The primary purpose of our expedition is to draw attention to the role that SANParks plays as the custodian of our natural heritage and to highlight the significant role of our Rangers in protecting our wildlife and maintaining the integrity of our Parks. We are raising funds for counter poaching equipment for the SANPARKS Rangers which will make it easier for them to do the work that we are entrusting them to do on our behalf. We are also drawing attention and raising funds for Care for Wild Africa who play an invaluable role in taking care of our orphaned calves and speak to the heart of ordinary people doing extraordinary things as they step up without reliable and guaranteed income and make a difference.
While our focus is on rhino poaching, this is a sensitive area and while we are often privy to the challenges and stats for different parks we have decided that at the risk of giving away information that could present a breach of security we would rather for the purpose of this diary draw attention to the wonderful parks that we have in South Africa and the amazing staff who manage and maintain them.
index of parks...
Care for Wild Africa
Symbolic Send-off from the Kruger National Park - Ranger Memorial
1 Kruger National Park
2 Mapangubwe National Park
3 Marakele National Park
4 Golden Gate Highlands National Park
5 Mokala National Park
6 Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
7 Augrabies National Park
8 Ai Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park
9 Namaqua National Park
10 Tankwa National Park
11 West Coast National Park
12 Table Mountain National Park
13 Agulhas National Park
14 Bontebok National Park
15 Garden Route National Park / Wilderness Section
16 Karoo National Park
17 Camdeboo National Park
18 Mountain Zebra National Park
19 Addo Elephant National Park
care for wild africa
26th November 2015
The #OLLI Support Team enjoyed the privilege of spending time with Petronel and some of the rhino calves and other orphans at Care for Wild Africa. It is amazing to see such committment and dedication to the victims of greed and savagery. These calves are nurtured and cared for by a team that is 100% committed to their rehabilitation. Their selflessness and passion on our behalf is worthy of our support.
Please consider supporting this wonderful organisation!
sanparks ranger memorial - symbolic start
27th November 2015
A symbolic send off was arranged at the Ranger Memorial at the Paul Kruger Gate at The Kruger National Park. Stones have been gathered from various sections of the park in memory of those Rangers who have lost their lives. Glenn Phillips, the Kruger Executive, was our first signatory on the Scroll of Unity in Conservation and we enjoyed a display from the local Rangers where Wayne had an opportunity to address those who are on the frontline in the war against poaching.
Through the SANPARKS Honorary Rangers we are raising funds for counter poaching equipment for our SANPARKS Rangers in an attempt to make the significant work that they do protecting our natural heritage, a bit easier.
Please consider supporting these men and women who work tirelessly on our behalf!
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK - PAFURI GATE
28th November 2015...
Kruger National Park – what’s not to love! Home of the birding Big 6 and the Big 5 with the possibility of seeing all of them in one day! Established in 1898, this 2 million hectare National Park is situated within the Savanna Biome and boasts an impressive number of species. Bordering on the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces, it also shares borders with Mozambique and Zimbabwe and has the status of a Transfrontier Park. Fences between the parks have come down allowing the animals to take up their old migratory routes and while this is an amazing move with so many wonderful possibilities it also presents the park with many challenges.
The irony is that our Rangers are trained to protect wildlife in a protected conservation environment and yet their roles have changed as they take on this responsibility in what is often tantamount to a war. Gangs of poachers constantly take advantage of the size of the park, the visibility of our white rhino and the extended unfenced boundaries with our economically challenged neighbouring countries. Kruger is a hotspot and our Rangers stand 60% more chance of an armed incursion with poachers than our local South African soldiers. We ask a lot of these dedicated men and women which is why One Land Love It is pointing to their role and raising funds to supplement their equipment to help them to be more effective in the critical work that they perform.
