Tsitsikamma cattle roadblock

We decided to break away to the Tsitsikamma for the day and rather than just driving in and out on the N2, we took the scenic R102. The three biggest industries in the area are forestry, tourism and dairy so everywhere along the way you pass plantations, dairy farms and accommodation and activity establishments. What we didn’t expect to encounter was a roadblock made up of cattle. As we crested a little hill I realised that there was something in the road about a kilometers ahead. And not something like a car or a person, but a lot of somethings. A herd of cows being moved down the road from one farm to another with the herdsman in front leading the way.

Rather than just sitting in the car I pulled over and we all hopped out to experience something that is very unusual for city slickers like us, being surrounded by a herd of cows in transit.

Being an 18 year old teenager, Chaos Boy didn’t really show any interest, but Miggie was a lot more excited and inquisitive about the whole thing.

We barely got going when the next herd appeared in the road. This one was moving a little faster with the two guys in the lead breaking out in a jog every now and then with the cows nipping at their heals.

This is what road trips and exploring on country roads is about. Experiences that you wouldn’t get anywhere else.

A couple of surprises in the Camdeboo National Park

No visit to Graaff-Reinet will be complete without a visit to the Valley of Desolation yet I wonder how many people actually realise that the Valley of Desolation is located within the Camdeboo National Park, which actually reaches all the way around the town, and that you can also go game viewing in the park.  On our long weekend in Graaff-Reinet we spent our Saturday exploring the town’s historical heart on foot and kept the Sunday to explore the Camdeboo National Park.  The plan was to spend the Sunday morning doing some game viewing, head back to Camdeboo Cottages, where we were staying, for lunch and some R&R before aiming to the Valley late afternoon for sunset on the mountain.    

The entrance to the game viewing area is just past the turnoff to the Valley of Desolation and takes one straight into a typical Karoo landscape of low Karoo bush and grassland, mountains in the distance and the Nqweba Dam on the other side towards tow, and big skies.  Lots of big skies.  The park has about 19km of gravel roads which we found to be in a very good condition and no problem for the Polo to navigate.  

The Camdeboo National Park isn’t quite Kruger or Addo, but if you are in the area and enjoy game watching then it’s well worth a drive through.  The Game viewing area is home to buffalo, which we unfortunately didn’t encounter on this trip, and game species like eland, black wildebeest, gemsbok, red hartebeest, blesbok, springbok and mountain zebra.  Friends of ours in the park the same time than us even spotted the elusive rooikat (linx) near one of the waterholes.  Our timing seemed to have sucked and we missed it.  The park is also home to over 240 listed bird species of which we did spot a few so I imagine the twitchers would love the park. 

After a quick picnic at the park’s picnic site, which we had all to our own, we took a drive to the bird hide next to the Nqweba Dam.  The dam level is quite low at the moment which means not a lot of animals or even birds around.

After a bit of kicking our feet up at the guesthouse, we took the road out to the park again in the late afternoon and made our way up the mountain towards the Valley of Desolation.  After a stop at the toposcope lookout it was time to show the KidZ what the Valley looked like.  I’ve been up here many times over the years and it never gets old.  Ok, just wait.  The Valley is old, over 200 millions years old, but I mean I never get tired of it.  Hahaha….     

It is an awe-inspiring feeling standing there looking at the towering dolerite columns with the vast Karoo stretching out beyond.  The dolerite pillars rise up to a height of up to 120 meters and were formed by volcanic and erosive forces over a period of 200 million years.  It’s hard to explain the beauty of the place and not everybody who visits “gets it”, but the Valley of Desolation is a truly special place.

I made sure we got there early enough to go for a walk along the Crag Lizard Trail, a 1,5 km sircular trail that shouldn’t take you more than about 45 minutes to walk.  I want to say the only reason I did it was to go and find the Geocache located just beyond the turning point, but for the first time I got to see more of the Valley of Desolation and some of the further columns which you don’t get to see from the main view point.  We made it back just in time for the sun to start setting and found that it was disappearing behind the mountain and not over the valley as it does in summer. Darn!

We quickly hopped back in the car and made our way a bit down the mountain to an alternative lookout point I was told about on my last visit, making it just in time as the sun disappeared over the distant mountains.
And with that sunset our long weekend in the Gem of the Karoo also came to an end.  So what do we take home from the weekend?  That Graaff-Reinet is the perfect weekend destination for people living in the Eastern Cape with a variety of historic and natural attractions to keep you busy with during your stay.  I also came to the conclusion that people from the interior passing through and heading to the coast and don’t realise what they are missing.  But that really goes for anybody who hasn’t had the opportunity to explore Graaff-Reinet and the Camdeboo National Park.

St Francis the patron saint of animals

The Animal Welfare Society on Victoria Drive truly needs all the help it can get with so many people who care for animals it is also clear that there are even more who don’t really care for animals.  Outside the Animal Welfare building stands a statue and I wonder how many people notice it or know who it is.  It is the the figure of St Francis, the patron saint of animals and the environment.  A fitting place for him to bestow his blessings on.

Head-on with a Sable antelope

Mount Camdeboo Game Reserve outside Graaff-Reinet has a Sable antelope breeding program and while on the game drive we stopped next to the camp for a closer look.  This young male came walking towards the fence and stood still watching us long enough for me to get a nice head-on photo of him.  Just a pity for the fence wires in between.
Some info about the Sable courtesy of Wikipedia:
The sable antelope (Hippotragus niger) is an antelope which inhabits wooded savannah in East Africa south of Kenya, and in Southern Africa.

The sable antelope is sexually dimorphic, with the male heavier and about one-fifth taller than the female. The head-and-body length is typically between 190 and 255 cm.  Males reach about 117–140 cm at the shoulder, while females are slightly shorter. Males typically weigh 235 kg and females 220 kg. The tail is 40–75 cm long, with a tuft at the end.

Sable antelope live in savanna woodlands and grasslands during the dry season, where they eat mid-length grasses and leaves. They visit salt licks and have been known to chew bones to collect minerals. They are diurnal, but are less active during the heat of the day. They form herds of 10 to 30 females and calves led by a single male, called a bull. Males fight among themselves; they drop to their knees and use their horns.

A Kragga Kamma photo safari with Chasing the Rainbow

I’m still working my way through Chasing the Rainbow‘s videos featuring Port Elizabeth and the surrounding areas as I find them excellent material for my Video Friday posts and at the same time (hopefully) getting more of my followers to follow them as well.  Today’s video features Kragga Kamma Game Park and shows how awesome an attraction it is to 1: take kids; 2: take photos and 3: take kids and encourage them to take photos.

Snake interaction at Animals in Wonderland

Over the last couple of days I have done a few posts about the PE Geocaching community’s visit to Animals in Wonderland.  The main reason for our visit was an event celebrating World Snake Day and that was also the reason Animals in Wonderland was selected as the venue for the event.  Juan and Jeru has an extensive collection of snakes and other reptiles which they use as part of their educational visits (both at their premises or yours) and parties.  We were a fairly biggish group but with enough snakes to go around, we all – or most of us as some hid in the back – got the opportunity to handle at least one of their slithering pets.