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 Post subject: Ribuck's August family Adventure - PE to CT
Unread postPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2009 1:59 pm 
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Location: PE to CT Aug 09, now back in UK
Later this month our family is coming (from England) to travel from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town, going to as many SANParks as possible along the way.

There's me, my wife Rowena, and children K (14) and H (12).

We've always wanted to show the kids how animals live in a natural environment, but have been put off by the need to take anti-malarials. When we found out about Addo, we were hooked on the idea of a visit.

A web search for information on Addo led to this amazing forum, where we discovered parks we'd never heard about. After reading hundreds of topics here, we felt we could put together an itinerary. Thanks everyone for sharing your knowledge of parks, animals and accommodation!

Here's where we're staying each night:

18th August: Port Elizabeth
19th: Addo Elephant National Park
20th: Addo Elephant National Park
21st: Tsitsikamma National Park (Storms River Mouth)
22nd: Tsitsikamma National Park (Storms River Mouth)
23rd: Tsitsikamma National Park (Nature's Valley)
24th: Wilderness National Park
25th: near Cango Caves
26th: Karoo National Park
27th: near Calitzdorp
28th: Bontebok National Park
29th: TMNP (Simons Town)
30th: TMNP (Cape Town)
1st September: TMNP (Cape Town)

As you can see, we are really cramming it in. Maybe it would have been better to spend more time at each place and visit fewer places, but as we may not be able to visit Africa again in the near future we're happy to get up early each morning and try to fit in as much as possible.

Even so, I'm a bit concerned about squeezing Karoo into it. We are really keen to hike the Pointer Trail, and think we can manage that time-wise.

If anyone has any opinion on how long it takes to drive from Cango Caves to Karoo, or Karoo to Calitzdorp, that would help us to plan our days to maximise the time in Karoo NP.

Less than 2 weeks to go!

Regards,
Roger


Last edited by ribuck on Thu Aug 06, 2009 4:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Ribuck's August family Adventure - PE to CT
Unread postPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2009 8:18 pm 
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Sounds very good to me, in that my wife and I did pretty
much the same - 1/2 in one trip, then 1/2 on a later one.

Surprised you did not consider de Hoop, but maybe it's not
so well liked.

This website has some info on many of your stops:

http://www.infogardenroute.com/distance_chart.htm

Bon voyage,

Daan


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 Post subject: Re: Ribuck's August family Adventure - PE to CT
Unread postPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 10:36 am 
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Vanalder, De Hoop sounds great and our kids would love the sand dunes. Until we received our Wild Card we didn't realise that it included entry to CapeNature reserves as well as SANParks, so cost of the Conservation Charges was one factor for us when planning our itinerary. But I think we will enjoy all the places we are visiting.

Carolynn, I have noted your comment in another topic about the rusks for sale at the Addo shop!

Thanks to everyone for the kind comments and helpful hints.

Regards,
Roger


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 Post subject: Re: Ribuck's August family Adventure - PE to CT
Unread postPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2009 10:27 pm 
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OK, we're back home and have caught up with everything except mowing the lawn, so it's time to write the trip report. Either that, or mow the lawn.

Tuesday 18 August

After an overnight flight and a tedious five hour connection at Johannesburg we touched down at PE Airport after lunch and collected our car, familiarised ourselves with SA driving, found our B&B, stocked up on supplies, and grabbed some fish and chips.

Wow, I've never before seen people add so much vinegar to fish'n'chips!

Wednesday 19 August

In the morning we went on an interesting and informative tour of Walmer Township, then it was off to Addo, dodging the potholes. The staff at Addo main gate and reception were helpful and welcoming, and we were soon in our chalet.

We generally travel a bit rougher than this, but we booked at short notice and the cheaper accommodation was often booked out. So it was an indulgent luxury to settle into our chalets. They really are delightful: well-equipped, beautifully presented, set amongst the birdlife with a lovely view, and spotless.

Our children are K (fourteen years) and H (twelve years), and the SanParks computer doesn't think they can fit into a sofa-bed at that age, so we actually had to take two chalets which was a real treat for the kids but an extravagance for me and SO.

At this point I should warn you that none of the others have been to a game park before. The only previous time for me was Kruger NP way back in 1981, when they still had dinosaurs. So you will have to excuse our naiive behaviour.

