Western Cape 2018

Autumn 2018 (in the Southern Hemisphere) saw us in Southern Africa again, beginning our trip in the Western Cape to celebrate my Dad’s 80th birthday with family. We did spend a couple of days in Cape Town, visiting the African Penguin colony at Boulders Beach near Simonstown and walking around Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden on a very windy day (not very good for bird photography) in between catching up with family and friends.

Most of our time in the Western Cape was spent with my parents in Montagu, a small town in the Little Karoo region. I had fun stalking birds in their garden when the weather wasn’t too miserable. The Pepper Tree (Schinus molle – not a native tree) had lots of little red berries so was very popular, as was the Liquidamber in the front garden. I got to practice my identifications, with both Common Fiscal (aka Fiscal Shrike) and Fiscal Flyatcher making an appearance, and a cute but elusive Fairy Flycatcher playing hide and seek in a large tree.

I did do a bit of exploring around town – the lei-water dam and the Nature Garden were good spots, and I found a Gymnogene (African Harrier-Hawk) in a palm tree in the primary school grounds (not easy to get a good angle though). There were lots of Red-winged Starlings around and I was happy to get one in flight, showing where their name comes from.

Mountains and mountain passes

Tradouw Pass with aloes
Tradouw Pass with aloes

There are plenty of mountains and mountain passes in the Western Cape. One of the more interesting passes is the Tradouw Pass, which crosses the Langeberg between Swellendam and Barrydale. Completed in 1873, it was built by convict labour under the direction of road engineer Thomas Bain. During rebuilding in the seventies, several lay-byes were built, making it safer to stop and take photographs. Dramatic red aloes were flowering when we visited. The pass cuts through a section of the Cape Fold Mountains, and the folds and twists in the sandstone are clearly visible. These folds and twists are even more obvious when driving our usual route to Montagu through the Kogmanskloof. Great for impromptu geology lessons!

Du Toitskloof is another awesome pass – it used to be part of the major route into Cape Town from the north but these days there is an impressive tunnel through the mountain that takes most of the traffic. We drove over the top using the old pass very early one misty morning on our way to Franschhoek and stopped a couple of times, resulting in these stitched panoramas.

Looking back towards the Hex River mountains from Du Toitskloof
Looking from Du Toitskloof towards the Hex River mountains

Looking south towards Paarl and Wellington from the top of Du Toitskloof
Looking south towards Paarl and Wellington from the top of Du Toitskloof

And then we get to the Western Cape’s most iconic mountain – Table Mountain in all her glory, seen from the V&A Waterfront, a combined tourist attraction and working harbour.
Table Mountain and Devil's Peak on the left, from the waterfront.
Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak on the left, from the waterfront.

More Montagu at sunrise

Montagu reed sunrise
Montagu reed sunrise

I think I broke a photography rule or two with this Montagu image – I was facing pretty much due north, looking straight toward the sun. But I love the way the reeds are backlit with the golden morning light shining through and how the mist has made the mountains and factories in the background all hazy. This was on the edge of town, standing on the bridge where Route 62 crosses the Kingna River on the way to Barrydale. From here I headed up the hill towards the nature garden and made another image looking in more or less the same direction, just from a different elevation.

Montagu valley view