Category Archives: Nature Photograph

Towards an Italian Cross in South Africa!

Weekends when I drive home, I have to cross the mountains via the Du Toitskloof Pass. I  notice this trail’s starting point every time I drive past. Eventually an opportunity came and a friend and I made good use of it!

Some interesting history: The pass is named after Francois Du Toit who with the Huguenots (an ethnoreligious group of French Protestants ) arrived as refugees in the Cape colony, fleeing religious persecution in their own country. He and his family were the first people to farm on the mountain slopes nearest to the where the pass is today. The mountain pass was built in World War II by Italian prisoners-of-war for whom the cross was erected on Huguenot Peak. (Read more about its long and interesting history)

Setting out early isn’t always as easy in summer time. It was a struggle to get out of bed and prepare for the hike. Eventually we reached the start at 10 am, the day was already getting warm and everything nearly basked in the sun.

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The trail led us up the Miaspoort ravine where we scrambled over a rock slide and between some shrubs before we started to climb the Small Drakenstein mountains. The climb was slow and steady, taking breaks often to look back at the Cape Winelands which was quickly getting smaller and smaller.

On top of the mountains, the trail took us on a plateau where we had breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain ranges.

On top of Huguenot Peak, it was already noon and the sun was beating down on us. We sat in the shade of a large boulder, absorbing the silence and vastness around us. The cross was erected in memory of the Italian prisoners-of-war who build the Du Toitskloof Pass in World War II.

While we sat there two falcons were circling us. How free they must be, we wondered, only concerned with the tasks of basic survival. Well rested, re-hydrated and re-lathered with sunscreen, we headed back.

Walking down the mountain, we took in the last bits of scenery and freedom before returning to our student existence on Monday.

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A Coastal Snack

Some holidays we camp along the West Coast of South Africa. The area is an arid region with consequently evolved fauna and flora. Examples of these adaptations are the fleshy leafs of “vygies” and flowers that emerge and bloom only with the annual rains creating spectacular spring landscapes. You have to click here. Its an interesting landscape where the coast, buzzing with life, is merged with the arid Namaqualand which has much less ecosystem diversity and density.

 

Some Namaqualand photos:

Some coastal pictures:

Scattered along the South African coast are ample sites showing evidence of paleolithic (palaios = ancient and lithos = stone) life like stone tool workshops or rock art. I sometimes wonder how these people lived. Modern day technology can be so distracting and overwhelming that I often find myself longing for the primitive and more connected existence of our ancestors.

One early morning with most of the camp’s inhabitants still asleep, my grandpa and I made out escape for the coast. Our goal: to take only the bare minimum and try and relive what might have been a coastal snack for the ancient people that dwelled this land.

Mussels are bivalve mollusks (thus having laterally compressed bodies enclosed by a shell consisting of two hinged parts). It feeds by filtering water through its gills. In adult form they are permanently attached to rock via its byssus.

Male and female mussels reproduce by releasing eggs or sperm. These join and become free-swimming larvae which spreads through the water, attaches to fish’s gills and fall off once they are mature enough. The survivors eventually find a suitable location to attach to. Check out this article for more information.

Mussels come forth in densely packed colonies on the intertidal rocks. Their prey along the west coast include the beautiful girdled dogwhelk (see how it feeds on the mussels) and the African Black Oystercracker.

One prepares mussels by steaming them until the shells open. The male mussels appear pale white while females have an orange appearance. Mussels are rich in protein, Omega 3, good fats and the essential vitamins and minerals. Considering this and their abundance, mussels must have been a type of super-food for the ancient people that lived along the coast.

I enjoyed experiencing the whole process of selecting, cooking and eating. It gives one a better relationship with the food one eats as Mark Healey says in the series “Connect not Conquer”.

Wolfberg Cracks

During some long weekend my grandfather and I went on a trip to the Cederberg region. Of all our experiences there, the one we had on Wolfberg was the most memorable.

