Thursday, July 12, 2018

Addo Elephant National Park

We drove all the way to Addo village stopping at Jeffrey's Bay for a little coffee. It got dark on the way but we found it to Gerald's Gift Guesthouse which we had booked earlier. And wow what a guesthouse it was!! It almost felt like we had entered some sort of a British royal summer house, with an amazing garden, the most gracious and welcoming hostess Sue and nicely decorated rooms with everything we could've needed. The guesthouse also offered complimentary sherry, a common television room and the best breakfast we could imagine: there was always fresh fruit salad, different types of muesli and yogurt, bread, croissants, muffins, coffee with warm milk and juices. And on top, there was the warm part of the brekkie: eggs (as you wanted them), tomatoes, mushrooms and bacon etc. In the Asian backpacker places the complimentary breakfasts were usually just toast with butter and jam, so this felt very luxurious :D Sue was very very helpful and always gave us advice and tips and even helped us out with out flat tire (more on that later). We warmly recommend anyone visiting Addo to stay in Gerald's Gift!

So after a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast we headed out for our first day at Addo NP. Addo is known for its elephants and is often called ”Addo Elephant Park”. It's also home to the endangered and endemic flightless dung beetle. There are a few lions, multitude of elephants, zebras, warthogs, different types of birds, hyenas etc. We wanted to see them all of course ;)

On the first day we circled mostly around the North part of the park. We quickly met a few zebras, a million funny looking warthogs with little piglets too and many many beautiful kudus with their amazing antlers. During the first hour we also found us some elephants! A herd of females with a little one too! The elephants are always impressive to see and these were walking just by the road. We stopped to look at them for a while and admired them crossing the road. Funny part was when the little one was crossing and one of the older females tried to ”divert us” by starting to walk towards the car and flapping its ears. When the little one was safely over the road, she followed hastily.

The whole area was pretty dry so we would always stop at the waterholes to see if any animals were drinking. At that specific one there was no one there but just a hundred meters or so away there was a female lion chilling in the grass!! She was alone and very still, looking around a bit and then put her head down as she was about to go to sleep. Next day we heard from a guide that the oldest female lion in the park had died that night, she had been badly wounded by some young males and was spotted spending her last hours near a waterhole. I guess it was the same lioness we saw.

On that day we also spotted a dung beetle which are extremely hard to see (they are mostly digging inside the elephant dung) and a buffalo with its great horns (not too hard to spot as they are pretty big!). Also, one small thing we met was a mongoose, hunting in the dry savanna. I'm sure meeting the elephants and the lion was everyone's highlight of the day.

The less of a highlight was the flat tire...after a few hours of driving, our back wheel said ”flapflapflap” and was completely empty. We were stranded in the middle of the park and weren't quite sure what to do: we had a spare and the necessary tools to change it but we were not allowed to leave the vehicle :D The park is full of dangerous animals and getting out of the car without permission was punishable by a hefty fine. So we called the park entrance and they promised to send rangers to help us out. But before the rangers made it, a nice handsome South African man stopped by. He introduced himself as a official guide and offered to help. Changing the wheel when you know there can be lions anywhere close by can be nerve-wrecking. It's even worse when it happens in the dark, but more about that later ;) Luckily the wheel was quickly changed as we kept watch for the lions. But we did face a dilemma: should we still drive around (without a spare wheel) or give up for that day and try to fix the tire somewhere? After lunch we took the risk and did continue for a while until it was time to call it a day.

Our dear guesthouse owner Sue helped us out with the tire and suggested we drive to Kirkwood (a town some 40 km away) to find a garage. So Chris and I did that after another delicious breakfast. It was an easy task: the guy at the garage took our wheel, checked it and said ”no problem”. After 15 minutes we had a well-working wheel in its right place and all this for 40 rand (2,6 euros) :D

We picked Pia up and headed to the South of the park this time. We quickly spotted a black-backed jackal that was not afraid of us at all. It reminded me of a fox we met in Ushuaia back in the day. Multiple kudus and other antelopes were roaming the open savanna and suddenly there they were: two secretary birds!! These strange, primitive looking birds were something I had really wanted to see. They were walking around like the new age dinosaurs they are, not bothered by anyone or anything. Awesome! We also met more elephants and other old friends. It was a good day.

