Thursday, 8 March 2012

If You Go Down in the Woods Today…

We stayed in the mountains two days longer than we intended…Any longer, and I don’t think we’d have got out. Something primal in those hills and valleys links to something deep inside us – life’s reduced to food and shelter and all else is so far removed from reality, that little besides seems of much consequence.

Knysna Loerie (Tauraco) - Lives in the Forests
I don’t think we’ll get D and P visiting our side of the country too soon - they stay cloistered in their mountain hideaway, custodians of the fauna and flora. P feeds the wild birds that come into the garden; wild birds that have no fear of people here, have free range of the house, knowing there will be tit-bits to find and they fly in and out freely.  We got used to finding strange birds rootling around the breakfast table and in the dog dish. This doesn’t seem to bother the resident canine – he’s as laid back as his people...

Laid Back Outeniqua Canine

Sunrise Over the Main Garden
We only drove out some days, exploring the terrain and enjoying the fynbos as the proteas came into flower…Despite our hopes of bundu to bash, the ‘Cruiser basically had a holiday…Most of the *bundu bashing* was done on foot.  All the proteas, ericas and other bushy plants made game spotting an exercise in tracking. Then, most game here is quite small, a Cape Grysbok is only about twenty inches tall, the Common Duiker about the same, with the Klipspringer (shoulder height 21 – 22 inches) the largest of the three. 
Klipspringer (Rock Jumper)
Waking up every day in this gigantic natural garden – mile upon mile of flowering shrubs and bushes, was awesome. As the sun spread across the countryside, steam would rise from plants dripping with dew, releasing sweet odours everywhere. Go out beyond the garden, boots crunching on the gravel and the dirt tracks showed who (or what) had been out and about during the night. 
We never did see the baboons that gave me such a fright, although evidence of their activity was all around; missing vegetables, droppings on the ground, tracks in the sand and their barking cry heard in the distance.   

Cape Genet
 After dark, Cape Eagle owls hunted near the house, using the roof as a rest stop. Dark also brought the stealthy Cape Genets, hiding elusively in the shadows, hunting rodents, and the nights were almost as busy as the days.
The weather stayed brilliant; all the stormy petulance and freezing tantrums gone. Night skies, sharp and clear, gave way to days so bright they hurt the unprotected eye.

Cape Eagle Owl - My, What Big Eyes You Have!
Early morning and dusk were the most successful times of the day to see game (this is true all over). The smaller creatures, scurrying about everywhere, were harder to spot but they at least gave us a chance by being around most of the day. This great garden was alive with…life…everywhere. 

Outeniqua 'Cruiser
And, as happens with all the paradises we visit, we eventually had to leave…Back to the realities of our lives. With the ‘Cruiser packed and plenty of daylight, we set off early one morning to tackle the tracks and trails back to the Plettenberg Bay road.  On the good side of noon, there was time to stop and poke around the river banks and enjoy the natural forests and the trip passed all too quickly.

Mossy, Fern Filled Cape Forest
Later that morning, as we left the last bit of tree shaded glen, damp with moss and leaf-mould, ferns lining the edges of the track; we marvelled that this natural habitat still thrived so close to civilization.  With the obligatory commercial forestry all around, these protected pockets have allowed the wilderness to spread, expanding into the empty spaces. As we left this special place, turning on the dirt road to the coast, we knew that, one day, we’d be back…



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