Sunday, November 20, 2011

My JB exploring more of SA!

First a visit to the African Penguin colony at Boulders near Simon's Town - always a treat!

Happy Feet everywhere...

Playing around with my treasured new 300 mm lens - expertly spirited into the country by field agent Booth :)

Fast & sharp - wonderful to shoot with!!

Meanwhile, over at the SAAO the historic McClean Refractor was getting its shutters replaced...  A bit of telescope engineering to make John feel at home ;)

Then time for another visit to the ever-awesome Noon Gun!  More fun than usual with a long lens...

On our way up to Sutherland we stopped off in Stellenbosch for a cheese & wine tasting at Anura.

Successfully tracking down their thoroughly wicked 2008 Limited Release Malbec :D

It was a perfect opportunity to spend a night at the beautiful old Lord Milner Hotel in Matjiesfontein!

Then up to SALT early the next morning for the big re-launch party to mark the start of full science operations.

The troublesome MoNet South roof provided some extra entertainment up there.

Next it was off to Prince Albert where we made ourselves at home at the delightful Swartberg Hotel.

Everything in full bloom!

A spectacular breakfast set us up for the long haul over the incredible Swartberg Pass, built by Thomas Bain & his crew of convict labourers between 1881 & 1888.

The tortured geology of the Swartberg mountains & the towering dry-stone retaining walls on the pass are an engineering marvel.

The view to the north...

Looking east.

Up at the top of the pass.

The view to the south.

Warning - a real live 'Markan on the loose in Afferka!!

We made our way to George in time for Mom's birthday & had a great lunch at 34 Degrees South in Knysna.

Oh No - a horde of Ferrari's again!

Driving on from George to Witsand through the farmlands yielded plenty of Blue Crane encounters.  Rather regal as national birds go!

Yes - I Am sneaking up on you :)

Taking off is such a schlep, walking works...

The not-quite-so-elegant option.

Lots of raptors to point the new lens at - here John perfectly captured a Steppe Buzzard making its exit.

Later a Jackal Buzzard took a really close look inside the car, probably checking out the nifty lens...

Here's where the Breede River flows into the sea near Witsand.

A beautiful beach with impressive dunes.

The little fishing harbour at Wisand, seen from our hotel room's balcony.

The estuary has a huge tidal range - some of the fishing boats get stranded on the sand bar during low tide!

Over on the other bank is Infanta - access is via the only river ferry in the country, at the small town of Malgas.

The ferry's manually hauled by an energetic, cheerful team of four who offer a sobering perspective on how to go about one's job, whatever it may be.

We'd been itching to see whales - one of Witsand's main claims to fame.  But being out of luck we charged west towards Cape Agulhas.

An uncharacteristically calm, gorgeous day out there, but still no whales!

This is where the Indian & Atlantic Oceans are rumoured, or at least declared, to meet.

It's Always windy at the southern tip of this continent!

Pity we missed our chance to go up the lighthouse at Cape Agulhas, they're pretty uptight about closing time so get there before 16:30...

A beautiful building, a magic sky & some whales waaaaay out on the horizon, but not good enough so on to De Kelders...

We had no way of preparing for the staggering whale-fest that lay in store for us the next day!  De Kelders was absolutely Seething with Southern Rights of all ages.  After spending a couple of hours watching a number of mothers & calves sedately cruising around the bay, the Ritalin must've worn off & the Cetaceans went aerial :)

Being perched on the cliffs with a long lens with all this going is about as good as it gets :D

At times we'd be watching one jumping & then hear the splash of another slapping its tail on the surface...

Then another one taking off somewhere else!  Spot the giant cow swimming in the sea?  Middle left...

One of the particularly exuberant youngsters was dubbed Junior Jumper.

This one obliged with a wonderful wave of its tail :)

The morning started off overcast & drizzly so we weren't prepared for hours & hours out in the sunshine, but the action was just too good to walk away from.

But eventually sunburn & the desperate need for beer forced us to say goodbye to this highly entertaining crowd... 

We drove around to the other side of Walker Bay (to Hermanus) where we could still watch whales up close, but from the safety of our table - tucked in behind a huge plate of nachos & a few tall beers.  As if we hadn't been spoilt enough, we then got to watch a tiny albino calf swimming along with its mom - Magic!

On our last day back in Cape Town, after a wicked Eggs Benedict breakfast at Origin, we dashed up to the Noon Gun one more time...

So sad it's over, but what a fantastic trip we've had!  It'll keep us going until February ;)