For the evening we had booked a night drive! One has to leave the park by 18.00 but in a guided tour you can stay longer and also see the night animals. It was cool to hop in a huge and high open vehicle and just follow where the guide would show his torch. At the very beginning he was joking that the guide's worst nightmare is to have a flat tire in the dark when there are lions around. Of course this is exactly what happened: after an hour we heard a long constant hiss coming from our back wheel. One tire wouldn't have been a problem but actually two of them broke. ”Everyone out of the vehicle, we will have to change the tire”, was the command. And there we are, a group of ~15 in the pitch black dark and then we hear the lions roar! What an impressive sound. And they were not far either...two males, says the guide. These are the two that we were trying to find. Yet again, luckily, we were quickly ready and hopped back in the safety of the vehicle. Unfortunately we never found those two lions, but weren't unhappy that they did not find us ;)

On our night drive we saw multiple scrub hares (the very typical looking little rabbitsies) but also the funkiest looking spring hares! They are not at all like rabbits but more like gerbils. They hop with their hind legs and use their long tail as an aid. You can check more about them here: One of the coolest finds was the brown hyena! This shy fellow is apparently the hardest thing to spot in the whole park. As a solitary creature, it differs from the spotted hyena who lives in a pack and there weren't many in the whole NP.

After our night drive we had a late dinner and the next day we had to say good bye to Sue and the amazing Gerald's Gift Guesthouse. It was time to head out to Tsitsikamma NP!

Perfect brekkietable

Gerald's Gift Guesthouse

Black-backed jackal

It didn't mind us at all

Curious kudus

Scared kudu

Red hartebeest

Secretary bird!!

More eliphants!

Broken tires and lions roaring in the night!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Road trip begins: incredible whalewatching in Hermanus!

So: time for the road trip! Our original plan was to go for a week: drive down past Cape Town to Hermanus via the nice and scenic coastal route, do some whale watching there, the next day drive to Plettenberg Bay, yet again via the most coastal way, spend a night there and continue to Addo National Park for the next three nights and do some safaring. From Addo we would u turn back, spend one night in Tsitsikamma NP and continue on a new route, route 62 to Oudtshoorn to see some meerkats! Then we'd head back to Cederberg to go more climbing. BUT instead of the last part of going back to Cederberg directly, we decided to continue a little bit longer with the safaris, since there was plenty more to see. We booked flight from CPT to Johannesburg, booked an amazing all inclusive safari in the Madikwe Game Reserve and would also spend one night in Pilanesberg NP. THEN we would head back to CPT and to Rocklands for some more climbing. Sounds good hey!?

So we started off early from Traveller's rest, and enjoyed a lovely lunch of something completely else than the stuff we had already gotten sick off at Rocklands :D We drove the super scenic coastal route and were amazed by the beautiful blue ocean and the humongous waves. Hermanus was a cute little town right next to the sea. Our Airbnb was supercosy and luxorius plus very nicely located in the center! We took a walk by the long coastal walk way, admired the crashing waves that spilled over the cliffs and found us a whale watching trip for the next day! It would start at 8.30 in the morning so we went for a nice dinner in a popular seafood restaurant and then called it a night.

Coffee and croissants to go and off we went with the boat! Our group on this nice yacht like whalewatching boat was a mixture of South Africans, Chinese, Indians and some others. Like always on these trips, you would have some pretty hilarious characters onboard. I will not go more into detail but some stereotypes just live on :D

Very early on we saw a few whales, a southern right whale (SRW) and a Bryder's whale but from some distance. The sea was pretty calm and the sun was shining but the wind always makes it chilly to be out on the deck. Luckily we were well prepared. We drove quite long without seeing anything until the guide spotted something at ”11 o'clock”. There it was, a southern right whale, chilling in the sun! We slowly moved closer, not to scare the big beast away, but it wasn't afraid. And suddenly there was another one. And another one! And two more at 3 o'clock!! The boat was surrounded by six whales, mostly the SRWs and one shyer Bryder's whale. It was hard to choose where to look!

