Ctirusdal Baths

We did the laze around in hot water for Amanda’s Birthday Weekend at Citrusdal. A wonderful place to completely relax.

On the way we stopped at a farm stall to stock up on cheese for me and retail therapy for Amanda.

We met this rather inquisitive ostrich who thought that my ring was food and made a number of strong bites at it to get it off my finger. Don’t believe that an ostrich can’t bite hard, it can.

A slave bell in the church at Citrusdal. I was intrigued by the “wings” on the top of the structure.

The original Dutch Reform Church has been desanctified and turned into a museum. They used, as you can see the sand stone from the local mountains.

Fighting with the new camera. Far more knobs, buttons and knurled wheels than I am used to.

A plough! As if you didn’t know. I just liked the symmetry. Or asymmetry if you like.

Autumn leaves. I loved the colours!

In the museum was a beautiful Japanese vase, mug whatever.

Fiscal shrike or jackie hangman. The “new” camera has nice telephoto capabilities.

Aloes are beautiful, aren’t they?

In the background of the next picture is the road we followed on the Monday after checking out of the The Baths. Note the winding nature of the road. It is a wonderful switch back road. The Subaru loved it.

Looking toward Clanwilliam. In case you are interested, this picture and the two previous macro shots were taken with by Manda with her cell phone. The quality of the pictures from cell phone cameras always amazes me.

In The Baths premises they have some really interesting and picturesque plants.

And of course the hot water springs. This picture taken in the warm outside pool. The water is a bluish colour so it just adds to the existing colour.

Wille Dagga plants. Used by the original settlers and inhabitants for relief from chest congestion, they make a lovely show and the sunbirds love them.

Amanda had to try out the trampoline!

Being winter it was cold, but there was a fire place and no reason not to warm the place with it. We ended up sleeping in front of it. Lovely.

We “discovered” a set of coolish pools above the top victorian homestead. Hidden under trees they are really rather lovely.

This wild olive really had something mystical about it.

Patterns of fallen leaves. We just liked the look of it.

We took a walk on one of the local scenic walks. It was a wonderful climb. Slowly rising above the resort and providing beautiful views not only of the resort, but also of the Olifants River Valley.

Lots of fynbos too.

Fynbos lace.

On the hiking trail.

Back to the “Art Shots” section. The trellis and the ivy just looked right.

The birds love this plant, but they tend to drop the results of their meals on cars, tents and anything underneath.

More “Art Shots”! Blame it on the new camera.

And of course the lovely alien invasive morning glory. It is such a beautiful flower and such a pest.

And of course the sunbirds were there for lunch.

A coral tree flower. Yes, yes, I should have used filler flash!

More autumn leaves.

And more pictures of flowers. Indigenous and exotics.

And the weavers came for bread.

Monday came far too soon and we headed out. We took the long way home, via Oppieberg and Ceres.

Self portrait. The wind was far too cold for Amanda, so I went and took this one looking back toward Citrusdal. It is hard to believe that Citrusdal is just behing the range of mountains you can see behind me. You can just see the Citrusdal road to my right.

We disturbed this black shouldered kite during lunch. He was not well pleased.

And this rock kestrel who would just not oblige by coming out from behind the wires.

Start of another hair pin bend. Heading for Ceres, still on the dirt.

Clouds and autumn leaves. Now on the tar road. Lots of good places to stop and take pictures.

A grey heron, we were driving and trying to take the picture. Not a good combination, but still.

Red coniferum. There are beautiful stands of them all the way across the plateau.

Jagged vistas of the Cedarberg.

Broken by the symmetry of deciduous fruit farms.

And then, Gydo pass. The south easter was adding a touch of drama as well by then.

Subaru heaven – long kilometres of sweeping bends and spectacular scenery.

The walls of the Breede River rift valley provides a spectacular back drop, especially when the table cloth is around.

To the top of Bains Kloof pass.

And then down Bains Kloof and back to Cape Town.

