Monday, October 28, 2013

Succulent flowers at Kuzuko

Succulents always surprise me with the beautiful flowers that they produce specially when they grow in dry and arid areas.  The flowering succulent in the picture was growing next to the path to our room at Kuzuko Lodge in the northern part of the Addo Elephant National Park.

After reading the post, Alan Fogarty of Alan Tours helped me out a bit with the name:  Crassula ovata or Kerky bush, Beestebul, iPhewula also commonly known as the "Botterboom"

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Orchard rainbow

An afternoon shower washed off the dust of a day exploring the Gamtoos Valley along some dirt back roads.  As the sun came out we went for a walk through the citrus orchard at Nikalandershoek where we were staying and a rainbow appeared over the trees.  The perfect end to the day.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Approaching with confidence

When this boytjie matures a bit more he will be a really impressive bull. 
Not that he isn't already.  He's only problem is that he is an Addo bull so
he will never have the huge tusks that the Kruger bulls have. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Valley Thicket

South Africa boasts seven biomes or plant kingdoms and Port Elizabeth is fortunate that five of the seven occurs within the Nelson Mandela Bay metro boundary.  One of the biomes which is found largely in the Eastern Cape is the Valley Thicket Biome, previously called Valley Bushveld.  The biome is found mostly in river valleys and is characterised by dense evergreen shrub vegetation.  Closer to the coast the thicket is most dense with thorny shrubs and an undergrowth of creepers and succulent plants. Further inland where the climate is drier the vegetation becomes less intense while in mountain valleys you will find predominantly succulent vegetation.  The majority of vegetation in the Addo Elephant National Park consists of Valley Thicket with Spekboom being prevalent.  The big advantage of Valley Thicket is that it has an exceptionally high carbon dioxide storage ability and is seen as an important area to buffer the effects of climate change. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Patensie Plaasbasaar - the epitome of church bazaars

Most people have been to their local church or school bazaar where the old tannies man tables with vetkoek, curry and rice and pancakes and kids run around while their parents buy food and chat to their neighbours who they never get to see due to the 6 foot wall separating their homes.  Last weekend I got to go to the Patensie Plaasbasaar, the NG Kerk Gamtoosvallei-Oos annual bazaar and I have to be honest here.  It was the mother of all church bazaars and makes our little city church bazaars look like a Micky Mouse tea party. 

The Gamtoos Valley is a major citrus and vegetable growing area and is often referred to as the food basket of the Eastern Cape.  Knowing that the first question people asked me when I came back was if there was fruit and vegetables on sale. Seriously?  Is the sea wet?  There was lots of fruit and particularly vegetables on sale.  So much so and at such low prices that people bought wheel barrows full with the farm workers assisting going flat out all day, wheeling people's purchases to their cars (or bakkies as is the case in most of the people from the valley who came).  And making some seriously good tips along the way.  
Coming into the Endulini Citrus packhouse where the bazaar was held the first thing you saw was the tea garden and all its cakes, and tarts, and cakes and... did I mention tarts?

I don't just mean any cakes and tarts, but cakes and tarts that would make most bakeries and coffee shops green with envy.  Green I say. Lime green with some frog in a blender green thrown in for good measure.  These cakes weren't just thrown together, they were made with exceptional skill and effort by people living in a farming community.  For the sake of the tea garden the cakes were cut up and in plates already, selling at R15 a piece.  The only problem was deciding which one to choose.  Not quite a piece of cake.    
One of my favourite things at the bazaar was watching these ladies making rooterkoek.  Roosterkoek, for those who don't know it, is bread rolls made over the coals and normally prepared along with a braai.  The roosterkoek table was where I bought my lunch of warm roosterkoek with farm butter melting and running over my fingers, topped off with whole fig jam and cheese.