By now it was 16h00, and the gate would be open until 17h30, so we planned our route. We decided to start with the Domkrag loop, then the Gorah loop, then if time permitted we would do the Hapoor Dam loop. You can see what's coming, can't you?

Anyway, my memories of KNP from 1981 were that animals were few and far between, so we weren't expecting to see anything very soon. But we had gone barely a hundred meters from the game gate when the kids yelled "Stop!". And there it was!

What a magnificent huge creature. It stood there so majestically, just looking at us. We were transfixed. We watched it for ages before it decided to move on. So large yet so graceful and stately. It was such an emotional experience that we took several hundred photos. Yep, our first Kudu.

Little did we know that we'd be finding more Kudu to stop for every few hundred meters. Then we started to find ostrich wherever we looked. More stops and photos.

Then the strangest creatures: pigs in high heels with beards, all kneeling down to pray to us as we came past.

We consulted the map and decided that we better not spend so long with each kudu, ostrich or warthog if we wanted to get back to the gate on time. So we only took several dozen photos at each stop from now on.

But we saw more and more animals. A tortoise, a jackal, some caracals (correction: bat-eared foxes), and lots of interesting birds. By now we had started on the Gorah Loop, and the time pressure forced us to refuse to stop at Kudu sightings anymore.

We then reached a sign saying that the road ahead was suitable for high clearance vehicles only. Oops, that was not us in our Toyota Corolla. We had no choice but to turn back and retrace our steps. What's more, we realised that we were so short of time that we couldn't stop for any more sightings.

Nevertheless, we had our best sighting on the way back. Rounding a corner at 40km/hr, we surprised a pair or Kudu. One of them just ambled off, but the other got spooked and did the most amazing jump.

It jumped almost vertically, and dramatically high. It's feet must have reached the height of the roof of our car. Then it departed.

I know that antelope do this to impress their predators, but wow! this sure impressed us. For such a big creature to stott so high must use an enormous amount of muscle power.

Anyway, we made it back to the gate by closing time, but the gate was shut and there was nobody to be seen. We weren't sure what the deal was here, but luckily someone appeared a few minutes later to let us (and another vehicle) through.

We won't misunderestimate driving times again!

After a meal, we walked to the floodlit waterhole but only saw a warthog. It was a very cold and clear night, and we couldn't persuade ourselves to wait much longer.

Besides, we'd had enough excitement for one day.

At this point I should say that we're not "proper" photographers. The kids have pocket cameras that just take snapshots, and I use the camera in my phone. Nevertheless, I'll inflicting some on you, just to give you a feel for the trip.

Our first sighting: a kudu. At least I hope it's a kudu, or else I'll be feeling mighty stupid.
Image

Our second sighting: an ostrich. For a moment I thought it might have been an emu, but I'm pretty sure this one actually is an ostrich.
Image

A warthog and two warthoglets, bowing to our presence.
Image

More soon!

Regards,
Roger


Last edited by ribuck on Thu Sep 10, 2009 10:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Ribuck's August family Adventure - PE to CT
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2009 6:33 pm 
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Astute readers will have noticed that we are at Addo Elephant National Park but haven't yet seen an elephant. So it was with high hopes that we got up early enough to be at the game gate by 6h30 opening time, after getting rid of the solid ice that had formed on the windscreen overnight. We knew from this forum that if we didn't see an elephant before breakfast, we were "sure" to see them at Domkrag Dam later in the morning.

We took it slowly as we drove the Domkrag loop, and were rewarded by the most wonderful meerkat sighting. I've only seen meerkats in zoos before, but (as is always the case) animals are so much more interesting when you can see their behaviours in the wild.

At that sleepy hour of the morning it was inspiring to see this whirlwind of a dozen or more meerkats arrive, sniffing and scurrying and snacking with incredible speed, energy, and sense of purpose, punctuated only by moments of stop-motion as they stand up to check for danger. They entertained us for over ten minutes as they arrived, worked the area around the road, and drifted on.

Meerkat patrol
Image

At Domkrag Dam there was nothing except birds. It was the same yesterday afternoon. So we continued around the Domkrag loop, noting that the tortoise we saw yesterday was still under the same bush. Was it even alive?