The Kruger National Park has many activities and tourist attractions. Among others, there are 9 large rest camps and we have enjoyed many of them over the years with Letaba probably being our favourite but we have been impressed by so many and enjoyed visiting Olifants with its fantastic viewpoint and Shingwedzi which is incredibly well run. The
Some noteworthy points include the Ranger Memorial at the Paul Kruger Gate, Wilderness and 4x4 Eco Trails, 300 archaelogical and 254 known cultural heritage sites, the Rhino Hall Museum at Berg-en-Dal and the Elephant Hall Museum at Letaba. This museum reflects stories and tributes to some of the great tuskers in the park and also some of the Rangers including Gus Adendorff who was the father of John Adendorff, current Conservation Manager in Addo Elephant National Park. #Jointcustody – generations of Rangers with integrity who are committed to the conservation of our natural heritage. Proud to know that such men have a role to play as custodians of our parks and that they have passed on that legacy to the next generation.
With Wayne starting from the Pafuri Gate this was our first stay in the northern most reaches of the park. We entered through Punda Maria Gate and within a very short space of time had enjoyed some interesting interaction with elephant and their calves – always slightly nerve wrecking when you have a large trailer behind you and cannot easily reverse. Not long afterwards we were treated to two lovely male lions who had moved beyond the lethargy of lying in the sun all day and were entering the twilight zone as their eyes took on a sharp keenness and their strides became more purposeful as they surveyed their surroundings planning their next meal. It would have been lovely to stay and watch their activities but we were heading to Pafuri Border Control and the “Doctor’s House”. Secluded and set upon a small rise the accommodation is made up of a few beautifully restored houses. Our house had three bedrooms with en suites, ceiling fans, tastefully decorated leading onto a wraparound verandah with big mosquito screened views into the surrounding bush. Big plump couches, a long dining room table and cosy kitchen and pantry had us imagining what stories these walls could tell.
"The Doctor's House at Pafuri border control with Mozambique is like stepping back into the past... quite lovely and we wished we had had more time to enjoy the wide wrap around verandah and tastefully decorate house. We spotted leopard prints in the freshly raked sand near the pool. Well the wind came up, rain poured down and a storm raged disquiet(ing)ly out of sync with the steady cadence of the ceiling fans. At 4 we awoke to over flowing gutters as the rain still fell and the hard dry ground had turned to sludge with pools of water gathering in our footprints. And Wayne woke up with a temperature and hectic headache... He never gets sick and it never rains in this area... 2% chance but both did at the same time... so off he rode... wet, sore, no food (couldn't stomach any). We persuaded him to let us support today so went ahead 20 kms and waited. First detour saw the bike chains clogged with mud and pannier base slipping but we managed to get 2l water to "hose" it down.... bearing in mind these folk are in a drought so their jojo is a lifeline and 2l water to clean a bike is a big ask. But wayne just cruised past us quite comfortably in a road that only seems to be going up and despite a late start he has done over a third of today's mileage and is headed to Tshipise. And still it rains."
Wayne’s route from Pafuri Gate to Mapungubwe…
Day 1 / 28 November:
Wayne’s journey started at the Pafuri Gate in unexpectedly cool, wet conditions. What was significant was that it was the first day of rain in months so a very welcome start to #OLLI. The roads were relatively quiet as he cycled the 99kms to Tshipese Forever Resort. One detour saw his wheels caked with mud… a dilemma since despite the rain there has been severe drought in the area and a kind family shared a 2l bottle of water from their jojo tank… a considerable sacrifice since we were using it to clean bicycle tyres – amazing how you can make water last if you try!
mapungubwe national park
Mapungubwe National Park (Place of the Jackal or Rocks) is a World Heritage Site situated near Musina in Limpopo Province and home to 4 of the Big 5. We loved our stay at Mapungubwe and were blown away by our welcome to the Park and the hospitality of all the staff. Tintswalo Mhlongo was an amazing hostess and Section Ranger Stefan Cilliers took time to explain the diversity of the park - his commitment and love of the park was evident. Pauline Phophe treated us to a tour of the Interpretive Centre of which she is incredibly proud and which is an absolute must. She did the history of the region and the artefacts displayed justice as we felt ourselves being drawn back into the rich cultural past of this fascinating park. Our son is an architectural student at NMMU and was most envious that we got to see this centre which won the World Architectural Festival Building of the Year in 2009 and is included in his studies at university.
