With the new year in its infancy, it’s time to select a few photos which best represent our 2020. In some cases, selection is based on the memory created, in others I just like how the photo turned out, technically and creatively. Despite the restrictions brought upon all of us by Covid 19, we still managed to travel, although it was limited to the borders of South Africa.
Birding and bird atlasing takes me to many places that would not otherwise feature on our travel map – here’s a selection ….
The Other Stuff
And to end off …… me and my pal Saartjie (who belongs to the Leonards but I get to borrow her now and again)
And now for something different …. well, we all need a change sometimes.
In January this year, before the restrictions of lockdown descended on us in March, we travelled to Hermanus from Mossel Bay for a short break after the busy Christmas and New Year period, when Mossel Bay bulges at the seams. Hermanus lies about an hour and a half’s drive south east of Cape town – for us it was a bit further coming from Mossel Bay but still a comfortable half-day’s drive.
The town is famous for its whale-watching opportunities, particularly Southern Right whales, but also other whale species. The whales can be seen from the cliffs all along the coast from as early as June and usually depart in early December. It’s hard to believe that these magnificent creatures were once hunted in the nearby town of Betty’s Bay.
On our first day in Hermanus we explored the town, including a quick visit to a small complex of boutique type shops – on a whim we popped into a wine shop and ended up being persuaded by one Roetter Smit (a born salesman) to do a gin-tasting session under his personal guidance. Well, it was fascinating and Roetter had us tasting all kinds of interesting combinations, fortunately with just the tiniest sips so that we weren’t incapacitated for the rest of the day.
The Rotary Way
After a lunch at Lizettes restaurant – delicious Asian flavoured fish and chips – and a quick stop at Voelklip beach to refresh our memories of this lovely spot, we headed back through town until we found the turn-off signposted Rotary Way.
We remembered driving up the Rotary Way scenic drive during a previous visit to Hermanus, perhaps 20 years ago, and recalled, rather vaguely, the views of Hermanus from the top, so we decided to take a drive up this scenic route, which winds its way up the mountain overlooking the town.
Hermanus is in the Cape Floristic Region and thus has one of the highest plant diversity levels in the world. The principal vegetation type of this region is Fynbos, a mixture of evergreen shrub-like plants with small firm leaves (Info courtesy of Wikipedia)
We soon realised that the drive was a perfect opportunity to get acquainted with the beautiful, delicate, flowering fynbos shrubs that lined the road higher up and we stopped frequently, under Gerda’s guidance, for closer views and photos of some of the more distinctive species. Here is a selection of the photos that I took – for the time being the flowers will have to remain nameless as our reference books on Fynbos remained behind in Mossel Bay when we returned to Pretoria (well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it}
And the view of Hermanus? We almost had to tear ourselves away from the flowers to see if the views down to the town were as good as we remembered – the verdict – definitely
No, this is nothing to do with a philosophical discussion of the universe, just a reflection on how pleasing it is to do birding / atlasing at this time of year, particularly in the eastern parts of our country where the cosmos flowers come into full bloom during late summer, heading into autumn.
These attractive flowers form massed displays along the roadside, spreading into unattended fields in places, creating a beautiful pink and white carpet with an occasional purple flower popping out at random.
Unlike the amazing indigenous flowers of Namaqualand, renowned for their magnificent displays in spring, the cosmos is an introduced plant species native to South America, which came to South Africa during the Anglo-Boer war at the end of the 19th century as a “stowaway” in the bales of feed imported from Argentina to feed the thousands of horses used by the British.
Since then they have become a feature of the landscape, particularly in the open grasslands of south-western Mpumulanga province, so much so that the provincial tourist body describes the area as Cosmos Country. It also happens to be the energy belt of South Africa with numerous coal mines feeding the ravenous power stations that are never very far from view.
So expect to see stunning displays of cosmos flowers contrasting with the heavily disturbed, ugly landscape typical of the coal mining areas.