27 January 2012

The Unforgiving Sun

Today marks the end of my first week. It is hard for me to believe it has been just a week, as a lifetime worth of memories and sensations have overloaded my cerebral cortex. A little over a week ago today I entered Namibian airspace and thereby had my first experience with Africa. Everything I had been told about Africa in the states weighed heavily on my mind, and no doubt the common thoughts that people generally have about Africa crossed my mind too. My mind was completely blown as I descended into Johannesburg, however, in the middle of the ocean of green and endless farms that reminded me a little of Kansas. The skyscrapers of the hub of South Africa loomed in the distance as I changed planes and I watched my first African birds survey the airstrips for food: an Amur Falcon soared high above, and Red Bishops sang from the airstrip's Phragmites patches.

Not that much longer, and I was in Stellenbosch, where I have remained for the past week. The experiences have been piling up as I have immersed myself into the African karoo and fynbos. I met some other foreign exchange students (not birders, but similar in personality to myself) and we have been exploring the area fervently, and have had quite the week! Below are some of the highlights I managed to photograph.

The first thing, of course, that struck me about Stellenbosch was the view. This is taken from right in front of the building I live in and shows the Jonkershoek.

On one of my first days here, I explored the in-town Jan Marais Nature Reserve. I was extremely surprised to find this massive tortoise drinking at the local pond! Other highlights from that reserve so far include Small Grey Mongoose, Cape Sugarbird, Black Sparrowhawk and the whistling Cape Bulbuls feeding in the scrub. It is quite the interesting locality!
One of my new favorite birds, the Cape Rockjumper. This legendary South African highlight is found in boulder-strewn hillsides in southwest South Africa. This bird was on the lower summit of Stellenboschberg, and my friends and I hiked 8 hours to see this and the view from the mountain, below.
The one thing that does not appear in the picture above  is the unforgiving sun - I am blistered and burned from my Icarus-like hike, and am still recovering. Next time, I am bathing in sunscreen before I go!

So far, South Africa is an incredible and beautiful place! The people are as varied as the scenery, with Afrikaans, isiXhosa, German, French and English being commonly spoken on the streets. I'll try to post as often as I can, but for now, I need to get registered for classes. Have a good weekend!

1 comment:

  1. That is a ridiculously awesome view - I'm sufficiently jealous!

    Oh, the rockjumper is cool too.

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