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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Rosy reflections

Due to the heat yesterday I only went for my daily walk with the dogs after 6pm. Officially we are now entering autumn, that is March/April in this part of the world, the heat has just not let up. Rain was predicted for today but so far nothing has happened, although the rainbird, Diedericks cuckoo, has been calling all day. If it rains hopefully there might be an end to the heat.  

Rosy sunlight reflected of the clouds and the clouds reflected on the quiet water. Clouds such as these are usually a precurser to a change in the weather.

Even the moon was bathed in the setting sun's rosy glow, as it followed the sun to the western horizon.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Injasuthi exploration 2.

After leaving the part of the stream described in the previous post I drove further down the road for about a kilometre and pulled into a parking bay with a sign saying "gorge pools". Here the river makes a sudden decent into a steep sided gorge and over several rapids/waterfalls.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Here there was a very steep, but well demarcated track, that zigg zagged it's way down to the bottom of the gorge. 

About half way down I zoomed the camera onto this spot. Some really good looking fish possibilities there.

Although this is not a very big river it makes a pretty impressive sight as it comes rushing through this narrow gap.

Close-up of the water in the pool below the rapid in the photo above. One of the beauties of our Berg rivers is the complete lack of any pollution, the water is completely safe to drink just as it is. Creations natural champagne ice cold and invigorating.

Looking downstream from where I took the above photo, just a short run then over another rapid.

Below the second rapid, lovely pool and a reasonably long run before the river plunges over the next rapid. 

Looking upstream. This particulars spot, with some deep clear water, looks very promising.

The going is very rough along the stream with huge boulders to be clambered over and narrow gaps to be squeezed through. While I trying to get back from the next pool down, I found myself stuck on the side of of a steep sided rock with a five metre drop below me and seemingly nowhere to go. For a moment I considered the possibility of letting go, but this is not a place to be stuck with a twisted ankle or broken leg. Fortunately I managed to drag myself up to a narrow ledge and managed to work my way back. 

This is the spot I was trying to get back from when I got stuck on the side of the rock. This photo does not do justice to the predicament I was in. Looking at it now it looks like there was no problem, though when I took it I wasn't yet thinking how I was going to get out.  A good rule to remember is to take note of your trail behind you, ie., how you got to be where you are. A rule I did not apply here. I sat in the shade here for about 40 minutes, just relaxing, enjoying nature and thinking how lucky I was to be in such a beautiful place. The rock I'm talking about, as big as a house, actually part of the wall of the gorge, is to the left of me. 

When I decided to leave I could not for the life of me see how I got there.  In front of me and to the right of me the situation was much the same as to the left, only smooth vertical rock down to the river. Behind me and on the downstream side thick almost, impenetrable bush, and more huge boulders, anyway I needed to get back, not get myself into a worse situation.  It's only when I had managed to climb out that I saw where I had gone wrong. 

I have always liked to hike and fish on my own. This can be very dangerous so I always take extra care, but sometimes in my enthusiasm and the excitement of seeing what lies around the next bend in the river - or as in this case on the other side of a huge boulder - I forget my own rules and end up in a situation as described above. Many a hiker has disappeared in these mountains and I often wonder if my old bones might end up being bleached by the African sun. It might not be the nicest, or easiest way to die, (if there is such a thing as a nice or easy way of dying), but it sure beats ending your days attached some machine. 

I'm not trying to be melodramatic here, it's just the way things are. The country is very rough and isolated but I'm not going to give up hiking and fishing in wild places. 

All the Drakensberg wilderness entry points, where you pay to enter or to buy a fishing permit, have Mountain Rescue Registers that have to be filled in before you start your hike, giving full details of where you intend to go etc., and when you expect to be back. On your return you have to sign out to show that you have come back safely. I signed in giving a totally different location as to where I eventually ended up, (due to having forgotten my fly rod and deciding to go exploring). If I had not signed out, the Mountain Rescue Teams would have looked for me in the wrong place.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Injasuthi River exploration 1.

After following the faint trail for about 200 meters I came to a natural sort of dyke covered with thick shrub and grass, struggling to the top this is what I saw. 

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Looking upstream there is a nice long riffle leading out of a long deep pool. The zoom lens makes the pool look smaller than it is. Along the far end of the bank there is a thick fringe of reeds, almost looks like there could be a small spring tributary entering there. Then to the right there is a vertical bank of sandstone.

Above, looking downstream, a lovely run ending in some fast water. Not easy to get down to the water from this position, but I think if I could work my way downstream from here along the bank it might just be possible.

Photo above, detail of the pool in the first photo. The water almost has a glacial colour, one could imagine the rainbow trout of a lifetime lurking in it's depths.

Closer detail of the pool, zooming in on the far bank.

