Tuesday, 15 March 2016

South Africa, February 2015, part 1

This is our first trip to South Africa and although we know plenty of people who have been there, we had no pre-conceived ideas as to what it would be like. My first thoughts were just what a massive scale the countryside has. We drove across plains that you could have lost Guernsey and Jersey in without trace!
We flew from Heathrow to Johannesburg overnight. After sunrise, it was cloudy and the first clear view we had of Africa from 39,000 feet was flying over the Kalahari desert with the low early morning light. I had never seen anything like the landscape - it looked more like the surface of some planet.
For the connecting flight to Cape Town Gilly was by the window and could see the landscape and where crops were grown like little oasis in what appeared to be scrub or desert. South Africa has had a very hot & dry summer by their standards. Many crops have failed and rather than exporting food they are having to import it. In some areas there is a chronic water shortage. Our first 9 days saw temperatures in the high 30's every day and twice  when we were away from the coast it went up to 42 deg. 
 We arrived just in time to join the evening rush hour out of Cape Town. Our friends live just beyond Somerset West near Sir Lowry's Pass and the drive along the N2 took us past numerous townships  - all I can say is no-one should be living like that in the 21st century. It isn't just the conditions, again it is the sheer scale of them, they are huge areas. On the way, we came across the first group from the townships trying to sell all manner of things to the occupants of cars waiting at traffic lights. Amazingly, they were selling things so it must be worth their while.
I only took the Fuji cameras to save weight & space and as it turned out it was a wise choice - at no time did I wish I had a DSLR. I continue to be impressed by the Fuji X-Pro1 and X-T1 which are very capable cameras.

One friends have some vines which are right outside the house and by coincidence, 
the grapes had been picked the day before we arrived.

On our first day, we decided to try Table Mountain, but as we thought 
may be the case, it had it's table cloth on. If we had gone up we 
wouldn't have seen a thing. We drove around the cape which was
 fascinating. We couldn't miss the penguins and found them at 
Boulders Bay, just south of Simon's Town. African penguins are 
quite small but very cute.

Yes, it was the mating season!

The following day, we woke to see this rainbow which stayed around 
continuously for over two hours. It appeared close and had spectacular colours

The following day, we went to a vineyard called Vergelegen, near Stellenbosch.
 This is reputedly the oldest vineyard in South Africa. The grapes are grown 
a distance away from the farm, but it is very interesting, well cared for and offered a superb tasting experience.

This old suspension bridge straddles a small river, all very
picturesque and on the other side in the trees is a
huge Yellow Wood tree.

We had lunch in the restaurant of the vineyard at Waterkloof, a fantastic,
 modern building housing a production facility, a tasting facility and a superb
 restaurant which is highly rated in the top 10 SA restaurants. This is the view
 from outside the restaurant across some of the vines.

In the afternoon we went for a walk around the area our friends live. More 
vines with a tremendous backdrop of mountains draped in cloud.

On our walk, we came upon this Bontebok. This must have been an escapee 
as they do not exist in the wild. They were all but hunted to extinction and 
now they only exist in game reserves. They are lovely animals. As we were
 walking and it was well over 30 deg C, I just took the X-T1 and 
the 16-55mm f2.8. This is a big crop. Who said moving shots are 
difficult with the Fuji? It appeared from nowhere and was moving at 
a pace so I certainly didn't have time to prepare for this shot.

Eventually it stopped and I was able to get this shot showing it 
in the vast landscape with the mountain range in the background.