Some noteworthy points include a view site overlooking a confluence of rivers from where you can see 3 countries being South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe and an island that is basically “No Mans Land”, Treetop Walk and the number of well-preserved fossil finds. In the 1930s valuable artefacts were uncovered on Mapungubwe Hill and archaeological work uncovered the famous Golden Rhino and other evidence revealing the historical importance of this region as home to a wealthy and far developed Iron Age African kingdom prospered between 1200 and 1270AD.
We had the unexpected pleasure of staying in a cottage nestled in a natural setting looking out into the park at Leokwe Main Camp. We enjoyed the comfort and amenities of a secluded yet safe abode while feeling like we were experiencing the “wild side” since there was no fence and evidence of elephant activity metres from the enclosed verandah from which you looked into the park. The outside shower also added to the bush experience.
Our last night was spent at the Vhembe Trails Camp and this serves as a highlight of our trip so far. We stayed in elevated thatched tent like structures looking out over a remote and secluded valley rife with animal activity. While Wayne packed his panniers (bags on the side of his bike) on the verandah we appreciated the noisy company of a herd of elephant and the gentle graciousness of grazing giraffe. The spectacular sunset that filled the sky with intense red golden colours throwing into stark contrast the silhouettes of our rooms was the perfect curtain call to our stay. Sun set and darkness enveloped us but we were enchanted by the pinpricks of light that came and went as fireflies danced around us and we relaxed around the dining table on the verandah at the communal kitchen/braai area, candlelight flickering, meat and corn braaing accompanied by a choir of cicadas.
Our early morning departure down the paved pathway to our vehicle was also an experience as we were on heightened alert having heard the distant roar of lions a few hours earlier.
Travelling on well-maintained roads through the Mapungubwe countryside you are struck by the incredible beauty of this landscape. The abundance of stately baobabs, the vivid colours of the sand and sky all capture your imagination. Each turn in the road is a work of art as sandstone koppies become canvases with nature displaying its beauty as rocks, trees and roots intertwine to create works of art. Add the dimension of light and hues with sunset or dawn and you find yourself catching your breath. A photograph cannot do this justice… you have to experience it for yourself. The close up experience of a lone elephant stretching up into the umbrella of a tree for food or scratching itself against the bark with the rasping sound of sandpaper are sensory treats yet become secondary to the beauty of this landscape.
Wayne’s route to Mapungubwe…
Day 2 / 29 November:
Wayne cycled 109kms to Mapungubwe climbing steadily up some hills on narrow roads, through the taxi metropolis of Musina and then out along a quiet and peaceful road to the park. He made good time and in an effort to arrive on time to be welcomed by the staff he pulled over and made himself a cup of tea on the side of the road.
He cycled into Mapungubwe to an enthusiastic and energetic welcome from rangers and staff who had set up banners, a gazebo and even presented beautifully prepared cocktails. He is doing this for conservation, the rhinos and rangers but it was a really encouraging to be received in this manner. Thank you Mapungubwe!
We were surprised and delighted by Mapungubwe!
marakele national park
We had heard many good things about Marakele National Park and we weren’t disappointed. Driving down from Mapungubwe towards Thabazimbi the Waterberg mountains start to appear and the landscape changes considerably… and it is beautiful! Marakele means “place of sanctuary” and you are indeed struck by the tranquillity of the region whether you are driving through the forests , climbing the steep pass to an impressive viewpoint over a mountainous panorama or sitting quietly on a bench in the campsite overlooking a waterhole. Consisting of 90 000 hectares and being a smaller national park it is still home to the Big 5 and Big 6 birds. We thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality of the staff specifically John Martiens who was the consummate host and were very impressed with the passion and conviction of Section Ranger Tshifhiwa Manda (Chief).
