Tag Archives: Van As Jordaan

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”.

Advertisements

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!

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Stony Point Penguin Colony, Betty’s Bay, South Africa

An African penguin population at Betty’s Bay provides opportunities for the public to observe them in their natural habitat.  The African penguin is experiencing a catastrophic decline in its global population.   As a result it is classified as endangered by the IUCN Red List.  Stony Point is the only mainland colony of African Penguins that is known to be expanding.

The penguin colony at Stony Point started in 1982 and has subsequently grown to about 150 pairs.  African penguins breed with one partner for their entire life. Each breeding pair will return to the same breeding colony and same nesting site each year.   The age at first reproduction ranges between four and six years and life expectancy is up to 27 years in the wild.

African penguins are flightless aquatic birds with reduced wings that are modified to form efficient flippers for swimming.  They have heavy bones to enable them to dive.  The feathers in adults are specialized to form a thick coat of overlapping layers that assists with waterproofing, wind resistance and insulation.  The penguin has a black bill and shortened tail. Each African penguin has a unique and distinct pattern of black spots on the white chest that can be used to distinguish individuals from one another.

The distinct pink patch of skin found above the bird’s eye helps the bird to cope with changing temperature.  As the external temperature around the African penguin increases, the bird’s body sends more blood to the glands found at these pink patches of skin, causing the pink patches to change color and turn a darker shade of pink. This in turn causes the glands to be cooled down by the air surrounding it.

The African penguin’s black and white belly coloration is an important form of camouflage at sea. The white belly deters predation from underwater predators looking upwards and the black deters detection from predators swimming above the bird whilst looking down onto the dark depths of the water.

African penguins is a charismatic species that is known for its loud donkey-like braying noises (hence the nickname Jackass Penguin), distinctive black and white plumage and large breeding colonies. They are very clumsy on land, waddling upright with flippers held away from the body as if they are drunk.

Written by Van As Jordaan, uploaded by Jacques Jordaan.