Category Archives: The World around Us

2023! – A Beacon of Hope…..

It’s strange how things cross your path when least expected – I was out for my last late-afternoon walk of the year, enjoying the fresh, mind-clearing wind and keeping a look out for birds in the conservation area close to our home in Mossel Bay.

I was heading back up the hill along the narrow track that leads through a sea of fynbos, most of which lacks any sort of flowers at this time of year, when a flash of bright red caught my eye – I lifted my binos and saw to my delight that it was a lone flower, poking out above the sea of green like a beacon…. of hope, I decided right there

This comes with my wish to everyone for a blooming good 2023!

Fire Lily

Australia May 2022 : A Glimpse of Melbourne

I have to admit that I wasn’t planning another post on our Australia visit earlier this year, but when I reviewed the photos of our brief visit to Melbourne before taking the flight back to SA, I decided to add just one more – I hope you will agree it is a worthwhile addition.

There’s a lot to like about Melbourne, based on our two short visits so far – in 2019 and now in 2022. It has that pleasing mix of features that sets the great cities apart from the more mundane ones – nicely positioned at the sea and straddling a large river, modern architecture contrasting with some beautiful older buildings, a great transport system (where else can you ride for free on a central city tram), some charming parks and gardens and just a feeling of all-round cleanliness and efficiency.

As with our previous visit, we decided to get to Melbourne a day before our flight back to SA to allow for some exploration. As it turned out Stephan and family accompanied us to Melbourne and we visited Sea Life Melbourne before they dropped us off late afternoon at our hotel in the city.

Sea Life Melbourne

After walking for a couple of blocks in light rain from the parking garage we were in the aquarium – along with half the population of Melbourne it seemed. The aquarium is impressive and spreads over a few levels with brightly lit tanks contrasting with the darkish interior.

Here is a selection of the images I took with my Iphone (my camera was far less effective in these lighting conditions)

Sealife Aquarium, Melbourne
Sealife Aquarium, Melbourne
Sealife Aquarium, Melbourne
Sealife Aquarium, Melbourne
King Penguin, Sealife Aquarium, Melbourne
Sealife Aquarium, Melbourne
Sealife Aquarium, Melbourne
Sealife Aquarium, Melbourne

Streets and Arcades

That left us with a full day in the centre of Melbourne, which we started with a breakfast in our hotel – Treasury on Collins, a beautifully maintained classical building with a long history as a banking institution, now serving as a boutique apartment hotel.

Treasury on Collins hotel, Melbourne

Later we ventured into the surrounding streets – destination the famous (among Aussies) Myer department store where we browsed the several levels (reminding me of Stuttafords from way back when in Cape Town) and ended up in the Brunetti restaurant for tea and a cake chosen from a long glass cabinet full of the biggest variety of tempting cakes that we’ve seen in a long time.

Myer Dept store, Melbourne
Brunetti restaurant at Myer, Melbourne

On the way back to the hotel we followed a route which took us through two of the arcades that Melbourne is known for – beautifully restored wide passages between the surrounding buildings.

Royal Arcade, Melbourne
Royal Arcade, Melbourne
Block Arcade, Melbourne
Block Arcade, Melbourne
Block Arcade, Melbourne
Block Arcade, Melbourne
Block Arcade, Melbourne
Block Arcade, Melbourne
Block Arcade, Melbourne

Back on the streets we passed a few stately older buildings that caught our eye with their attractive facades, symmetry and scale

Melbourne
Melbourne
Melbourne

Back at the hotel we relaxed and psyched ourselves up for the two long flights that lay ahead the next day, via Singapore to Jo’burg

Cloud formations from 10,000 metres – taken from our seat during the flight from Melbourne to Singapore

Footnote : a special thanks to Sea Life Melbourne for including penguins in their displays – without that this post would have been devoid of any birds and I would have had to consider changing my Blog name to “HardlyAnyBirding” ….

Australia May 2022 – Bright and Beautiful (Part 4)

Bright to Sale

I wasn’t really planning to add another Part to this story, but there were enough interesting things on our trip back to Sale to make it worth another one – and it was a lot less stressful than the initial trip.