Some noteworthy points include Marakele has the largest colony of endangered Cape vultures – over 800 breeding pairs. It is also an integral part of the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve giving it national and international significance.
golden gate highlands national park
Known as the Jewel of the Free State, Golden Gate Highlands National Park is found in the Northern Region in the Eastern Free State close to the popular and charming town of Clarens. Set in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains the sandstone cliffs are quite beautiful especially when the setting or rising sun creates its magic and the park glows with amazing golden hues. Driving towards the park you become aware that your focus changes from the parameters of the road which fill your vision to this incredible panorama with a ribbon of road weavin its way ahead of you. I found it interesting that both Marakele and Golden Gate are defined by the mountains and yet in both the experience is totally different and yet both are quite beautiful.
As SANParks Honorary Rangers we started our experience in KZN and Golden Gate was the closest National Park so our orientation took place there and it felt good to return. We were also especially touched that members from the KZN Honorary Rangers met up with us to welcome us and to hand over a donation of R10 000 for SANParks specifically towards Sniffer Dogs. A great surprise and wonderful to connect with folk we have shared this journey with.
Park Manager Victor Mokoena and his Rangers were there to welcome Wayne as he cycled into the Park. Probably our most awe inspiring entrance pictures are set against the mountains of Golden Gate.
MOKALA NATIONAL PARK
Mokala is the Setswana name for the beautiful Camelthorn tree. Resplendent whether framed by a boundless blue African sky or silhouetted by the fiery setting sun. This predator free park is one of the newest and part of the arid region with landscapes that vary with open plains and solitary dolerite hills to koppies. The primary purpose of Mokala is to protect and re-establish endangered and valuable species.
The stretch to Mokala was significant in that for the first time Wayne’s children cycled 50kms with him as a demonstration of #jointcustody. As a family we want to make a difference and be an example of ordinary people stepping up and making a difference. The heat and terrain were harsh and unrelenting. Evidence of the drought and the challenges this presents made us more cognizant of the important work being done by the dedicated staff in our national parks.
Clambering past Bushman rock engravings to stand on top of a koppie and looking out over the thornveld savannah, we were struck by a sense of time standing still. We sat where they would have sat, appreciating the same landscape standing as it has always done, unblemished by human hands. A palette of changing colours as the setting sun, an artist’s brush, highlights, enhances, illuminates rocks, grasses, sand and sky. A sense of peace and tranquillity fills you as you soak in the beauty of this landscape. Awe as the sun’s final flourish sets the sky ablaze, silhouetting the Camelthorns of Mokala.
From Mokala Wayne headed towards Kimberley and Upington and then north to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park before heading on to rest of the Arid parks. Areas that are a testimony to the flora and fauna fighting for survival in desert and semi desert regions. An indication of the challenges that would face this lone biker.
We are very proud that funds raised during the expedition will be used to equip the Rangers at Mokala with anti-poaching equipment.
kgalagadi transfrontier park
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park forms part of the Arid Region and was the first formal transfrontier park in Africa and combines the previous South African Kalahari Gemsbok Park with Botswana’s Gemsbok National Park. It is the second largest park in SA at 38 000km2. Two of the Kalahari eco-types can be found with duneveld and Kalahari plains thornveld. The famous Kalahari black maned lions lying against the red sand are obviously something that everyone hopes to see and we had the pleasure of seeing a pride of lion quite close to the main gate at Twee Rivieren. Ostriches wilted under trees, springbok spread out like splashes of white paint on a canvas of shades of brown. Gemsbok marched sedately across the sand their horns like sabres held high… just as you expect to see. They don’t entertain your photos and with a quick gallop and dismissive swish of their black tails they move on. We were treated to a night drive with Head Field Guide, Ian Heyns, where we enjoyed a sky full of stars and a rare full moon for Christmas. Spring hares, quietly grazing herds of Gemsbok and Springbok, plenty of owls and a busy genet entertained us.