Next we drove to Hapoor Dam via Rooidam and saw ... nothing new except some Common Duiker. Dozens of kudu and ostriches though. No matter how many ostriches we saw, they always remained interesting. No matter how many kudu we saw, they always remained graceful and elegant.

So it was back to the chalet for breakfast. We had bought some Pro Nutro, which I hadn't tasted for fifteen years, and were determined to work our way through the various flavours during our travels. I'll spare you the tedious details, except to say that the unanimous preference was for chocolate.

Same with the rusks: we decided to work our way through all the available rusk varieties, starting with Ouma's Buttermilk. With four people, and this being our third day in South Africa, we were already into our second pack: the locally-made kind from the Addo shop. Just in case we couldn't find these elsewhere, we bought out the shop: museli, marmalade and original.

But I digress. No sooner had we finished breakfast than we decided to go find those shy ellies. And what better place to start than Domkrag Dam where they were sure to be playing? No such luck. Just birds again. Not that we're complaining, having seen a couple of Egyptian Geese, several Secretary Birds, plenty of Bokmakeries, plus Herons, Secretary Birds and Blue Cranes plus lots of Unidentified Flying Objects (not all at Domkrag Dam though).

Domkrag dam is an odd sort of place. There are two signs. One says that you may get out of your car at your own risk. The second says to beware of the lions. But a hedge has been planted around the viewing area to give the lions a place to hide crouching, ready to pounce at any moment. Oh well, I suppose this provides a dramatic sighting for the surviving humans.

We continued around the Domkrag loop, noting that our tortoise was in fact alive as it had moved half a metre since our dawn drive. We turned onto the Zurkop loop (where we saw a scrub hare) and went up to Zurkop lookout, before continuing along the gravel road to meet the Hapoor loop near Janwal Pan.

By now we had driven over six hours in the park, and were despairing of ever seeing elephants. But as we passed Lendlovu Pan there was a one-elephant roadblock. No problem, we don't argue with elephant robots so we stopped.

As we watched this one, we gradually spotted more and more elephants in the surrounding thornbush. We watched them eat with amazement. I wonder what it's like being an elephant eating thornbush. I mean, do you think it tastes delicious to an elephant? I guess it must, or they wouldn't look so enthusiastic as they shove great gobs of it into their mouths.

The elephants gradually moved onto the road and milled around us. At one point we counted fifteen (!) elephants in front of us, behind us, and walking past us. They were heading south, and we stayed near the group until they left the road for a short-cut to wherever they were going.

Eyelashes
Image

Not the trunk
Image

Elephants everywhere
Image

Breast is best! The baby's trunk gets in the way, but mum looks content
Image

Towards the end, a group of vehicles arrived with people outside. Here's a moment of infamy for these shameful miscreants:

Hall of shame: vehicle 1
Image

Hall of shame: vehicle 2
Image

Anyway, more tomorrow!

Regards,
Roger


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 Post subject: Re: Ribuck's August family Adventure - PE to CT
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 2:20 pm 
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(CC, billyf, nightjar and p@m - thanks for your kind comments!)

We're now up to lunchtime on Thursday 20th August, and we're back in Addo camp after our second game drive of the day. Rowena (SO) isn't very good at sitting still for hours and hours, so she felt it was time to go for a run.

Of course we weren't in the right place for that. She would have loved to run cross-country from Nyati Waterhole to Rooidam. Instead, she had to content herself with a couple of laps around camp and some circuits of the Discovery Trail.

Meanwhile we hit the Addo shop for some bread, jam and apples, and I also bought some Kudu Biltong. This caused problems.

H, aged 12, decided to go vegetarian a few years ago, so she wasn't going to touch the stuff. K, aged 14, thought it looked repulsive, so she wasn't touching it either. And Rowena said that it tasted like raw meat. I thought this was not the time to enlighten her as to exactly how biltong is made.

But the biggest problem wasn't just that it was biltong. The problem was that it was kudu biltong. How, demanded H, could I even think of buying something made from the chopped-up dead bodies of the magnificent animals we'd been watching. And how could the national park allow the shop to sell such a thing?

Oh well, more biltong for me! But no more biltong was bought during our trip.