I had been checking the weather forecast for our return trip every day since we arrived in Bright and it seemed we were in for sunny skies most of the way, including through Mount Hotham which had caused us several types of panic on the way there with heavy snow falls.

We left Bright at around 9.45 am and stopped in Mount Hotham an hour later, after negotiating what seemed like a 1000 turns in the road.

On the way to Mount Hotham, Victoria – those poles are there to indicate where the edge of the road is when the snow is deep!

Along the way we stopped at a viewpoint which gave spectacular views across the valley and to the mountains beyond

View across to Mount Hotham, Victoria

Some way down the road we stopped briefly to have a look at some trees – Oh No, we don’t need more trees, we thought – and more Eucalyptus at that. Well, yes but these particular trees were special – and just to confuse us we found they were called Alpine Ash. We had to admit they were handsome trees.

Alpine Ash trees, near Mt Hotham Victoria
Alpine Ash trees, near Mt Hotham Victoria

Although there were still remnants of snow around in Mt Hotham and even some hardy types tobogganing down one of the snow-covered hills adjoining the town, the bright, sunny (yet very chilly) weather was in complete contrast to when we had passed through a few days earlier.

Mount Hotham, Victoria
Mount Hotham, Victoria
Mount Hotham, Victoria

We pulled off the road to enjoy our tea and a muffin – and the sight of four vintage MG Sports cars from the early Fifties

MG Special, Mount Hotham, Victoria

Chatting to one of the owners he explained they were a group of enthusiasts who had all modified their old MG’s with uprated engines, suspension and wheels – which would explain why they went roaring past us on a couple of the last bends before Mt Hotham, after I pulled over to the left verge to let them through.

MG Special, Mount Hotham, Victoria

I could see them going slightly sideways through some of the bends thereafter, despite – or perhaps because of – the wettish surface of the tar. In any case I just love old cars and walked around these beauties having a good look and taking in that throaty roar when they started up.

It was a day for car club outings, as at our next brief stop in Omeo we came across a group of 6 or 7 lovely Citroen 2CV’s in the parking area.

Citroen 2CV, Omeo Victoria
Citroen 2CV, Omeo Victoria

And they’re off! But not very quickly……

Citroen 2CV, Omeo Victoria

Leaving Omeo I spotted a pair of White-faced Herons in a roadside field and pulled off for a quick photo – I only just caught them as they took off almost straight away (and the sun was on the wrong side, hence the shadows)

White-faced Heron Egretta novahollandiae, Omeo Victoria

Another bird caught my eye some way further down the road, perched on a high branch so I couldn’t resist stopping for another quick shot

Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo novaguineae, Omeo Victoria

Apart from that the trip was uneventful but tiring as the continuous curves and ups and downs require utmost concentration.

Double Bridges, Victoria

For some reason the small towns we passed through after Omeo don’t have any restaurants or even coffee shops, so we had to wait to reach Bairnesdale where we had a late lunch of Hungry Jacks burgers, before tackling the last stretch to Sale.

We arrived back in Sale pleased that we had seen a bit more of Victoria, in particular the “Alpine” region and looking forward to our last two weeks in Australia

Sea Fever

I don’t remember when I first heard the poem Sea Fever by John Masefield – it may have been at school, but more likely it was quoted by my mother, who was fond of reading and writing poetry and even had one of her own published in a book of poetry when she was in her 80’s

During our visits to Mossel Bay we often drive down to The Point, at the “sharp” end of the peninsula on which Mossel Bay is located, get a take away coffee at the little kiosk and just sit and watch the sea, the birds and other sea life. Depending on the season, there’s often a whale to be seen far out, usually just a plume, a tail or a part of its back visible, or a few seals in the surf just beyond the rocks, and the wonderful sight of a school of dolphins passing by. Oh, and the people too of course. It’s very therapeutic.

The poem Sea Fever came to mind after our latest visit to The Point – the sky and the sea were in a multitude of shades of white, grey and blue, set against the brown of the rocks and looked particularly moody, so I walked first along the lower pathway then onto the rocks to get a sea level perspective and used my Iphone to take a number of images

Sea Fever – John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Note : The image in the heading of this post was taken from the newish restaurant just below the St Baize Lighthouse with a unique view of The Point

My Photo Picks for 2021 – The Places, Wildlife and Other Stuff

With the new year barely out of the starting blocks, it’s once again time to select the photos which best represent our travels and nature experiences during 2021, plus a few others that appeal to me for various reasons.  Despite the ongoing restrictions brought upon all of us by Covid 19, we still managed to travel fairly extensively, although it was limited to the borders of South Africa. 

