Just Us Girls at Little Stone Cottage

Friday 18 March 2011 to Monday 21 March 2011

The family split up this weekend.  Jay and Earl stayed in Cape Town to fish a West League competition.  Sam, of course, will joined them.  Lisa and Josh went camping at the Breede River with a couple of other families and Laurie went to Pringle Bay with her friends.

Three months ago I tried to book Heather, Priscilla and me on the Bird Club Camp at Swellendam – but – it was full!  We were all bitterly disappointed.  Bird Club camps are such fun.  Everybody is like-minded, conservation conscious, loves nature, interested in birds and joining together with a crowd of them is always a great experience.

Friday dawned sunny and clear and after I’d seen the family off to school and work, I went to gym and then came home and did the final packing up for my girls’ weekend away.  I had last minute shopping to do and breakfast to make for Earl’s skipper working on the boat but I still managed to have everything ready and the car packed by 12 o’clock.  I filled up with fuel at the garage in Glencairn then picked up Janet, dashed to Lakeside to get Heather, stopped to draw cash and get a bottle of Old Brown Sherry then made it to Herschel before 2 o’clock.   Priscilla was just finishing off and we did a quick tour of her library which was all set up with Dr Seus scenes for Readathon.   It was just lovely.

By 2:15 we were on the road to Swellendam for our overnight stop before heading for Little Stone Cottage.   The traffic was free-flowing till Somerset West but the delays there were not too long.  On the N2 we saw an accident that had just occurred – a man was lying dead on the side of the road and the car that hit him was a long way ahead with a shattered windscreen.  The driver was making her way back to see what had happened.  What an awful thing to live with; but I’m sure it was the pedestrians carelessness that had caused the accident.  Other cars had stopped and people were walking with her.  I am quite sure the man was dead.

Other than that the trip was uneventful and pleasant and we arrived at Hermitage Huisies just before 5 o’clock.  Rose Cottage was just perfect for our overnight stay – Heather and I shared a room, Janet had the double bed and Priscilla slept in the open plan kitchen/lounge.

On our way to supper we dropped in at the Municipal Chalets  where the Cape Bird club were having a camp.   John, the organiser looked horrified in case we had come expecting last minute accommodation.  We spent a pleasant half hour chatting with everyone and feeling envious that we were missing the wonderful vibe of a group camp like this – but were at the same time excited that we were off to a lovely place to make up for it.

Dinner was lovely.  We sat outdoors and enjoyed a pleasant meal and bonding time with each other.  Then it was early to bed.

We got up at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, got ready and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of muesli, toast and coffee before setting off for Little Stone at 8:00 o’clock.  What a pleasure to have not pressure to get anywhere at any particular time.  We took in the scenery, didn’t stress at the stop/gos, enjoyed our snacks and felt grateful for the comfort of the caravel and its wonderful climate control.

Finding the cottage halfway between Mossel Bay and Oudschoorn was an adventure along steep and windy gravel roads but we with Priscilla’s excellent navigation we had not trouble finding our way.   We were met by Jolene and Marius and taken to the lovely little cottage which just took our breath away.  The two of them built it from local stone and made the doors and cupboards from yellow-wood trees that washed down the river in a storm.  It was perfect – had everything we needed and being right on the river bank under big shady it was ideal for watching birds.  We hardly needed to move from the deck.    Right in the tree in front of the cottage Jolene pointed out an Amethyst Sunbird nest.  Later we saw Mrs. A busily lining the nest and Mr. A was at hand to see that all was going to plan.

We found other forms of wild-life on our rambles along the marked trails.   One wouldn’t want to fight with this arachnid.

Scary Spider

Our first afternoon was just great. We settled in, took a walk, sat on the deck and enjoyed the view and in the evening Priscilla and Heather braaied ostrich steaks and we served them with mushroom sauce, baked sweet potatoes and salad.

I was up at 7 o’clock on Sunday, made myself a cup of coffee and sat and enjoyed the beautiful early morning on the deck.  Priscilla soon joined me and we saw a bush buck peeping at us through the trees.

Bush Buck

When the birds became active we woke Heather and spent a pleasant hour or two watching, Cape Batis, dusky fly-catchers, puff-backs, Knysna Turraco, amethyst sunbirds, double-collared sunbirds, rock thrush and others.   Janet woke up a little later and we then had breakfast. How lovely to enjoy it out on the deck.

Amethyst Sunbird – Male

Cape Rock Thrush

Knysna Turruco

Janet had a dip in the river but did not feel up to a long hike so Heather, Pris and I took stout sticks and made our way along the forest trail.  We saw few birds the highlight being a yellow-throated woodland’s warbler. But the walk itself was lovely.

There were lots of lovely butterflies

We crossed the river on stepping stones several times and when we came to a place where two rivers met we found a deep pool and found relief from the heat by having a lovely swim in its inky depths.

When we returned Janet was enjoying the shade after having had a good nap.   We had a snack lunch and afterwards a rest before taking a short walk with Janet before supper.  I cooked chicken stir fry and we had canned fruit and custard for desert.

On our last morning we did not want to miss a second of the bird life and so Heather, Priscilla and I were up at dawn only to find that it was chilly and overcast and hardly a bird tweeted!   However, when the day warmed up and we were finishing off our breakfast I stepped out onto the deck to see if anything was about.   I spotted the bird we were dying to find and called for the others to come – no response – I ran indoors – “When I say come – I mean now!” I called urgently.  Heather’s hands were wet – Pris was busy with something but they rushed out and we got beautiful views of the half-collared kingfisher – a special for the area.  When I saw him he was close by on a flat rock in the shallows of the river but then flew up onto a low branch of a tree.  Within seconds Heather had the bird in the scope and everybody got good views of him.  I tried to get closer with the camera but he soon flew down-stream.  But he was certainly the highlight of our weekend.

Half-collared Kingfisher

After breakfast we went for a walk along one of the other trails and then reluctantly packed up and left for home at 12:00 p.m.

We stopped in Carlitzdorp for lunch, took Route 82 home and avoided the worst of the traffic and finally got home at about 8:30 p.m.

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