by Pauline Alexander, photos by Rory Alexander
It’s so interesting to ponder just what things signify ‘home’ – an incandescent sabi star, a group of kudu staring you down through a veil of thicket, recognising that impala are indeed different from springbok or Mr Chameleon pointing us North.
Dawn overlooking the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers makes your heart leap. The Shashe’s sands are markedly pink and the Limpopo is indeed green and greasy and set about with fever trees. Tales of gold from across the river on the mount of Mapungubwe turn our thoughts to our own majestic place of stones and wonder at their place in that early trade with the East.
Plus ca change, plus la meme at Beitbridge, but not even an encounter with state ‘crime’ can stop our hearts from lifting as we gaze out at the landscape of dwalas and trees, the bare swept earth around the huts and the anticipation and activity of the many bus stops. The one big difference is that it is now, indubitably, the Great North Road. Not ‘great’ in the sense of wide and worthy, but ‘great’ in the visibly increased (more…)
I have been wanting to try this for a while now, that is hike to and photograph what remains of the BOS 400, a French derrick barge that ran aground in 1994 after it’s tow rope broke in heavy seas. I got up at 5:00am and set off towards Sandy Bay beach in the darkness with a headlamp hoping to reach the Oudeschip Peninsula at dawn and then make my way around Maori Bay to the shipwreck at sunrise to make use of the best light for photographs. Things did not go according to plan however….
I made it to Oudeschip and across the bay I could now see the wreck of the BOS 400 but where I thought the path would continue around along the coast around the bay, it didn’t. I scrambled over the rocks thinking I could find my own way until the boulders turned into sheer rock faces and I could go no further without jumping read on + see 8 more photos
In another first for 2014 I climbed Table Mountain using the India Venster trail. I have lost count of how many times I have hiked up Table Mountain but I had never been up India Venster until last weekend. The week before I had climbed Lion’s Head with a couple of friends and we all said we should climb Table Mountain again but we all agreed the usual route, up Platteklip Gorge, was boring so I suggested we try something new. India Venster is said to be more technical and not for the novice hiker but we were up for the challenge and so the date was set.
I always advocate an early start when hiking, so you get to climb in the cool of the day and before the suns rays get to harsh. The plan was to meet at half past six at the lower cable station. Well, that was the plan but there was a slight mix up in communication which saw me only waking up at 6:10 not ready to hike. After a slew of messages and slightly desperate phone call from the rest of the group who were already there (because I was the one who supposedly knew the route), I told them to start hiking and I’d catch them up. continue + see 8 more photos
One of my main goals during my visit to Thailand in November was to scuba dive and get my PADI Open Water Certification which I did and ever since all I’ve wanted to do is dive. The only problem with diving in Cape Town is the cold water of the Atlantic Ocean compared to the balmy 28 degree water of the Similan Islands off Thailand. Nothing a wetsuit (or two) could remedy but it takes a lot more effort. I booked the dive with Pisces Divers in Simon’s Town where you can rent all the gear you need (if you don’t have your own) and off we went to the boat launch at Miller’s Point. As I stood on the jetty I couldn’t help but ask myself if it was worth all the effort. Wearing a full wetsuit, booties, gloves and a second short wetsuit and hood over the top it was hotter than the sauna at my gym. Not to mention carrying the air tank, mask and fins.
Once we were on the boat motoring to our first dive point, the cool breeze and excitement of diving underwater again made me forget about all the gear I was wearing. We arrived at our first dive spot which was Partridge Point, known for the colony of Cape Fur Seals that live there and after a safety briefing our skipper counted us down three, two, one … read more + 11 photos
For New Year’s I was lucky enough to be invited to join a friend and his family camping in Wilderness, a coastal town just beyond George along South Africa’s Garden Route. Approximately a 5 hour drive from Cape Town I have often driven through Wilderness on my way to Knysna but never really stayed there. My friend and his family have been going to the same camp site for the last eight years so are basically locals and I was the newbie. As the name suggests, Island Lake camp site is on the edge of a lake that is used for a variety of water sports and we had our own speedboat. As excited as I was at the opportunity to water ski, having never done it before I was a little trepidatious but willing to give it a good go.