Of course Cape Town was not going to be outdone by anywhere we had been on the weekend and provided a spectacular sunset. Our picture does not convey the beauty of that sunset.

Gannaga Pass

I love passes, mountain passes that is. Just recently we traveled up the Gannaga Pass which is on the eastern edge of the Tankwa Reserve.

It is a spectacular pass carved the Master Artist of Passes, Bains. The man had an eye for sweeping, spectacular lines and his passes show his skill. His dry walling is spectacular too. Join us on a trip up and down the Gannaga Pass.

The Guardian of the Pass. Looking like an escapee from a SciFi movie, this rock formation faces up the pass.

The pass sign board. You gotta have this picture to show you were there!

Botter Bos halfway up the pass which you can see sweeping down the right of the picture.

Life clinging to the rocks

Framing


Those Bains dry walls still standing.

Gannaga Lodge at the top with a nice storm cloud.

All the modcons

Looking back at the Lodge.

Looking down

Amanda at the top.

SASOL Tankwa Birding Bonanza

The Tankwa Reserve has intrigued me since the time I inadvertently drove the R355. How, you ask do you “inadvertently” drive the longest road between two towns in the whole of South Africa. Easy, is the answer, you just turn left just outside of Calvinia, looking for a quick road home after looking at the Spring Flowers. Simple really.

What I didn’t know was that the R355 has, to misquote the Eagles, “A nasty reputation as a cruel road.”

Problem is that there is this oil shale that litters the country thereabouts. From a distance it doesn’t look too bad. A bit black maybe, but not too bad.

Its when you get closer that it gets to look a bit more threatening.

Those shards are razor sharp and cut holes in tyres without much effort. To make things a bit more tense, the closest garage and petrol station is 150 km away. And to complete the picture, there is NO cell phone coverage. None of our national cell phone companies has got this area “covered’. Which can be a bit problematic if you slash your tyres in a place that looks like this:

And it gets awfully hot or awfully cold, depending on the time you happen to be there.
That is Skoorsteenberg in the distance and to quote Mike Lodge (who made some informed comments – thanx Mike) “It is the place where all the oil companies have been investigating fracking.” This will not be a fracking site, but has been part of intensive exploration by the oil companies.

This is picture of  Pramberg in spring. Picture supplied by Mike Lodge and taken by Carl Gerber. The spring flowers are, I am told superb and the picture gives some idea of the effect of the spring rains on this barren land.

Having thoroughly dissuaded you from visiting, let me change tack and insist that you MUST see this reserve. If you love drylands and what the Americans call “Big Sky Country” this is the place for you.

On the eastern edge of the reserve is the Gannaga Pass a beautiful, rugged Bains Pass and a must do if you are into mountain passes as I am.

The seer-oog flowers bloom in April and wait for the Spring rains in September for water.

Some more flower pictures

Hoodia. Nice to look at, but kinda smelly.

There are mammals in the Reserve and they are fairly easy to photograph.

And other critters.

The roads aside from having sharp tyre cutting shale are good and well kept and the country is photogenic beyond belief.

I even saw some humans.

Actually that is Amanda and our guide and mentor Johan, a voluntary ranger who showed us the Reserve with patience, courtesy and friendliness.

Here is Johan stalking Mountain Wheatears in the grass. And before you start wondering and worse still muttering, yes, I did play with the images. There has been some tampering. And to show my complete brazen cheek, a couple of art photos.

There are farmhouses and labourers cottages spotted all over the reserve. We stayed at Paulshoek.

Take a look in the SANParks website to get a better idea what the places are like. As with all SANParks accommodation, the place was clean, well stocked with equipment and comfortable. The next picture is not official accomodation, but it made a great hook for a landscape picture.

But we were there for the birds. And here are some of the pics we got.
Sparrows you will see aplenty.

Morning song

And art pic and a bird at once.

White backed mouse birds.

Rock Kestrel

Jackal Buzzard

Baby Martin

Sand grouse

Gabar Goshawk

And a moonrise to finish off.

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.