Braving the weather

Guiding around the weather

Having been at home for the past three days, I decided it was time to go out and see what else would be braving the weather. We have had nearly a week’s worth of rain in the area now and, waking up this morning morning, I had the above picture greet me; a heavy mist had set in overnight. 

As much as we need the rain, and I never wish it away, this type of weather is very influential on the tourism industry; especially for an area renowned for scenery and gorgeous views. It’s not easy convincing people to go on a guided hike in this weather!

I have spent most of my working life outdoors, and I can honestly say that I have experienced virtually every weather condition there is. My most bizarre weather moment happened in the UK, driving from home to the zoo I was working for at the time. It started out sunny, went cloudy, started raining, then hail, and then sleet. As I pulled into the car-park, it started snowing; all in the space of about 20 minutes!

Probably my most memorable weather-related experience was tracking a leopard with dogs; all day, during a record-breaking cyclone event. Not only did I gain respect for the abilities of leopards and working dogs, but I also gained some insight into what I was capable of enduring and achieving when pushed, and under extreme conditions.

My reward

Walking around in a mist thick enough to make me feel like I was inside a giant nebulizer, I genuinely didn’t think I was going to see much. I was certainly rewarded today for going out and braving the weather, as the first thing I encountered was a leopard track! It wasn’t easy to spot, and I thank my guiding and tracking skills for seeing it at all. The first few I found were not only difficult to see, but wouldn’t show up on a photograph either. Thankfully I did see one worth photographing (shown below). It is a probable female judging from the size of the foot, and she was doing some strange movements along the path. With a few twists of the foot here and there, moving along in odd directions, and with Bushpig spoor around too; I strongly suspect she was tracking them.

A Cape Leopard print

Life always finds a way

It never ceases to amaze me how nature carries on around, and adapts to, our human world. Finding this spider web inside the picnic site dustbin gave me a smile. Of course, there are many other examples of such things and we have all encountered examples. We just don’t always take notice, or give them points for ingenuity.

All year round flowering

One of the pleasures being around the Fynbos biome, is that there is always something flowering, no matter the time of year. This is, of course, summer, and there are many more in flower as a result, which helps when you can’t see the views!

The Fynbos is highly diverse, with around 7000 true Fynbos species, and approximately 9500 species in the region. Some of the best guide books available only give you access to around 1000 species, making it very difficult to get correct identifications. Added to this, I am colourblind, making it even harder for me to identify species. I’ve managed to pick up a few over the past few years living in this area, but I am a long way away from being an expert! Still, when you are with guests, you only really need to know a few to make their walk interesting, and there are many other things to keep them busy with along the way.

Possible Erica hispidula; Erica's account for over 7% of all Fynbos species
Erica discolor
Protea neriifolia

Waves of birds

Between the Fynbos and the surrounding forests, you can go through very quiet patches of virtually no sounds of birds. The beauty is, they often come through in waves; especially the Cape White-eye’s, and it is always lovely to hear them moving along overhead. There are, of course, always birds around; they just don’t necessarily want you to know that, and you have to listen carefully to know where they are, and who they are. I don’t often see the Sombre Greenbul, one of the most common and vocal birds in the area, but I was lucky enough to have a fabulous viewing of one yesterday. It is impossible to get photos of all the birds moving through the surrounding shrubbery, but I did spot a few beauties; bearing in mind the weather was not particularly conducive for them, or for photography. I saw Cape White-eye, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Sugarbird, Cape Batis, Sombre Greenbul, Bar-throated Apalis and Dusky Flycatcher.

Sombre Greenbul
Dusky Flycatcher
Cape White-eye

The little things

The undergrowth will almost always offer up a few things to see, but this is generally where a guide comes in handy; spotting the things you don’t see, and knowing where to look for them.

One of the animals that does enjoy this weather is the Pill Millipede. You have to tread lightly to see them moving. As soon as they feel the vibrations of your feet they curl up in a ball, and you can then easily mistake them for a seed. They are a type of millipede, but unlike their better known cousins, they are good to eat, and so they are quick to hide.

Pill Millipede

Always good to go out

One thing this day proved is that, no matter the weather, it is always fun to go out and explore, and there will always be something worth seeing. Here are a last couple of photos of what I always consider to be be “goodies”…

Rain Spider nest with the shed skins of the babies
An unknown cockroach species, indigenous to the area

Interested in any of the walks I offer? You can check out these pages for my exclusive and featured trails, or contact me for ideas on where to walk. I can be hired for all trails between Knysna and Nature’s Valley and, with so many on offer, it is near impossible to feature them all on my website.

Happy trails!

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