September 11, 2018

Midway through September, the days are getting longer and the braais more frequent. This Heritage Month we’re counting our many Mzansi blessings…

Giant’s Castle rocks

It doesn’t get better than a Drakensberg sunrise, especially if the whole family is out on the trail already. The hike to the Main Caves Museum in Giant’s Castle passes through a splendid valley dotted with megalithic boulders. At the top of a forested ravine we’re greeted by site guide Thamsanqa Ngcobo and shown around the vast display of ancient rock art. Eland are definitely the most popular subject matter, but Thamsanqa also points out a wonderful coiled snake, an elephant and quite a few half-humans. Back in camp that afternoon, a troupe of Zulu dancers from the local community gives an impromptu performance. The dancers kick, jump and strut while giant rain drops splatter the red earth and thunder rumbles in the distance.

Roll back the years in Kalk Bay

It’s easy to think quaint, gentrified Kalk Bay is all about croissants and collectables; bric a brac and baguettes. But not if you visit at 4am, when the harbour comes alive. I bundle myself up in every layer I own and try to stay out of the wind as we chug towards Cape Point. Slowly, surely the sun peeks over the horizon and feeling returns to my fingers. All the hardship is forgotten when we run into first a shoal of yellowtail and then, unexpectedly, a mad-rush of manic snoek. As I walk back to my car through throngs of ice-cream-eating tourists – exhausted and filthy after a 14-hour day – it’s impossible to wipe the massive smile off my face. I know something they don’t, after all.

A braai with a view…

Pull on your Hi-Tec PCTs, fill the cooler box with tjop en dop and hit the road. While we can’t all indulge in a cross-country braai tour of Jan Braai proportions, there’s nothing stopping us from finding somewhere more interesting than our own back gardens to indulge in South Africa’s favourite pastime. The Rainbow Nation is blessed with some spectacular scenery, and plenty of public braaiplekke to boot.

Birdwatching…In Soweto

In the shadow of the famous Orlando Towers, a mustard-coloured shape whizzes across the water: “Squacco Heron,” says Raymond Rampolokeng, Soweto’s only birding guide, “That’s one of our specials.” While we walk and talk Raymond points out birds. Whiskered Tern, Grey-headed Gull, Red Bishop, Southern Masked Weaver…All this in ten minutes or so. “That’s a Little Stint, a summer migrant from the Arctic” he whispers urgently, “Another one of our specials.”

We drive to the Enoch Sontonga Hill, the place where Nkosi Sikelel ‘iAfrika was composed, way back in 1897. We see two kinds of mousebird, two kinds of sparrow, something called a Neddicky (another ‘special’) and a Black-Shouldered Kite hovering, hunting for mice or lizards. It’s so wild and still up here that I feel like I’m in the Kruger Park…

The greatest show on earth

By the time we reach Darling we’ve witnessed carpets of whites and purples and oranges too. If we wanted to, we could drive 600 kays to Springbok and still not run out of photo-opps. But this trip is all about Nieuwoudtville, four hours from the Big Smoke. If you’re serious about flowers, Nieuwoudtville is the one place you absolutely have to visit. In addition to the regular daisies and vygies it has the world’s highest concentration of bulbs. And that’s before we’ve mentioned the quaint farm lifestyle, the magnificent waterfalls and the fascinating fossils. Nieuwoudtville is accessed via the spectacular Van Rhyn’s pass, and its altitude is partly responsible for the variety of blooms. The best part? The flowers look their best at midday, so there’s no need set an alarm clock…

Written by: Nick Dall

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