Prince Albert – gem of the Karoo
Since our first visit to this charming Karoo town a number of years ago, Gerda and I have made a point of stopping over in Prince Albert on our way back from Mossel Bay to Pretoria, particularly in January after our annual long stay in the Southern Cape. We generally try to stay at least 2 nights so that there is a full day to explore the town and it’s attractions.
We have tried a few B&B’s but keep going back to the one that fits our preferences best – Saxe-Coburg Lodge in the main street, which is run by Dick and Regina and offers pleasant rooms set in a long narrow garden with big trees and a pool. The rooms have aircon (essential in this part of the world) and all the other comforts you would expect of a decent B&B as well as a patio which is perfect for relaxing with a book or magazine in the afternoon when you have done enough exploring.
Breakfasts are served in the main house – a Victorian style cottage from the mid 1800’s – and Dick and Regina are always there to chat and advise on the best restaurants and places to visit.
One of our visits was in January 2013, when we had booked to stay 2 nights at Saxe-Coburg Lodge and then proceed to our next overnight stop between Colesberg and Springfontein at the Orange River Lodge, a convenient halfway stop on the way back to Gauteng.
We had settled into our room at Saxe-Coburg and I had placed the potted plants, which we had bought in Mossel Bay and were taking with us to Pretoria, on the patio of our room so that they would enjoy some shade. I was doing some birding in the garden when I noticed a small frog on the patio, also sheltering from the hot sun and took a photo with the intention of identifying the species from the frog book that I usually have with me on trips.
I thought was able to ID the frog as a Cape River Frog, a common species in this part of SA, and once I had a photo, I let him get on with his existence.
Next morning we did the round of Prince Albert’s attractions, which includes some excellent restaurants, speciality shops, an Olive farm a liitle way out-of-town, a small wine farm in town that produces some good fortified wines and Gay’s (that’s her name, to avoid confusion) Dairy for some really good cheeses and yoghurts, rounding off the day with a dinner at the Karoo Kombuis which serves a small selection of basic but very tasty dishes. On Saturdays there’s a market with fresh produce and other goodies.
Birding is always interesting in the area around Prince Albert :
A Frog’s Perspective
So there I was, a young frog finding my way in the world with not a worry other than the one many of us face on a daily basis – where is my next meal coming from?
I was getting to know my surroundings, since escaping from that pond where I seemed to spend an awfully long time just swimming around, waiting for my legs to grow and let me start exploring the garden in which I found myself (see, even frogs can avoid the trap of ending a sentence with a preposition).
It being a typically hot summer’s day in the Karoo, I made sure that I stayed in the shade as far as possible and found that one of the rooms had a nice shady patio with some plants to shelter under (OK, you can’t always avoid that preposition trap). I duly found a nice cool nook in and amongst the foliage and used this as my base for the next day or two…..
Next Stop Orange River Lodge
After breakfast under the vines the following day, we packed our vehicle, with the plants being the last to go in so that they would not get damaged, said our goodbyes to Dick and Regina and set off on the road to Colesberg and beyond, a distance of some 600 kms, where we arrived at Orange River Lodge, close to the N1, by about 5pm that afternoon.
As this was a short overnight stop, I left most of our baggage in the car and just unloaded the essential bags as well as the plants which I placed outside the car so that they could get some fresh air …………
The only thought that went through my head was that the people in the room were quite considerate in placing these fresh young plants on the patio – how did they know this was my home and that frogs just love cool foliage to hide behind.
Next day was quite pleasant – a bug or two came my way and the plants provided a good spot to while a way the hours.
The following day seemed as if it would be a repeat and I found a great spot in one of the pots itself where the soil was moist and cool. The day had hardly begun when I found myself and the plant that I had made my new home being lifted up and placed in the back of a large vehicle and very soon after we were on the road to goodness knows where ……..
Just as I was putting one of the plants down, I noticed a small frog, partly concealed by the foliage and on closer investigation I realized it was the same frog I had found and photographed on our patio at Saxe-Coburg Lodge!
Not wanting to take him even further from his birth place, I looked around the garden for a suitable spot and found one near a dripping garden tap which was grassy and moist.
If he ever has grandkids this frog will have a memorable tale to tell of the day he went for a drive across South Africa.
There was still time to fit in some birding in the gardens and surrounding typical Karoo habitat :