Sunday, June 9, 2013

34 years have led to this

It was my birthday last week, so we sent the dogs to "camp," loaded up the Getz with diesel, and high-tailed it for the mountains to do a little hiking.

Now what would a South African road trip be without slumming it a little? This is passing by Diepsloot, a charming township of about 50,000 people on the edge of some of the nicest neighborhoods in Johannesburg. 

About 45 minutes later we were in sight of the mountains. These are the Magaliesberg, a low mountain range almost 2 billion years old (and containing rocks that were laid down about 3 billion years ago). They're the product of a massive magma chamber that tilted layers of rock as it intruded into the crust of southern Africa.

Getting around to the north side of the Magaliesberg requires you use this hand-hewn tunnel (single lane).

Soon we were at the gate of Mountain Sanctuary Park, a hiking reserve of about 2000 acres. There are great campsites here, but also log cabins and chalets. Best thing: you don't need to hire a guide to enjoy a walk. Second best thing: malaria-free since 1898!

This panoramic shows the very old quartzite ridge that runs through the property, deposited on an ancient beach some 3 billion years ago.

Water to the chalets, log cabins, and camp sites comes from mountain streams which crisscross the preserve and are held in small holding ponds such as this.

My best Klipspringer impression. I'm about six inches off the ground.

Great rockclimbing opportunities abound if you're into small bouldering problems.

It's winter here, so the birds aren't too much to look at, but all the aloes are flowering. And looking fertile.

And the grass has gone the loveliest golden shade, a perfect complement to the deep blue winter sky.

This is "The Grotto," a deep pool nestled in a cleft in the quartzite.

Other natural pools on the property are clean and in winter, leech-free.

and thus ideal for a birthday dip!

This fellow is a large agamid lizard (bonus points for ID because we're clueless) that lives around the ranger station.

And this fellow is a Southern Boubou, a gorgeous bushshrike.

We had the pool all to ourselves....but the bar was, alas, closed.

On the way home, we stopped to look for souvenirs. This rhino was carved out of a large eucalyptus, and all but the tip of the feet are from a single tree trunk.