This morning I attended a Geocaching event to kick off the Friend League challenge over the next few weeks. The challenge is pirate themed and involved finding the Lost Treasure of Mary Hyde. We’re not really sure ourselves how exactly the challenge is going to go, but the reason for this post is to show you my Geocaching family. Now this is a really special bunch of people. Young and old, singles and families, students and retired people, some more well off than others, but none of this matters when we’re Geocaching. I love these guys.
I’ve been Geocaching for four years and have found just short of 2000 caches, yet, and I should probably be ashamed to say it, I have never gone to look for the oldest cache in Port Elizabeth. The cache, located in the Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve, is called Van Stadens Flower Power and was originally placed on 18 May 2003. Having cached in the reserve a couple of times before I just can’t believe that I have never taken this specific trail to go and tick it off my To Do list. A couple of weeks ago I bundled the family into the car and off we went for a quick outing to the flower reserve to find this cache. While I went climbing to get to ground zero Drama Princess was playing around with my camera and snapped this intrepid explorer in search of treasure.
One of the aspects of Geocaching is something called an Earth Cache. An Earth Cache isn ‘t a physical cache where you have to find a container but rather something that teaches you about the earth and it’s geology. Last weekend I did an Earth Cache in Schoenmakerskop set up by Seekoei NMB called PE Tufa stromatolite ecosystems. What is Tufa stromatolite? Please bear with me because this get’s very scientific (which means I’m copy and pasting from the listing otherwise I may just be misinterpreting the information.
Tufa is a variety of limestone, formed by the precipitation of carbonate minerals from ambient temperature water bodies. Geothermally heated hot-springs sometimes produce similar (but less porous) carbonate deposits known as travertine. Tufa is sometimes referred to as (meteogene) travertine. Care must be taken when searching through literature to prevent confusion with hot spring (thermogene) travertine. Calcareous tufa should not be confused with tuff, a porous volcanic rock with parallel etymological origins that is sometimes called “tufa”.
This now is where the Tufa stromatolite discoeverd at Schoenies comes in.
The first extant marine tufa stromatolites along the southern African coast were described in the early 2000s from Cape Morgan and later investigated in some detail from a geochemical and geomorphological point of view. Located on a dolerite headland shaped into a wave-cut platform, these stromatolites consist of continuous, extensive laminar growths or discrete accretions bridging gaps between separate boulders. In either case, the formation results in enclosed rock pools capable of trapping carbonate-rich groundwater seeps.
Although other rare, isolated examples of similar formations have been reported to occur from Port Elizabeth to Tofu in Mozambique, the recent discovery of numerous and closely spaced living stromatolites on the coastline south of Port Elizabeth appears to be extraordinary.
While the Cape Morgan headland includes about 50 stromatolite colonies, each of about 3 m2 on average, the formations mapped so far to the west of Cape Recife include 540 colonies, ranging in cover from 100 m2.
Southern African tufa stromatolites are regarded as unique in their nature, because they typically occur at the interface between freshwater seepage points and the marine penetration. I know this is all a mouth full, but if you read through it carefully and understand it, it really is something very interesting and unique.
After a morning of mowing the law and doing some things around the house I headed out for a spot of Geocaching this afternoon. Rather than just doing a few park and grab caches, I opted to go for a walk in the Sardinia Bay Nature Reserve and pick up a series of 12 caches that I’ve been wanting to do for a while now. The caches in question aren’t on the regular trails but rather higher up in the reserve along a track used mostly by horse riders and the municipality to access the overhead electricity lines. I did about 5 km from Victoria Drive close to Schoenies all the way to Sardinia Bay road without seeing another soul. Pure bliss.
Tuesday morning I was out early to make my mark in the local elections. A little later the morning we headed over to Baywest for Drama Princess to join some of her friends at the ice rink. On our way though we did a quick detour to find a Geocache. The KidZ quickly, and slightly concerned, pointed out that it was pouring outside. No worries, if it rains then you head indoors. Or in this case, underground. The cache being located just on the other side of a storm water pipe under the road (for the sake of this post and the Muggles reading it the location will stay undisclosed). So we literally went caching in the rain but under cover.
On Thursday I posted a picture of Falcon Rock where I mentioned that while there I went to look for the Geocache hidden at the rock. As we were climbing up to the top I gave my camera to Drama Princess to hold and afterwards noticed that she took this picture as I was climbing up. I know the picture doesn’t show much of the area, but it shows how much fin can be had when out Geocaching and discovering Port Elizabeth and it’s attractions.
Last Thursday morning I did a presentation at a tourism stakeholder workshop in the Tsitsikamma and after lunch moved on to George for a weekend exhibit. Having had some time on my hands I decided to veer off the main road and pick up a few Geocaches along Bo-Langvlei Road, the dirt road running behind the lakes between Sedgefield and Wilderness. The plan wasn’t to do the whole road but only the last section of it starting between Bo-Langvlei and Island Lake. My plan was just to Geocache and explore a bit so my camera was securely packed away in the boot of the Polo and I was just snapping pics with my phone along the way.
