Confusing Geology – Sand and Cliffs

The weather during Easter Weekend in the UK can be pretty unpredictable and variable. It is not unusual to snow during this time, but this is more likely when Easter is early. This year it’s late, and so it’s reasonable to hope that it wold be warm and sunny. Well sunny it was. Warm it was not. Aunty and I spent the weekend just outside Cardigan on the west coast. Here the coast is rugged and isolated with heavy seas from the Atlantic crashing into the hard cliffs. Over a couple of days we managed to walk from Newport Sands up to St Dogmaels, just short of 20 miles.

Moylegrove 170415
Our chariot to Newport Sands from Moylgrove

Saturday the sun was glorious, blazing down all day. But there was a bitterly cold wind and I doubt that the temperature got above 9C, but it felt much colder. But it didn’t matter too much the spectacular views made up for it. This time were were organised and parked in Moylegrove, and caught the Poppit Rocket bus down to Newport Sands. This meant that we were able to complete a full stretch of the coastal path in one direction only as we walked back to Moylegrove.

Dinas Head 170415
Looking South towards Dinas Head

This is a wild and remote coastline with sea cliffs over 100m high and some spectacular geology. The temperature was a challenge until we had warmed up, but with hats, gloves and coats it was a great days walking. Starting at Newport Sands we quickly climbed up from the beach to the cliff tops and were greeted with sweeping views south towards Dinas Head and northwards to Cardiganshire.

Newport Sands - Ceibwr Bay

The geology is confusing on this stretch, and with the inaccessibility of the shore coupled with a paucity of fossil records, it has taken the geologists to fully understand what has happened here in the past. But recent work has solved this mystery, and it seems that this stretch of rocks were deposited during a relatively short period 444-446 million years ago. It appears that during the Upper Ordovician this small section of coast was sinking quickly in relation to the surrounding areas, creating a trough into which deep marine deposits were laid. This may have been helped by faults to the south, and possible volcanic activity. The forces involved can be creaky seen in the rock formations along the cliffs at Ceibwr Bay and Cemaes Head.

Pen yr Arf - Cemaes Head  170416
Patterns in the rock at Pen yr Arg, near Cemaes Head

The weather on Sunday was a bit of a disappointment, no sun, heavy clouds and a strong wind that at times took your breath away as we rounded the headlands. Like yesterday, we hardly met anyone along the length of the walk.

IMG_5544
Sunday, cold, windy and dark didn’t give a very good view over Cardigan Island

One surprise that we came across was a deserted chapel in the middle of nowhere. The only access is via a green lane. A little research identifies this as Capel Bryn Salem. Built in 1850, it was a daughter chapel of Bethel Congregational Chapel, Moylegrove. With a falling congregation by the late 1970s and early 1980s it closed it’s doors to worship and was offered for sale. Although it was bought, the neighbouring farmers refused access over their land for roads and cesspit and it was never developed. By 2002 the building was delapidated, and continues its decline today.

Walk around Cemaes Head on a windy and pretty cold Easter Sunday.

The Long Road To Nelspruit

Today was a  410 mile round car journey from Johannesburg to Nelspruit and back. Although long, it wasn’t tedious in anyway. The journey starts along the high veld passing through farm land, past coal mines with power stations dotted along the horizon.

Power Station
Power Station

As we travelled east the landscape changed into rolling hills then deep sandstone valleys with some great views. But fortunately there wasn’t much time for sight seeing or stopping for photographs. Work had to come first.

We'll all sing "On the Road Again"
We’ll all sing “On the Road Again”

The town was settled first by the Nels family in 1895, who grazed their cattle in the area. The “spruit” part of the name means spring.  In October 2009, the city was officially renamed Mbombela by the South African government. However, it was claimed that members of the public were not consulted before the name change took place. The city is still referred to as Nelspruit, and all road signs indicate the city as Nelspruit.

Sandstone Cliffs
Sandstone Cliffs
Elands Valley
Elands Valley

One of the fun things to do on along journey in South Africa is to read the road signs. There are many that you would certainly not see at home, especially the Hippo Crossing sign. Tried to find a crocodile crossing one, but didn’t see one.

Beware Hippo Crossing
Beware Hippo Crossing

This one made me smile. Apparently as the lorry drivers are taking a break, the local ne’r do wells steal the wheels. Though now I look at the sign and think about it I’m not sure if it is telling me my wheels have been stolen, or warning me that my wheels could be stolen.

Watch your wheels - they may not be there when you wake up!
Watch your wheels – they may not be there when you wake up!

Just outside Nelspriut there is a small row of roadside stalls. The authorities have built the ladies permanent stalls, but hess have been ignored and the wares are laid out on rickety shelves instead. As we pulled over to see what they were selling, all the ladies ran out from their stalls and tried to pull us into their stall to buy. It was a little like the pits in the Formula 1 races when the drivers pull in to have their tires changes and all the engineers swarm around the cars.

Road side market
Road side market

Mind you the size of the avocados and mangoes on the stalls is something to behold. They put the tiny avocados we get in the supermarkets over here to shame.

