Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas selfie

This year rather than posting a Christmas tree or Christmas scene I decided to post a Christmas selfie.  Ok, so I admit it's both a tree and a scene, but it is a selfie after all.  

I would like to wish all my Christian friends and family as well as all my blog and social media followers a Merry Christmas.  Hope you all have a wonderful and blessed day. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Boardwalk sunset

Last week I got to attend the opening of the Le Vino Wine and Tapas Bar at the Boardwalk complex in Port Elizabeth.  The restaurant has an upstairs area with a balcony overlooking the Boardwalk lake and it was here we were toasting the end of another beautiful day in the Bay while the sun was going down.  The sky was stunning and this is exactly why I always like to have my camera with me.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A walk along the beach in Jeffrey's Bay

What good is a morning meeting in Jeffrey's Bay with perfect early summer weather if one can't leave a little earlier and go for a walk on the beach? Yeh, says me too.  Early morning and not a breath of air in Port Elizabeth so I took a chance and left just after 7am to give myself a bit of time for a walk along the beach at Kabeljous.

The tide was low and water was flowing out of the lagoon through the Kabeljous River mouth.  The stream flowed quite strong but I noticed others crossing through where the river and sea met.  I tried it and found that it was no deeper than my knee.  The walk was on.

The Kabeljous Lagoon, not quite as full at low tide, with the Jeffrey's Bay wind farm in the distance.

On the far side of the lagoon where the dunes start I found this pyramid of stones.  Curiosity got the better of me, it usually does, and I decided to investigate.

A lot of the rocks were painted and has beautiful messages, some actually very inspirational, written on them.  It makes one even more curious about who placed it there.  My guess, either the local school or youth groups that often have weekend camps in the town.

The view over the Kabeljous Valley from the top of the sand dune...

... and looking back towards Jeffrey's Bay.

I always urge people to not just look for the big stuff but also the little things as well.  There is often as much, if not more, beauty in the little things than the big stuff.

Plough snail trails

Now you tell me you wouldn't want to do this on a warm windless morning.  I wonder when my next meeting in Jbay is...

Monday, December 7, 2015

The abandoned Carlisle Bridge cricket field

No exploration expedition has ever ended in failure.  Well perhaps some have.  One or two may have run out of water trying to find a way out the desert, the odd expedition may have lost boat and crew on uncharted seas and at least one was never seen again after getting lost in the Amazon.  Detouring from Port Elizabeth via Grahamstown onto the R350 to Bedford, I wasn't really expecting to see much en route other than passing over the Great Fish River and the few caches lying in wait along the way.  So did I find anything really interesting? I think so although others may feel differently.  What? An abandoned cricket field.

Cricket was brought to South Africa by the British in the start of the 1800's and entrenched in the Eastern Cape after the arrival of the 1820 British Settlers.  The Settlers' decedents started cricket clubs in all the small Frontier Country towns and many of them still have the game played there.

The cricket club at Carlisle Bridge unfortunately is no more.  As game farming in the Eastern Cape increase it leaves less people in the districts to play cricket.  This is particularly the case at clubs away from the towns where it becomes very tough to keep numbers up.  Carlisle Bridge unfortunately falls in that category.  The club stopped playing cricket around 2003 and it didn't take long for the ground and buildings to start falling apart.

Although I passed through on a coolish early summers morning, it is said that Carlisle Bridge was the hottest place in the district to play cricket.  There is even the story of the local farmer who went to hell and on arrival asked the devil for a blanket.  He told the devil, "This place isn't hot.  Try playing cricket at Carlisle Bridge in February."

By the way, I couldn't find the Geocache at Carlisle Bridge.  Finding the abandoned cricket field was a great consolation prize though.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Carlisle Bridge and the Fish River

Road tripping means discovering new places, often places you will never see otherwise.  This was once again the case when I had to drive to Bedford for a meeting and decided to take the scenic route via Grahamstown.  About halfway between the two towns I passed over the mighty Fish River and pulled over to have a closer look.

This spot really is in the middle of nowhere with not much to see yet beautiful in it's own way.

The original bridge was built in 1863 but washed away soon after in 1874.  Two years later a steel bridge was built on the same spot and this one stuck around a little longer but was once again destroyed in a flood in 1932.  The current bridge was built in 1933.  The plaque doesn't say who the bridge was named after, but according to the South Africa Heritage Online website it was probably named after John Carlisle who, in 1822, led a party of thirteen settlers from Staffordshire to settle in the area.
Just something I left out in the intro.  Discovering places like this isn't just about road tripping.  It's stopping along the way and not just rushing to your destination.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The lonely house

I just loved this scene of a lonely house - close to being a ruin although at least it still has its roof - in the Gamtoos Valley.  It's located on a dirt track a few kilometers off the main road through the valley, so not something many people get to see but well worth the stop to photograph.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Blue cranes in the Overberg

Road trip stories.  I have many. Why?  Because it's a lot more exciting than just flying to your domestic destination.  So except for speed, what is the most exciting thing that could happen on an average flight? Chicken or Beef?

Road tripping to Cape Town with Shefetswe and Erenei, we were driving somewhere between Caledon and Bot River in the Overberg when my eye caught something in a field next to the road.  As I spotted it Shefetswe remarked, "Wow! Check the Blue Cranes." Well, I don't know which came first but I slammed on the brakes and shouted hold on... or shouted hold on and slammed on the breaks.  Shefetswe did remark afterwards that he just saw the gravel next to the road approach quickly.  I don't know what he was on about.  There was no skidding wheels and I had everything under control.   

The slight whiplash was well worth the sighting though.  About 100 Blue Cranes together in the field. Not something you get to see every day from where we come from.   

Why was this sighting to special for us?  The Blue Crane is South Africa's National Bird and is a threatened specie that is classified as Vulnerable.  This took place in September which is normally a time when flocks have broken up and breeding pairs dominate the choice areas.  This means that in Spring and Summer you normally see pairs or pairs with youngsters in open fields.  The flocks that remain together move to the fringes of the breeding areas and it must have been a flock like that which we saw..

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Overberg landscape

The Overberg landscape changes with the seasons with the best time to travel through the area being August and September.  That is when you will find green grain fields with wheat, oats and barley, interspersed by yellow canola fields, in splendorous full bloom.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Purple and green lines in the Overberg

Road tripping often allows you to see the most interesting and unusual sights.  Something you don't get wizzing overhead to your destination in a plane.  The Overberg is famous for it's canola fields covered in yellow flowers in spring, otherwise green fields in spring and and brown ploughed fields ion late summer going into autumn and winter.  Or that was until I saw this. Mmmm, very unusual. I don't know why but it reminded me of a couple of pictures of somewhere in Europe I've seen before.  If it wasn't for the sheep it could have been.  Whatever it is, it shouted out for me to pull over and grab my camera.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Blue and yellow on the Knysna Lagoon

It was a late afternoon on a gloomy day, our only day, in Knysna and I was taking a walk around Leisure Isle with a couple of friends.  The mission was actually one of a Geocaching kind, but two of us had our cameras with us as well and once the cache was found it became a photography trip.  With not a lot of sunshine around it meant that there would be no spectacular lagoon sunset so we found ourselves a couple of subjects in these two row boats moored a few meters away from the island.  It wasn't long and we were both flat on our tummies to try and get a low angle and a nearby fisherman was so interested in what we were doing that he nearly missed the slight tug on his line.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Table Mountain - Pulling the table cloth over

Table Mountain.  Probably the most iconic attraction in South Africa.  Something every visitor to the country wants to visit.  Being in the tourism industry I often get asked about Table Mountain by visitors and one piece of advise I always give is to go to the mountain at the first opportunity you get.  I was guided a tour down the Garden Route to Cape Town and on arrival in Cape Town we noticed the mountain was open.  There was bad weather forecasted and both the driver and I urged the tour leader to change the itinerary so that we could go straight to the mountain.  He didn't want to as we had four days in Cape Town before they flew out and there would be more than enough time.  Needless to say, the left without being able to go up.

The main reason for somebody not being able to visit the mountain is wind and often with the wind comes the table cloth.  There is a legend about the table cloth going back to the early days of the Cape.  It goes that the devil challenged a local called Van Hunks to a smoking contest on the mountain and after days of continuous smoking lost.  It is said that the table cloth appears every time Van Hunks and the devil decide to have a rematch up on Devil's Peak.  On my last visit they had a little puff, but not a full on competition.  Perhaps next time again.  Although it would mean I wouldn't be able to see my mountain.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Kouga Dam overflowing in all it's glory

This was my favorite photo from our visit to the Kouga Dam in the Gamtoos Valley to see it overflowing. I just slapped I with a bit of HDR to give it a bit of a more striking look. A dam like this overflowing is always a sight to behold.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Checking the Kouga Dam overflowing

A week or two three ago we spent the weekend at Tia Ghee Tented Camp in the Gamtoos Valley and heard that the Kouga Dam was still overflowing after good late winter and spring rains.  We immediately decided to take a drive up to the dam for a look and we definitely weren't disappointed.
From the tar road, very close to where it becomes dirt going into the Baviaanskloof, there is a dirt road turnoff to the left and about 7 or so kilometers later you arrive at the dam.  The low water bridge over the river was under water and the road on the one side of the cement bridge is totally washed away so we parked the car, took off our shoes and went a wading.

Just less than a kilometer's walk up the hill and we got to the lookout area at the top. What a sight!

The lookout area looks right down on the dam with views both upstream above the wall and downstream back to where the car was parked in the distance.

I really struggle to get Chaos Boy to pose for photos lately so was just too glad when he flashed me a smile for this one. *mxm* (which means tongue click for those who don't know) Teenagers!