Not one for being able to sleep in I was up at first light every morning which is great for sunrise photography and also the best conditions for skiing before the wind gets up and disturbs the water surface. The early bird catches the worm and my first morning there I got a space on the boat and off we set. The others, who had skied before, all had a go and then it was my turn. I had planned to water ski but the wake board rope was out and so I though why not try that first. I jumped into the lake, which was surprisingly warm, and strapped myself to the board while trying to listen to advice as what to do. All ready the boat started to pull the rope taut and this was it, ‘hold on and let the boat pull you up’ I was told. read more + 8 pictures
If you don’t follow me on Twitter and, more recently, Instagram then you may not have been aware that I spent the better part of November travelling in Southeast Asia. A friend of mine planned the itinerary to the very last detail which meant all I had to do was get on the plane and what an adventure it was. Since I’ve been back, things have been a little hectic catching up with work and other boring things so I am still working through all the photographs. In the meantime here are some of the Instagram shots to give you an idea of the trip. To see the description for each photo click on the Instagram logo in the top right hand corner of each image.
see 12 more photos
So I finally reached the end of my previous cellphone contract and could upgrade from a brand of cellphone that I came to regard with as much superstition as actors do ‘that Scottish play’. Needless to say I have crossed over to the Samsung Galaxy S4 and, as some of my friends have pointed out, I’m all to eager to show it off. Forgive me, it’s new and exciting although I have had several futile debates with iPhone users as to which device is better. Either way, I am happy with my choice and that’s all that really matters.
Th touch screen took some getting used too but was all very intuitive but the app world was a whole other kettle of choices. The camera on the above former unmentionable handset wasn’t worth mentioning but now with 13 mega pixels at hand the Samsung S4 has added another weapon to my photography arsenal. The obvious first step was to create an Instagram account, easy enough, but then the anxiety struck.
What would the first image I shared be of? It has to be good? I don’t have any followers yet but if the first image isn’t good then will anyone follow me?
I also swore to myself that if/when I joined Instagram I wouldn’t share random pictures of plates of food (unless it was really unusual like the time I ate live squid in China), I vowed I wouldn’t take pictures of cups of coffee no matter how creative the design created by sprinkled cocoa on top is. There would be rules, I would only share images that were extraordinary but now where to start.
This had me paralysed for days and my account sat idle, until on a trip to the Northern Cape province of South Africa. We stopped overnight in the Augrabies Falls National Park and as the sun was setting I went off in search of a vantage point of the waterfall in the golden light at dusk and there it was. I took out my phone, played around with the effects, which I still didn’t fully understand, and picked a filter that matched the colours I saw with my eyes and I knew I had my first photo worthy of sharing on Instagram.
Did you have similar anxiety before sharing your first photo on Instagram, or was it just me?
This is not one of my usual travel adventure posts but I you see I was nominated by Kathryn Cooper of Anti-tourist Traveller to take part in the Capture the Colour 2013 photo blogging challenge. Unfortunately I have been on a photo assignment (more on that in another post) so I missed the closing date so I’m not eligible for the prize and nor will I be nominating 5 other bloggers as per the rules but I thought it still share my photographs for each of the five categories.
Red Disa in full bloom on the back of Table Mountain
A panorama of Lake Hawea, one of the most breathtaking views I came across while travelling around (more…)
Last weekend for my dad’s birthday we decided to go away as a family but long car journeys aren’t that desirable an option with two young nephews. Looking closer to home I suggested we try one of the SANParks cottages in the Cape of Good Hope section of Table Mountain National Park, better known as Cape Point. Luckily for us at relatively short notice there was availability and plenty of beds for our whole family and a few friends.
As the weekend neared the weather forecast wasn’t the best but nothing a fireplace and several bags of wood couldn’t fix. The rest of the family all went out on the Friday and I joined them on the Saturday. After lunch and an afternoon nap, there was a break in the rain and so continue reading + 13 more photos
After a fantastic few days in Addo it was time to head back to Cape Town, this time via the scenic Route 62 (R62) but we had one last stop on the roadtrip, Oudtshoorn. You may be asking yourself what there is to see and do in Oudtshoorn.
