On a fine spring day the Alan Tours team climbed into the Land Cruiser with a packed picnic and went on a trip to the northern Kabouga Section of the Addo Elephant National Park.
We did the Bedrogfontein 4×4 trail where Luke and I took turns in the driver’s seat negotiating our way over rocky dry riverbeds and around tight turns letting this capable vehicle do what it is so well designed for.
‘Bedrog’ means ‘cheat’ or ‘deceive’ and this comes from a vicious battle that ensued on one of the very switchbacks we manoeuvred around. During the Anglo-Boer war the British got a ruthless beating by the Afrikaners as they surprised them on one of the turns.
Well I feel like I was a little ‘deceived’ on this route as I got a few surprises myself.
We drove from the familiar thicket and gwarrie-veld down into the riverline where some yellowwood trees towered above and we found ourselves in Afromontane forest. I was quite amazed, I didn’t expect this type of vegetation at all. I once spent a few days in the Woody Cape’s Alexandria Forest helping with a bird survey where I was first told about a particular fascinating bird that only exists in small pockets of indigenous forest. I never got to see it, but ever since then, whenever I’m in their preferred habitat, I hope and wish that I do spot one. This bird is shy and difficult to see in the high canopies, known to normally perch with its green back to you making it a real challenge to spot.
As we ambled along under the shading trees after a satisfying deli-style lunch stop, a flash of red and shiny teal swooped right in front of us. I was so stunned I couldn’t get the name out at first but then it was confirmed; a NARINA TROGON! She sat on a branch facing us, exposing her bright red belly, letting us admire and take photos for a lot longer than I would’ve predicted. Wow, this was something I did not expect to see. The females are not as spectacular as the males but they’re still so striking, the experience was quite magical.
This bird is known to be a ventriloquist, so it normally tricks well, but I’m really happy with the surprise I received in this range of raw wilderness unlike that of the British soldiers.
The day wasn’t over yet. Keeping with the theme of Alan’s last Blog, a few more surprises were install for me.
We moved on, all of us a little dazed from the sighting, climbing out of the valley to some more amazing scenery dotted with possibly the most cycads I have ever seen. Some of them so big they must be hundreds of years old and oh the stories they could tell. There are two species of this ancient plant found here, and it is reassuring to see so many as unfortunately this is another species that is illegally poached and sold to the Asian market.
We negotiated our way around each hairpin turn of the Bedrogfontein Pass towards the peak, vegetation changing into fynbos with beautiful flowering yellow and orange pincushions. Near the top we came across a herd of the shy mountain reedbuck, so well adapted to this high altitude habitat. They dashed away from the vehicle and we scaled right to the top where your breath is taken away by the most amazing spectacle of the Darlington Dam with the expanse of the Karoo behind it. One never expects to see such a large body of water with the contrasting semi-dessert surrounding it.
To complete the awe-inspiring scene the mountain reedbuck had beat us there and the impressive looking ram was protecting one of his ewes and her lamb, he gave out a few high-pitched alarm whistles that travelled in the wind to us.
We made our descent down the other side and found ourselves in nama-karoo biome where we had close sightings of the scarce Cape Mountain Zebra as they skilfully trod over the rocky terrain. Bumbling along towards the exit we spotted another surprise; a bushig! The robust shaggy pig powered its way up and over a hill. An animal I’ve only seen a few times in my life and mostly at night when they’re normally active.
As we passed through Noorsveld Angora goat farms homeward bound in the dusty glow of the sunset I was filled with gratification, thinking; ‘Man this is a special part of world, so close to home’.
This was really such a thrilling day of wonders out in real raw wilderness, such a gem as something that can be experienced in just in a day trip.
Words by Carmen Warmenhove
Photographs by Alan and Angelika