After a quick lunch we headed out for an afternoon game drive, around Domkrag loop (where our tortoise was back under its bush) then out to Mpunzi Loop and the Spekboom Hide. There was plenty to be seen, including dozens of elephants, but the only new species for us was a couple of dung beetles. Sadly for us, they were sans dung. Dungless beetles, in other words.

Back in camp we had a really nice sighting of a grey mongoose crossing the road just in front of us.

Next up was a night drive. Our guide was Ryan, and it's hard to imagine anyone more knowledgeable, skilled and enthusiastic than he is. Our driver was Seeka. Together, Ryan and Seeka made a great team. Each seemed to know exactly what the other was doing, had seen, and wanted to do.

Ryan is a large guy, and as he took his spotter's seat high up front he joked that he was there to serve as our windbreak. It was a cold evening, and this gallant service was welcome.

First up we saw a black backed jackal foraging around close by. The next sighting was a nightjar, waiting patiently on the ground until it sees an insect silhouetted against the sky, at which point it zooms up to catch it.

Not far away, ostriches were sleeping: sitting down, but with their necks fully-extended.

Then we saw something I've always wanted to see. Ryan spotted a couple of porcupines going about their business, and we watched them for a few minutes.

For a while we listened to the calls of the jackals proclaiming their territories. "Much better than pop music", proclaimed Ryan.

I was surprised that Ryan didn't point out our tortoise (still under the same bush) as we drove past it.

We saw plenty more black backed jackals and ostriches, and lots of elephants. We felt a bit sorry for the birds we saw who stand all night in cold water, hoping that they'll hear the splashing of waves from any approaching predator.

We drove the Domkrag loop, out to Gorah Pan, along a service road, then out to Rooidam and back. We could tell that Ryan was disappointed, having tried to find predators for us. Technically, the jackal is a predator but as we only saw it predating invertebrates that doesn't really count does it?

On the previous two nights, lion had been found on the night drive. But heck, there are only twelve lions in the whole of Addo so we weren't complaining. We all thought it was a fabulous drive.

So after a look at a very starry sky, it was back to our chalet, where we heard the cry of the jackals many times through the night.

Regards,
Roger


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 Post subject: Re: Ribuck's August family Adventure - PE to CT
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 10:21 pm 
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Hi ladylucy,

ladylucy wrote:
Must ask you are you from the NE of England, I'm from Newcastle originally and its only up there I've heard the expression "to Stott"...

We're from Lancaster (NW England) and haven't heard of Stotty Cakes (but we'll make sure to eat some if we happen to find them).

We learned the word "to stott" from the David Attenborough wildlife films, where he refers to any kind of antelope jump as stotting. The idea is that it's supposed to say to the predator: "Don't bother chasing me. I'm so powerful that I can jump really high. Try chasing my lower-stotting brother instead.".

Roger


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 Post subject: Re: Ribuck's August family Adventure - PE to CT
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2009 10:26 pm 
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Richprins wrote:
Good luck explaining the "elephant culling debate" to them one day... :twisted:

RP, at their ages (teenagers, or near enough) I don't bother explaining anything to them anymore.

If I think they need to know something, I have to find some roundabout way of getting them to explain it to me, and thinking that it was their idea all the time. I'll let them explain elephant culling to me in their own words sometime.

Roger


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 Post subject: Re: Ribuck's August family Adventure - PE to CT
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2009 4:11 pm 
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We were at the Addo game gate again for 6h30 on Friday 21st August, and headed towards Spekboom Hide. As we passed Rooidam we saw two black backed jackals chasing away a third one. This didn't match what Ryan had told us on last night's safari drive: that the male will chase away male intruders, and the female will chase away female intruders.

We watched for a while, and saw that they were taking turns to be chased. A game perhaps? They all looked fully-grown as far as I could tell. Or perhaps just a way to warm up in the early morning cold.

At Spekboom Hide itself we saw nothing except birds. The rest of the drive had lots of animals (including over a dozen elephants), although none of the species were new for us. We had been half-expecting that we would see buffalo in Addo, but no luck. So, we saw only one of the big 5 in our 40 hours of Addo (or the "Big 7" as Addo's marketing department likes to put it). We're not complaining though, as all of our sightings were fascinating.

