Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Kraankuil to home

During the day yesterday I drove around the area, trying to avoid getting my car stuck in the rather large mud patches which had materialised in the dirt roads following the overnight rain.  I was pleasantly surprised by some fairly classical karoo images (considering of course we are the end of the rainy season, so the place is much greener than is often the case):

Karoo Koppie with green scrub, Kraankuil

Karoo Railway Line Poupan R388

Karoo Koppies Poupan R388

But this morning was very special. What a magnificent lightshow!  After all the initial days with no clouds, and boring skies, the last two days have have much more rewarding skies. This morning we went out with a general direction in mind, but no specific image (which I generally try to avoid, but I really hadn't found the killer locatioon the day before). Eventually we stopped on the side of the road well before sunrise, with two koppies and some clouds above them determined to be the morning's target.

By the time the sun was just breaching the horizon, those clouds had dissipated and that image with them.  But instead we were blessed by a completely unpredicted show of colours and cloud shapes and textures in a different direction. Some of those results are below, followed by a couple of the area once the sun was fully up and casting warm colours on the veld and hills.

Karoo sunrise, Kraankuil

Karoo sunrise, Kraankuil

Karoo sunrise, Kraankuil

Karoo early morning, Kraankuil

Karoo early morning, Kraankuil

Then it was unfortunately time to head home. It's been a wonderful time, experiencing very different parts of the karoo, all beautiful in their own way. And in an unusually wet season, so the veld is looking better than it has for many years.  Of course that can't be said to be entirely 'typical' of the karoo, so I'll have to go back when it's dried out somewhat, to capture some of that extreme dryness.

I think next time I may just focus on one region / biome of the karoo at a time, to understand, and capture, each region more authentically.

In the process I have met a set of very friendly, very welcoming hosts, stayed in unusual accommodation, been fed fantastic South African, and more specifically karoo lamb, dinners, learned a lot about the area and some of its history.  Hopefully in the process I have captured some images which express the typical, and beautiful, karoo landscape.

Now the shock of driving home - off the dirt roads onto the mad national long distance roads, and what a horrible brown smog over Joburg when approaching from the south-west.

As soon as I have filtered through all my pics, I will post a bigger set on the website (and larger pics), and update the blog to reflect that.

Thanks for sharing the journey with me, and I'll be back in the outdoors just as soon as I possibly can!


Taaiboschfontein to Kraankuil

From Taaiboschfontein its a quick dash up the N1 (with a short diversion to take a snap of Three Sisters) to Richmond, then off the highway onto the gravel road through De Aar and on towards Hopetown. For the two hours between Richmond and De Aar I saw one man with his dog, one donkey cart with a family, and two men on their bicycles, and that's all. No cars, and no-one else. Makes it very easy to just stop anywhere along the road to observe the scenery. And what a change of scenery, with the big mountains of Beaufort West area giving way eventually to huge plains of scrub, and this year a lot of extra grass, with occasional koppies.

Some pics along the route:
Karoo: Three Sisters
Karoo: Three Sisters

Karoo Koppie R348

Karoo Windmill R348
Karoo Windmill
Kraankuil proved to be a big challenge photographically, with such large open spaces and little elee to work with. But the first surprise of the stop was to be a gathering storm coming in from the west on Monday afternoon. Pieter and his wife kindly drove me along various farm roads, to try and get a reasonable view of the approaching storm. What a pleasure to see a storm in the karoo, but evidently there have been a lot of them this season! The rain arrived while we were still photographing it, and drove us home. It was to rain for several more hours that evening.

Karoo Storm, Kraankuil
Karoo storm over salt pan near Kraankuil
The next morning Pieter and his wife offered to drive me to a salt pan about 20km away, which after the night's rain he was expecting to have some water in it.  Arriving there we were a bit apprehensive because it was so open and flat, but as the light developed, with the clouds of the previous night, it turned out to offer some very unusual photo opportunities. The pan indeed had a lot of water in it, and the edges were very muddy so one couldn't walk into it. The focus was on the colours of the sky, reflections in the pan water, the warm colour of the mud once the sun came up, etc. Not at all pictures I was expecting in the karoo!

