic, misty coast! grand-hyatt-kauai-hawaiiThe Hawaiian Islands are the closest thing I’ve experienced
to “paradise on earth” (as far as visual beauty, comfort, and climate),valley-on-na-pali-coastand one of their most gorgeous islands is Kauai, “The Garden Island.” mists-along-na-pali-coastWithin Kauai lies the unique, ethereal Na Pali Coast, which is so rugged that no “Heavenly Hana Highway” can circumnavigate; it can only be accessed by boat! sail-in-the-sun-blue-dolphin-charters-kauaiLast week I tried to talk Alan into taking a ride with me, but he was afraid he’d get seasick in the 8-15′ waves, although he graciously encouraged me to go. na-pali-coast-kauaiIt was fabulous! waterfall-cascading-down-napali-coast-hawaiiNot only did we see incredibly beautiful scenery for hours, lucky-lady-catamaran-on-south-coast-of-kauaiwe stopped for a while scuba-divers-on-blue-dolphin-charter-cruise to go scuba diving snorkling-on-blue-dolphin-boat-toursswimming, or snorkeling along a remote reef area. fish-chasing-pretzels-off-south-shore-of-kauaiThis pristine swimming hole was teeming with colorful fish.sea-turtle-on-napali-coastThere was also a sea turtle swimming on the port side (left), a-pod-of-dolphins-in-hawaii and a pod of dolphins came to check us out on the starboard (right) side. fish-and-eels-underwater-na-pali-coast-kauaiTalk about fun!
na-pali-coast-inthe-distanceAfter this refreshing interlude, they served us breakfast,
and then we headed up the coast to see “the magic.” napali-coast-kauai-dragons-teethKauai and the Na Pali Coast are so idyllic
that they’ve been the used for filming many movies over the years: closeup-of-jagged-mountains-behind-beach-on-napali-coast-hawaiiPagan Love Song (starring Esther Williams back in 1950), waves-rolling-onto-sandy-beach-napali-coast-kauaiSouth Pacific (1958), Blue Hawaii (1961),valley-between-mountains-along-napali-coast-kauai Jurassic Park (1993), Outbreak (1995), set-for-famous-movies-along-napali-coast-hawaii and Pirates of the Caribbean 4 (2011). mist-on-the-mountains-na-pali-coast-kauaiAt high noon, we took a break from all the beauty lunch-on-blue-dophin-charter-catamaranand enjoyed a lunch of sandwiches made from fresh bakery bread
and deli meats, salads, drinks, and cookies. hidden-entry-to-valley-along-napali-coast-pirates-of-the-caribbeanAnd, because this post is getting so long, I’ll stop here for today, humpback-whale-starts-to-dive-napali-coast-kauaibut next week I hope to share the rest of my adventure, including a whale tale! sunshine-and-waterfall-along-kauais-na-pali-coastMeanwhile, wouldn’t you like to be able to live in paradise someday?  two-waterfalls-napali-coast-kauaiHe that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;
To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life,
which is in the midst of the paradise of God
” (
Revelation 2:7).

Reflections On The Devil’s Pool: Did The Devil Make Me Do It?

victoria-falls-from-zimbabwe-national-parkAs one who taught life saving and served as a water safety instructor for ten years,  and as one who swims around our little lake most days during the summers, I thought we’d do okay at the Devil’s Pool. team-on-livingstone-island-preparing-for-devils-poolAlan wasn’t going to go at all, but he did sign up at the last minute—mostly in hopes of keeping me from drowning, I think. We did survive, but after thinking it over, I personally feel that the adrenaline rush and excitement wasn’t worth the risk to life, limb, and health. Here are my reasons:

view-of-hippos-on-zambezi-river-from-royal-livingstone-hotel-zambia1. We had to swim in the Zambezi River,
where I’d seen hippos and crocodiles upstream.warning-about-the-danger-of-the-devils-pool-zambia2. Even though there had been a twenty-year drought and we visited just before the rainy season began, there were all kinds of safety issues. zambezi-river-on-way-to-devils-pool-victoria-falls3. There was a definite current to negotiate. rocky-path-to-the-devils-pool-victoria-falls4. We had to walk on somewhat slippery rocks to reach the river. starting-across-the-zambezi-river-to-livingstone-island5. We had to feel our way over slippery rocks under the water
for part of the time. swimming-to-the-devils-pool-victoria-falls6. We also had to swim upstream (up river) for a short distance.sitting-atop-victoria-falls-zambia 7. Logs or other debris could have hit us at any time. basking-in-the-devils-pool8. Fish nibbled at our feet and made us all jumpy. current-in-the-devils-pool-zambia9. One false move could have sent one of us over the edge. top-of-victoria-falls-at-the-devils-pool10. The rock ledge, though sturdy, will doubtless one day give way. devils-poo-victoria-fallsMay it not happen when anybody’s nearby!
(That was the #1 reason our tour guide didn’t want to try it.)

basking-in-the-devils-pool-victoria-falls11. Last, but perhaps most importantly (and I didn’t know this until we were having dinner  a week ago with some friends who do medical mission work in Africa), the Zambezi River is known to have a strain of parasitic Schistosomiasis which is a common in Sub-saharan Africa and can be lethal if not treated. There are some 200 million people affected world wide, half of whom live in Africa. Since learning this, I’ve made an appointment with my doctor for testing.  So, to answer my question: Did the Devil Make Me Do It? No. I chose to do it. Was it a wise choice? I don’t think so. Would I do it again? No. Did I pray about it? Yes. Why didn’t God tell me not to go? I’m not sure. I think sometimes God allows us to do things that aren’t wise, just like a parent allows his child to do things that the parent knows are risky. I do believe in God’s divine will (which cannot be altered) and His permissive will (which allows us freedom of choice). I prayed and didn’t get a clear “No,” so I went. And, as with all unwise decisions, there may be consequences I didn’t consider when I made my choice. In future, I think I want a clear “Yes” before making decisions, not just a “You may!”

Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him” (Proverbs 26:12)