Birthday Reunion at Breede River House

This weekend the twins celebrated their 48th birthday and we were fortunate to be able to all get away to the Breede River to help them enjoy their special day.  Breede River House was a large and comfortable place to stay and it accommodated all 15 of us (Gill came too) with ease.  Admittedly the drive down to the house was pretty steep, but we negotiated it okay and the only downside to the weekend was the weather.  After a sweltering week, the rain came in on the back of a stiff south-easter, so we were limited in our outdoor activities.

Fortunately the property is equipped with all the toys, so Michael was able to take all the kids and his brothers out on the river skiing or tubing. They had a ball, but found it warmer in the water than out!  We even managed to see a few birds, but, once again, the weather mitigated against any hiking or proper bird watching.  We ate and drank well and played lots of the many games that came with the house!

A Walk to Sopiesklip

A break in the miserable late December weather allowed us to take a walk to Sopiesklip and back.  Needless to say, with many holiday makers around the beach was very active, but the numbers had thinned out considerably by the time we reached our destination, 6 km from the end of Grotto Beach.  It was a really pleasant walk and gave us a good appetite for the lunch at The Hermanus Brewery on our return.

Hiking at De Bos

De Bos

The cool weather this morning was perfect for the beautiful hike up the kloof to the ruins on the farm. The hiking paths are very well sign posted and the route established by Frank Woodvine a few years ago, is very well maintained. It was exciting to walk through vine growth that had a different leaf shape and to learn that the Bosman family grow some of their rootstock on the farm which is grafted with many varieties of vines including vines that come from Sicily that can handle the the dryer and hotter weather that we are experiencing in South Africa.

The coffee after the hike in their tasting room was delicious and there was a great light lunch menu for those of us who need to escape our “village” that is filling up with happy holiday makers.

We also enjoyed the company of 2 younger walkers who had great smiles on their faces on the way down.

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and much joy with your family and friends.

Jenny

Floating Pillows

A visit to Strandfontein last week, in search of the elusive Red-necked Phalarope, was unsuccessful.  There were so many birds present that it was like looking for a needle in a haystack!  What we did see, however, was this assemblage of floating pillows!

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The Epic, Part 6 – Waterberg to Hermanus

We drove from the Waterberg to our overnight stop in Mahikeng.  The less said about Mahikeng, the better.  It is the most disgustingly filthy place imaginable – on a par with Umthatha.  It appears that nothing has been spent on town maintenance, upkeep of roads, traffic lights, garbage removal, etc., for 25 years, and it shows!!

On the way there we drove through the Pilanesberg Reserve, an excellent birding destination, however, this too is showing signs of decay and the roads are in disrepair, the buildings and toilets are run down and there is a general air of neglect about the place.  It is not within the Sanparks stable and this may explain the lack of maintenance.  We were very disappointed and will not return.

There were many Korhaans, mainly Northern Black, along the road to Vryburg and then, near Warrenton, we saw a huge flock of Abdim’s Storks in a field.  The main show, however, was on the approach to Kimberley, when we passed Kamfersdam and saw the incredible multitude of Lesser Flamingos on the pan.  It must be one of the major birding sights of the world as there were literally millions of birds.  Sadly, one cannot get close to them (perhaps this is actually a good thing) and no photograph can do the sight justice, but it will remain embedded in my memory forever!

We spent two nights at the Lilydale Camp in the Mokala Reserve.  After the good rains experienced further north, it was tragic to see how dry it was – the drought is really bad from there southwards.  Fortunately there is still some water at the waterholes, and in the grasslands in the north of the Reserve near Lilydale, there were vast herds of all manner of antelope, especially buffalo.  We searched diligently for Coursers, but without any success, however, we did get around 80 other species whilst there, but the dryness and the dust left us in despair.

We traveled south for our last two nights at the Karoo National Park.  The camp is very comfortable and we were impressed with the Interpretive Centre, but once again the drought was taking its toll and the birds were definitely in short supply.  We managed a few more ticks for our trip list and got the total to 427 which we felt was not too bad, but way short of what such a long trip could have yielded.

Our journey home was a nightmare with a major truck accident on the N1 near Beaufort West holding us up for an hour or so when around 300 trucks and many cars were held up in a queue about 6 kms long!  The chaos of speeding vehicles, trying to escape this mess, caused us some very scary moments and we diverted from the N1 at Laingsburg for a long drive home on some bad gravel roads, but free from the dangers of the highway!

It was a truly epic trip and it contributed greatly to our Big Birding Year Challenge list.  We now look forward to a foray into Namibia in January, but first we must lick our wounds and recharge our batteries!!