Reflections on South Africa

It was 35 years ago that I first visited South Africa to meet my future in-laws and to propose! Whilst a lot has happened since that time, my love of the country has survived.  Initially, my early travels were in Natal where the Drakensberg mountains exerted their pull on me; latterly we have travelled more extensively and our latest trip was spent exclusively in Cape Province.

Western Province

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trip was not designed as a photographic tour, but those that know me will understand that a camera is normally fairly close by!  Our time was split between a beach on the Cape Peninsula at Kommetjie, with its beautiful white sand beach and seabirds, and travelling through the region taking in some less well known sites.  Tourists will often do the wine region or travel the Garden Route – all in lovely country.

Looking into the hills after leaving Prince Albert
Looking into the hills after leaving Prince Albert

Our trip was rather different.  In all we travelled some 2100km – often on dirt roads exploring the mountains, passes and flora.  There are World Heritage sites in profusion – although if you look at the world listing, it seems that South Africa has taken it into its mind to split the regions rather more.  There are only 8 listed on the World register – one of which is the Fynbos floral kingdom covering much of our trip – yet we were told that, in fact, we had visited at east 4 in Table Mountain, Cape Point, De Hoop, Baviannskloof! (Unesco, who approve such areas, define a site as “a natural or man-made site, area, or structure recognized as being of outstanding international importance and therefore as deserving special protection.”) 

After the Table Mountain and Cape Point sites, our route took us to de Hoop Nature Reserve (between Arniston and Witsand on the map above), Montagu, Prince Albert and Baviannskloof – all claiming heritage status. The protected Fynbos flora was seen at or close to all these places.

From the heights of Table Mountain
From the heights of Table Mountain

This blog is not intended as a travelogue as I have already commented on the various stages of our trip but more as an overview.

 

WEATHER

Our visit coincided with mid summer in the Cape with very bright strong light. We were blessed with great weather, sunny, bright and dry – only 1/2 day lost at De Hoop to rain and a cloudy last day.  Dawn was a little too early for my liking which meant few sunrises!  However, the country was suffering drought conditions and crying out for rain;  those we spoke to said it should be much greener.

After sunset at Kommetjie
After sunset at Kommetjie
Sunset at Kommetjie
Sunset at Kommetjie
Harsh afternoon light at Kommetjie
Harsh afternoon light at Kommetjie

Photographically this meant that travel images were difficult as we mainly travelled during the harsh lit hours.  However, we did get some lovely evening colours especially from the beach.

ROADS

Inevitably on such a trip there are long distances between locations.  We tended to travel and stay at our locations for a couple of nights before moving on.  As the towns are so far apart, there are some great travel scenes of road and mountains and some steep passes to negotiate.

Meringspoort Pass
Meringspoort Pass
Swartberg mountains from near Calitzdorp
Swartberg mountains from near Ladismith
On the way to Malgas from De Hoop nature reserve
On the way to Malgas from De Hoop nature reserve

CROWDS

Apart from a day at the1601-cape-g-146 test match in Cape Town, and going up Table Mountain, we were totally unaffected by crowds – rather odd as it was the prime holiday season.  The Country is large and people seem to melt away …..

FOOD & DRINK

It is difficult to think of a holiday where we have been so blessed by abundant good food and drink.  The meat quality has always been good, but in the beach area we had marvellous fish as well after finding a great fishmonger – a great addition to our New Year eve and braais! Inland, it tended to be more meat based and we had some wonderful meals of Ostrich, Kudu and beef, of course.

In Cape Town we visited La Colombe, rated one of the best restaurants and it cost £100 for 3 and a 5 course dinner and wine ….   To end our trip, in Baviannskloof – miles from anywhere, we had the most succulent lamb (from the braai), Ostrich and Potjie (a local casserole dish) and many other great meals in between.

SCENERY

Despite the good living, I suppose the most lasting memories will be of the countryside we saw.  Mountain ranges seem to fold into mountain range, arable valleys between.

Olive Farms, Prince Albert valley
Olive Farms, Prince Albert valley

We were travelling away from the main wine regions and saw citrus farms, olive and other crops.

 

View from above Sederkloof
View from above Sederkloof, Baviaanskloof

 

Layers of sandstone and lime stone
Layers of sandstone and lime stone – this is the height of a man

The topography of the mountains was interesting – often creating interesting escarpments and folded seams.  Much of the area is sandstone and the shale layers have been washed out …

 

The passes produced great views some as main roads such as Tradouws, and as a day trip up the Swartberg pass (some 20km of dirt road) which reaches a protea clad plateau towards the top.

Although the protea season was over, we did see some out.  Also the aloes and other flowers on Table Mountain were interesting.  Also some watsonias in Swartberg were seen.

Sisal plant
Sisal plant
Scrub and mountains near Prince Albert
Scrub and mountains near Prince Albert
The Langeberg at Montagu
The Langeberg at Montagu

The coasts too were beautiful.  Kommetjie with its white sand facing the cold South Atlantic and De Hoop with its huge sand dunes now facing the warmer Indian Ocean.

Kommetjie Beach
Kommetjie Beach

Sand dunes at De Hoop Nature Reserve

Sand dunes at De Hoop Nature Reserve

 

Hout Bay from Kommetjie
Hout Bay from Kommetjie
Cape Point from Buffels Bay
Cape Point from Buffels Bay

The shells washed up – particularly at De Hoop – were beautiful.

The Fynbos was found in many places from the top of Table Mountain, de Hoop and the Baviannskloof.  Many of the plants are found no where else.  Whilst travelling inland, we found sisal stems in flower as well as many yellow flowing acacias.  At Baviaanskloof which claims to have plants from 7 of 8 biodomes present in South Africa, we found Euphorbia trees as well as tall aloes and smaller crassulas and other succulents.

Aloes at Baviaanskloof
Aloes at Baviaanskloof
Euphorbia
Euphorbia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WILDLIFE

It is a fact that one tends to safari expecting to see big game but return with more pictures of bids than anything else.  This trip was no different (although not seeking the big game).

Common Stalk at De Hoop
Common Stalk at De Hoop

Birdlife was plentiful – especially at the coast – as also were the baboon troops which we saw in each location.

Black Cape Oystercatchers
Black Cape Oystercatchers
Black African Oystercatcher - chick
Black African Oystercatcher – chick
Cape Sugar bird on protea - Swartberg pass
Cape Sugar bird on protea – Swartberg pass

 

Red Bishop bird
Red Bishop bird

De Hoop and Baviannskloof provided additional game – Ostrich, Kudu, Cape Zebra, Eland, Bontebok and Dassie.

Eland
Eland
Bontebok
Bontebok
Dassie
Dassie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

De Hoop, particularly, would be a birders destination and we saw Herons, Flamingo, Spoonbill, Ibis, Swift terns, Black African Oystercatchers, Cormorants, etc etc.  For a non safari trip this was plenty!

In Conclusion:

We had a ball and will be returning sometime …!  It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you enjoy the outdoor life, scenery etc there is so much to do.  At present the cost of living there is good for us.  Some might worry about local issues such as politics and security – nether of which impinged on our trip at all.  Clearly, most people would focus their trips away from the major conurbations where such matters have greater impact.

Sunset at Sederkloof, Baviannskloof
Sunset at Sederkloof, Baviannskloof

2 thoughts on “Reflections on South Africa”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *