Port Alfred 11-12-13th October

Port Alfred 11-12-13th October

First of all a big apology about the tardiness of sending out the blog. We are 8Km’s out of town and the coms are so weak and erratic that I have battled continually with the internet.

Sunday, 11th

Again, our Storms River experience has been adversely affected by the weather. But in our caravan we are weather-proof and we have had the odd bursts of real beauty through the rain and wind. Of course as we pack up to leave, tranquillity returns, the sun breaks through and the great coastline is in all its splendour.

We stop at Jeffrery’s Bay for two reasons. Firstly we meet up for breakfast with Fontaine, a youngster who was working at Eingedi near Ladybrand and for whom we have a special interest. Fit and well, Fontaine is getting on happily with his life. Next we see Gavin (ex Headmaster of Hilton) and Wendy Thomson who are now living here.

One of the joys of living this type of life is re-establishing contact with past friends and so it was with the Thomson’s who are happily enjoying their lives in Jeffrey’s.

We push on past PE and then take the coastal road to Port Alfred. Although the road surface is good – smooth with no potholes – it is a quite narrow two lane road with no verge at all. Approaching a steep blind rise three big flashy, speeding cars overtake over the barrier line just as an approaching car appears over the rise from the opposite direction. In my mirror, I am then horrified to see a fourth car now overtaking us and, given our length, with no place to go. I brake and pull off the road onto the grass at 90kpm as does the approaching car allowing the speeding maniac enough room to squeeze through. Had I not seen him coming, had there been an obstruction in the grass, there would have been a definite head-on with us caught in the middle. Life certainly hangs by a thread.

Needless to say, these speeding Transkeian louts disappear into the distance without a care in the world and absolutely no regard at all for others – nor to the cause of BLM for that matter. It takes quite a while for me to calm myself as that is the closest I have been to being written off on the road. Past Kenton-on-Sea (where Gareth went down on all fours) and into Port Alfred. Our destination is the Green Fountain Farm caravan site 8kms beyond the town on the East London road.

Beautifully laid out amongst trees on a farm, we soon settle in and make contact with the other campers – and the new trend is very much apparent here. People are renting out their homes (or selling them) and living permanently in their caravans. Which is exactly what we are doing. And without exception all of them are such decent people who are thoroughly enjoying their lives. We personally count our blessings every day that we can be so stimulated and happy in our present existence.

Monday, 12th

I have phoned ahead and organised a boat to travel up the beautiful Kowie River and photograph the birds – particularly the Half-Collared Kingfisher.

Half-collared Kingfisher

So at 6am on a sunny, still morning we rendezvous at the slipway with our boatman – a long haired youngster who is ominously pulling frantically on the starting rope of a tired looking motor

Port Alfred Marina (Photo – Renette)

We offload our cameras and picnic baskets and place then on the quayside next to the boat as Willie continues his exertions muttering to himself.

But ‘encouragement’ from me does not seem to help and after quite a while a panting Willie admits defeat and says so – resigning himself to the barbed chirps from us. We abort the trip go and sit on the beach where we enjoy our breakfast and coffee.

Another setback but still an experience to brighten the day and give us amusement as we picture poor Willie somewhere pulling on a ‘zol’ to steady himself.

Later a very apologetic message comes through from Willie to say that there is nothing wrong with the motor but that he had forgotten to put on the ‘kill-switch’. So despite the forecast of a westerly wind later in the day, we are going to meet Willie at 5am on the slipway and try again tomorrow.

We spend the rest of the day very pleasantly in camp with surprisingly Crowned Hornbills in the trees around us.

Tuesday, 13th

It is calm and clear as we arrive at the slipway in the dark at 5am. Willie is all set up determined to put right yesterday’s fiasco. Cameras and picnic baskets are loaded and we idle through the ‘no wake’ zone under the bridge with the motor worryingly spluttering a bit.

Photo -Renette

But we hit the open water, I open up and we surge forward. All is well for half a minute before we drive straight onto a mudbank – well obscured in the gloomy light.

We are stuck fast and soon find that the embedded motor cannot be raised without holding it up. So with rolled up trousers and Renette in her panties, we manage to stand in the mud and using my tripod as a barge pole make it into deeper water. Then the tired motor won’t re-start despite some energetic pulling on the rope. Eventually it fires and we are on our way up this most beautiful of rivers. Coming from the silt laden rivers of KZN, these Cape waters are joy to behold.

Willie’s boat unfortunately, is most uncooperative and will not idle which means that I cannot give full attention to my camera whilst maneuvering. And everytime it cuts out it takes about ten pulls to get it going so the trip is highly unsuccessful as a bird photographing venture. But the surroundings are so picturesque that we thoroughly enjoy ourselves and all my pent-up harsh words for Willie evaporate. The poor lad is actually very decent, has no money and helped by Covid, is struggling enough. I include some photos from my library of birds that we saw this morning but never photographed.

Black-winged Stilt
Reed Cormorant
Brown-hooded Kingfisher
Common Sandpiper
Amethyst Sunbird

Being tidal, it is fortunate that the tide is low and we drift downstream without the aid of Willie’s tired motor. And weather forecaster yr.no has it bang on as the westerly arrives at 8am, just as we thankfully hand back the boat to Willie with only some mild suggestions. Actually, a most pleasant if unproductive morning.

Back in camp the wind intensifies into a gale and again our awning takes a beating. We are really going to have to change strategy down here in the Cape with the wind. Tomorrow we move onto Addo and I look forward to getting my camera working a bit better. Port Alfred is lovely but the wind and Willie’s motor did not do it justice. .