What made it so memorable was the rock formations. The rock type that gave rise to this spectacular formations is called the Upper Peninsula Formation sandstone. A reddish, soft and easily eroded rock giving rise to the many rock shapes and caverns. Good examples are the Wolfberg Arch and Cracks which we visited.

We slept at Sanddrif Holiday Resort so that we could be as close to the start of the trail as possible. In the early morning gloom of what seemed to become a hot day, we set out on the trail.

The main attractions of the trail are on top of  Wolfberg mountain which means you have to climb an odd 633m accent. We startet out early and upon reaching the top, the great rock faces were just starting to warm in the golden light of the rising sun. Somewhere between these shear cliffs is where you enter the cracks.

In the cracks , with the rays of the sun far from reach, the two of us made our way through the labyrinth with child-like excitement. The experience of walking about 30m below the surface was nothing but otherworldly.

After traversing the cracks, we emerged from the depths and the warm summer sun greeted us back. From there you can either hike another 5km to the Wolfberg Arch (an iconic Cederberg landmark) or return down the mountain via a big, easy crack. We went to the arch and returned thereafter.

The trail to the cracks and arch isn’t easy. It’s a total 7+ hours but a  fun packed 7+ hours. Definitely something for the bucket list!

Bloupunt Hiking Trail

On Route 62 (South Africa) lies the town of Montagu. It lies in a type of basin surrounded by mountains with the most intricate geological shapes and formations making it a heaven for rock climbers and anyone with the adventurous streak. It is actually one of the world’s top rock climbing destinations. Montagu is also known for its muskadel, dried fruits and rich cultural history.

On a warm, humid winter morning before the next cold front, Andreas and I set out on the Bloupunt 16km trail.

As if for the first time, we were blown away by the pure undistilled beauty of the Earth. We started off in a grove of eucalyptus trees and entered the ravine (Donkerkloof) were we saw large blooms of arum lilies and patches of small cobra lilies.

We were talking lazily until the ascent started which took us out of Donkerkloof, 400m up onto the Langeberg mountain range. There we were surrounded by the famous Cape fynbos. We saw a variety of protea: waboomlaurel and sugarbush protea. These attracted many sunbirds which accompanied our trek through the fynbos.

While traversing the Southern slope, we had amazing panoramic views of the vineyard country below. Upon summiting, we had a lunch break while taking in the views. We also inspected the sundial and found the visitors book missing unfortunately.

The descent back into Donkerkloof was quite steep and tough on the knees. This hardship was contrasted by the intricate rock patterns of the opposing cliff face. While staring at these folds in the mountain, millions of years in the making, I noticed a large shadow skidding across the rock face which turned out to be a black eagle gliding close by.

Before long we were plunged back into the damp, dark and muddy arena of the ravine. Back on level ground and with the knowledge that there was no more mountains to climb, we had a new spring in our step and avidly started exploring the three waterfalls along the ravine. I was surprised that the river was still going strong despite one of the biggest droughts South Africa had faced in years. In one of the waterfalls there was a cave with a colony of bats.

The last few kilometers of the day were spent in bittersweet moments of gratitude for not having to hike another 15,6 km and the privilege we had to have had such an amazing experience of nature!

Up Arangiekop again!

With my first year of university behind me, it’s time to return to Arangieskop. What a spectacular hike it was!  

Arangieskop is a peak of the Langeberg mountain range (literally meaning long mountains) near the town of Robertson, Western Cape. The ascent is steep but takes you through pristine mountain fynbos and through a ravine where you can stop for snacks and take a swim! You overnight on the very snug hut on top of the mountain. Day two you summit and take the long and steep decent down to the Robertson wine valley below.

The morning of the final ascent, we saw the most beautiful sunrise above a blanket of clouds covering the valleys below.

Enjoy the video and if you ever get the chance, endeavor to ascent this peak!

