So what’s happening in this picture Tim?

‘There’s a Fish Eagle chick in a nest in the tree and the Mum Fish Eagle has spotted a whole bunch of catfish in the water below, there’s a teenager Fish Eagle already on its way down…there is an elephant with her baby and just behind the baby, there is a lion (with its legs all ready to pounce on the baby elephant) and then the giraffe is just browsing and the leopard is up top watching everything below….’

Phew. Just click on the picture to get a better sense of the level of detail. It’s awesome :)….

A floral jewel

Just back from yet another wonderful weekend spent out of town discovering a new corner of this incredibly diverse, magnificent province of ours. We headed up to a spot just north of the rather pretty little town of Tulbagh, which is situated in a bowl surrounded by three imposing mountain ranges – the Obiqua to the west, the Winterhoek to the north and the Witzenberg to the east. We stayed on a farm on the slopes of the Winterhoek, its imposing, craggy peaks right behind our cottage.

We were determined to get ourselves up into the mountains and into a patch of indigenous forest tucked away in a kloof, so we set off early in the morning.

We hiked up a very steep firebreak which went right up the mountain until we reached the point where the fire-fighting vehicles would literally topple over it was so steep! It was hellishly hot – at 8am already. The combination of the heat and the fairly manic gradient was a bit too much for our usually fairly stoic little 8 year old…but the sight of the forest and its little waterfall was enough of a carrot!

It is always magical to be surrounded by 300-year-old trees, their creaking trunks and glorious twisted limbs with many a secret to tell. It is also a deep privilege to be able to scoop crystal clear water into your hands and drink straight off the mountain.

We clambered over rocks blanketed with dripping ferns and moss and headed a little further up into the mountain until it just became too steep. The place was full of raptors – from elusive African Goshawks flitting in and out of the canopy, to Jackal Buzzards and Peregrine Falcons outdoing themselves with aerobatics above…

We spent a little bit of time just sitting in the forest, sipping in all that energy and thinking how quickly all this brilliance can be wiped out… by us lot…!

The farm is stuffed with aliens, unfortunately, but in between all of that, we came across the most incredible floral jewel! The farm manager pointed it out to us as he showed us the way to the swimming dam. Rather alarmingly, he felt the need to pluck it out the ground to show us. At the time, it felt a bit wrong, and now, as I read up about this particular species and its fairly tenuous status, it was definitely not the best strategy!

This striking little turquoise-green flower (Ixia viridiflora) is one of the most unusual geophytes – and is confined to a very small pocket of the Tulbagh District. It is sadly listed as Vulnerable in the Red Data Book, and is likely to be upgraded to Endangered in the near future, if the decline in numbers continues.

These tissue-paper thin flowers have an incredible purple-black circular stain or ‘eye’ in the middle. This little gem of a flower is pollinated by scarab beetles – commonly known as monkey beetles!

After our mountain adventure, we hit the dam…a spectacular setting, with deliciously cool water and big fish nibbling our toes…what a great spot.

(With thanks to Warren for the pics, as always!)

To find a vlei…

Today we set out early to explore a new part of the reserve. We left home as yet another cloud burst moved in….and with bucket-loads of optimism and determination, we drove on to Cape Point, windscreen wipers slashing away at the massive dollops of unseasonal November rain.

We left our car on the Olifantsbos road, donned our raingear and followed a little rocky track into the hills. As we set out, the big grey clouds sucked in their cheeks and gave way to wonderful warming sunshine.

We were off! A new path and a new adventure!

After about 45 minutes of gentle rambling, we reached Sirkelsvlei – a large freshwater body situated (oddly for a vlei) on a plateau which is higher than the surrounding landscape. What is rather odd about this beautiful inland ‘lake’ is that there is no obvious inflow, apart from surface trickle in winter. Apparently Sirkelsvlei rarely dries out. The secret lies underground. Springs bubble up from below….and water also feeds into it from nearby marshes.

It is also apparently home to loads of Cape terrapins. These endearing mud-loving creatures are seldom seen. I don’t need many excuses to rush back to this treasure of a spot…but to see some of these little guys popping up would be one of them!

The trail then leads you through awesome rock formations, chilled out bontebok (some with fresh-out-the-box babbas), ostrich and glorious Fynbos (jam packed with everlastings and pelargoniums and pincushions) until you pop out into the Olifantsbos car park ….and in our case, not a soul in sight!

After a hearty picnic and a chat about The Long Walk Home….we decided it would be best if Mamma ran back to fetch the car. What a joy to trot quietly along the road back to the bakkie…a peaceful 8 kays or so with bold tortoises crossing the road ahead and a warm salty breeze pushing me along…bliss!

Another heavenly day out in a place right on our doorstep.