With Drama Princess it's the total opposite.  She'll happily pose with a smile, do the natural thing and pretend to be looking at something or perform for the camera.
Walking back down through the tunnel on our way back to the car

One last pose as we made our way back through the river to the car.  Everybody was in agreement that taking the drive to the dam was a great idea, even if the KidZ complained all the way while walking up.  Coming back down they were all smiles.
Note - 3 November 2015 - At the time of posting this we just had a huge amount of rain dumped on us again over the last week so the dam is definitely still overflowing.  If you want to see this for yourself, do take a drive into the beautiful Gamtoos Valley this weekend.  Why not get away properly and book for the weekend at Tia Ghee?  You won't be sorry.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Back to the future on the Mzamba Fossils and Petrified Forest Trail

The Mzamba Fossils and Petrified Forest on the northern Wild Coast has been on my "To Do" list for a long time now.  I just never had chance to visit that part of the Wild Coast yet.  That was until a road trip to Durban had me spending a night at the Wild Coast Sun on the border between the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal.  The first thing I did after checking in was to enquire about going to see the fossils and I was informed that the tour goes out at 9am every morning.   
Nine o'clock the next morning I was there (breakfast and an early morning meeting done already) and met Benny Mbotho who does the tours.  I was joined by a couple of other visitors as well as a school group.  After having a look at the exhibit in the hotel, he took us down to the beach and we headed south. 
After about a kilometer we got to the headland area where the petrified forest is located.  Luck was on my side today as it was low tide which meant that we could go out on the reef to see the fossilized wood in the rocks.
Although called a petrified forest, the trees that formed it didn't actually grow here.  They were washed down rivers and deposited here millions of years ago.  The wood then got waterlogged and was submerged where marine worms penetrated them.  The wood became silicified (converted into silica) and formed what you see there today.
At first I wasn't sure what I was looking for but after Benny pointed out a few I realized that they were all over. Literally. In closer inspection you can actually see the growth rings and other lines.  Again I thanked my lucky stars for the fact that the tide was low as most of these would be covered at high tide and we would have missed out big time. 

A short distance further we started seeing the fossils that also form part of the Mzamba Cretaceous Deposits.  Here you really kicked a fossil out from under every second rock, behind it, in front of it and between it.  Fossils are also found in an exposed 10-metre cliff band along the beach.  The deposits consist of greyish-brown sandstone and limestone that is extremely rich in fossil material dating back 80-million years.  The deposits include masses of marine shells which include beautiful examples of tightly coiled ammonites, echinoids (sea urchins) and bivalve shells.
Benny even pointed out a fossilized shark tooth in one of the rocks.  In actual fact, Benny isn't just a point out guide.  He is an absolute wealth of information and knowledge, has a permanent smile and will show you as much as possible.

The giant clam shells in the rocks were huge.

One of the fossils pointed out to us even looked like it could be a fossilized sea turtle. The shell is prominent while there is a head and eye socket to the right hand side. 

I have a couple of small ammonites in my own collection, but a few of those that we saw where huge.  I can only wish to be able to add a specimen like this to my collection.  I am able to add this photo to this collection of fossil photos though.
At the furthest end there are a series of cliffs and overhangs known as White Man's Cave.  The interesting part of these is that you can sit inside them and look up at fossils in the cave roof.  Benny even pointed out a fossilized Strelitzia and compared it with a modern day Strelitzia.  You won't believe it if you don't see it and posting this I realize that for some reason I excluded the pictures of that.  You will have to maar go and look for yourself.
As we got to the furthest point and turned back I had to leave he group behind and hurry back to the hotel as I still had to drive to Durban.  I did get one of my fellow fossil "hunters" to snap a photo of myself and this ammonite in the rocks.  I have so much to say about this tour yet find myself at a loss for words when trying to describe it further than I have already.  Visiting the Mzamba Fossils may be ticked off my "To Do" list but I really think it should be on everybody else's as it is a piece of natural history that is very rare and can't just be recreated elsewhere

Monday, October 26, 2015

The iconic Knysna Heads

What are the icons of the Garden Route? There are a few.  The adventure activities in the Tsitsikamma, Storms River Mouth, the view over the Beacon Isle Hotel with Robberg in the distance, the Knysna forest, the lakes around Sedgefield and Wilderness, Kaaimans Bridge outside Wilderness (especially when the Choo Tjoe still ran), Outeniqua Pass in George and the Dias Museum in Mossel Bay.  I left one out on purpose.  Probably (one of) the biggest icon on the Garden Route must be the Knysna Heads and, directly linked to it, the Knysna Lagoon - which is actually an estuary.

Road tripping to Cape Town and spending the night in Knysna was the perfect excuse for a drive up to the view site on top of the Knysna Heads.  Located on the Eastern Head, it has a breathtaking view of the Western Head and the opening into the Knysna Lagoon.

The Eastern Head is mostly a upmarket residential area where most of the houses have views we can only dream of.  The Western Head area is part of the Featherbed Nature Reserve so the area is protected and not developed.  Thank goodness.

Another view site just down the road gives one this magnificent view of the lagoon with Leisure Isle in the middle and the town in the distance.  It was a greyish day so I just slapped it with a bit of HDR for the effect.