Thursday, February 25, 2010

West Coast National Park Part 2

We went further to the camp to see what it looks like because we planned on spending an overnight trip to the park someday. I must say it looks really nice, in the middle of nowhere amongst the fyn bos.

We headed back to the main road again toward Langebaan gate. We turned off to the Geelbek Visitors Centre and I must say this road had a lot of activity. We saw a young Yellow Billed Kite sitting in a tree waiting for its parent to feed it. I think we sat there for about an hour wanting to see it being fed, but it was not meant to be. I did get a few pictures of it but they are not good at all. I will post only one.

There is a row of trees on the right side of the road as we were heading toward the Visitors Centre and in these trees, right at the top were Black Headed Heron nesting. It was an amazing site to see, these big birds coming in from the water side and land in these trees to feed the young. As soon as the adults land you can hear very clear and LOUD how these babies scream for food. I could not get any clear pictures of this.

At Geelbek Visitors Centre we did what we needed to do and then went to the little shop and bought some snacks for the rest of the trip. It looked as if they had a wedding in a tent at the back of the visitors centre. I think that could have been cool.

We left Geelbek Visitors Centre and stopped by those trees where we saw the Black Headed Heron and walked to the bird hide. On the way there I took a picture of the other bird hide.

We also saw what looked like Kittlitz’s Plover and a Black-Winged Stilt. I must say the Black-Winged Stilt looks as if it is on stilts.

To be continued.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The West Coast National Park

We were planning on leaving at 05:00am so we could be at WCNP when the gates opened, but it never worked out that way. We only left at 06:00am and only arrived at the gate at 07:30am. The excitement was crazy! We had not been to any National Park for over 3 years.

As we entered the gate, I stopped and got my camera ready, window mount, lenses and foodstuffs, so that there would be no other distractions.

And there it was, our first bird. The biggest bird in the world, the Ostrich. Actually 3 of them standing right next to the road.

I took a few pictures and just sat there looking at them, trying to study all the features on this huge bird. Amazing to see the holes behind the eyes, which I presume are the ears. The thighs are huge “ massive drumsticks”. Then looking at the feet, now I know why they say there have been times that an Ostrich killed lions by kicking them with those “claws” or are they called talons because it’s a bird. What I found pretty neat was that each time they ate something; you could see this lump move down its neck. Slowly they moved away, further from the road. We stayed there quite long taking this opportunity to watch them because we thought we would not see anymore. Surprise, surprise! We saw many more.

We moved along the entrance road slowly hoping to see some other animals too. My wife said I must stop and back up and as I did we saw what I think was a duiker, but this fellow moved away quicker than the wind was blowing. At least we saw him. Sorry no pic!

Further along I saw what I thought to be some kind of Falcon, just hovering in the air. Then it would suddenly swoop down and come back up. It seemed to be hunting, but it did not get anything while we were watching. It was pretty far. I did take a few pictures but not very clear. It looks like a Black-Shouldered Kite.

We saw so many little birds, but they would never sit still long enough for us to ID them. I must say it was great fun, just sitting alongside the road looking at the birds and trying to ID them. We also saw this little Dove, I think it’s a Namaqua Dove.

By this time we had only reached the fork where you turn right and go to the Langebaan gate or continue straight and go to Kraalbaai. We decided to take the turnoff and go toward Langebaan gate. Along the road we saw a turn off to Duinebos, which is accommodation, so we took this short gravel road and saw small little birds sitting in the middle of the road. I stopped quite a distance away from them and took some pictures I saw later when we came home that they were Namaqua Doves.

To be continued!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Climbing the Helderberg Mountain

I would like to welcome you to my blog and hope you enjoy my reports. This report is about me climbing the Helderberg Mountain in Somerset West, South Africa.

Well I left my home at about 08:30am 24 November 2009 and headed to the Helderberg Nature Reserve. I had my camera, tripod, and camera bag with all my different lenses and most important I had 2.5Litres of water to drink.

I arrived at the reserve at about 08:45am, got my whole kit on my back, walked over to the map to try and figure out how I was going to do this and what route I should follow. Fortunately for me there was a friendly lady whom I could see was a regular visitor to the reserve. She showed me that there were a red, green, blue, white and black route to follow and she suggested I do not do the black route because I was alone and that they have had to rescue many people from doing that route. The black route goes to what is called the Dome on the mountain, it is the highest point. So I decided to go up the white route. Which meant I would climb this mountain in the picture below.

The route up is stunning, you walk through the “fynbos” which is the plant life indigenous to the area.

