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 Post subject: Bushbuddies's Autumn in Golden Gate: May '14
Unread postPosted: Sun May 18, 2014 1:26 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Location: Centurion
After some nudging by some of the mites, I decided to start this TR. Often here amongst the travel tales, the smaller parks such as Addo, Marakele, Mokala and Golden Gate get neglected. And why should they? Many people know about KNP and KTP. You are sure to find a colleague, a friend or a family member who has been to one of these bigger parks, and who can tell you all about it. All about the big KTP lions they saw, and that leopard that just came out of nowhere in KNP. But it is not often that somebody tells you about the beautiful mountain and its vultures in Marakele, or the vast Karoo scrub with prolific birdlife in the Karoo National Park, or the luxury of the latest accomodation in Golden Gate. So let me tell you about the Highlands Mountain Retreat in Golden Gate - in Autumn, a lovely time of the year...


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 Post subject: Re: Autumn in Golden Gate
Unread postPosted: Mon May 19, 2014 2:21 pm 
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Location: Centurion
The Highlands Mountain Retreat

Let me start by introducing you to the camp where we stayed - the Higlands Mountain Retreat.

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8 Beautiful Log Cabins situated in the mountains, with a view that stretches out over kilometers.

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They are very well equiped, with all the nice touches and finnishes.

A fireplace for those cool evenings...

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A kitchen that has both a stove and oven (to make nice warm puddings in...) :tongue:

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...as well as a microwave and all the cuttlery and crockery one might need.

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A nice warm double bed, with lots of spare blankets. We also got a heater in our room.

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And a spacious bathroom:

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This was our home for 4 days at the end of April this year, and we loved it!

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 Post subject: Re: Autumn in Golden Gate
Unread postPosted: Thu May 22, 2014 10:53 am 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Wed Nov 18, 2009 6:22 pm
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Location: Centurion
Autumn Time

The first time the Bushbuddies visited Golden Gate together, was in the middle of June 2005 - winter time. It was FRRRREEEEZZZZING! We stayed in a normal bungalow, which thankfully had an electrical blanket - but no heater! :shock: So we literally stayed in bed the whole time we were in our bungalow.

The next time we went was January 2011 - summer time! 8) It was absolutely beautiful. The temperatures were moderate, the whole park beautifully green with lots of water everywhere:

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Now it was time for us to visit the park in autumn. And I must say there was another kind of beauty to the park in Autumn. It was already getting pretty brown in terms of the some of the grasses, but the trees gave a spectacular colour-show:

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For those interested - a view of the camping grounds:

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And the area around the bungalows:

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Beautiful, but already quite cool. Maximum temperatures were between 15-20'C, but a chilly wind was present most days - especially on the mountains.


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 Post subject: Re: Autumn in Golden Gate
Unread postPosted: Tue May 27, 2014 12:24 pm 
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Posts: 1199
Location: Centurion
Golden Gate's Vulture Hide

Golden Gate built a nice hide at their vulture restaurant recently. It was the first time we saw it and I was very impressed. It is a beautiful, clean and practical hide, with a great view. Even if you see no birds or animals, you'll have a great view towards the start of the Drakensberg mountains.

The view:

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During the time we were there - there were some carcasses in view:

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And apparently the pony/horse carcass had been put out the day before we arrived. And it shrunk in size at quite a rate daily! :shock: But we never saw much activity around it, though we visited the hide very often! :hmz: We did on one occassion see some far off jackal, and I think they probably came most evenings and dug into this nice treat put out for them. The change in carcass size was most noticable between the previous afternoons and the next mornings.

We were unfortunately not as lucky to get any vulture sightings... :( So we'll just have to keep returning! :wink: We did however see the White-necked Ravens (Withalskraaie) on more than one occassion:

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Now for my opinion on the hide: As I already mentioned, it is truly a lovely, perfectly positioned hide. Clean and well looked-after. BUT... Many people did not seem to understand how the hide works, and that one would not be allowed to go and walk amongst the carcasses... :slap: One for the wall of shame:

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But to be honest - there is no sign indicating that you are not allowed to go outside and around the hide. I know - it seemed quite obvious to me too - but what about those who never visit birdhides, and don't often visit parks?

The other little problem I found, was the info the honorary rangers posted on the Bearded Vulture (Baardaasvoƫl) and Cape Vulture (Kransaasvoƫl) inside the hide...

