Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pink plane

On the road to Morgan Bay on the southern Wild Coast you may just spot one of the most unusual and unexpected sights anywhere along a road in the province.  A huge pink plane parked next to the road.   The Convair 880, named Eish Airlines, belongs to Billy Nell, former Finance MEC of the Eastern Cape provincial government and stand son Morganville Farm.  Nell had the plane towed to the farm from Bisho airport and now forms part of his collection of old bikes, automobiles and flying machines.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Wild coastline

The rugged coastline of the southern Wild Coast at Morgan Bay, an area I'm hoping to be able to explore a bit more next year some time.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

I don't have a specific Christmas picture to share this year, but flowers are good for any occasion.  Also no long message (not because I didn't want to but we are currently away on holiday and I had to forward schedule all the posts and started running out of time) other than wishing all
The Firefly Photo Files readers a Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Paddling up the gorge

The Garden Route has many spectacular adventures that just about anybody can participate it.  One of these is paddling up the magnificent Storms River gorge, starting at the suspension bridges over the river mouth.  Just imagine the sheer cliffs of the gorge stretching up 100 meters on each side while leisurely paddling along.  I seriously need to see if I can organise this trip for myself. I would love to do it.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Barb wire at sunset

Barb wire at sunset.  Its hard to believe that I took this pic in Noordhoek, Cape Town, a year ago during our Summer holiday and right now we are on our way (or already there depending on when you read this) for this year's vacation.  The Klein Karoo with Montagu and Oudtshoorn awaits.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Storms River Mouth

Storms River Mouth is truly spectacular.  Over millions of years the river has carved a deep gorge down to the ocean and thus creates a very striking river mouth.  It's this spot that are reached by taking the one kilometre Mouth Trail from the Tsitsikamma National Park's main rest camp. 

Over the years the suspension bridge over the river mouth has become a main feature in the park and pictures of it has become synonymous with Storms River Mouth.  In 2007 a fire swept through the area close to the bridge and major damage was caused to the walkway as well as the surrounding environment.  The rockface wasn't deemed safe enough to rebuilt the walkway and park management had to find another way to access the suspension bridge and subsequently further trails.

The decision was made to built two further suspension bridges on the approach to the original bridge meaning that you now cross three before getting to the other side of the Storms River, giving one even more reason to walk the trail.

Lewer in die township

Ek is mal oor lewer, maar nie almal is groot aanhangers daarvan nie.  In die townships is dit wel baie gewild en word verkoop op baie straathoeke waar kos gemaak en direk uit die potte aan verbygangers verkoop word.  Onlangs het ek 'n toer vir 'n groep na New Brighton township in Port Elizabeth gereel en een van die stopplekke was 'n "wegneemete" hoek. 

Hier het een van my kollegas 'n pot lewer en uie voorberei en alhoewel baie van die mense op die toer met opgetrekte wenkbroue daarna gekyk het het hulle gou ingespring en die bak leeggemaak.  Ek het nog gehoop vir 'n laaste happie toe was daar net uie oor. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Storms River Mouth Trail

I can never rave enough on how awesome the Tsitsikamma National Park.  Its an absolutely beautiful place and the amount of visitors, both domestic and international, that go there daily is proof that its one place you cannot miss when travelling along the Garden Route.  Most of these visitors do the Mouth Trail from the rest camp to the Storms River Mouth which is one kilometer away.

One of my personal highlights of the walk is the stream that flows past very close to the start of the trail next to the beach.  Drama Princess loves waterfalls and we first had to have a look at where it flows onto the beach.  She then wanted to know where it came from, which was easy because the trail passes the stream just above. 

From the beach we headed onto the trail and stopped just below another waterfall the precedes the one on the beach.  Honestly, I think if the Kidz had a choice they probably would have just stayed at the pool and played there, but there was so much more still to be seen and I had to chase them on.  Also by now we were starting to fall behind the Damselfly who was well on her way towards the river mouth already.

But another stop followed shortly after.  The trail has an open air classroom where the history and ecology of the area are depicted on boards.  The Kidz wanted to have a look at what these first before we continued on to the suspension bridges waiting for us at the river mouth.  More on that another time.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mouth Trail lily

I know that not everybody loves arum lilies like I do, but I just can't get enough of them specially when they grow wild somewhere in a forest or next to a stream.  This one was growing next to the Storms River Mouth Trail in the Tsitsikamma National Park.   