Turning off the N2 I hit the first stretch of dirt road which was nice and smooth with only a few bumps to negotiate. The second cache on my list was located at the old Duiwerivier Railway Station. It’s really sad to see how the railway infrastructure along the line has deteriorated over the ten years since it was closed due to flooding. It’s going to take a bit more than just cutting back a few bushes and pulling out some weeds to get the train running along this track again.
Leaving the station I started heading west and the next cache located at the back of Island Lake. Standing on top of a beacon next to the road the view across the lake was stunning and although I could probably have spent a lot more time there it was time to get moving again.
I passed the Hoekwil Road turnoff and proceeded along Waterside Road at the back of the Serpentine section of the river. The next stop was at the bridge over the Touw River, one of the only bridges in the country that is shared by both the road and the railway line. The bridge is located inside the Wilderness National Park with both the Ebb and Flow campsites located to the left and right of it. While I was searching for the cache under the bridge a number of holiday makers passed by in canoes on the river. I’ve still gotta do that. The beautiful surroundings just reminded me again that Ebb and Flow is still on our list of campsites we want to stay at in future.
At this stage my plans changed slightly and I decided to backtrack a kilometer or two and take the Hoekwil Road. This tar road took me way up the hill from where I could see the lakes district below, past the community of Hoekwil and onto the Seven Passes Road. I’m kinda embarrassed to say that I’ve never driven the Seven Passes Road although I’ve heard how scenic it was. The Seven Passes Road is the old road between Knysna and George and traverses, yes you guessed it, seven passes along the way. The majority of the road was tar with bits of very good dirt road in between. Along the top between river valleys were mostly open areas with farms while the valleys are covered in pockets of indigenous forest.
The first pass I drove through led down to the Touw River with an old steel bridge spanning the whiskey brown water that is so typical of the rivers and streams of the Garden Route.
The whiskey coloured Touw River with it’s surrounding forest
The second pass took me down to the Silwer River…
… and by now I was well and truly convinced that I had discovered one of the lesser known but truly worth discovering gems of the Garden Route.
The last pass took me down to the Kaaimans River, well known for the pass on the N2 between Wilderness and George as well as the railway bridge spanning the river mouth. But here I was away from the hustle and bustle rush of the N2. The sun was about to go under although it was getting dark very quickly at the bottom of the valley.
I parked just past the old bridge built in 1904 and followed a path down the river for about 50 meters or so towards the last of the caches for the day. After a bit of a tough search I found what I was looking for with the help of my phone torch and on my way back to the car I just realised again how often Geocaching can take one off the beaten track and to places like this. Places that you would often not have seen if it wasn’t for a cache being located in the area.
At the top of the pass the road spit me out close to the Saasveld Campus just outside of George with the silhouette of the Outenique Mountains beyond the town as my horizon. It had been a very interesting and, frankly, relaxing afternoon and in my opinion a much better option that if I had just barreled along the N2 and sat around the guesthouse for the rest of the afternoon waiting to go and get dinner. All thanks to a few containers forming part of a global treasure hunt game hidden along the way.
So this morning I was woken up by my neighbour’s contractor starting early on this public holiday, spent a little time in bed with the wife and the daxies, played some Play Station with the KidZ and then we cleaned house, cleansed house and… yes, cleaned house. Late afternoon I headed out for a little Geocaching with the whole family tagging along for a change. And a good thing though cause Chaos Boy climbed at least one tree to get to a cache before we got to this spot. Always good to have a monkey on hand for those tricky climbs. Pity the cache seemed to have been muggled though and wasn’t there.
What is the difference between a maze and a labyrinth. Although the two terms are basically synonymous, there is a difference. In this case a maze refers to a complex branching multicursal puzzle with choices of path and direction, while a unicursal labyrinth has only a single path to the center. A labyrinth in this sense has an unambiguous route to the center and back and is not difficult to navigate.
The difference between the two meant the KidZ learned something during our summer holiday in the Overberg region of the Western Cape. We drove to the town of Napier and I told them that we were going to make a stop to do a cache at a labyrinth. They wanted to know what a labyrinth was and I told them it was like a maze. That was where I made the mistake. They had done the big maze at the Plett Puzzle Park before and in their minds there was going to be something similar. When we got to The Red Windmill outside Napier and dashed off to go and find the maze only to be met by a “wall-less” labyrinth. Oh the disappointment. The ran off to the middle though following the path round and round, kinda defeating the purpose of this labyrinth being one of meditation and contemplation. They had fun regardless. While they were following the route to the middle I retrieved the cache from its hiding place and signed the log, adding another smiley to my Geocaching map.
One of the local Geocachers, Team Navimate, have been honouring Eastern Cape cachers by placing caches in their honour along the Grysbok Trail in the NMMU Nature Reserve. I first discovered the trial when I went to find a cache placed in my honour about a year ago. Just after New Year I received an email from Navimate to let me know that they are placing a cache for Drama Princess and we made arrangements for it to be published while we are in the reserve so that she can be the First to Find on it.
The cache published at 8am the morning and as we received the email notification we were about meters or so away. We quickly made our way over to ground zero and I allowed her to find the cache herself. Congrats Drama Princess on receiving this cache accolade which is the PE cachers’ equivalent of having a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.