A Rainy Day at Oak Valley

Our walk at Oak Valley was considerably compromised by the wet and windy weather this morning.  It had been so wild that a number of mature oak tress had been blown down on the property, famous for it’s old forests.  This was a sad start to our day.

Walking in the steady rain was not an option, but John had other ideas.  First we visited the small apple and bee museum, where we marveled at the artefacts of early farming in the region.  This was followed by a stop off at the frozen chicken shop, necessitated by the need amongst the distaff members of our group for some retail therapy!  It was now mid morning and time for some refreshment, so coffee was taken at the Pool Room on Oak Valley farm.

A break in the weather allowed us to do a short, but brisk walk, before setting off to the greenhouses to see the cut flower production.  This was a real eye-opener, in terms of complexity and scale and we were all amazed by what we saw.  Our guide explained the growing and packing of numerous flower types and we ended our visit with a look in at the marketing shed where final bunches of single and mixed flowers are assembled prior to dispatch around the country.  It was a fantastic experience and we saw more beautiful flowers that ever before!

The final stop was a return to the Pool Room for a sumptuous lunch with great wine – a fitting end to our outing and a good way to celebrate John’s birthday!!

Dot’s Dash in May, 2014

Only 9 Hurriers arrived for the walk at Dot’s Dash yesterday, no doubt because the rest thought the weather would be bad.  As it turned out, we had perfect hiking weather and enjoyed a very pleasant walk indeed.

We were keen to see whether the magnificent Erica pillansii had recovered from the fire of a few years ago, and we were very glad to note that they are slowly returning.  The main flowering period is over, but there were still sufficient plants and blooms to indicate that a full recovery is more than likely.  We look forward to re-visiting the area in April next year, when the slopes should be red once more!

Birding in Swaziland

Our journey started from Johannesburg and we were in Swaziland at the Malolotja Reserve in time for lunch.  It is a beautiful area with rolling hills and magnificent scenery. The bird of note was the Buff-Streaked Chat and there were many of them around.

We travelled with Lilli and Barry, and Margaret, with Grahame Snow of Reach Africa as our guide.  He is an excellent birder and generous host and he made sure that we were always well fed and comfortable, whilst, at the same time, sharing his knowledge of the bush and its birds.

Route taken in Swaziland
Route taken in Swaziland

From Malolotja, we moved to Phophonyane Falls where we spent two nights in their comfortable tented camp on the banks of the Phophonyane River.  The birding was excellent and we saw Pink Twinspots and many other species.  A walk around Python Cliffs was exhilarating and Barry showed his grit by taking it on despite his advanced years. Not only did we see many birds, but the butterflies were also out in abundance.  Margaret used her time trying to photograph a particularly elusive Olive Sunbird in the lush gardens.

From Phophonyane we travelled east to the Lowveld and the Mbuluzi Game Reserve.  The weather was clear and warm and we were able to enjoy long walks along the wonderful trails throughout the reserve.  Our accommodation was in the well-appointed Singwe Lodge on the banks of the Mlwalula River, where the African Finfoot hunted along the water’s edge.  African Fish Eagles and Trumpeter Hornbills vied for attention along with Baboons and Vervet monkeys.

Our drives took us to beautiful stretches of river and bushveld and we were lucky to come close to a magnificent African Crowned Eagle.  All in all we saw 197 species on the trip and these included 2 lifers for me.  We made good friends and all agreed to undertake another trip with Grahame in the summer, but next time we will greet our fellow travellers with the names, Mr and Mrs Muffin (Barry could not get enough of the muffins that Grahame produced) and Cuckoo (Margaret was obsessed with finding a Thick-Billed Cuckoo)!

It was a memorable trip and we can heartily recommend Reach Africa as excellent hosts.