Here's what we saw at Addo: elephants, meercats, porcupines, ostriches, jackals, a mongoose, warthogs, caracals (correction: bat-eared foxes), spring hares, scrub hares, a leopard tortoise, uncountable kudu, flightless dung beetles, common duiker, blue crane, egyptian goose, bokmakierie, heron, secretary bird, nightjar and many more unidentified birds.

We headed back for breakfast before checking out. The children have an insatiable appetite for game drives and wanted to stay on for more, but SO prefers to be outdoors than sitting in a car and was now looking forward to Tsitsikamma.

On the way out we stopped at the curio shop, which was quite well-stocked. We couldn't help noticing that decorated ostrich eggs are popular. You can get them with scenes of elephants, antique map designs, geometric patterns, abstract designs, images of the big 5, etc. Everything except images of ostriches, ironically.

I found some wholemeal rusks, which I bought to add to my rusk flavours collection. Bad move, as I was to discover later.

Anyway the journey to Tsitsikamma was straightforward. When you're on the road you notice odd things, and we noticed that many of the Port Elizabeth cars had brownish and greenish stains on their number plates, kind of like algal growths. It wasn't until later that we realised these were actually faint elephant pictures printed behind the letters and digits.

We entered Tsitsikamma with apprehension. We'd heard and seen much about this place. Was it going to be an anticlimax seeing it "for real"? Luckily not.

Image
Looking up the Storms River gorge from the suspension bridge.
No extra charge for the finger in the top left


We stayed in the Oceanette block, in the spacious wheelchair-adapted unit. It seems that this is held for disabled people until one month beforehand, when it becomes generally available. This is how we ended up in it, with our late booking. The two bedrooms and the living area each had large patio doors letting in a magnificent view of the rocks and the ocean. The underfloor heating in the bedrooms was a particularly luxurious touch for a winter stay.

A minor disadvantage of this unit (and the other ground-floor oceanette units) is that a lot of people walk past your windows, and they look in with natural curiosity. In contrast, the upstairs oceanettes have very private balconies (but without a balcony braai facility). Luckily, we weren't troubled by this lack of privacy.

We walked to the other end of the rest camp, which takes about 15 minutes. Because I'd seen so much discussion in this forum about the different accommodation at Storms River Mouth rest camp, I took an interest in it. There are a few different flavours here, but I'd have to say they are each magnificent in some way, and there are really no bad options.

The forest cabins are more delightful than I thought they would be. They're in a clearing within a patch of dense vegetation, which makes for a very cosy location when the wind was as strong as it was this day. One of these cabins also has a particularly stunning view of the rocks and sea, so you can get the best of both worlds, but the cabins are just a few meters from the water so it would be no hardship in any of the others.

As I said, we had strong winds which made for spectacular spray as the waves crashed against the rocks. It also whipped up a scummy foam which accumulated along the shore, in some places being more than a metre deep. I don't know whether that scum was due to natural plant organic matter, or due to human sewage, but it didn't look very nice.

Luckily, it didn't occur around the corner towards the river mouth, and the little beach was clean and relatively sheltered. It was a bit cold for a swim though. The kids went back to the Oceanette to play cards. Rowena opted for a run around the Blue Duiker Trail and the side trip to and from the Fynbos Garden. I opted for something more relaxed, and headed along the shoreside trail to Storms River Mouth.

This trail is 2km return, and is mostly boardwalk. It had been raining lightly, and the boards have been painted with a coating to make them more slippery in these conditions. A few unpainted replacement boards, in contrast, offered a very secure footing.

About half-way to the suspension bridge, a school group was visiting a historic site. There's a large sign with three sections: English, Afrikaans and Xhosa. The only problem is: someone forgot to do the Xhosa translation. The Xhosa section has English text with headings saying things like "Xhosa Wording Goes Here" and "Xhosa Translation". Somehow, after the design got approved, people made the sign board, transported it and installed it without anyone stopping to say "Hang on a moment. Hasn't someone forgotten to insert the Xhosa wording?". I didn't take a photo because I didn't want to disrupt the school group.

