by Bryan Butler

Just 50 km from home lies the Kogelberg Biosphere and it is here that 17 members of the Club spent a memorable April weekend. The weather was perfect, the company sublime, the birding, well, a bit indifferent, but it didn’t matter. We were treated to a weekend worth remembering.

It started with the usual Friday night braai with Sonja’s husband, Russell, in complete charge of the fire, but let’s step back for a moment and concentrate on the accommodation. Five cottages, all incredible – eco-sensitive with compostable toilets, solar power and every convenience you could think of.

Birding from within the cottage was the best of the weekend! It was five star – no wonder we had to book this outing a year in advance!
Sonja arranged for us to have an accompanied hike the next morning, guided by the Reserve Manager’s wife Amida Johns, an accomplished botanical artist with degrees in geology and botany. As we walked, the information flowed.

She explained to us how the shale and the forests and the fires and the plant seeds all work together – how fire is essential to the propagation cycle and how to judge how old a Protea might be.

How to identify the male plant and the female plant, all interspersed with fascination snippets about the history of the reserve. Unfortunately in the process we kind of lost track of how far we were actually walking.

Now a number of the group were past 80 and a few more closely approaching this age and when after nearly two hours of fascinating tutelage we were asked if we wished to return the way we had come – or to take the jeep track back – we opted for the latter.

This involved a slight miscalculation on Amida’s part. In her mind were only a km from joining the Jeep track but in reality we were less than half-way towards it – on what can only be described as continuing “difficult terrain” for people of our age!
Two hours later we finally made the track and it was very clear that there was no way that a number of us could have then walked the still further 3km of steep jeep track back to camp. Amida set off for home and persuade her kind husband to fetch us in the bakkie.

Well, loading a bunch of exhausted octgonenarians onto the back of a 4X4 bakkie is another story, but we finally made it and drove back in “style” to safety.
Throughout the walk us birders had our eyes open for the feathered friends. We saw Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird and a bewildering few unidentifiable birds with seed-eater beaks and streaked throats and other features observed by various viewers.

It is moving into the winter season so our problems were further confounded by those species which drop their summer guises and lapse into obscurity. Up above a few Swifts, but not much else. Soon our gaze was concentrate on the ground and the rocks and the roots and the hundred and one other things determined to make us land face down on the path (Fortunately not a single soul had a fall, thanks to the diligent attention given to those in need by Sonja and her family in particular.)
That evening we had our second braai, with Russell once again in charge of the coals. As we had the camp to ourselves we were able to use the entire hall next to the braai facility and sat at two tables elegantly laid out with table cloths and glasses etc. – very posh!
A quick tally revealed a total of around 30 birds for the weekend. So, out with the sosaties, the chops the boerewors, (how about seared Tuna?) and potatoes in foil in the coals, with salads shared all round. There were Lindt chocolates and date squares and Marion excelled herself again by supplying pudding for the entire group. Round of applause!

And then, with still aching legs but full tummies, Sonja inflicted upon the group the most difficult quiz you can imagine but it all went down with great amusement. (How many of our readers can correctly identify what part of a bird the furcula is?) (O.K. it’s the wishbone).

Sadly it was eventually time to clean-up and head to bed. The next morning we went our several ways – some to Hermanus, some to Stoney Point, some to Kleinmond harbour – and some home.

A dream weekend with the return journey along a dream road – certainly one of the most beautiful drives in the world. Aren’t we lucky?