Since the summer rains started last year, about two months later than normal, the weather has been so changeable that it's been difficult to pin down a day of good conditions for photography in the bush. I've been wanting to go back to Mooi Falls, also called Zulu Falls, for some time now. My last visit was on 2 October 2010, and I'd taken along a group of photographers from Durban, promising them dramatic water shots, abundant bird life and diverse scenery to keep their cameras clacking. I'd been there about six weeks before that, and had seen water (not much of it, admittedly,) going over the edge
From the lookout point
Seen from the pool deck at the Lodge
Nothing, however, could have prepared me for what we found on the second occasion. To call it a trickle would have been an exaggeration. The veld had been burned in a runaway grass fire the week before, and the place was a wasteland. I could just about hear the Durban gang muttering "There's more water in my bathtub than in this hole." Everything was black or brown, and even the clear sky was a leaden grey. There were no flowers, trees had no foliage, and the ground was a jumble of fire-blackened boulders, the roads making harsh pale slashes across the barren landscape. I was devastated. Even being used to the bleakness of the bushveld landscape in winter, I was shocked. This, after all, was spring. Where was the new grass to sustain the game?
Even the cactus had been roasted
The view from the pool at the Lodge
The almost lunar landscape
This past Sunday Sam Davies and I threw caution to the winds and went off to Mooi Falls, determined to come back with some decent images. It was Sam's first visit, and I felt that nervousness again, hoping there would be at least a stream of water going over to justify the name Falls. We travelled nearly all the way from Pietermaritzburg in dense mist, emerging occasionally into slightly brighter overcast spaces along the dirt road to Middelrus. By then we were so close to the falls that we decided to carry on even though the weather looked pretty awful.
The first difference was in the veld itself. The property had a lush coat of long grass sporting millions of seeds shining in the mist. The road seemed too narrow for the Pathfinder, and I had to think twice about whether I'd found the turn-off to the viewsite. As we got out of the car we were hit by a dull roar that seemed to be all around us. We stood like idiots, grinning at one another in the still-heavy mist as we realised there must be more than a trickle going over.
Festooned with cameras, lenses and tripods we went cautiously down the steep path to the view point, the noise getting louder all the while. As we stood on the edge of the precipice we could just make out a movement beyond the mist that was being made heavier by the spray from the river. Quite suddenly the curtain was swept aside. Sam and I stood gaping at the spectacle across the gorge. And then it was time. The lights were on, the actiion was in full swing, now for the cameras.
We'd hit the jackpot.
After filling our camera cards with images from every angle we could devise, we drove off to the lodge. I'd promised the lodge administrator, Willie Fern, that I'd supply him with images for their website. Of course the August and October shots were no decent advertisement for a resort, and I needed to make good my promise at last. We sat at the poolside and watched the light changing minute by minute, taking similar shots one after another.
Once again, from the pool deck
View from a rondawel verandah
At last the angle of light gave us a glimmer of magic. A rainbow had begun to form in the spray in the gorge, and Sam and I used up a load of patience waiting for the best moment. The light was getting very hard and flat by then, and soon the moment passed without much of a rainbow to show, but here it is anyway.
It was time to go home, but not before Sam took a last lingering look at the Zulu Falls. What a morning it had been. All that was left now was to scurry back to our computers to confirm the success of the outing.
"But not before I take another photo," said Sam .................
My camera and I shall be back soon.