Then upstream of the pool, lovely pocket water. A nice big bouyant dry fly should do well here. Then again maybe a soft hackle, with short casts covering all the possible holding areas. Considering all the overhanging vegetation, terrestials such as hoppers and foam beetles could also work well here. 

One would have to get into the water and wade as the bank is quite high and covered with dense growth. Wading will have to be done very carefully as the bottom of the stream is covered in loose boulders, from fist size to the size of a football. A wading staff will be essential.

A bit further upstream the fishing possibilities become even easier. Here the growth along the banks is not so dense so one could fish off the bank.

The stream stretches back all the way to the Drakensberg, with small tributaries joining it every couple of hundred metres. Some of these small tributaries really look as if they could hold fish. Here is enough fishable water, with enough challenges, to last one a life time.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Injasuthi River nightmare!

Spent Saturday evening making sure that my fly fishing tackle was in order for a trip to the Injasuthi river. Took out my two weight rod and reel, cleaned the reel and lubricated it, cleaned the fly line and checked the leader and tippet, replaced tippet. Emptied all the pockets on my fly fishing vest and made sure that only the necessary items were replaced, including the two fly boxes of flies that I have been tying these past few weeks. Spare reels of 4, 5 & 6X tipped material checked.  

Everything laid out neatly for an early start, rod, reel, fly vest, wading boots, net, etc. Spent the rest of the evening tying some more soft hackle flies to add to my fly boxes. 

Click on photos to enlarge.

Got up at 5 this morning, had a cup of coffee and packed everything in the car. Fed the dogs, the cat and the birds. Had some muesli and just after 6 I was on the road heading west. Theoretically the trip should not take more than a hour, most of the road is a lovely tarred road, but for more than 30km it goes through Zulu tribal area, so you slow down to avoid cattle, goats, sheep, chickens, people and the stray pig. Not to mention that I stopped every couple of minutes to take photos. Above is my first clear view of the Drakensberg just catching the early morning sun. Still about 30km to go.

Just 13km from where I took this photo to the Injasuthi camp grounds, but the road from here is just a pot holed track. I think that it's a policy of the conservation authorities to keep this piece of road as bad as possible, so that only those dedicated wilderness enthusiasts  bother to make the trip. This bit of road takes almost 30 minutes as you are reduced to driving at a snails pace, you could almost walk faster. Then suddenly about 3km from the camp you have a perfect tarred road to complete the journey.

Starting to get real close now and I can almost taste the fishing. Note the waterfall, just off centre to the left, plunging down several hundred metres of vertical mountain face.

The zoom lens makes these peaks look close, but from the camp they are several hours of hard hiking away, just to get to the bottom. For the climbing enthusiast there are more than enough challenges, for the hiker and camper, contour paths go all the way to the top. Just make sure you are fit and well equipped before you start.

Injasuthi peaks.

Got to the office at about 07:45 to pay my entry fee and buy an angling permit for the day. While waiting for the office to open at 8 I spotted this baboon sitting casually on the lawn. What it was actually doing, was watching people who were having breakfast on the veranda of their chalet, just waiting for the moment they might leave it unattended. 

After paying I drove down to the river and parked the car, put on my wading boots, fishing vest, cap and hung my camera around my neck. Grabbed my day pack and reached for the rod tube, .... not on the back seat, scratched around behind the front seats, not there, even felt under the seats, (as small as it is it wouldn't fit there). Then the reality dawned on me, I've forgotten my fly rod at home!  

What to do now? No way I can go back totally defeated by my own forget fullness! 

So I decided to do some exploring of the river. I tend to fall into a rut, find a good place to fish and keep going there, trip, after trip. Got back in my car and drove a kilometre or two back the way I came, following the river down stream. Found a parking spot next to the road and headed for the river, down a faint track, through dense scrub and long grass. As we say here in South Africa, "I had good luck with the bad luck". I found two stretches of beautiful trout water after about 3 hours of exploring. Next week end I'll be back, I might just camp there from Friday afternoon after school.

As I drove out of the reserve I saw this stream tumbling down the mountain. I was far away so I only zoomed in on the top half of it.

Next two post will be about my exploration and the fishing spots I found.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Wagendrift dam outing.

This weekend our church had a family camp at the Wagendrift dam just outside of town. From my cottage to the dam is a five minute drive, (I could walk there in about 30 minutes), but in all the years I've lived here I can count the number of times that I've been there on the fingers of one hand. I've decide that from now on that's going to change. 

Fish that can be caught here are Natal Yellow fish, large mouth black bass, monster carp, barbel (sharp toothed cat fish), and tilapia.

The area around all dams in South Africa are designated conservation areas and controlled by the Nature Conservation authorities. Wagendrift is controlled by KZN Wildlife and Nature Conservation. Entry fees are very reasonable, at Wagendrift it's R15 per adult, that's about  $2 US. Camping fees are just as reasonable.