The bravest and the most curious one started coming closer and soon it was playing with us, diving around the boat, below it, showing it's tail and fins and white spotted belly. It took it's nose up, checked us out with its tiny eyes and just made big show! It was so close that we could've touched it right there and then. One of the most memorable moments was when the whale went on its way around to the back and the whole other group of whalewatchers were chasing it around the boat, me and Chris stayed at the front, awe-amazed by what we just saw. We were just looking down when the whale suddenly appeared below the boat. There we were, just the three of us, hanging out for a bit ;)

But the show wasn't over, not even nearly. We joked that ”the only thing missing now is that one of them starts jumping”. And what do you know: a moment later our guide shouted from the speaker that he had spotted a breacher! When whales jump, it's called breaching. There's is no apparent reason why they do that but this one wasn't bothered by the fact. It jumped three times out of the water and landed again with a big splash! Unfortunately it was pretty far so it was hard to get a video but with the bare eyes it was clearly visible.

When SRWs are seen in group, it usually happens during the mating season. Two of the whales were indeed closely together, sunbathing and flipping their fins, like dancing slowly around each other. We were admiring the sight when a little seal joined the party! The seal started diving, jumping, showing its flippers too around the two whales, as if saying ”watch me, I'm here too!”. And as if this all wasn't quite enough, a pod of dolphins came jumping around the boat. They guided us when we started our way back to the harbour. This was definitely one of the most incredible experiences of my wildlife watching history.

On the same day, after an incredibly good breakfast, we continued driving down towards Plettenberg Bay. We arrived there quite late but again found ourselves in a super great Airbnb that felt almost too luxurious.

The next day we decided to continue our animal experiencing, this time with monkeys and birds. There's a Monkey Forest, a 12-hectare sanctuary for monkeys that have been saved from the zoos or private homes. There were I think about 11 species of monkeys and apes from different parts of the world, now living in harmony, being fed but being otherwise free. They could leave the place (there were fences but just to keep other animals out) if they wanted to. So we saw many many quite monkeys and apes from spidermonkeys and gibbons to howler monkeys, ringtailed lemurs, cappuchins and others. Check the pics, they were pretty cute ;)

With a combined ticket we could also visit a beautiful free flight bird park with the most amazing birds. I love them birdies and cloud forest type of settings so these kinds of places always feel like peaceful havens to me.

Next up was Addo but more on that later ;)

Check the videos below (you can see all of them by clicking the little arrow on the right side of the video) :)

I don't even know how to begin...we had the most AMAZING experience today spotting around 10 whales in #hermanus here in #southafrica !!! After seeing a few Southern right whales and a Bryde's whale from a distance, we suddenly found a pod of SIX whales - in the middle of their mating session - surrounding our boat!!! They were playful and curious, posing and waving and eyeballing us from so close that we could've touched them! They swam around and below our boat, showed us their bellies, fins and tails! We joked that the only thing missing would be to see them jump (or breach as they say) and what do you know: a few minutes later we saw one jumping out of the water three times!!! Whaaaat!!?!?! 😂 Two continued playing next to the boat and suddenly a small seal came to join them, as if saying "watch me, I'm here too" (check the 3rd vid)! And as if this wasn't enough, a pod of about 15 dolphins came around the boat and joined us on our way back to the harbour. What an insane wildlife experience! I'm gobsmacked! We are so so lucky!!! . . . #whale #whalewatching #southernrightwhale #nature #wildlife #travelling With the best peeps @piaclimbing and @christophgysin
Henkilön Inka Gysin (@gysinkka) jakama julkaisu

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Champside, Sassies, Riverside and Fields of Joy

At Champside sector, we also got to be alone! There were some pretty nice problems, one particularly nice 7A which had a looooong lock off in the end while manteling up some slopes. Extremely font like somehow. Another cool one was a 7A+ which Pia and Chris climbed after some practising. The rain did find us eventually and we called it a day a bit earlier. Off to the pub! Lucy and Ryan brought their deck of cards and so we had pizza, beer and card games. Pretty perfect!