Image
Suspension bridge across Storms River, plus two more bridges on a loop which opened to the public a few days later

The suspension bridge provides a dramatic view up the Storms River. Over the bridge I saw a track up to a lookout. The lookout is, I guess, for whale watching because it's a platform with a good view of the ocean, and no view back to the river or the bridge. I had to move quickly, because it was coming on to dark and I needed to get back at least to the boardwalk before complete darkness.

Around the lookout was some high-quality Fynbos, the first I'd seen. I was surprised to find that it looked much like the low banksia scrub you can find in some parts of Australia. The individual plants and grasses were different, but the overall appearance of the ecosystem was very similar.

We met up back out our Oceanette for a quiet evening and a good sleep. On first entering the Oceanette we had been aware of a distinctive smell, quite strong, but we didn't notice it again for the rest of our stay. Either the smell went away, or we got used to it.

Our new animal sighting for today was dassies. We saw plenty as we walked through camp. OK, I know you guys have all seen more dassies than there are trees in the forest, but they are interesting creatures to us Europians. H took a cute Dassie photo in TMNP which I will post when I get to the TMNP part of my trip report.

More tomorrow.

Regards,
Roger


Last edited by ribuck on Thu Sep 10, 2009 10:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Ribuck's August family Adventure - PE to CT
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2009 8:25 pm 
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Hi Caracal,
Caracal wrote:
...you mentioned that you saw caracals....caracalS as in plural :big_eyes: ...do you know what an amazing sighting that is :shock: :shock: :shock:
Please tell me more...

We had a hunch that we might have had a lucky sighting, which helps to make up for not seeing buffalo.

We saw a group of four, and watched them for about five minutes. It was twilight (darker than it looks in the photos), and time was limited or we would have watched for longer. It wasn't clear what they were up to - sometimes they were slinking around, and sometimes they were sort of jumping around.

They were on the east side of the road which links the end of the Domkrag Dam loop to the Gorah loop (the road marked "1.8km" on the park map). It was about 17h00. The area had gone very quiet and I'm sure we were the last car in this area.

Although they were quite some distance from us (50 metres?) one of them was keeping an eye on us all the time.

Sorry that these photos aren't clearer, but we don't have a fancy camera:

Image

Image

Regards,
Roger


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 Post subject: Re: Ribuck's August family Adventure - PE to CT
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2009 10:01 pm 
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Caracal wrote:
...that pic is actually of bat-eared foxes...

Ouch!

No way will I argue with someone whose username is "Caracal".

I've just looked at some videos of bat-eared foxes, and the movements and interactions are exactly what we saw. So thanks for the identification.

Roger


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 Post subject: Re: Ribuck's August family Adventure - PE to CT
Unread postPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2009 1:36 pm 
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We awoke on Saturday 22 August to find the wind and waves as strong as ever.

As we walked to the other end of camp we saw a mongoose crossing the road. We also saw a baboon. OK, I acknowledge that baboon sightings are no big deal to people who live in South Africa, but it was our first monkey - even if it was not in a natural setting. The baboon was doing a "smash and grab" on a garbage bin: pushing a big rock off the top, flinging open the lid and grabbing the only thing inside: someone's half-finished packet of potato crisps. I'm surprised the park hasn't installed baboon-proof bins.

The guy at the information desk confirmed that the boat trips up the river mouth wouldn't be running today, which was disappointing but not a surprise. He also thought we wouldn't spot dolphins unless the sun came out, as it was currently thickly overcast.

We decided to do the walk westwards along the coast to the waterfall. This is the first part of the Otter Trail. Part of it involves some easy scrambling over the coastal rocks, which we enjoyed but might not be to everyone's taste. Other parts are on a track through the forest.

Image
Tsitsikamma forest trail - Lourie country

Again I was struck by the similarity to parts of Australia. The rainforest at the bottom of the cliffs at Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, has exactly the same feel as here. As with yesterday's vegetation, the individual species are different but the whole lush ecosystem with its vines, rocks, leafy trees and brownish-grey dusty soil really feels similar.

We had a nice sighting of a pair of Knysna Louries in the trees not too far above us. We also enjoyed seeing the shongololos. These large, chunky, glossy millipedes are impressive and interesting to watch as they make their way across the ground, curling up into a ball when disturbed.