Our family loves this park and we have had the pleasure of spending holidays on the Botswana and South African sides – both amazing experiences. Nossob and Mata Mata are great camps and there is a good chance that you will see cheetah and leopard. Some years back our family did the Nossob 4x4 Eco Trail which was a memorable experience. We had the privilege of having Andrew Kruiper as our guide and he showed us incredible things that he had learnt from his mother… oral traditions and history passed on through generations. I now look at this arid landscape and remember him digging his hands into the sand and pulling out a Springbok Cucumber or showing us how to make a hole in a Tsamma Melon, insert a drie-horing twig and use it as a swizzle stick to blend the contents and drink the liquid. There is a wealth of information about this landscape that is most intriguing… don’t take it at face value.
Sunsets are spectacular and we walked to the top of a small dune outside our chalet to watch the evolving colours and light of a sunset and then sat at our fire watching a full and glorious moon rising through the trees on the opposite side. As we drove out for the start of Wayne’s first section of the cycle towards the park I was struck by the intense red of the sunrise and golden sky edged with the blue of a sky transforming from night to dawn… a mirror for what would follow as the silhouetted landscape would change reversing roles as the intense red sand became illuminated in place of the sky.
Wayne’s route to and from Kgalagadi…
From Upington halfway to Kgalagadi…
Wayne started the day with a 2 hour drive from the park back to where he ended in Upington prior to Christmas. The day started well and good progress was made early on despite the late start. Lunch was the most delicious dry wors found at the Kalahari Guest House and Farm Stall along with a sweet potato. As the day progressed the landscape changed and temperatures increased reaching into the upper 40s. Wayne was definitely stronger after the 3 day break and decided to continue beyond his planned finish completing 135kms. This is an area that our family really enjoys spending time in and so the landscape had great appeal. There is an illusion of greenery like travelling past a field of crops… from one perspective you see the whole field while from another you see in between and the individual rows are apparent… in between is sand and more sand and you cannot believe that anything can grow in this sand and heat. Trees sprout out of red sand… sheep seek the deep shade of small bushes and lie there … little specks of white. Nothing moves except the steady movement of this bicycle and you think Wayne must be crazy until you come across a young local cycling frantically in the opposite direction. Turns out his mom is in hospital in Upington and he has decided to cycle there on a bike without decent tyres, leaking valves and without any water. We persuaded him that this was not a good idea when it became apparent that pumping up his tyres would not make any difference and gave him a lift home. The day ended on hills but great progress was made.
Midway from Upington to Khalagadi…
The day started late at 5:45 (Wayne had to travel back by car to his end point as we were unable to find accommodation in this remote area). The day also began on hills with the first hour being particularly hilly. Temperatures definitely change the closer you get to the Khalagadi and as the dunes become more apparent their red sand vibrant in the shimmering sun so too do the temperatures increase. It is very apparent that there is a drought with horses and cattle showing evidence baring their ribs and you come across the occasional dead sheep or donkey that has succumbed to trying times. On the bicycle temperatures reached 52.8 while cycling increased to 59 when stationery with the heat surging through the tar. As you cycle over the tar the popping sound of melting tar bubbles just below the surface can be heard and at times it almost sounds like your tyres are melting as they roll along the surface like soft sticky tape being pulled off a roll. There was a strong headwind which came from the north/Namibia… a good sign according to Section Ranger, Micho Ferreira, as it is an indication of rain and for those standing stationery is brings relief but it did not help in completing the 119kms. Another fascinating sight is the blue sky with white puffy clouds tinged with red… really beautiful … the red dunes reflecting off the clouds. Wayne cycled into Khalagadi at 1:30pm to a group of compassionate and encouraging Rangers. This team has great spirit and comraderie and their kind words were much appreciated. Our thanks to Micho, Ian, Robbie, Robert and Boeta for your enthusiasm and general hospitality… real people!
