Swartberg Pass

If you haven’t travelled the Swartberg Pass you have missed an amazing South African experience. The Lonely Planet books rate this pass as the best in South Africa and I am inclined to agree with them – and believe me I have seen some amazing passes in my life. The pass is 25 km long and we took 2 hours 30 minutes to get to Prince Alfred from the foot of the pass. Why, well come with us, and do see why and what you have missed in not following it.

The Swartberg pass is a Bains pass and, as with all Bains passes has an almost artistic flow to it. It also has a a prison on it, reminding us that the passes in early South Africa were constructed with convict labour.

The pass starts off slowly and the local (Oudtshoorn) backpacker lodges provide bikes and transport to the top and you can ride down the pass on a bike. Not something I would recommend to the faint heartd or those who do not like being shaken.

Pretty flowers, calm slopes lure you into the pass.

Why is Amanda holding the flowers? The wind is already blowing strongly here.

The ruins of a toll gate.

Typical of a Bains Pass, dry walling is the norm, not the exception. Where he got his dry wallers from, I do not know, but the dry walls still stand.

The road as Tolkein wrote, “Goes ever on.”

And then we met the time waster. A golden banded sunbird. We stalked it for nearly half an hour before getting these pictures.

And then the top. Note the effects of the wind. The tripods were being blown over.

Looking down the other side of the pass.

Flowers. The wind is gone again.

A clever depth of field picture.

This what those curves look like properly focused.

And then it just keeps on dropping.

Looking back up the way we had come.

How did we get some of those pictures. Simple we climbed.

Cape Fold Mountains. You can see why they are called that.

The jail.

How does one relax on Swartberg Pass? Tai Chi of course.

Serendipity – A happy discovery

Serendipity (n) – a happy discovery made when searching for something else.

In this case I was looking for space on a portable disk to save a large chunk of data, so I selected a directory to delete, but being cautious, I checked what was in the sub-directories. Lo and behold, I found a bunch of photos taken 18 months ago while traveling, stored on the portable disk and somehow never transferred onto my photo store. If I had thought about it, I would have written the pictures off as being lost. Equally the kloof shown in this email came as a complete and happy surprise as well – so join on a trip up serendipity kloof in the newly opened mega-reserve of Baviaanskloof in the Eastern Cape.

A bit of background first. Amanda and I had been to the Grahamstown Festival and Amanda had to attend a workshop in the mega‑reserve which was on the way back from Grahamstown. While Amanda was busy the farmer on whose farm we were staying suggested I go up one of the blind kloofs on the farm. He told me how to find one and I set out. I was not very enthusiastic as the surrounding country was hard, thorny and, despite it being July, very hot.

The approach did not seem particularly encouraging.

Well at least there is a bit of water.

A bit more interesting! The kloof is getting narrower and narrower. Believe it or not, that is the kloof up ahead. It narrowed down to less than a metre in places.

Looking back.

There are arums all over the place.

Indigenous Mint. I was amazed to find that South Africa has its own variety of mint.

Water thunders down this kloof. You can see debris from the last heavy flood in this picture. This not a place to be during a heavy rainstorm. There is nowhere to go.

Many pools have to be waded through or climbed around. This one was climbable.

This is in the heart of the Eastern Cape Biome. The local vegetation makes the water a greenish colour. It looks strangely beautiful and tastes wonderful.

And an arty arum picture.

Trees grow out of any cranny that has some soil in it.

An otters breakfast.

The last picture requires a little explanation. The water in the kloof is extremely cold. Many of the pools are impassable except by wading and to prove that I had actually waded, I set the camera on 10 seconds delay and waded out into the middle of a small but impassable pool. The strange look on my face is because I was losing all feeling in my legs, was convinced that the brother of the crab above was munching my toes and equally convinced that time had ground to a complete, but painful halt – 10 seconds was beginning to feel like 10 hours. For reference, the water was just touching the soles of my boots. When I got back and looked at the picture I realized that, to get a correctly exposed picture I would have to set the speed and aperture of the camera and then go back and stand hip deep in the icy water again while the camera counted the seconds. As you can tell, I opted for comfort and against perfection!

Klipspringer Trail – Augrabies Falls National Park

Some friends and I walked the Klipspringer Hiking Trail in the Augrabies National Park. Rated as Moderate to Difficult, it is well worth the effort. A magnificent trail. Here are some photographs of the trail.
The sentinal, watching over the hikers

IMG_2998Looking back

IMG_3002The trail ahead.




Wind erosion

Arrow Point


Arrow Point again

Fish Eagle Hut – end of Day 1

Cooking fire

Day 2 — Down to the Orange River. Probably the hardest part of the trip, but certainly the most beautiful

The trail ahead.

And more trail ahead.

The Orange / Gariep River in its gentle phase.


Leopard foot print (spoor).


Follow the river.

IMG_3080 reflections IMG_3084 IMG_3085 orange1

Turning point. Turn away from the river and back into the heat.


The hot river bed.




Berghut and the end of the second day.



Day Three
Looking back on the Swart Rante (Black Ridges)

Quiver Tree and a sociable weavers nest.



Moon Rock. Nearly the end of the trail.


If you like trail and a challenge, this one is for you.




The Petroglyphs of Kenhardt

On our way way to Augrabies we stopped off to visit a petroglyph site just outside Kenhardt. Amanda made contact with Elma a very enthusiastic woman who agreed to take us out to view the petraglyphs.

There had been a bit of rain and so the flowers of region had started to blossom. Especially beautiful were the Gouwsblomme.



The petroglyphs were clustered on one side of a hill or kopie as it is known in Afrikaans. This is part of that kopie.


What follows is a collection of the pictures I took of the pectroglyphs.
This one is fascinating in that there are seven toes on what looks like an animal footprint.












IMG_2785 IMG_2788 IMG_2787 IMG_2790














Astro Photography in Bontebok National Park

We went to the Bontebok National park to do some astro-photography. The park is small but beautiful.

Bontebok Park website is here:

There were some clouds early in the evening which cleared up and by 2 am the stars were gorgeous.
Sunset. Clouds to ruin the “seeing”. Nice pictures though.



10 pm. Still clouds but they do add some interest.



2 am and the camera is out of focus. Pictures are still pretty good though.






Diesel and Creme – Barrydale

Diesel and Creme is a restaurant and pub on Route 62. The decor, is quirky to say the least and it seems to work. The place is hugely popular.

The manequins are a bit unsettling I must admit.

And some of the dolls are kinda different.

Tractor seats for the bar. Different.

No, she did not get a shave or a cut.

Those mannequins…..


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