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tsitsikamma Forest Trail Part 3: Up the old pass

The first part of our walk through the Plaatbos Nature Reserve took us on various trails through the forest before taking a halfway break next to the Storms River by the old low water bridge.  This left us with the walk back up to the village on the Storms River Pass.
In 1879 the famous pass builder Thomas Bain was busy surveying the area east of Plettenberg Bay and found it to consist of almost impenetrable forests and deep river gorges.  To get through the imposing Storms River gorge, Bain followed the ancient elephant trails which took the easiest and most gradual way down towards the river and built the road along those contoars.  The pass was built by convicts and completed in 1884.  Travelling down the pass some of those ancient trails can still be spotted next to the road. 

A kilometer or so before the end we crossed another stream and couldn't help stopping again for a break.  The Kidz had their shoes off immediately to enjoy the fresh forest stream.

I took the opportunity to trek up and down the stream a bit for a couple of pictures capturing one of my favorite things - a forest stream.

The end was in sight and nobody was complaining.  It was an awesome morning out and we topped it off with ice cream sundaes at Marilyns Diner in the village.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tsitsikamma Forest Trail Part 2: Old Storms River Bridge

After a couple of hours hiking through the Plaatbos Nature Reserve we emerged from the forest close to where the old pass road crosses the Storms River.  We headed straight down to the river, kicked off our shoes and soaked our feet in the cool, soothing water.  Just what we needed at the halfway mark of our hike.

When the pass was originally built the road went through the river with the low water bridge only being build by soldiers during the Second World War (I'm just trying to confirm this as I've only heard it somewhere before but can't find anything about it on the internet).  The pass was replaced by the N2 and the Storms River Bridge in 1958 and today the bridge can only be reach on foot, by bicycle or on the Woodcutters Journey tour done by Storms River Adventures. 

In the early days many travellers camped out next to the river after a "down day" (because the pass is so narrow ox-wagons could only travel either up or down the pass on any given day to avoid them coming face to face with another ox-wagon and have nowhere to pass each other).  Just like they refreshed before the uphill trek, so did we. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tsitsikamma Forest Trail Part 1: Plaatbos Nature Reserve

I find forests to have some kind of therapeutic effect on me, hence the fact that I will find any excuse to go and spend some time around forests.  It's no surprise then that I found myself and Family Firefly on a family outing in Storms River Village in the Tsitsikamma.  Three days around the forest for me is probably comparable to somebody from Gauteng spending a week at the beach.  I did make it clear to the family that I wanted to spend at least (part of) one day doing a short hike in the forest and we decided on some of the trails through the Plaatbos Nature Reserve adjacent to the village.

Plaatbos Nature Reserve falls within the Tsitsikamma National Park and has various hiking and mountain bike trails throughout, most branching off the old Storms River Pass.  Heading into the forest we decided to take the very first one on the left as you enter the gate and  disappeared into the forest.  I'm very fortunate that my family loves the outdoors and don't mind going hiking, so as soon as we hit the trail Chaos Boy was off in the lead with the rest of us trailing after.

The trail through Plaatbos is a typical forest trail with very little disruption around other than the path itself.  The initial plan was to just do a short loop but on two occasions we got to a fork and opted to keep going rather than head back towards the village.  Most of the first part of the walk was spent right inside the indigenous forest and quite a few times I stopped to photograph something interesting.  One of the things that always catch my eye is bracket fungus and on this walk there were no shortage of it.  See Bracket fungus, Brown Bracket and Orange bracket fungus which I have already posted since our trip.
In the end we spent about 4 hours in the forest covering what I guess was probably in the region of about 11 or 12 kilometers. But I'm getting ahead of myself.  I decided to split the walk into three posts so that each covers a different part of our outing. I also didn't want to make it a too long a post cause there are many people like me out there who gets bored very quickly if one has to read too much. *smile* In the next post we head down to the historic Storms River low water bridge at the bottom of the pass.