PS: Micho was right and we had rain. When I asked if the brief showers could make any difference he made a lovely comment describing the Kalahari as thankful. Small blessings can show quick results.
Kgalagadi half way to Upington….
Wayne had one rest day camping which thankfully was a cooler day compared to the high temperatures we had previously experienced. Game viewing in the park was great with herds of Gemsbok, Wildebeest and Springbok. There was a great sighting of two lions stealing the well-earned kill of 3 cheetah who slinked off quietly while the male relished his steal… sleeping brazenly next to it for the rest of the day. Knees strapped he tried to get to sleep early but that isn’t too easy in a campsite and the festive interaction of a neighbouring South American tour group didn’t help nor the rain that fell through the windows of our nifty little Oz tents that earlier had provided a window to the stars. Wayne was up early in time to start at 3:00 and leaving through the staff gate managed 2 hours in the dark followed by cool weather and a smattering of rain but unfortunately a headwind. The first section is relatively flat followed by undulating hills but what a difference in temperature compared to his trip up where he had temps in the 50s.
Taking advantage of the cooler conditions with long stretches to follow, Wayne pushed his planned destination and completed 141kms…
Minette of Murray’s Guest Farm near Askham sponsored our accommodation for the night and we stayed on a farm that has been in this family for 100 years. It has interesting historical value having been a water trough for the German army during the war. We are always touched by the willingness of people to assist with accommodation and are grateful to all those who offered.
From half way to past Upington
The weather was overcast and the landscape not as demanding as the previous day but the headwind was so strong that it made the day much longer and tiring than expected. Wayne cycled 120kms into Upington.
ai ais richtersveld transfrontier park
From Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Wayne headed towards Augrabies Falls National Park and then on to Ai-Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park – all part of the Arid Region. The transfrontier parks are wonderful ecological areas that straddle the Namibian and Botswana borders for the sake of conservation. A corridor that allows wildlife to continue with their natural migratory routes.
Sendelingsdrift is an unexpected oasis in this mountainous desert. It is a town in its own right and boasts an emigration office and pont giving access to Nambia on the opposite side of the Orange (Gariep) River, the largest river in South Africa. Sunsets throw the mountains into relief and reflect off the river while the Quiver and Halfmens trees beg to be photographed. Cycling the dirt road to the Park entrance was difficult, not made easy by knowing that you would be turning around and cycling back on the same stretch. Obstacles like soft sand caused the bike to come to a standstill and sharp gravel along with some extremely steep hills that had to be negotiated carefully when cycling down or walked up. The vast, harsh yet strangely alluring landscape is a reminder of how insignificant our species really is and how dependent we are on our environment to sustain us. This area is the driest in South Africa and yet home to 30% the country’s succulent plants species – some only found in this area with new plant and insect species still being discovered. We met especially interesting folk in the Richtersveld. People in and outside the Park who are passionate and invested in this region. They are a tribute to the resilience of the people and the treasures and wealth of knowledge this Park has to offer and strives to protect.
In the Richtersveld Wayne also encountered the “Malmokkies” - early morning mist that rolls in from the cold Atlantic Ocean – life sustaining moisture for wildlife and plant life in the region but disconcerting to cycle through. The predictable afternoon headwind also coming off the ocean was another challenge but the stark vistas of the diamond route belying the gems they give birth to along with the open Atlantic Ocean was a wonderful reprieve from the desert before Wayne turned inland once more to head towards Namaqua National Park, famous for its spring flowers and home to the richest bulb flora of any arid region in the world. Travelling through this spectacular landscape with its fields of quartz and herds of skittish springbok and gemsbok standing to attention, heads moving in synchronised time as they watch you pass by - you feel as if you are passing through land untouched by time or man and it is humbling.
Comment from local Richtersvelder...