Probably the most well-known attraction just outside the town of Oudtshoorn is the Cango Caves where you have the option of a standard or adventure tour to explore this incredible cave system. As long as you aren’t claustrophobic I would highly recommend the adventure tour as you get to see a lot more of the cave system. While the caves are impressive the place we visited next was turned out to be Oudtshoorn best kept secret… find out more + 8 photos
What’s a safari without a game drive? Even though you can drive yourself in Addo with tarred roads near the main rest camp and well maintained dirt roads throughout the rest of the park, there is something about going on a guided game drive. There’s the belief that the guide knows where the animals are and will be better at spotting them, the benefit of an elevated viewing position above the height of the shrubs and of course not having to focus on driving so that you can have both hands on your camera and be ready to get ‘that shot’.
But the best part of the game drives we did was the knowledge of the national parks guides. Even though I have grown up in Africa, and spent a fair amount of time in the bush, I learnt so much about the characteristics and behaviour of the various animals we saw as well as the history and management of the park. Different animals are active at different times of the day and so to cover all our bases we went on a variety of game drives during our five-day stay. The sunrise game drive meant a very early and continue reading + 10 photos
I had a bad experience with a horse when I was younger and for years I wouldn’t go near one. I have since gotten over that and now jump at every chance I get to ride. In Addo you can ride in either the Nyathi or Zuurberg sections of the park.
Addo horse trails
These depart from the main rest camp in the morning or afternoon and are two hours long.
The Nyathi section is home to the Big Five so it is recommended that you have a moderate level of experience and be confident that you can control a horse. They can accommodate all levels of rider though so just discuss with the park staff when booking.
People say that the great thing about game viewing on horseback is that the wildlife aren’t as afraid of the horse as they view them just like any other antelope walking through the bush and don’t see the people on their backs.
For those of you concerned about the safety of horse riding in an area inhabited by lions, rest assured that the game rangers monitor the whereabouts of the predatory animals and will move the rides to a different section of the park if there is any concern about safety.
Having met our guide and been introduced to our horses we saddled up and headed out on what was a beautiful morning for a ride. continue reading
Cape Town is a great place to live except that for someone like me, who loves the African bush and wildlife, it is thousands of kilometres away from any wildlife parks that boast the Big Five. I was fortunate growing up in Zimbabwe where we often went away during the holidays to the various national parks across the country where rhino were plentiful. Every time friends from abroad come to visit and say they want to go on a safari and see lions, the conversation starts to resemble what one might hear in a courier dispatch office trying to get a package overnight from Heathrow, road freighted to Kruger and back, before same day delivery to Cape Town.
There is one alternative though, Addo Elephant National Park! Situated just outside Port Elizabeth, Addo is a mere 819km from Cape Town along the beautiful Garden Route. While not the typical African savanna vegetation that I know and love, Addo does have the Big Five and is also a non-malaria area. I had heard lots of good reports about Addo and so I thought it was about time I went to see it for myself.
While you could drive from Cape Town to Addo in one day, it is quite far and there are so many great places to stop along the way, like we did in Tsitsikamma (read more here), and it’s worthwhile breaking the trip if you’ve got the time. After a quick stop in Port Elizabeth to stock up on provisions, we arrived at Addo mid afternoon. Having checked in we went straight to the underground bunker at the main rest camp for our first glimpse of game and weren’t disappointed. We found a
Last month I took a few weeks off and with a friend embarked on a road trip along the Garden Route. An early start from Cape Town and 5 hours later we stopped in Knysna for lunch at the Heads before carrying on to the Tsitsikamma section of the Garden Route National Park. We had planned to camp but I was little nervous of the winter weather along the coast and so opted to stay in the Forest Cabins. Nestled in amongst the dense foliage they don’t have a sea view but you are only 50 metres away from the Indian Ocean crashing against the rocks of this rugged coastline.