Next day we headed out to Sassies. I hadn't slept at all that night so I decided to have a birdwatching day instead. Luckily Sassies was great for that and such a pretty place all and all. We saw so many sunbirds, wide eyes and many other little chirpers. Chris and Pia climbed a really cool looking 6C+ called the Great escape after some warm up, and while Lucy was figuring out the craziest feet firts heeltoe-jam betas for her 7A project, Chris and Ryan were trying out a tricky 7B+ under the roof.

After a climbing day it was always time for some beer and cake at the Traveller's Rest! Well, usually first some actual dinner, then cake but still ;) This evening we spotted both the pied kingfisher and the malachite kingfisher by the river! Such pretty birds with their long beaks.

It was the last day for Lucy and Ryan before they left to Tanzania to continue their trip! We chose to check out Riverside and wow what a beautiful sector that was! Crystal clear river running through the sector and next to the problems really made it amazing. We started off at the insane wailing wall, which was quite a high flat piece of rock sticking out from the ground! It had beautiful features and perhaps the best 6B+ line so far! The downclimb was heinous though, at least the first time.

We went to check out a 7A roof climb called Baboon but none of us could do it in the end. Chris had his eye on a really scary looking high ball called Crystal death (6B) which he did climb without a problem. No one else wanted to hop on that train. We still found our way to the arch, where the guys climbed more high things. It was a pretty spot and we enjoyed just chilling and looking at the views.

Since it was the last evening with our amazing group, it was time for more beer and cake! Lucy and Ryan promised to come and visit us next summer and then we'd head out to Lofoten together. What a fantastic plan!

After they left we had a typical rest day with a lot of organizing involved. Although this time it wasn't only the mundane things like shopping and blogging, but also road trip stuff. Actually, we made a whole new plan! We extended our safaris from one week to a little less than two! For me it's super important to also see the new country and do some things I would do even if I wasn't climbing. Especially since we're in such an amazing place like South Africa. We had heard many good things about Kruger NP but since there was a chance of malaria, we opted out for Pilanesberg. And then we found out about Madikwe game reserve! According to Lonely Planet, it's considered even better for wildlife spotting than Kruger: it's the country's fourth largest game reserve where no day visitors are allowed, the local guides are highly skilled and now would be the best time of the year to go because the vegetation is pretty thin. We were sold! But more about this soon :)

Our last climbing day we spent just the three of us in Fields of Joy! We checked the map and thought, wow, that's a short approach, for once! Little did we know: the short approach was full on scrambling up the rocky hill :D Well well. The problems were great though: we started with some nice warm up, then climbed a beautiful albeit a little frightening 6C called Sneak and moved on to some other little problems like this cool vertical crag line with some height too. Chris climbed the classic 7A called Kiesel quickly, but we struggled with the long move to the pebble in the end. We moved on to some pretty looking lines like Panic Room (7A) where Pia did some good work and will definitely send it next time. We called it a day before it got dark and scrambled our way back to the car.

On Sunday it was wet. So we gave up on the hopes of climbing and went to see some Rock Art next to our accommodation. I have to say it was surprisingly nice and a pretty good little walk! We packed our stuff, left most of it to the Traveller's rest and the next morning got on early to start our ROAD TRIP!!!

Love Actually (7A) in Champside

Great Escape (6C) in Sassies

Some 7A+ and Chris up high

Where's my skin?

Lucy working on Maties

Such a cutie<3 td="">

Well deserved beer and cake :D

Pied Kingfisher hunting!

Little lizard on the riverside

Chris Babooning
Wailing wall! Such a pretty thing
Warm up on a wailing wall

My absolute fave 6B+

Up high. Downclimb was sketchy.

Chris on Crystals of Death

Scary to watch

He made it alive. Unlike these flowers. (?)

Horror flowers 

The arch

And more sketchy high stuff

A beautiful river went through the whole sector!

We were greeted by a herd of curious sheep on our way to Fields of Joy

An excellent 6C we climbed

Pia looks like she's from the 80's

Chris on another 6C

Seemed a wee bit harder though

An excellent crack (although I dislike crack climbing)

Then it was finally time for the ROCK ART!




and the hunted


My favorite ladies!