10 March 2012

The End of the World

N2 Highway, Western Cape, South Africa

The kilometers flew past us as we listened to french music in the African countryside. We were headed to Cape Agulhas and the Indian Ocean. Though it was almost two weeks ago now, the trip seems like yesterday. South through Caledon and into the fynbos of the southernmost reaches of the cape we drove, barely passing any cars along our way. Blue Cranes, the national bird of South Africa, were everywhere, flying over the fields and letting their ornate feathers flutter behind them. Several life birds for me dotted the fields in this area as well, such as African Stonechat and Spur-winged Goose, and a massive flock of several hundred African Pied-Starlings made me gaze in wonder as we pushed ever southward. Before we knew it, the Indian Ocean was beside us, and I saw my southernmost life bird ever in the southernmost town in Africa: Cape Francolin running through someone's yard. We drove past the lighthouse, parked, and wandered out to where the land ends and the never-ending southern ocean begins.

Me at Cape Agulhas, South Africa

The Cape, needless to say, was incredible. Hardly anyone was there, and for a while, my friends and I had the end of the continent all to ourselves. We decided to roam around the municipality a little since we were in the area, and headed to the town of Arniston not long after. We drove through fields hiding Stanley Bustard, Cape Sparrows and Cape Crows before arriving at this white sand beach where the Indian Ocean lapped on the rocky coast. Crowned Cormorants flew by and Common Ringed-Plovers dodged the people climbing on the rockier parts of the coast, and I followed my friends through the dunes to Waenhuiskrans. Waenhuiskrans, we soon found out, is a cave the likes of which I had never seen before: a large, open chamber accessed through another adjacent cave, with bats huddling on the ceiling and Speckled Pigeons braving the watery entrance to nest in the enchanting depths.

From the inside looking out: Waenhuiskrans, South Africa

We enjoyed the beach as much as we could, and soon began the long drive back to Stellenbosch.

After this trip, my life has settled down quite a bit as school work has begun to set in and my obligations have begun to keep me in town. I saw only one lifer this week, Rameron Pigeon, and the fact that things like Cape Wagtails and Red-winged Starlings are 'normal' reveals how long I've really been here. Fall break is coming soon, however, and I doubt I will be able to remain in Stellenbosch for that...

Cape Francolin, Stony Point Penguin Colony, South Africa

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