Saturday, March 30, 2019

Birding the Garden Route

Yesterday morning I woke up in a small cabin at the edge of a pasture in a farm near Suurbraak, South Africa, a small town named after very sour vomit.  I'd spent the preceding days seeing the real South Africa.  But just what is the real South Africa?  Was it the big wildlife like the Cape Mountain Zebra (above) or the threatened Bontebok, with populations now up from a mere 17 animals over a century ago

maybe it is the scenery?

Or possibly the hundreds of thousands of people who live in what can only be described as substandard fish houses....
 And this town has no other amenities but it has the 'corner market'
Or maybe it was the protest that had closed a mountain pass on the main highway out of Cape Town that blocked our way forcing us to take a narrow coastal route that was covered in trucks?  I just don't know.  Beauty, poverty, some turmoil, and a whole heck of a lot of wildlife, and all that with long names in an old form of Dutch that nobody can pronounce.

THE GARDEN ROUTE stretches for 190 miles from Mossel Bay, South Africa east along the Indian Ocean coast through a temperate region wedged between the coastal mountain range and the sea.  It is a gorgeous area of wide beaches, lakes, temperate rain forest and nice weather all year. 
As we pulled out of Hout Bay on the 28th finishing a near week in Cape Town getting our sea legs and starting our assault on the South African Field Guides of birds, we headed east, this was our destination.  As I said, our route ended up a bit longer than normal as a major pass on the N2 as we would learn later was blocked by protesters who were burning tires.  The only other way around the pass was a long circuitous seaside route that was visually stunning but narrow and now full of trucks.  It was like our opinion of Africa, a mixed feeling.  There were some nice views.
More African penguins...
and traffic, scary traffic on tight highways...
And then, we got to the farm. The farm was over an hour east of the official start of the garden route in arid farm country.  Suurbraak literally means sour vomit but I’m not really sure of how it became known as this.  We were the guests of Neels and Petra, a couple that lets out their guest rooms a few miles off the N2.
            This was real South Africa, immense country, huge vistas, narrow dirt roads and in some cases made me feel that we were in Montana hosted by Dutch immigrant farmers.
There were only a few rules here, wear what you want, go where you like, do what you will, but don't say a Dutch word I'd never heard of before and whatever you do, don't wake the PIG!  
There is nothing worse than a hungry porker...

With this in mind, we stayed the night, the next morning we walked to the outhouse, didn't wake the pig and went birding
Maxine, the dog was a good bird chaser, not a good bird finder
Our cabin

Fiscal flycatcher

Cool Secretary bird

Springbok in the field

It was different than the cultivated gardens of Cape town full of Orange bellied sunbirds and 
Malachite sunbirds

This was a place of harsh realities formed by the weather and the seasons but it was really cool but we had to leave.
We drove off and saw African fish eagles

Baboons, being a little NC-17
 Pin-tailed whydahs that I can count on my list unlike those in Los Angeles

Africa....I still can't figure it out but we are still moving east, and saw two elephants on the side of the road, only Africa and we've seen a lot of birds...a lot of birds, I've seen a ton of birds




  1. Great stuff Big O. You are travelling in the prettiest part of South Africa with the best climate, and, you will definitely see a lot of birds.
    Having formerly been married to a South African, I could give you a few Afrikaans expressions that would get you into trouble, as they did me. Also, a few Khosa ones that would land you in even hotter water, but all in fun.
    Interesting that Afrikaans is more like Belgian Dutch than anything. Cool language. Have fun.

    1. I forgot about this sidelight in your history. Should have asked you for pointers. As it is, just a blind squirrel in a maze hoping to find stuff and see stuff. Definitively a pretty spot, we'll see what the north brings us


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