The bird life is fantastic. This is Cape Sugarbird.

While I was walking up I took more pictures of the mountain to see my progress, but it just seemed that I was not really getting any closer. This mountain is very impressive.

There are some places where the bushes grow over the pathway and form a natural tunnel. Really beautiful. I just thought to myself sometimes what could be waiting on the other side.

As I was progressing I thought I should take some pictures looking back and see how much higher I was.

On my way up I had to through a gate and I found this sign interesting!

Here is another picture of the mountain, it just seemed as though I was not getting any closer.

I would like to say the walk is great, it is quite and no vehicle noise. All you hear is the wind, the birds and your own breathing. In this picture I am sure you can see the angle of the climb.

The markers along the route are done very well. It was just my luck that the route I was taking was not shown here. I could see that there was a sign at the bottom of the blue, red and green on this picture and the black route was shown earlier, going in a different direction. So maybe it was the white route that was missing.

There are many insects too. This Dragonfly just sat there so I could take this picture.

I turned around to see what my progress was. I wanted to see if I was getting any higher and it seemed as if I was. The view from this place was starting to show itself.

Coming around a bend in the pathway and seeing this in front of me made me wonder if I would make it. I have never attempted something like this in my life. I must say I love nature, I go camping very often, but I have never climbed a mountain on my own before.

As I reached the top of that path I turned and took another picture. I then saw I was not alone on the path. That made me feel a bit better. But not for long, he went with one of the other routes.

Now I could see I was making progress. The mountain was starting to fill the view through my cameras lens.

In the picture below if you look to the left of the picture and more to the bottom you will see a little dam of water. That was my starting point.

Now the dam is more in the middle of the picture.

All of a sudden the mountain was right here. And you will notice I start taking less pictures because the serious climbing started now. Well, the serious climbing for me. I know there are some of you that would think this was a small hill to climb. I know it’s not Everest, but it’s my Everest.

What is so incredible about our planet is the fact that it can heal so fast. In February 2009 there was a fire on the foothills of this mountain. Looking at this picture now shows me the power of nature and how fast she can recover. Not to mention her beauty.

This is a spectacular view. The mountain in the distance is the backside view of Table Mountain which overlooks Cape Town. All the land you see at the bottom are the wine estates around Somerset West and Stellenbosch. These are 2 towns in the district. You get fantastic wine from this region.

I zoomed in a bit to try and get a closer look at Table Mountain but unfortunately it was a bit hazy, so my picture is not that clear. On a clear day it must be amazing.

The view you are going to see now is of False Bay.

I climbed over this area, which actually was good fun. Another great view. I sat at this point enjoying the nice cool air blowing over me, and of course to catch my breath.

I finally reached the top and WOW! Fantastic! Here is a picture of the beacon on top. Just to prove I was there. For me to comprehend this I am going to post the picture of the beacon and then a picture of the mountain from a distance, just show where I was.

I sat there for some time just enjoying the view, then I walked to the edge and took some pictures of the route I came up.

OK! Now it was time to go back down and what is really nice is that you don’t have to take the same route down. I was told that going down was more difficult than going up. So I was thinking to myself that if my legs were so tired from going up, how was I not going to feel on my way down. Remember I had all my camera equipment with me. Well the first few rocks I started going down I saw this lovely little lizard.

Surprisingly enough going down was easier for me than going up. I really enjoyed coming down. The views were beautiful. I took these pictures for you to see.

This is a gorge between 2 peaks.

If you look to the right top corner of this picture you will see a small footpath. That is the one I have to take.

This is the rock overhang which I had to walk over.

With this whole process you must remember the water I had taken along was almost finished and the water that was left was hot. What happened next was fantastic. Coming down the mountain I could see my water was not going to last so I would only take little sips of the last bottle.

I walked in under some trees in this gorge and let me tell you it was like paradise. There were birds singing, I could hear water flowing, it was green and the trees gave me shade in which I cooled down. I walked into the stream, took my hat off and splashed this ice cold water over my head and then I drank it. Amazing, I felt so refreshed. I filled my bottles with water and continued my trek.

Further down I saw this Jackal Buzzard flying overhead.

Closer to the starting point I also saw this beautiful Yellow Bishop. They don’t normally look this bright, they change when it’s breading time.

I arrived at my starting point about four and a half hours later. It was an amazing climb. I would recommend it to everyone. If you are afraid of heights then I would recommend you do the blue, red or green routes they don’t go high but are just as beautiful.

Thank you for reading.
Curtis Dillon