04 February 2012

Serendipity

The past week has simply flown by for me. I got my general class schedule figured out, and, amazingly, managed to not take my camera with me the couple times I did go somewhere. I did get pictures, but my contact for those pictures is currently in Cape Town... Anyways, I'll get them up when I can.

On Tuesday, I scheduled my classes at the international office and, upon walking outside, was greeted by Genevieve, Yvonne, and Stephanie. They all had one thing on their minds: penguins. Jackass (African) Penguins to be exact, a penguin known for its distinctive donkey-like braying. So, before I knew it, I was on the long train ride out to the southernmost place I have ever been in my entire life: Boulder's Beach. Upon arriving, we instantly had a penguin from the parking lot! We paid the R35 to wander down to the beach with them, and for the next few hours, I watched the penguins while the girls swam in the cold, clear waters of South Africa (I was caught by surprise so much I didn't even have a swimsuit!). I wandered through the boulders and crawled along the Jackass Penguin highways through the cool, white sand and watched Speckled Mousebirds hide in the adjacent fynbos and even spied a Cape Gannet diving not far off shore.

Before long, however, it was time for us to head back, and we re-boarded the train for Cape Town (and I snagged one last lifer for the day - a Black-headed Heron near Fish Hoek). When we arrived at the station, we were greeted with some rather unexpected news: the last train to Stellenbosch had left an hour before. We were forced to find different mean of transport for the night, and, after some haggling, got a taxi for R400 to take us back to Stellenbosch. I sat up front with the cab driver while the girls crammed in the back, and we started talking a little. I found out that our driver was from Transkei, and when I greeted him in isiXhosa, he was very impressed and began talking to us all about South Africa. He showed us where his house was in Khayelitsha township from the N2 highway and told us all about his life in Cape Town, while we asked him for advice regarding our new home. He told us about places to go and not to go, how to deal with people, and even offered sound advice on some of the school activities we have been thinking of enrolling in. The drive to Stellenbosch was relatively slow as our driver believed in obeying the speed limit (we were all extremely thankful for this), but the time still flew by as we talked while passing through the rolling vineyards. Soon, we were back in Stellenbosch, and as I handed him my last R100 bill, he said "Thank you, you have put some food on my table!" and sped off towards Cape Town for the rest of his shift. We all tried to absorb everything he had said to us on our drive home, and in the end every single one of us was thankful to have missed the train back to Stellenbosch.

The rest of my week followed with a similarly lucky tone, but more of a bird oriented one. I had planned on climbing Stellenboschberg to try to find, among other things, a Cape Batis, but was dissuaded by the high winds throughout the week. Instead, I hid in the shadows of Jan Marais Natuure Reservaat where, lo and behold, a pair of Cape Batis came within two meters of me drinking from a leaking hose! This occurred again when my plans to bird a wetland were foiled and, at Jan Marais, a lone and seemingly out of place Purple Heron coasted over the Karoo scrub as Malachite Sunbirds and Cape Bulbuls called from the surrounding bushes.

School starts the day after tomorrow, so I'm thinking I will go hiking again, but maybe to the lower reaches of Stellenboschberg to see what else I can add to my Cape Winelands list. I'm excited to start school, as I feel like I have just enjoyed the end of a summer's vacation rather than the halfway point of my LSU year! So, until I get more pictures and more stories, take care, and good birding.

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