Klein treintjies

Op die eerste Sondag van die maand stroom baie families met klein (en ander met nie so klein) kinders na die Port Elizabeth Model Locomotive Society se maandelikse oop dag.  Families staan al van vroeg af tou om op die treintjies te ry met veral die stoom lokomotiewe wat baie aftrek kry.  Die rit vat wel net 'n paar minute, maar sluit in 'n tonnel, die Groot Grasrivier brug en 'n paar draaie deur die gronde in. En die beste van alles.  Dit kos net ongeveer R6 per rit.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Addo flowers

After the rains we had in the Eastern Cape this past winter the veld is looking really good.  Its no different in the Addo Elephant National Park with lots of yellow and purple flowers all over.

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

Kaap die Goeie Hoop

Die Kaap die Goeie Hoop is die naam van die mees suid-westelike landpunt van Afrika en is letterlik 'n klipgooi van Kaappunt af geleë.  Dit is tradisioneel (en verkeerdelik net soos met Kaappunt) geag as die punt waar die Atlantiese Oseaan en die Indiese Oseaan mekaar ontmoet, terwyl die eintlike ontmoetingspunt verder ooswaarts by Kaap Agulhas - Afrika se mees suidelikste punt - is. Die koue Benguelastroom wat van Antarktika af noord vloei, ontmoet wel die warm Agulhas-stroom naby die Kaap die Goeie Hoop.

Die meeste besoekers aan Kaappunt besoek ook die Kaap die Goeie Hoop en met sekere tye staan mens omtrent in 'n tou om 'n kans te kry vir 'n foto by die bordjie (soos ek hier maak).

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.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Noetzie - Kastele op die strand

So 'n paar kilometer buite die Tuinroete dorp Knysna, aan die einde van 'n grondpad, is 'n baie unieke plek met die naam Noetzie.   Noetzie (Khoi-San vir Donker Water) het 'n pragtige strand en strandmeer omring deur inheemse woude, maar wat Noetzie laat uitstaan is die feit dat daar verskeie kastele langs die strand is.  Die area is reg van Knysna se begin jare af 'n plekkie waar die plaaslike inwoners oor naweke gaan kamp het.  Die eerste kasteel is in 1932 uit plaaslike klip as 'n vakansiehuis gebou met verskeie ander wat in die volgende paar dekades gevolg het.

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.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kaappunt se vuurtorings

Kaappunt in die Kaap van Goeie Hoop Natuurreservaat is seker een van die plekke wat die meeste besoekers ontvang in Suid Afrika.  Alhoewel Kaappunt nie die mees suidelikste punt in Afrika is nie, is dit die suidelikste punt van die Kaapse Skiereiland en een van die plekke waarheen besoekers gaan as hulle om die Skiereiland toer.  Die ou Kaappuntvuurtoring by Kaap Maclear is een van twee vuurtorings by Kaappunt en kan bereik word deur of die trappies te klim of die makliker opsie wat die Vlieënde Hollander kabelbaan is te gebruik. Die ou vuurtoring is op 1 Mei 1860 opgerig op 'n hoogte van 249 meter bo seevlak.  Die toring was egter te hoog en is gereeld in die mis waar dit dan nie deur skepe gesien kon word nie.  Nadat die Lusitania, 'n Portugese skip, op 18 April 1911 gestrand het, is daar besluit om 'n nuwe toring op te rig. 

Wanneer mens opgeklim het tot by die ou vuurtoring kan jy Kaappunt self met sy loodregte kranse sien waar dit afreik tot waar die see op die rotse breek. 

Reg onder op Dias Punt is die "nuwe" Kaappuntvuurtoring.  Die hoeksteen van die nuwe toring is op 25 April 1914 gelê, maar dit is eers na die Eerste Wêreldoorlog voltooi en in gebruik geneem. Die toring se lamp wat omtrent 87 meter bo seevlak lê is teen sonsondergang op 11 Maart 1919 deur 'n driejaaroue meisie, Thurl Cooper, dogter van die die vuurtoring ingenieur H.C. Cooper, aangesteek.  Die nuwe Kaappuntvuurtoring is die kragtigste in Suid-Afrika en die 10 000 000 kerskrag lig flits drie keer elke dertig sekondes.

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.