I’m hoping you will find some of my favourite images to your liking – if you do, please take a moment to mention them in the comments at the end of the post. 

The Places

It was a revelation to look back over the year’s images and realise that, in fact, we did manage to travel to many places across South Africa. Our longest road trips were those between the two places we call home – Pretoria and Mossel Bay – and the pendulum seems to have swung in favour of the latter town, where we spent slightly more time than in Pretoria for the first time. My bird atlasing activities were somewhat handicapped this past year by other factors – nevertheless I did get out on atlasing trips on a fairly regular basis, mostly in the vicinity of one of the two home bases

Farmlands, Vleesbaai Area near Mossel Bay
Hillside Farm Trompsburg, Free State – where we spent a night on the trip to Mossel Bay
One of the dams in The Glades Estate, (where our Pretoria home is)
View of Simon’s Town from Penguin Palace B&B
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens in Cape Town – we never visit Cape Town without a visit to these superb gardens
Boulders beach, Simon’s Town, site of the famous African Penguin colony
The Point from the hill, Mossel Bay
Sunday’s River Mouth, Eastern Cape
Addo Elephant National Park, Eastern Cape
Mountain Zebra National Park, Eastern Cape
Croft 3, Verlorenkloof, Mpumulanga
The view from Robinson Pass, between Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn
Abbotsbury Guest Farm, near Graaff-Reinet, Eastern Cape
Abandoned cottage, Franschhoek, Western Cape
Canola fields, Near Wellington, Western Cape
Historic Kerkstraat in Tulbagh, Western Cape
Klein Welmoed Guest Farm, Stellenbosch, Western Cape
West Coast National Park (Postberg section)

The Wildlife

2021 stands out for me as the year we did not visit Kruger National Park – I can’t remember when this last happened! Visits to a couple of the smaller Parks partially made up for this but I’m afraid my selection of wildlife photos is poor by comparison to previous years

Giraffe, Herbertsdale Area
Cape Grey Mongoose Herpestes pulverulentus (Kaapse grysmuishond), Addo Elephant Park
Elephant, Addo Elephant Park
Yellow Mongoose Cynictis penicillata (Rooimeerkat), Addo Elephant Park
Elephant at dusk, Addo Elephant Park
Kudu, Addo Elephant Park
Springbok, Mountain Zebra NP
Bontebok, Mountain Zebra NP
Mountan Zebra, Mountain Zebra NP
Mother and child” Vervet Monkey Chlorocebus pygerythrus (Blouaap), Mountain Zebra NP

The Reptiles

Reptiles are interesting creatures and I love it when the opportunity to photograph them at reasonably close quarters arises – here are a few examples – unfortunately I have not got around to positively identifying the first two yet

Probable Plated Lizard of some kind, Gouritzmond Area
Probable Sand Lizard, Mountain Zebra NP
Puff adder Bitis arietans (Pofadder), Mountain Zebra NP

The Other Stuff

And the rest – photos that don’t fall into a category but have a certain character that appeals to me

Windmill, Hillside Farm Trompsburg
Garden Acraea Butterfly, Kirstenbosch
Beach footprints, Nature’s Valley – where the birds go, I am bound to be not far behind
Doorknob selfie, Abbotsbury, Graaff-Reinet
Waiting our turn to get the vaccine, Mossel Bay
Saartjie, our daughter’s Border Terrier, enjoying a mid-winter (gas) fire , Mossel Bay
Surfer, Mossel Bay Point
Flowers in Robinson Pass
Karoo Lambs, Abbotsbury Guest Farm
Dragon hooter (horn) on 1911 Lorraine-Dietrich Convertible, Franschhoek Motor Museum
Spring flowers, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

Have a wonderful 2022!

Flowers on a Roof

A couple of my recent posts have had a Flower theme – here’s another of a slightly different bent…

An old municipal building along one of the main arterial roads in Mossel Bay, a substation probably, has the distinction of being the only building I have come across which is adorned with lilac flowers at this time of year, changing it from an invisible utilitarian structure into one that drew my attention as I drove past and brought an immediate smile to my face

I hope it does the same for you ….