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A wingspan of 720-787cm... Just think about a bird with a wingspan of near 8m... :shock: I mean really - that is impossible to even think about! (The true wingspan is 2,6-2,8m according to my Sasol). And according to the sign on Cape Vultures they also have a 6-7m wingspan! :slap:

I think I've read before that people noticed this mistake and suggested it be corrected - but it seems it hasn't been. Maybe someone could give the honorary rangers in charge of this project a nudge... :wink:


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 Post subject: Re: Autumn in Golden Gate
Unread postPosted: Fri May 30, 2014 12:13 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Wed Nov 18, 2009 6:22 pm
Posts: 1199
Location: Centurion
isinkwe wrote:
Image just looking at his body language , I would say that his wife just told him that was getting vegetables for supper , Imageherbivore food ImageImage and all he wanted was a decent piece of Image to put on the Image so now he is on his way back home for Image food,ImageImageImageImage


Let me tell you the funny story about the missus... :D

So mr Idiot was actually at the hide with his wifey, Granny and his brother and his wifey too. Now at the entry to the hide you actually first enter through one door into a foyer kind of area. There is a sign there to ask you to first close the first door, before opening the second door and entering the hide. (The reason for this is so that there is no light coming from outside causing a flash in the hide, possibly upsetting the vultures). So while mr Idiot was walking amongst the carcasses, his wifey and the rest of the family were entering through the first door. She was loudly reading out the sign and telling the whole family how they must come in and close the first door before entering through the second. It sounded like an accent from the Northern Suburbs of Jhb... :tongue: If only mr Idiot was as keen to read and follow signs and logic around the hide! :slap:


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 Post subject: Re: Autumn in Golden Gate
Unread postPosted: Fri May 30, 2014 12:29 pm 
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Posts: 1199
Location: Centurion
The Ground Woodpecker (Grondspeg)

Over the years, SO and I have become quite keen birders. So before we leave on a planned trip, I usually look in my birdbook to see which "special" birdies might be found in the area. I also often check under birding at the park on the SANParks website to get some ideas on what specials can be found in the area.

So last year December we stopped over for a day or two at the Karoo National Park. I told SO about all the Karoo birdies we should look out for. Amongst all the brown jobbies, the Ground Woodpecker (Grondspeg) stood out as a beautiful bird - often found in the Karoo National Park - according to the website. So out we went in December - looking everywhere for it. During our stay there, we met up again with some acquaintances, who are also avid birders. They did manage to see the woodpeckers during their stay at Karoo, but we never got to see them... :slap: It was, however, not their first time seeing these birds. They just went on about how many they saw at Golden Gate Highlands Retreat... :whistle:

Now with that background, and after being at Golden Gate Highland Retreat for 24 hours and not seeing a single Ground Woodpecker, I was starting to feel a little irritated. Was this becoming a "bogey bird" for us! :|

Luckily - on the second afternoon, after we returned from our drive, they were there! :dance: I was so excited - they were even more beautiful in real life than on the pictures! Cute and cuddly birdies. It seems it was a couple. They would often sit close against each other for warmth in the cold wind. We saw them a few times again in the following days - mostly during the warmest times of the day. I had a field time taking :cam: of them. Please bare with me if I show too many pics of one bird - but I just love them all! :D

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Finding a sunny spot:

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The Mr and Mrs: (The male has red moustachial stripes, the female has dark grey, and she also has less pink on her belly and rump)

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Lovebirds! :k

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 Post subject: Re: Autumn in Golden Gate
Unread postPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2014 12:02 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Wed Nov 18, 2009 6:22 pm
Posts: 1199
Location: Centurion
The Views

One of the treats of staying in the Highlands Mountain Retreat in Autumn, was to make a fire every night in the fireplace (a bag of wood is even provided free of charge every night!).

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And then there are the views. Views that stretch for kilometers! The one morning we woke up, we had a view of a cloud-blanket - how special!

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...it slowly cleared through the morning.

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One of the other activities Golden Gate is quite famous for, is to go hiking. Now most hikes start and end at Glen Reenen - a nice thing of staying there. But don't worry - at the Highlands Mountain Retreat there are a few non-official walks that one can take with ease. And enjoy beautiful views. There is an old gravel road (serious 4x4 if you ask me), leading up from the camp to behind the chalets. A bit of a climb innitialy, but worth the view:

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If you keep on walking, it eventually joins up with the other less steep walk - which starts next to (and just above) unit 8 and follows along the edge of the mountain to the tip as indicated by the arrow:

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From that point at the arrow, you have a magnificent view:

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(The camp is situated on the hill to the right)

I read that there are over 150 types of grasses in the park! :shock: On these walks, you would defintely see all of them in their different colours. These grasses had light tips which got caught by the sun while dancing in the wind. A photograph doesn't do it justice - but imagine the sun reflecting off these grasses while they're blown rhythmically by the wind...

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And with all the grasses - more grassland birdies! :D Wailing Cisticola (Huiltinktinkie):

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And so my report comes to an end. Thank you for staying with me in the beautiful Golden Gate Highlands Mountain Retreat, for enjoying its magnificent views and visiting the Vulture Hide with me. Thank you for walking with me through the grasses, despite the chilly wind that was blowing. Thank you for looking for special birdies and bearing with me while I try and photograph them from every angle! Thank you all for doing this with me through this TR, and for SO who did it with me in person - it was great fun!


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