It truly was a treat watching these experts at work.  They were churning out dozens of roosterkoek and as fast as they were making them, people were buying them.  During the auction later on they stopped making roosterkoek because they thought people were done buying and suddenly found themselves out of stock.  Didn't take long for the next batch to be rolled, cut and made though.
Other tables at the bazaar was heavily laden with all kinds of traditional bazaar goods. 
Bottled onions, bottled beetroot, jams, lemon syrup...

 ... breads, cakes, rusks, koeksisters...

 ... pancakes (and what is a church bazaar without pancakes?), jaffles, salamis, cheeses and biltong.

The most popular part of the bazaar was their farm breakfast which was served all day, buffet style.  Bacon, mince, sausage, patties, baked beans, egg, breads with farm butter, jams and cheese served with juice, all for just R40.  This was well topped off with a dessert from the pudding table selling at R10 and R15 per container. Baked puddings, jellies, instant puddings, more baked puddings and custard.  Like Oom Oubaas of 7de Laan on television would say.  "I had to stop myself before I chewed my lips off." 


 During the day the stage was used for a proper farmers auction with sheep, goats and chickens, kudu hunts, wire cars and several other items up for grabs.  I couldn't really compete with some of the farmers' wallets but did enjoy the banter going on between some of the guys on the floor.  The auction was followed by a boere-orkes. Uhm, ja.  Not sure how to translate that into English.  Its a traditional Afrikaner band led by a concertina player.  Not really something that is popular with the younger crowd these days, but still very special to hear live. 

Outside the kids did the standard jumping castle thing with a sweets and kiddies table nearby to keep them all sugared up.  One of the local farmers did tractor rides into the orchards which clearly was supported more by the city kids than the farm kids who get to ride on tractors whenever they want. 
I wouldn't have know of the bazaar if it wasn't for Nichola Uys of Nikalandershoek.  Nichola is the driving force behind the Gamtoos Tourism Association and invited us out to the valley for the weekend.  While we were there we stayed in her cottage on the citrus farm Nikalandershoek.  The cottage is self catering and the ideal spot to base yourself to explore the valley or just chill away from the city rush.  Breakfast at Tolbos in town, lunch at Padlangs just outside of Patensie and late afternoon strolls through the orchards with outings to the Baviaanskloof, Kouga Dam, Queen Victoria profile and Hankey in between.  Truly a plattelandse experience with a good farming flavour in the mix.  Next year we'll definitively be returning for the Plaasbasaar with heaps of our friends in tow.  They didn't want to believe me before hand that its going to be a great experience and now they have to wait a year for the next one.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cape Weaver in Addo

Visiting Addo Elephant National Park isn't all about elephants and other big game.  Addo is also home to over 300 different bird species, one of which is this Cape Weaver I found at Domkrag Waterhole in the park.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Acacia Karroo Sunset

The Karoo is big sky country so when the sun sets its something to behold. 
In the foreground of this sunset is the branch of an Acacia Karroo (Sweet Thorn tree)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Lalibela Game Reserve - a photo essay

There are some truly awesome game reserves around Port Elizabeth ranging from the epic Addo Elephant National Park to excellent private game reserves with top class lodges.  Playing right in that space is Lalibela Game Reserve between Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown.  Lalibela is home to the Big 5 as well as other predators like cheetah, hyena, jackal & lynx on 7500 hectares with visitors staying in one of three excellent lodges.  I spent a night with the Damselfly in late 2012 and did a couple of posts on PE Daily Photo but for some reason uploaded this and forgot about it.  While going through the drafts folder to look for something to post today I found it right at the bottom and just can't let the opportunity go by to show you this beautiful place.  My apologies.  So here is Lalibela in a photo essay.  
Mark's Camp is Lalibela's family friendly camp with four twin rooms on one side of the lodge and 4 family rooms on the other.  My favourite part of the lodge is the walkway leading down to the swimming pool and deck next to the waterhole.
 A different view of the walkway, this time looking towards the pool deck from the lodge.  The waterhole is on the left of the deck.  Do you now get why I like this so much?