I had never been to the Tsitsikamma National Park before and I have to say it was spectacularly beautiful. We met a couple in the caravan section who said that they’ve been coming to the park every year for a week they love it so much. You might not be able to go on a game drive or see any of the big five in Tsitsikamma but what you can do is continue reading + 7 photos
I don’t like doing hikes that I haven’t done before, I prefer to tread paths that I know. Last year I broke with tradition and was reminded of why this is, after following a path that came to a dead-end and retracing our steps several times decided the prudent action would be to go down the way we’d come up. I look up at the Twelfth Apostle mountain every day from the garden and for the last 10 years have wanted to climb up the back to the top and come down the front. And there is a path, I just didn’t know where it was until now.
My dad saw an advert in our local community newspaper to join The Peninsula Ramblers on a guided walk up Myburgh’s Kloof, known as one of the few spots to see the Red Disa flower, continuing to the top known as Judas Peak and then down Hout Bay corner. This was exactly the hike I had wanted to do before and so I was very keen to go along and finally learn the route. continue reading + 10 more photos
On a recent holiday in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park we decided to give ourselves a break from sleeping on inflatable mattresses and stay at the Bitterpan Wilderness Camp. This exclusive camp is elevated above the red sand dunes of the Kalahari and situated on a one way only 4×4 route. Half way between the Nossob and Mata-Mata, this camp is in the center of the wilderness and seemingly in the middle of nowhere. About a two and a half hour drive from Nossob, up and over dune after dune, we couldn’t believe our eyes as we pulled up to this tented camp. Looking out over this brilliant white salt pan surrounded by red dunes was just surreal. Watching the clouds grow and dissipate over the pan I thought it would make a great timelapse so set up my camera to take a shot every 15 seconds for about 5 hours from mid afternoon till after sunset.
NB: Look out for the pride of lion that cross the pan to come to the water hole and their attempt to catch a lone eland about half way through the video.
For more photos from the Kgalagadi, click here.
What better way to start the New Year in Cape Town then a hike with friends for a champagne breakfast on top of one of many mountains we live beneath.
Cheers to that and if this view is in any way indicative of things to come it should be a great year!
A hike up Lion’s Head at full moon has been on my list of things to do since my family moved to Cape Town in 2002 and I first heard about it. Every year it has come up in conversation around the braai on various occasions followed by “we must do it! When is the next full moon?” but it’s never happened; until now that is! Yesterday the weather was as near perfect as can be. No wind, clear skies with great visibility and while the moon wasn’t full (that happens on the 28th) it was very nearly there and more than bright enough for our hike. We met at the start point at 6:00pm and started up the winding path that resembles the ridges of a snail’s shell spiralling up the mountain. Being one of the hottest days this summer, we soaked up the shade on the city side of Lion’s Head where we took a break to sip on some water and marvel at this view of Cape Town.
It took us just under an hour to make it to the top, nearly 2200ft above sea level, where we chose a comfy-looking rock from which to enjoy our continue reading & 4 more photos
This morning I was privileged to attend the inauguration of Table Mountain as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. The one thing about nature is that we can’t control it and the weather wasn’t the best with Table Mountain shrouded in cloud this was the view from Tafelberg Road at 6:45am as we arrived for the plaque unveiling at the Cableway’s lower station.
The low hanging cloud didn’t dampen the mood though as Bernard Weber (Founder-President of New7Wonders) spoke about how the voting process had been continue reading + 4 photos
A couple of weekends ago I was invited to the Garden Route Rally with stages being held over two days between George and Knysna. This was the final round of the South African Rally Championship and I was lucky enough to follow Jon Williams and the Sasol Racing Team who took 1st and 3rd in the overall for the year. The spectator points could have been better but thanks to the wonderful hospitality from the Sasol team it was still a great weekend and I did get quite close to the action on a few of the stages as you will see. Enjoy.
Last weekend Guy McDonald and I travelled to the Garden Route area for the final round of the National Rally Championship. Friday’s stages were in George while Saturday’s were to be in Knysna so we decided to stay in Wilderness, right in the middle of the action. Set behind the seaside village, along the banks of the Touw River is the Wilderness section of the Garden Route National Park where you can either camp under the stars or stay in the log cabins like we did.
There is something about the smell of a log cabin that reminds me of continue reading + see 13 more photos