Image
African millipedes really do have nearly a thousand legs

We also saw something similar which we couldn't identify. It looked like a rolled-up shongololo with its legs somehow tucked in out of sight. But it was so tightly rolled up that it might even have been a seed pod rather than an animal. The exterior had exactly the same glossy black finish as a shongololo, and it was about three centimetres diameter. Obviously we should have photographed it, but we didn't. Any takers?

Image
Imagine this rolled much tighter, with no legs visible. What would it be?

Along the way to the waterfall is a bay with two caves. The first looks like a small landslip from the outside, but if you take a closer look you find a slot at the top which leads to a cavern above five metres across and tall enough to stand in. A few small passages lead off from this, but they don't go far.

More interesting is the second cave, which is narrow and linear and can be followed for maybe 50 metres into the darkness. Near the end, SO and H heard swooping sounds and caught of a fleeting glimpse of the creatures. There was some doubt as to what exactly they were, but with the assitance of fellow forumite Caracal we were able to identify these as fox-eared bats.

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Inside the bat cave

The waterfall itself is attractive, with a nice swimming hole for anyone who doesn't mind the cold water, and a straightforward scramble to a ledge halfway up which gives a nice view of the waterfall and also out to the ocean, which was still splashing and raging strongly.

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Nice scrambling on the left

After half an hour or so at the waterfall, we headed back to our Oceanette for lunch, seeing a few more Louries along the way.

After lunch I broke open the pack of wholemeal rusks that I bought yesterday, and dunked one in my tea. Bleah! It tasted just like clay. Not even like gourmet clay, but like clay from a particularly bad vintage, and it had the texture of a mixture of mud and glue.

We don't like to waste food in our family. We follow an unwritten rule that if someone buys food, they are expected to use it up (unless it's actually seething with decay). As I was the one who had chosen the wholemeal rusks, I wasn't going to get any help from Rowena or the children to use them up. The rest of my family would eat the delicious other flavours of rusk while I spent the next few days tediously dunking and munching the horrible wholemeal rusks.

Little did I know that after I finished that packet of rusks, worse was yet to come...

More tomorrow.

Regards,
Roger


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 Post subject: Re: Ribuck's August family Adventure - PE to CT
Unread postPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2009 11:04 pm 
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Location: PE to CT Aug 09, now back in UK
Thanks everyone for your kind comments.

CuriousCanadian wrote:
Beautiful waterfall!!! Did you swim? 8)

No way. Pools like that are too cold for me in August!

There was one guy swimming though. He was from a group of young Spanish tourists. Their tour guide, also from Spain, walked the trail barefoot.

I fondly remember walking tracks barefoot many years ago, but sadly I can't do that nowadays. I don't go barefoot often enough to maintain the lovely thick leathery skin that you need for track walking.

Richprins wrote:
Nice pic in the cave...difficult shot: what camera do you use?

That photo was taken by H on her Sony W130 "point and shoot" camera. Fortunately she thought to set the program to "City Lights" before she took that shot.

Pumbaa wrote:
Curious to know what other parks you visited also

Stay tuned for reports from Wilderness, Karoo, Bontebok and Table Mountain. But at this point in the TR we are still at Storms River Mouth in Tsitsikamma NP.

. . .

In our last exciting episode we left our hero stubbornly munching earth-tasting wholemeal rusks while the rest of his family dunked the gourmet varieties - but then tragedy struck. We ran out of tea bags. So off we went to the camp shop for tea bags and also a loaf of bread.

When you stay in an oceanette, you are at the very opposite end of the camp from the shop, and it's about a 15-minute walk. We walked that stretch so many times while we were there, not just to get to the shop but also to watch the waves, get to the boardwalk, find dassies, etc. We could have driven but it would have felt wasteful.

So here we were with our teabags and bread. We had brought our bathing suits, and went to the delightful little beach around the corner where the kids messed about in the shallows (the water was too rough further out).

A picnicker had left a half-finished pack of biscuits on the sand, and naturally some baboons raided it. A baboon sighting! So we grabbed the camera and tried to follow the baboons.

But baboons are smarter than our family. While we were distracted by the biscuit-stealers, another baboon decided to perform a "smash-and-grab" on our bread and tea bags. We saw what was going to happen and ran back, but we were five metres away and weren't able to stop it.

H got a good look at the perpetrator, and announced that he had a really guilty look on his face, and obviously knew that what he was doing was wrong. I don't doubt it.