One of the very S P A C I O U S rooms at Mark's Camp
High tea before the afternoon game drive.  Just the temptation is an absolute sin but its a case of have food, will eat.  Plus how can you say no to a spread like this? Absolutely divine.

Watching elephants close by with the full moon rising over the horizon.  Game drives is always a highlight for me and I will go on each and every one on offer while at a game reserve. 

Returning to the lodge after the afternoon / evening game drive with a crackling fire welcoming you to the lodge.  The decor around the lodge is authentically African and not plastic Africa like I've seen at some lodges before.  Just what every international visitor wants.

Good food and friendly people, essential components of a good game reserve along with knowledgeable rangers, memorable animal sightings and a comfortable lodge.  This was lodge manager Charmaine waiting for us with dinner us on our return from the game reserve.  Any close up pictures of this would be deemed food porn. 

Ranger Terry was excellent on both game drives finding the animals and getting us in the best possible position for prime game viewing. 
Disclosure:  We were invited to Lalibela Game Reserve and stayed on a complimentary basis while our transport was for our own account.  I received no additional remuneration to write this post and all views expressed are my own.

Monday, October 7, 2013

My Old Fort adventure in Durban

I get to visit Durban once a year during the annual Tourism Indaba but other than stopping in Umhlanga and taking walks on the beachfront, I've never really had an opportunity to explore the city much.  This year I decided to pinch off an hour to explore and discover at least one new place and the choice fell on The Old Fort.  From outside the place didn't look like much but I pressed on and in and was pleasantly surprised by what I found.  When the Dutch arrived in the small settlement of Durban in 1842 the British weren't too impressed to see the Dutch flag flying at the Point.  A armed force of a few hundred were sent to the settlement to sort the Dutch out and was surprised by some stern resistance.  After having to retreat back to the camp Dick King set off on his famous overland horse ride to Grahamstown to fetch reinforcements.

The camp didn't really provide the British with much shelter and during a 24-hour truce called to bury the their dead, the British moved quickly to strengthen it.  Sixty wagons was pulled in a circle around the tented camp and a trench dug around the perimeter.  The excavated soil was used to build up a mount in front with parts of the trench and mount still visible today.  During the siege the Boers shot 651 cannon balls and thousands of bullets at the British.  Many of the cannon balls were dug up and reused after having been fired at them by the Brits.

. The battle went on for a whole five weeks until it was finally ended with the arrival of two British ships, a schooner called the Conch, and the Royal Navy’s frigate HMS Southampton, with reinforcements.  Dick King had succeeded.  The Dutch were sent packing as far back as Cowies Hill and the rebellion was over.  The British was back in full control of Natal.
The Old Fort was continuously used as barracks until 1897 and today it's an open air museum of sorts.  The old magazine building has been converted into a chapel while aged military veterans live in rooms that used to be the military barracks.  The gardens that can be found through out the fort complex is littered with historical and interesting items, amongst them a bench made from timber of HMS Southampton, a cannon recovered from the wreck of the Grosvener (1782), and plaques commemorating the heroic journeys of John Ross and Dick King.  The South African Heavy Artillery Memorial can also be found in the fort's gardens.
Before I knew it my hour was over and I had to get back to what brought me to Durban in the first place.  Perhaps in the future I will get other opportunities to explore the city and expand my knowledge of the city a little more.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Enjoying scenic views

Visitors to South Africa are treated to the most beautiful views as they travel through our country.  Coastal views, views of the land from the sea, looming mountain views, views from mountains, scenic drives, hilly landscapes, flat landscapes, cityscapes, river gorges, animals on the plains and so I can go on and on and on ..... South Africa truly is a country of beauty.  This view of the Swartkops River on the Flamingo Trail outside Port Elizabeth is no different. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Waterhole interaction

A couple of young bulls interacting at the Hapoor Waterhole in the Addo Elephant National Park just like a couple of young men would at their local watering hole