"After spending nearly 10 years in the Greater Richtersveld, and surrounding areas, making a life out of what she has to offer, and in a way being dependant on her, we continuously learn about the diversity of the Richtersveld, and the more we learn, the more we know, how little we know...... Every single thing, whether it is the Geology, the modern mining activities, the interesting weather patterns affected by the cold Benguela, the ancient people, the plants.....everything is connected in some way or another. These connections, we are trying to understand, are hugely interesting, informative, entertaining, and in our business, the core of sustainability......this is what most people come here for.....to Learn, and be entertained at the same time."
Johan & Magda de Waal
TANKWA-KAROO NATIONAL PARK
16 January 2016...
The Tankwa-Karoo Rangers had spent the night fighting fires but travelled an hour to welcome Wayne at an entrance to the park where the landscape reminded one of a lunar scene. Traversing this black stone landscape and heading towards the main camp you are struck by the diversity of this changing landscape and the extensive horizons and chains of mountains. Gemsbok march across the horizon and turn in unison to stare, springbok with black legs covered in mud after wading in an unexpected spring are alarmed and take off treating us to a display of pronking. Mirages shimmer making you look twice to convince yourself that the there truly isn’t a lake in this semi-desert area.
Sitting on the stoep of the historic farmhouse we were staying in we were treated to a display of changing weather that presented us with a myriad of visual treats. Endless blue skies and white clouds unexpectedly turned to black as a sweeping wall of rain and wind swept over the farmhouse bringing relief to the parched thirsty land as rugged as it is beautiful. The brown dusty earth held pools of water, magnets to the birds that had earlier been seeking refuge in the eaves of our roof. Their joyful exuberance as they splashed in the puddles and engaged in playful flight was echoed by the vibrant double rainbow that filled the sky. Warm, golden light bathed the land, illuminating mountains and we basked in the glow of the sunlight that we had previously sought relief from. As the sun set the crags of the mountains became more distinctive or apparent as shadows fell and the puddles of water became golden pools of reflected light. A glorious display of fiery clouds filled the skies soon to be replaced by a magnificent horizon brimming with stars. Sitting at the old farmstyle table, drinking coffee and dunking rusks, candlelight reflecting in the windowpanes we had a sense of stepping back in time and experiencing beauty and peaceful solitude often hard to come by in our busy city lives.
From Tankwa-Karoo Wayne headed back onto the R355, the longest dirt road in South Africa. At this point the bearings on the front axle of Wayne’s bike protested and he had to use his back up bike or “scora-scora” to complete the day’s cycle towards Ceres. The following day after a challenging ascent, he enjoyed the blissful descent down an exhilarating pass into the Ceres Valley with its awe-inspiring circle of beautifully craggy mountains, orchards of apples and pears and hospitable locals.
WEST COAST NATIONAL PARK
21 January 2016
The extraordinarily beautiful Laangebaan Lagoon of the West Coast National Park was our next stop. These wetlands are internationally acclaimed and home to rare fynbos and over a quarter of South Africa’s total bird species. The sparkling lagoon, a palette of shades of blue, flocks of disconcertingly quacking elegant pink flamingos is everything one imagines about an exotic destina
table mountain national park
22 Januray 2016
Wayne’s route towards Table Mountain National Park was a busy one as he headed towards the hustle and bustle of Cape Town arriving in peak traffic on the freeway headed towards Signal Hill. In an attempt to circumvent the attention of the local traffic police he indulged in some off roading and the attention of some unwelcome guests. The patch of devil thorns he cycled through resulted in a slow puncture as he struggled to cycle up the suburban pass of Kloof Nek Road which is steep and dangerous and limped into the SANParks offices on Signal Hill at the time predicted.