The views were fantastic along the way, but in one area we slowly became aware of pungent smell that got steadily worse. Ahead of us we could see smoking chimneys, and then we came around the corner to see a paper factory which was responsible for the stink. It must be very difficult for people living in the area, and there must be some detrimental affect on their health.

Paper Factory - Close you windows!
Paper Factory – Close you windows!

Mini Safari

At the end of the meeting on Wednesday a couple of us hired a ranger from the Neia Safari Lodge and we visited the nearby Lion and Rhino Reserve. Although the wildlife have large areas in which to roam, they are not bothered by the 4×4 allowing the opportunities for some decent photos. It is just possible to see Johannesburg in the distance on the horizon in the photo below.

Johannesburg from the Lion and Rhino Park
Johannesburg from the Lion and Rhino Park

Near to a small pond there was a small herd of waterbuck. These are never far from water, and are prone to dehydration. They are easy to recognise from the white ring on their rumps. It is this that gives the waterbuck the Afrikaans name of ‘kringgat’ meaning ‘circle bottom’

Waterbuck females
Waterbuck females

The white ring is a ‘follow me sign’ which helps individuals and young in the herd to follow others to safety when being chased by a predator.

Waterbuck
Waterbuck

 

The pond itself was crowded with sacred ibis and cattle egrets.

Sacred ibis and cattle egret
Sacred ibis and cattle egret

 

Cattle egret
Cattle egret

 

Further along the trail and in a separate but smaller enclosure we had some fantastically close views of two prides of lions. The first group of ‘red lions’ had just finished feeding on the carcasses that had been left for them in the feeding area, and were resting in the shade.

Red lions
Red lions
Male 'red' lion
Male ‘red’ lion keeping an eye open

 

Then in another enclosure the ‘white’ lions were even closer and certainly not bothered by the jeep. In fact looking at them they weren’t bothered  by anything, and were enjoying the sun.

Life is just great in the sun
Life is just great in the sun

So we had seen the lions, and as this was called the Lion and Safari Reserve, where were the rhinos. To be fair to JP our ranger, he was determined to find them. Not an easy task in such a large area where they could be hiding anywhere. then as we had stopped to have a look at a herb of sable in distance, he found a pair of white rhino in the far distance on the crest of a hill. Luckily, the camera was up to the task, and we could see a mother and calf.

White rhino - Mother and calf
White rhino – Mother and calf

The laziness of the lions and their desire for sunbathing seemed to be catching. Even the wildebeest were laid back in as they made the most of some down time.

Wildebeest
Wildebeest

In another enclosure were the wild dogs. Now a couple of years ago, when Karen and me spent a fantastic 5 days on safari near the Kruger National Park we went out looking for wild dogs everyday ion the hope of seeing them. But with no lick. They were always somewhere else! This time JP promise we would see them, and in such a relatively small area this looked likely. But even today they were determined to hide in the long grass and all I could see was the back of the head of one of the pack of 6. And even then it was determined not to look our way.

Wild dog - if I don't look at you maybe you're no there!
Wild dog – if I don’t look at you maybe you’re no there!

The afternoon was over, and we had to go back to Johannesburg. But before we left we were treated to a good view of a couple of crowned lapwing feeding in the grass.

Crowned Plover
Crowned Plover

South Africa – Johannesburg

I was working in South Africa last week, and so Auntie had to stay at home. It was a relief to escape the storms and constant rain we’ve been experiencing here in Wales over the last 6 weeks. As I stepped outside the airport I was exposed to blue skies, bright sun shine and warmth. Almost the polar opposite to home.

After the 10 hour over night flight I was given the welcome opportunity to walk around the OM Tambo Airport.  Mainly due to the fact I was waiting for my lift at Departures, and my lift was waiting for me at arrivals. But we met up eventually, and I was whisked off to the meeting. The next three days were taken up with meetings, but this was counter balanced with the fantastic venue where we were meeting.

Blacksmith Plover
Blacksmith Plover

The Neia Safari Ranch is only 12 miles or so from Johannesburg, but a world away from the smog, traffic jams and hoards of people. It is situated in a large expanse of rolling hills and grassland where impala, springbok, zebra, wildebeest and giraffe roam among the bedroom rondo huts. As you sit on your veranda the small herds of springbuck or impala graze slowly past you.

Springbock
Springbock

Then you turn around and find giraffes walking behind the hut. This is not something that happens everyday back home. As the giraffes moved around the bedroom rondos, it looked like they were on security patrol.

Giraffe patrol
Giraffe patrol

During the morning coffee break we were treated to the sight of a small group of zebras grazing on the grass just outside the conference centre.

Zebra coming to join the meeting
Zebra coming to join the meeting

At the end of the day. and after we had exhausted ourselves in the meeting room we were able to go down to the shores of the Heritage Lake, where is is an absolute pleasure to sit and watch the sunset over the near by hills.

Sunset at Heritage Lake
Sunset at Heritage Lake