Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cape Recife WWII Forward Observation Post

Port Elizabeth has arguably the most complete collection of surviving coast artillery buildings and equipment dating from the Second World War (1939-45) of any port in South Africa. Before the Second World War the Port Elizabeth Harbour actually had no defence in place except for Fort Frederick which was built in 1799 to guard the original landing place in the early days long before a harbour was even built. In 1942 it was decided to put harbour defences in place at all South Africa's harbours. 
Three Fortress Observation Posts (FOPs) were built at Amsterdam Hoek (Bluewater Bay), Seahill (Cape Recife) and Skoenmakerskop, together with a Port War Signal Station next to Cape Recife lighthouse. These three along with the Algoa Battery building in Humewood and the Battery Observation Post on Brookes Hill had to keep a constant lookout for approaching ships, submarines and planes. The buildings were all constructed with curvy, free-form profile of parapets, angle buttresses and 'fins' to break up their square, box-like shapes when seen from the sea against the background of the bush.

Just below the FOP in Cape Recife the ruins of the old barrack buildings can also still be seen.  The Roseatte Tern Trail through the Cape Recife Nature Reserve runs right past the ruines before heading up the hill to the observation post itself which has fantastic views of the surrounding game reserve.

Visit the South African Military History Society website for a lot more detailed information on the FOP's around Port Elizabeth.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tranquil forest stream

I can't imagine myself a more tranquil scene than one of the Tsitsikamma's whiskey coloured streams flowing through the thick indigenous forest

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Walter Sesulu Botanical Garden

There is always something new to see even if one has been to a place many times.  This is even true of one's own home town, but this isn't a story on my home town.  There is so much I haven't seen around Johannesburg and Gauteng, but I don't always have a lot of free time when I am up there to go exploring.  My last trip to Jozi left me an open morning and I decided to go and visit the Walter Sesulu Botanical Garden.  Although the botanical garden was only founded in 1982, the area has been a popular picnic spot since the late 1800's already.  Back in those days Johannesburgers would go by train as far as the Witpoortjie Station and walk down to the waterfall for a day of leisure.  And it was said waterfall I was actually here to see.   

The natural vegetation of the area is known as the 'Rocky Highveld Grassland' and is a mixture of grassland and savanna, with dense bush in the kloofs and along streams. The botanical garden accommodates over 600 naturally occurring plant species with various walks and trails that visitors can explore.  I especially liked the variety of succulents that was planted around a couple of the pathways.

The main path into the gardens took me all the way to the Witpoortjie Waterfall, named after the nearby railway station.  Not quite sure why they would have done that though.  The grassy area in front of the waterfall is a popular picnic spot with a lot of people going there with the hope to see the resident pair of rare Verreaux’s eagles that nest on the steep, inaccessible cliff next to the waterfall. 
Verreaux’s eagles are spectacular birds of prey, with a wingspan that extends to over 2m.  The pairs are monogamous and stay together, nesting on the same spot year after year.  A couple of years ago the male eagle disappeared, followed shortly after by the female.  It was feared that the carefully monitored 40-year breeding programme would end, but the female miraculously reappeared with a young male as a companion.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tsitsikamma forest cascade

One of my favorite photos taken in the last little while combining a couple of my favorite things.  Forest, stream, waterfall and the Tsitsikamma.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Paul Sauer Bridge

Most travellers on the N2 through the Tsitsikamma stop at the Petroport to fill up the one tank, empty the other or just grab a snack.  A lot of those travellers, specially those from afar, either take a walk across the Storms River Bridge or to the viewing platform.  The bridge spanning the Storms River is actually called the Paul Sauer Bridge.  The bridge was designed by Riccardo Morandi, an Italian architect, and completed in 1958.  At the time of its building it formed part of the brand new N2 highway between Port Elizabeth and George, replacing the old road through the Storms River Pass.