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For more info click on the link: http://www.campingandhiking.co.za/jl2/index.php/hikes/weekend-hikes-menu/arangieskop-robertson-march-10-menu

Hanklip’s Secret

Ever been in the area of Betty’s Bay, Pringle Bay or Rooiels? Then you must have hiked up or least know of Hangklip. Well not many people know of its secret deep within the mountain – a cave! Also the home of some bats and a ancient tree. 

What type of cave?

A talus or scree cave. This type of cave is formed by openings between large boulders fallen into a random heap. The Hangklip cave is the result of it being in an gulley which resulted in water removing all the soil between these boulders resulting in an talus cave.

The “entrance” to the cave is situated under a giant white milkwood tree (a tree unique to southern Africa) which’s fruit are conveniently part of the resident bats’ diet. This particular tree my family like to call the “fairy tree” because it feels enchanted especially when making the transition between  the sunny fynbos outside and the damp, shaded interior of the milkwood tree.

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Look for the path leading to the cave (34°21’57.8″S 18°50’00.7″E) and cherish this small piece of paradise.

Kogelberg rehiked with a new twist.

The average student needs some time off every now and again. After a week of studying for a chemistry test, we thought it’s time to treat ourselves. Consequently we let ourselves loose on the Kogelberg 24km trail!

As seen in the video it was a clear and hot day. By the time we arrived at the beach our feet were aching and we were in desperate need of some refreshment before the last push home. Jumping into the cool mountain water after the long hike was a feeling I’ll never forget.

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Another special sighting we made was of the Red Cluster Disa (Disa ferruginea) hidden between the fynbos adjacent to the trail. Being a big fan of orchids, I considered myself very lucky to see this scarce and special flower.

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I hope you enjoy the video and the photos. Feel free to comment, like and subscribe. 

Disas of Leopard’s Kloof revisited

Happy 2016 to all readers! May it be filled with lots of wonderful experiences!

Grandpa, my sister and I went on our annual expedition up Leopard’s Kloof to view the Red Disas in flower. See my previous post on Leopard’s Kloof to find out more about this stimulating route.

The Red Disas grow in the moist moss which covers the rocks surrounding the Leopard’s Kloof waterfall. We spotted one in bloom close to the base of the fall. This is considered lucky because in the past there were many more Disas at lower levels of the fall which have now gone because of environmentally harmful activities like the picking or total removal of these flowers.

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Orchids (like this one) are some of the most beautiful creations on Earth. Seeing the Red Disas again was an amazing experience. A good kick off  to 2016!

African Helmeted Turtle

Behold the African Helmeted Turtle (Pelomedusa subrufa), a.k.a. Crocodile Turtle, Marsh Terrapin or African Side-necked Turtle:

I found this turtle in out garden and was intrigued by its sideways retracting neck and golden, reptilian stare. It was had a flat body,  flipper-like claws and a highly situated nose. I assumed it was adapted to water and decided to take it to a nearby dam.

Afterwords, I did some research: It’s a fairly common freshwater turtle which prefers stagnant habitats like marshes, pools and lakes. They occur throughout Africa and has a conservation status of “least concern”. Man made dams and reservoirs helped them expand their roam and increase in numbers. They are also omnivorous eating from plant, tadpoles, small fish up to small birds coming to drink water.

These semi-aquatic turtles can easily be identified by their flat bodies, sharp claws, sideways retracting necks and the two tentacles underneath their chin.

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Apparently these turtles leave their homes in search of new habitats, especially after rain. We have our sprinklers on in the summer – which was probably what had attracted this fellow.

I went berserk with fascination upon seeing this turtle and had a royal time photographing it! What a pleasant surprise! 

My recent cover photo.

I took this photograph along the coast near Kogel Bay, South Africa. I originally saw a similar photograph taken my a professional and decided to have a go at it myself. It took many attempts to get the right spot at the right time.

Later this year, I entered my photo in a regional eisteddfod and to my delight received a gold award!

I admire photographs which captures a certain experience of nature.