Karoo : Kaalpan Salt Pan Sunrise after Rain
Karoo: Kaalpan Salt Pan Sunrise after rain 
Karoo : Kaalpan Salt Pan Early Morning after Rain
Karoo: Kaalpan Salt Pan Sunrise after rain
Karoo : Kaalpan Salt Pan Salt Water Windmills
Karoo: Kaalpan Salt Pan salt water windmills
Karoo : Kaalpan Salt Pan Early Morning after Rain
Karoo: Kaalpan Salt Pan early morning after rain 
Pieter's farm is too small to really walk on, and the landscape so flat with any point of interest so far away, which meant rather driving around the area during the day and snapping whatever caught my eye.

In the late afternoon yesterday we went out again to a spot I had seen during the afternoon, but alas the clouds had blocked out the horizon, so no pics at all from that session.  This morning we went for a drive without a clear pre-prepped plan, but just stopped along the roadside when it looked interesting. We were treated to a fantastic light show as the sun was rising, painting the clouds all shades of pink. I'm now about to make the dash home, this mornings pics will be loaded from home tonight.

I haven't come across any WiFi during the trip, so I've had to rely on the cellphone.  But doing uploads through my cellphone has proved quite a challenge - coverage on the farms is pretty sporadic, and very slow going if it works!  This was prepared early this morning, but after a hour of struggling it bombed out just before finalisation.

I'm now driving through the tired old towns of Luckoff, Fauresmith, and Jagersfontein, (where there is at last some 3G coverage) on my way to Bloemfontein, then home.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Taaiboschfontein Guest Farm

Next stop is Taaiboschfontein Guest Farm, off the N1 between Beaufort Wets and Three Sisters (see the map in one of the earlier posts to see exactly where it is). What a lovely place, run by Markus and Nelia Fourie. Markus is a vet, but also runs a sheep farm, and is the early stages of an aloe nursery, while Nelia runs the guesthouse. Again, great people. Nelia is just gushing love and care for her guests! In many places where you get good service, its often its good service by professionalism, here it's great service from the heart. Definitely worth a stop-over for the Joburg-Cape Town traveller.

Again this part of the karoo veld is looking completely different to anything I have seen before, with much higher rainfall this season than for decades. What a difference a two hundred kilometers make, this is the area of big, wide mountains. The farm is in a valley between two sets of mountains, and a completely different challenge to photograph. 

In the early morning Saturday attempt I thought I had lined up a great shot with a farm road pointing straight at the mountain, so that was going to be my 'leading lines' in the pic. I took a couple of snaps as the sun was coming up, but quickly discovered that the sun was rising directly behind me, and since I was standing just beside a tree, the shadows of me and the tree lined up perfectly with the road, and totaly destroyed the lead-in lines. One morning's photo op wasted! The rest of Saturday was spent wandering around the farm looking for photo opportunities, but still no clouds in sight, and very harsh light, so I only took a few photos.  The early morning and late afternoon sun on the grasses is beautiful, but with the big mountains, big afternoon shadows arrive very quickly and obscure the view, so make it a challenge to find a suitable spot.

Yay! Monday morning brings some clouds, but just when I need to leave! A few early morning pics were reasonably successful, but sadly its time to move on again. This time I'm off to Kraankuil, betewwn De Aar and Hopetown. Hopefully the clouds will follow me.

Some pics from Taaiboschfontein:
Taaiboschfontein Guest Farm Sundown over open Karoo
Sundown over Taaiboschfontein grasslands
Sunrise on Taaiboschfontein
Sunrise on Taaiboschfontein
Taaiboschfontein Guest Farm windmill
Taaiboschfontein farm windmill
Sundown over Taaiboschfontein
Karoo golden grasslands (Taaiboschfontein farm)
Taaiboschfontein Guest Farm wild aloe
Taaiboscfontein Guest Farm wild aloe
Taaiboschfontein before dawn
Taaiboschfontein before dawn
Taaiboschfontein Guest Farm before dawn
Taaiboschfontein before dawn
Taaiboschfontein Guest Farm early morning with Staffie
Taaiboschfontein farm early morning with staffie
Taaiboschfontein Guest Farm early morning
Taaiboschfontein farm early morning