The Paul Sauer Bridge is one of four concrete arch-bridges constructed across the deep gorges of the Tsitsikamma and is about 120m high and just short of 200m long.  When it was built the two sides were constructed upright and then lowered down.  It is claimed that the engineer in charge said that he will jump off it if the ends didn't meet.  Apparently there was only a 1 meter gap but history shows that he died of old age in Italy, which means he never followed through on his threat.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hippo at Lalibela

Some people get real excited by seeing lions and elephants or even something rare like an aardwolf in real life on a game drive.  The Damselfly had her moment when she saw real live hippos for the first time at Lalibela Game Reserve near Port Elizabeth. What made the sighting even better was that there were a number of this huge semi-aquatic mammals in the dam when we got there and the one then proceeded to get up so that we could get a better look.

The word hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), or hippo, comes from the ancient Greek for "river horse".   They are found in sub-Saharan Africa and inhabits rivers, lakes and mangrove swamps.  The hippopotamus is the third largest land mammal (weighing between 1½ and 3 tonnes) after the elephant and white rhinoceros.  The Big 5 was named so as they were the five most dangerous animals to hunt and the hippo doesn't get included in this exclusive club as it is quite easy to shoot hippos where they live in the water.  Don't let their calmness fool you though.  The hippo is one of the most aggressive creatures in the world and is often regarded as one of the most dangerous animals in Africa.  Even with its short legs and big body it can reach a speed of 30 km/h (19 mph) over short distances and thus easily outrun a human.

Female hippos is sexually maturity at five to six years of age and have a gestation period of 8 months.  Mating occurs in the water with the female submerged for most of the encounter, her head only emerging every now and then to draw breath.  Baby hippos are born underwater at a weight between 25 and 45 kg and must swim to the surface to take their first breath.  Young hippos often rest on their mothers' backs when the water that is too deep for them and they swim underwater to suckle.
There is a ton of information on Wikipedia for those wanting to know more.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

White Lions at Pumba

There are about 500 white lions left in the world, most of them in captivity.  Pumba Game Reserve is one of only a few game reserves in South Africa that has free range white lions on its property.  Pumba's white lions is right at the top of what visitors to the reserve wants to see and it was no different when I got to visit for a night.  On the evening game drive we spotted a female with two cubs in the distance, but struck it lucky on the morning game drive with the other female and her juvenile cub.  

Mommy surveying the area from a little hillock

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Marilyn's Diner in Storms River

When one visits a small village or town you often expect some kind of quaint little restaurant or coffee shop and not necessarily a place filled with Cadillacs, 50's & 60's memorabilia, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and painted pink for added impact.  This is exactly what we encountered next to the Tsitsikamma Village Inn on our visit to Storms River Village.  Walking into Marilyn's Diner is like being whizzed back in time to a period of rock and roll, bold colours, chrome, neon rimmed signage and good times (although slightly before my time).

The owners have gone all out to create a restaurant that mirrors their passion for the time and their icons, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe.  Everything in there could just as well have been right out of movies like Grease.  Walking through I saw everything from juke boxes to "Cadillac seats" and pictures of the King of Rock everywhere.  The one section of the restaurant even has a couple Caddies and Chevy's on display.

Family Firefly popped into Marilyn's after a long walk (long as in 4 hours covering about 11 or 12 kilometers) through the forest and had Sundaes and ice creams all around.  The perfect "meal" to have in such an unique place.  Next time I'll try their burgers.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bracket Fungus

Usually you spot bracket fungus on the forest floor but after seeing two lots of brackets in the Tsitsikamma looking down (see here and here) I nearly walked right by this bunch of bracket at eye level growing on an upright dead tree stump.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Brown bracket

Although orange bracket fungus are easily spotted in the indigenous forests of the Tsitsikamma there are a number of less brightly coloured bracket fungus that can be spotted growing on mostly dead trees as well.  In this case I found this branch full of a light brown bracket.  Its because of things like these that I should just be left to walk through the forest on my own to explore and take photos without being rushed by the rest of the Pride.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Village Inn day and night panoramas

While staying at Tsitsikamma Village Inn in Storms River I took two panoramic photos from the upstairs balcony of one of the cottages.  One during the day and one in the evening.