K was highly amused by the whole episode, while SO was distressed by the financial repercussions of the uninsured loss. She calmed down when she worked out that the stolen goods were valued at less than R10.

Meanwhile I went to find some litter to pick up, to make up for our own litter which had now disappeared into the forest. We aim to leave every place no worse (and preferably a little better) than it was before we got there. It's surprisingly easy to find litter when you're looking for it, so that was soon taken care of.

SO stayed with the children, who swam for an hour or so before heading back to the Oceanette. That gave SO a chance to go for a run.

I decided to walk the Blue Duiker trail. The sightings board had shown some good sightings here, including vervet monkeys, bushbuck (or was it duiker? I forget) and two cheetahs. I figured that if I walked by myself, slowly and quietly, keeping a really good lookout, I might see something.

So I trod lightly and walked quietly, all the time listening and watching intently. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Well, no land mammals anyway, despite being on the trail for three hours, and lingering a while at the pond.

But I did get a great dolphin sighting. A short way along the track there is an elevated platform with a good view of the ocean. Just beyond the breaking waves was a pod of about eight dolphins, making their way westwards. At times they were breaching, and there was a lovely moment when three of them leapt from the water together.

Travelling quietly by myself, I heard lots of birds. Not just the regular variety that go "tweet", but also birds that make all kinds of other sounds. Birds with calls that sound more like cracking, whooping, thrashing or buzzing. Sometimes I found it hard to believe that it was a bird making the sound, and couldn't see a bird, but then there would be a fluttering of wings and a disturbance of branches as the bird flew away. Sorry, I don't know what kind of birds they were (although I am fairly confident that they weren't ostriches).

By the time I got back to the Oceanette it was almost dark. I found myself with a lovely mental image of the baboons going to the pond, steeping the tea bags in it, scooping the liquid into their cupped hands, and sitting around in a circle enjoying a nice cup of tea.

Regards,
Roger


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 Post subject: Re: Ribuck's August family Adventure - PE to CT
Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 13, 2009 3:02 pm 
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Location: PE to CT Aug 09, now back in UK
Caracal wrote:
Cheetahs ??? Really :big_eyes:
Come on now ribuck..are you pulling our legs...

No I'm not pulling your legs. There were two sightings of cheetah shown on the (rather decrepit) sightings board. One of those sightings was near where the Blue Duiker trail intersects a 4WD maintenance road. I can't remember exactly where the other one was.

Caracal wrote:
...which I see you are quite fond of doing...

Not true at all! I've carefully re-read everything I've written, and the throwaway line about the fox-eared bat was the only thing that was not strictly true (or within the realm of poetic license, i.e. I don't think you really thought the warthogs were getting down on their knees to pray to me).

I hereby solemnly promise to disclose any leg-pulling in my reports.

Coming back to the cheetahs, I notice that they are not listed on the Tsitsikamma Mammals page, although there are other cats on that page including African wild cat, caracal and leopard.

Regards,
Roger


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 Post subject: Re: Ribuck's August family Adventure - PE to CT
Unread postPosted: Sun Sep 13, 2009 11:16 pm 
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Location: PE to CT Aug 09, now back in UK
@Caracal: No offence taken, so no apology needed. I just wanted to make sure that people didn't think I was setting out to write a work of fiction here.

@Micetta: I will disclose any leg-pulling (because I promised to do so), but I will only disclose it on the following post (or if someone challenges it).

But, as I said, the bit about two cheetahs on the sighting board is "fair dinkum". I just checked with H, and she remembers seeing it too.

The Storms River Mouth sighting board is pin-based, but the sighting depends not only on the colour of the pin but also in the shape of the pinhead. For example, a blue hexagon represents a different animal from a blue circle. Also, the "key" to the sightings is a bit disorganised with some of the entries being handwritten, and a "spare" group of pins are assigned on an ad-hoc basis to additional animals.

So it's possible that the person who put up the cheetah sightings was confused, or even mischievous.

But what if I'd encountered a cheetah when I walked that track? I'm not sure that I'd want to have a cheetah sighting on foot. My instinctive response would be to back away slowly while avoiding eye contact and hurriedly writing a note to my next of kin.

Regards,
Roger


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