Eventful Bike Ride

Racing on a single track bike trail with wind streaming through your hair and shrubs blurring past. This is freedom.

SUDDENLY a bright pink mouth with fangs deadly strikes from underneath causing a surge of adrenaline. The dreaded, yet intricately beautiful puff adder.

^Check out our morning ride on the 2 min video.^

In the video you’ll notice many shrubs, succulents and thorn trees. The floral region is known as the Robertson Karoo.

The climate is semi-arid due to the region lying in the rainshadow of large mountain ranges. Summers are dry with temperatures reaching maximum of 40 ‘C ( 104 F) while winters are cool and moist with minimum of  -1’C (30 F). It has a average monthly precipitation of 7,7 mm in winter months (Apr – Oct).

Consequently the biome is a succulent shrubland. The plants are adapted to prevent water loss in the dry season.

Small-leaved Guarri
Small-leaved guarri with wrinkled leaves so that the leaves are rarely fully exposed to sunlight.
Aloe microstigma
Aloe microstigma has thick and fleshy leaves, which are enlarged to accommodate aqueous tissue inside. The leaves are also covered by a thin wax layer preventing water loss.
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The juvenile puff adder that crossed our path.

Interesting fact about puff adders:Puff adders hunt by ambushing their prey, and can lie motionless for weeks at a single location waiting for prey to pass. This behavior makes them vulnerable to predation.

A recent study at University of Witwatersrand found that (except for its visual camouflage) it has a chemical camouflage. They observed that dogs and the tame mongooses used in the study walked directly over motionless puff adders with both predators appearing to be completely unaware of the motionless snakes.

One can experience this amazing landscape at the Vroljikheid Nature Reserve near Robertson or at the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden near Worcester.

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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.

A Super moon and lunar eclips in the early hours.

I rose early on Monday morning to view the rare phenomenon of a super moon and lunar eclipse. I tried my best to take some decent pictures. It was an unique and rare experience though!
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A super moon is when the moon orbits closest to Earth and a lunar eclipse is when the moon passes directly into Earth’s shadow giving it a reddish hue (hence the name “blood moon”).  These two events occurring at the same time are extremely rare. The last time this happened was in 1982 and the next time it will happen is ‘n 2033.

Check out NASA’s explanatory video: 

Hope this was interesting and that you’ve learnt something.

Overnight on the beach!

I kicked off my summer holiday with my grandfather and a dear friend. We hiked along the coast near the southern most tip of Africa and spent a night along the beach. It was such a relief to get in the outdoors, breathe the ocean breeze and not have to go to school!

Spescial things I encountered was an out-wash of sea urchins, seeing Jupiter and Venus (we only realized that afterwards) and watching the full moon set in the ocean at 04:00 in the morning.

Sea urchin heaven
Sea urchin heaven
A big dune
A big dune

We also walked past the house (seen in the background of the featured image) where the late British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan wrote his speech: “The Wind of Change” which he represented to the South African Parliament in the time of Apartheid.

Beautiful sunset
Beautiful sunset

Hope you enjoyed the short video and photos!

Kogelberg 22km Hike

A mental and physical challenge made easy by beautiful surroundings! 

Kogelberg 22 km trail (roughly 13,6 miles) meanders around the steep and high Platberg, 910m. What made this route special was how we hiked through different ecosystems including forest, mountain, plateau and river. Needless to say, the fynbos always provide ample photo opportunities. Among other things, we encountered the Red Crassula, the Inkflower, lots of Ericas and the Cape Everlasting. Another special experience I’ll never forget is spotting a beehive.

Interesting fact from Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve: Scientists believe that the amazing fynbos’ biodiversity is the result of the southern tip of Africa having escaped the last ice age that destroyed numerous plant species around the world. As such, many of the 8,560 different plant species found in the Cape Floral Kingdom are literally ‘living fossils’. The Cape Floral Kingdom also has more endemic species for its area than anywhere else in the world … some 5,800 species.

The location of this trail is the same as the Palmiet River Hike, in Kogelberg Nature Reserve.The reserve lies between the towns of Kleinmond and Betty’s Bay and is easily accessible via a paved road. Permits cost R40 per adult. Wear comfortable shoes, appropriate clothing and water.

Nature will always provide with a memorable experience, no matter where you are or what you’re doing!

Wild horses in wetlands

These wild horses (about 23) roam free on about 500 hectares of wetlands near the mouth of the Botriver close to the town of Kleinmond. They are rumored to be descendants of horses hidden in the vlei during the Anglo Boer war (1899 – 1904).  Some say they swam ashore when the Birkenhead sunk in the nearby ocean a long time ago (1852). The truth might be very simple – it could be descendants of farm horses!

 

Free from human intervention, these magnificent creatures have braved the elements for many decades. They roam the flats and river estuary as they please. They fight often and fiercely and are covered in scars. Their bodies have adapted to suit the constant wet surroundings. They play an important role in nature by keeping the clogged waterways open with their paths.

No one looks after them, and most people are totally unaware of them.   I took photos of them over a period of time.  You can easily touch them – they do not shy away.   Remember that they are still wild, strong and very dangerous – so keep at a safe distance. But if you were to go there, please keep them wild – don’t touch or feed them!

Boesmanskloof Trail

Walking gently in a wide ravine, flowers all around you, birds singing and a big blackwater pool to cool down. A Rejuvenating experience!

Boesmanskloof is a one-way hike. Either from Die Galg or from Greyton, depends on which side of the mountain you call home. We hiked to Greyton and back. Boesmanskloof literally means “bush man’s ravine”. The trail is 14km long. I’d grade it as a moderate hike.

Approximately half way through a unique waterfall with a circular plunge pool arises, Oakes Falls. This  is where I photographed the pink disa in Desember. Lots of other fynbos plants can be spotted including the little turkey. We also found several southern rock agamas with their blue scaled heads and tendency to do “push ups” when you stare to long!

P1150769Boesmanskloof is worthwhile!     

Leopard’s Kloof

A ravine forest. Streams the color of black tea.Twisting past yellowwood and hard pear, towers of the forest. The thundering waterfall displays the red disa along the rock face.  

The Harold Porter National Botanical Garden (located in Betty’s Bay, South Africa) features the magnificent Leopard’s Kloof Trail. The garden has a rich diversity of cape fynbos, including the renown marsh rose. Pay it a visit any time!

Leopard’s Kloof is a refreshing 3km walk in a ravine and turns around at a waterfall where the red disa can be spotted in December. The route has a few wooden ladders, but is otherwise quite easy. The forest is full of ancient, endemic trees like the yellowwood, hard pear and cape beech. A couple of waterfalls comes by where (if the sun doesn’t shine) one can take some beautiful long exposure photo’s. Look out for the metallic glint of the sunbirds in the garden and the small cape batis in the forest.

 

 

 

A place to replenish the soul. Make it one of your destinations! 

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