At about 8 o'clock this morning I joined the group who have been camping there since Friday afternoon for a hearty breakfast of eggs, pork sausages, bacon, fried tomatoes and mushrooms. Not a fat free thing in sight.

There are two camp sites at the dam and we were at the smaller of the two, only about a half a dozen stands. The photo above is looking across the water to the southern shore. You can only get to the opposite shore by boat, there is no road access. 

The grounds are well maintained with lots of shady trees. All campsites have electrical power points so you can take most of your mod cons with you. The ablution blocks have hot and cold water and are very neat and clean.

Apart from the camp sites there are picnic sites all along the northern shore of the dam with their own ablution facilities.

Only a very small part of the dam can be seen from this point. 

Some of the lush vegetation surrounding the camp sites. One of the rules that is strictly enforced here is no loud music, break the rule and they throw you out on your ear. 

Some of the group enjoying a ride in Nils Dahl's boat.

Nils at the wheel of his boat. South Africa has very strict boat safety regulations, only a person with a skippers licence may drive a boat, boats have to be tested every year for sea worthiness, and every boat has to have all it's cavities filled with flotation foam. Even if a boat should be swamped or capsized it must still float.  

The dam wall seen from the boat. 

One of our party skiing. As you can imagine this is a very popular venue for all sorts of  water sport.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Over the past weekend we have had some very stormy weather, with 50mm, (2") of rain measured. The first half of summer in Northern KZN has been quite dry and now in the second half we seem to be making up with lots of rain. The changeable weather has provided some very interesting cloud formations.

The photo above was taken at about 6 this evening.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Golden lining.

Sometimes clouds have a golden lining.

Took this photo at about 6:40 on Wednesday evening.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Hamerkop and White-faced ducklings.

While walking along the dam wall of the pond just below the cottage, this Hamerkop, Afrikaans for Hammerhead, flew up from the edge of the water not 50 meters from me. If I had been more alert I might have got a clearer photo. It flew down the valley and perched on the top of a willow tree about 400 meters away.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Hamerkop, (Scopus umbreta). These quite large birds, live near fresh water and wetlands, where they feed on frogs, tadpoles and small fish. On the back of the head is a backward facing crest, which gives the bird it's name. In the "Roberts Bird Guide", they are placed with herons and bitterns.

Two White-faced ducklings with their mother. I suspect that these two could be from the clutch of eggs that I photographed about two weeks ago. This clutch contained 12 eggs, but I think the attrition rate for ducklings is high. There are some very big bass in this dam and a duckling would make a nice snack.

White-faced ducks nest with 12 eggs.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Waning moon.

Crescent waning moon.

Click on photo to enlarge.

Photo taken at 5:15 this morning

Thursday, 16 February 2012

School Cat 2.

A report back on the progress of the school cat, who has been named Sharky. This is in honour of the KwaZuluNatal Provincial rugby team, the Sharks, whose colours are black and white. Most of the school staff are fanatical Shark supporters. 

Here Sharky is hard at work, keeping an eye on things from the in/out tray. My prediction is that Sharky will go far in his career, even making Principal cat one day, given his intelligence, drive and ambition.

He already knows that the most important place to be early in the morning, is the staff kitchen, where every one is getting an early morning caffeine fix. He has learnt that you have to start the day right, at the moment Sharky settles for a saucer of milk. I guess that only when the stress of the job starts getting to him will he learn the value of a strong cup of (cheap) coffee to kick-start the day.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

It's a dogs life.

Living in the country can be tough.

All that swimming you have to do.

All that relaxing.

You even have to taste the water.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Pied kingfisher

Yesterday afternoon, while walking towards the biggest dam on the farm, I spotted a kingfisher hovering over the water. I tried to photograph it hovering, but all I got are shots of wide expanses of blue skies.

Pied kingfisher, (Ceryle rudus). The bird in the photo is a female, males have a second collar.

These photos of the kingfisher were taken at a very long distance and I had to crop most of the original photo, thus the very grainy appearance when you enlarge them.

Pied kingfishers hunt for fish almost exclusively while hovering, unlike other kingfishers who hunt from a perch next to the water.

The day before yesterday I photographed this Steppe buzzard.

These White-faced ducks just seemed to be posing for me to photograph them. In the foreground are two Black-smith lapwings.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Just a weed ?

Had to get down on my hands and knees to take this photo on macro mode.

Click on picture to enlarge.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Phsychedelic sunset

When God paints, He is not afraid to throw the whole palette on the canvas. 

Took these photos a few minutes before sunset on Saturday.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Between the first and the last photo, the time period is about ten minutes.

Bright and bold.

From gold to crimson.