A Day Trip to Tulbagh and a Coffee ‘Shop’ with a difference

During our visit to Franschhoek a week ago, we spent a very pleasant afternoon on a trip to Tulbagh, about 100 kms drive from Franschhoek, via the towns of Wellington and Paarl. It was a beautiful sunny day and the country scenery in this part of the Western Cape is particularly pleasing, with winter crops of canola and lucerne stretching to the horizon.

It was close to lunchtime and being peckish we stopped at the Grande Provence wine farm and had a light meal in their informal deli restaurant which set us up nicely for the day out.

The vineyards at Grande Provence with the Drakenstein Mountains in the background

On the road again, we soon passed through the outskirts of Paarl and Wellington, after which the landscape changed from vineyards to fields brimming with winter crops.

The canola fields are a real drawcard for photographers of all kinds and, like many, I find it hard to resist trying to get that ‘special’ shot but usually end up with the ‘standard’ landscape view of bright yellow canola fields with some contrasting mountains and sky/clouds in the background – still worth sharing I think …

Canola fields outside Wellington, Western Cape

At the spot where this photo was taken, there were also signs of the first Spring flowers at the roadside. It won’t be long before the countryside in parts of the Western and Northern Cape erupt with flowers

Roadside flowers near Wellington

We had not visited Tulbagh for perhaps 25 years, so weren’t sure what to expect, but after driving down the main road, which looks like most other small town main roads, we were absolutely taken with the beauty of the architecture along Church street just a block away. I don’t know of any town in SA which has so many outstanding examples of Cape Dutch architecture in one street. We spent a pleasant half hour or more admiring the houses, some of which are now museums and art galleries, as we drove slowly down the road.

Church Street Tulbagh

And the coffee ‘shop’ with a difference? Well on the way back, passing Hermon, we spotted a large sign announcing COFFEE and pulled off into a small parking area cut into a lucerne field where, lo and behold, an enterprising farmer had created the most unique coffee spot you could imagine

The Coffee Shop
Tables set up in the field – now that’s social distancing!

Abandoned cottage in Franschhoek

Franschhoek, a small town some 90 minutes from Cape Town, is well known as the historical home of the French Huguenots, who settled in the area and turned it into a little piece of France.

We have been spending the last few days here at one of the many guest farms, surrounded by bare, gnarly vineyards in their mid-winter form and venturing out to explore the beautiful valley which lies between towering mountains.

There are stunning landscapes around every corner and some of the best preserved Cape Dutch architecture in the Western Cape, but what really caught my eye was this abandoned cottage, with the remnants of a small garden still visible, just a stone’s throw away from the impressive Huguenot Monument

Abandoned buildings, especially such as this, always set my mind to wondering about the people who lived there and called it home, perhaps several different families over many decades, far removed from the elegant homes that are a feature of modern day Franschhoek

Road Block

After the recent cold and rainy weather in the Mossel Bay area, I was glad when the weather brightened this past week, allowing me the opportunity to get out for some bird atlasing. I headed west of Mossel Bay to an area I had targeted over the weekend and found myself on a gravel country road, quiet and with no other traffic, so I wasn’t expecting to encounter a road block ……

I don’t mind admitting it left me feeling a bit sheepish ……

Mossel Bay – The Point (Again)

On one of our recent outings to The Point, just 10 minutes away from our Mossel Bay home, we spotted a rainbow forming over the sea in the distance.

I snapped a shot while driving (very slowly) and hastened to find a spot to capture the rainbow before it disappeared. It did not have the full bow of a ‘proper’ rainbow but formed an almost vertical column disappearing into the low clouds hanging over the sea – quite unusual.

Once satisfied with the images I noticed a number of surfers in the sea – not unusual as this is a favourite surf spot, but the light was so perfect for photography that I could not resist trying my hand at some “surf’s up” images.

Further on we found a parking spot to enjoy our tea and watch the passing birds – the Cape Cormorants are regulars at the Point and once again the light was still good enough to capture a couple in flight, on their way to their roost somewhere further up the coast.