Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Look who dropped in this morning!! Although these parakeets often fly over our house, today is the first time one has dropped by for a sunflower seed or three! It gave the magpies something to think about. They had only just recovered from a visitation from the sparrowhawk when we were counting birds for the RSPB garden bird watch.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

South Africa Part 4

The last part of the journey now began as we headed for Makuze Game Reserve, where we hoped to see the black rhino. We set up our camp in rather wet weather and the first group went off for an evening game drive. We had a restful evening, preparing us for the early game drive the next morning. On this we saw lots of birds, over 420 recorded species inhabit the reserve; also many buck, including impala and nyala. The first thing we saw was the black rhino, appearing rather shy! On our evening drive, it was very wet, but the stone curlews were still out in numbers along with other nocturnal animals. Our surprise was a porcupine, which dashed across the track in front of the safari jeep! And so the long drive to the Drakensburg began early on our thirteenth day.

We stopped at Talana, where there is a museum commemorating the first battle of the South African War. The open air part of the museum, showing the town and its dependency on the coal mines was very interesting, too. But before long we were on the road again, with the promise of the Drakensburg beckoning us. Soon, the plains gave way to the mountains, and glimpses of the Amphitheatre, a crescent shaped basalt wall some 1500m high. We stayed in a permanent tented camp with views down the valley. Baboons are known to occasionally charge through the area, but we only saw them on the other side of the valley. Again, it was pretty wet, so the view came and went.

Our first day was a walk into the valley at the bottom of the Amphitheatre. We managed up to the river crossing; but it was much too deep and fast flowing to get across. Nevertheless, we saw some lovely plants and flowers. Our day ended with a walk up to the rock drawings made by the San Bushmen, which are ancient and very precious. Our last day before beginning the journey home via Johannesburg, was taken up by the trek up to the plateau on top of the Amphitheatre. This involves climbing metal chain ladders slung over vertical rock faces. But the climb is very well worth it as the views from the top are beautiful. If you look carefully at the photos, you may see the elusive hyrax in the rocks. We only got this glimpse, as they fled into deep cover as we arrived. Other delights were the flowers – iris and orchids to name but a few, and a lammergeyer, which flew down one of the gullies as we were leaving the plateau. What excitement!

On our way back to the camp we spotted a family of beautiful crowned cranes delicately picking their way across the fields - a lovely sight.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

South Africa Part 3

The third part of our South African trip took us into Swaziland through the usual border checks, which were carried out with great efficiency. We rejoined our van across the border and began a spectacular drive up into the beautiful hills. We stopped for lunch at Piggs Peak where there is a lovely craft place with an award winning shop selling silver and sisal jewellery and fine houseware. We stayed in a stunning 'village', Hawane, where the cabins are made in a psuedo-traditional style. They are a wonderful combination of traditional building and innovative luxury! We were very comfortable there. A days trekking in the Malolotja Nature Reserve brought us the rewards of fabulous panoramas, wild flowers, waterfalls and the elusive biesbok. Once again our drivers and chief guide cooked for us. This time it was in the backpackers area of the village - and was just as good for that!
The next day saw us back in the van again, heading through the capital, Mbabane and on to a kilometer long craft area at Mbabane, where we stopped and bought traditional crafts. The rest of the day was a drive to Mkuze Game Reserve and this is the next part of the trip.


Friday, February 02, 2007

South Africa Part 2

After walking in Mpumalanga, we headed for our first game park. This is Edeni, a private park, where we set up camp and took several game drives and a walk in the wild! We then moved on to Kruger via a reptile sanctuary where the agamas like to eat hibiscus flowers! Camping again, we drove into the wild areas to see some fabulous wild animals.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

South Africa Part 1

Our holiday in South Africa had several phases. This is the start when we visited Mpumalanga, the Blyde River Canyon and Magoebaskloof. We stayed in hikers cabins, cooking over open fires and as you see in one place we had a camp shower - with hot water - luxury!