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.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Stormsriviermond hangbrûe

Die Tsitsikamma Nasionalepark op die Tuinroete is een van die mooiste plekke in Suid-Afrika met sy inheemse woude, loodregte kranse en pragtige kuslyn.  Die 1 km lange mondwandelpad van die ruskamp tot by Stormsriviermond is die gewildste staproete in die park en die hoogtepunt is die drie hangbrûe by die riviermond self.  Die oudste een van die drie steek die rivier oor terwyl die twee mees onlangse toevoegings oorgesteek word soos mens die rivier met die paadjie langs nader.  Die enigste waarskuwing wat ek het vir besoekers is dat daar baie trappies op die staproete is en nie sommer aangepak moet word as mens moelik stap nie. 

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

Sondagsrivier Veerboot

Colchester net buite Port Elizabeth is a rustige plekkie en is baie gewild met vakansiegangers en stadsjapies wat oor die naweek bietjie wil wegkom en die Sondagsrivier geniet.  Behalwe die rivier is die twee ander groot aantreklikhede die Addo Nasionale Olifantpark wat se suidelike hek in Colchester uitkom en die reuse sandduine aan die ander kant van die rivier.  Die Sondagsrivier Veerboot doen daaglikse ritte in die oggend and laat middag met die rivier af waarna mens teen die duine kan opklim om die fantastiese uitsig van bo af te geniet.

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.