While in Cape Town the OLLI Team supported Patrick Cromwell and Awesome South Africans at a Rhino Indaba along with Conservation Heroes like Braam Malherbe (see Awesome South Africans).
agulhas national park & southernmost tip of africa
27 January 2016
From Table Mountain National Park, which is a natural heritage site and recently the Natural New Seventh Wonder of the World, Wayne cycled via Sir Lowrys Pass to Agulhas National Park, the Southernmost Tip of Africa and official meeting place of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Having turned the corner as it were, Wayne was now heading home towards the Eastern Cape and his next stop was Bontebok National Park. When this park was established there were only 17 Bontebok left in the wild and the purpose of the park was to prevent their extinction. This success story further emphasizes the vital role that SANParks plays as the custodian of our natural heritage.
bontebok national park
28 January 2016
The gruelling ride from Bontebok to the Wilderness with its many unpredicted steep hills was exacerbated by the arrival time Wayne had given the Park. Wayne had managed to meet all his deadlines but this stretch proved to be a challenge and he had to push himself to make sure that he arrived on time to meet the Rangers who would be ready and waiting to welcome him on a Sunday supported by SANParks Honorary Rangers and the media.
garden route national park - wilderness national park
31st January 2016
The Garden Route National Park is an open access park and is includes Wilderness whose lake system with its wetlands are internationally proclaimed, Tsitsikamma with its the Marine Protected Area and Knysna known for its indigenous forest and giant Outeniqua Yellowwoods. The Knysna estuary has also been declared a Hope Spot as it is home to 43% of our country’s plant and animal life and certain rare fish species.
karoo national park
4 February 2016
From Wilderness Wayne headed towards the Karoo through two very different passes. The Outeniqua Pass climbs steadily with its twists and turns. While focusing on the climb Wayne was also distracted by his sore knees, straining rhomboids and some work issues. Cresting a twist he became aware of the spectacular view beside him, he noted the velvety moss on the rocks next to the road, the delicate ferns and tiny flowers. It struck him that the “environment is hidden in plain sight” and that as the human species we are completely dependent on our environment for our survival and yet it is often not high on our list of priorities, let alone appreciated. As the human species what could be more important than its conservation.
After Outeniqua Pass Wayne was not looking forward to the Meiringspoort Pass but this turned out to be a memory making stretch. The 25km road winds through the gorge crossing the Groot River 25 times. Craggy sandstone cliffs soar above the road with a ribbon of blue sky above. No wonder this is a world heritage site.
camdeboo national park
7 February 2016
From Karoo Wayne cycled accompanied by two friends who had come to support him in the last stretch towards home. Camdeboo National Park practically surrounds the town of Graaf-Reinet and is known for the Valley of Desolation – a national monument also called ‘Cathedral of the Mountains’. This site provides an incredible panoramic view of magnificent dolerite pillars against the plains of the Karoo. This stretch of the expedition was quite different for Wayne as he was able to share the experience with mates who would now really be able to understand many of the trials faced daily as you have to exert great self-discipline and internal motivation in the face of various challenges but also the great sense of achievement once your goal is reached and the reward of knowing that your effort has encouraged and motivated the Rangers whose role you are acknowledging and whose efforts you are applauding. The Park Manager and a Ranger along with Wayne’s daughter, Laura, cycled into Camdeboo. A great example of #jointcustody – individuals taking responsibility for the conservation of our land.
mountain zebra national park
8 February 2016
Mountain Zebra National Park was proclaimed specifically to protect the Cape Mountain Zebra which was almost on the brink of extinction. Over time the park has increased, the Mountain Zebra have flourished and cheetah and lion have been reintroduced to this area. Our family loves spending time in this park and soaking up its tranquillity and beauty. A 4x4 drive to the top of a mountain at sunset provides the most majestic cloud display often silhouetting a herd of eland or casting a golden hue on the sight of blue cranes doing their mating dance or the rare aardwolf.
A well prepared group of Rangers stood to attention as Wayne cycled in accompanied by their Section Ranger. He was enthusiastically received and it was a wonderful to engage with a group of motivated and passionate Rangers and to spend time with their very knowledgeable and invested Park Manager, Megan Taplin.
Through collaboration with SANParks, OLLI and Rhino Art and in the spirit of #jointcustody we spent time in two primary schools in Cradock where we shared the importance of individuals taking a stand against poaching. Educating our children on the importance of our environment is an important step in protecting their future.