The next stop on our whirlwind tour of South Africa was the Tanqua Karoo area (south of the Tanqua Karoo National Park) located northeast of Cape Town – about a 2.5 hour drive if you drive like most people in South Africa. If you drive like us, it takes twice as long.
We made reservations to stay at a place called Klein Cedarberg. This is an off-the-beaten path accommodation located near Ceres, South Africa. For some reason I envisioned the area as being totally undeveloped – wrong. Like America, people will try to farm the desert. Lots of large apple orchards and farms in the area utilizing water dams (affecting streams), as well as some private nature and/or game reserves.
The accommodations at Klein Cedarberg were very basic. No heat, and no real updates to the rooms in quite some time. I didn’t read my email carefully enough as the room rate was per person, rather than per room. I was wondering why we were getting such a good rate for a room, breakfast, and dinner. Well, we didn’t get such a great rate. This accommodation, which was the most modest of all the places we have stayed, turned out to be one of the most expensive – $55.00 per night, per person. Live and learn. Of course there aren’t a whole lot of places to stay in the area. We did get a chance to talk to the owners and get their perception of life in South Africa. Makes one glad to be an American.
We did some birding, but the scenery alone was beautiful. They must have had a recent rain because a lot of the native flowering plants were in bloom – mostly purples. Gorgeous.
Near Ceres, we did spot a single Blue Crane feeding near the road. Never one to pass up an opportunity to photograph a great bird, we stopped. Earlier, we also stopped to check out a new bird for us – the Capped Wheatear.
At Klein Cedarberg, our host (he owns 1000 hectares) asked whether we were interested in rock art. We said sure. So we jumped into his Izuzu truck (an old beater with over 600,000 km on it – so he says) on off we went. I was surprised at the size of the rock art – small.
The first day in this area we had good weather. However, we did note that the clouds were increasing and it looked as though it might rain. The next day as we headed out in search of birds, in particular a Cinnamon-breasted Warbler (did not find the bird), the sky opened up and it did rain. When we were traveling down the road at our glacial pace, we encountered a group of people participating in a 256 km trek on foot through this area. Most of the participants were women and not all were dressed for the rain. I hope no one became hypothermic. I was glad we were in our car, although we did get somewhat wet as we went searching for the warbler – and me in jeans.
We left the Karoo area and headed to Tulbagh for the night. This area is beautiful – lots of green crops and high mountains. The owner of the farm cottage where we stayed for the night said the town’s claim to fame was an 6.0+ earthquake in 1968 that destroyed many of the buildings, which were later reconstructed.
The next morning as we were leaving the Tulbagh area we were ‘bird driving’ – always on the lookout despite the traffic. In a farmer’s field there were over 30 Blue Cranes, along with a ‘white mass’ of Cattle Egrets and African Sacred Ibis. Nice to see a large flock of Blue Cranes – South Africa’s National Bird. Unfortunately they were too far away to get a decent photo. Instead I had to settle for an African Pipit and a Black-shouldered Kite.
Our next stop is Cape Town. We will spend three nights in Cape Town to explore the amazing Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden & Table Mountain before heading north to the West Coast National Park.
Regardless of the weather – IT’S A GREAT DAY TO BIRD.