Nola and I had pretty much come to the conclusion that we were jinxed – every trip we planned, even at short notice, fell foul of the weather. This, no matter how many weather forecasts we consulted, how certain we were that “the weather this time of year is good,” we ended up with drizzle, cloud, howling wind and invisible landscapes. But we weren’t to be put off by a little thing like the weather, and we planned a day trip to Underberg a few days ago. The forecasts seemed to agree that it would be the sort of day we needed, but we’d got to the stage where we thought the weather man was watching us and foiling all our plans.
As I stood in the circle of orange light at the roadside waiting for Nola to arrive at five-thirty I could see some low cloud scudding across the black sky, some stars doggedly shining through here and there. “Here we go again,” I thought as Nola’s car stopped on the verge and we loaded up the photo paraphernalia for the day. “I think the jinx is working well again,” I told her, and she glumly agreed, but we decided to go anyway. Perhaps we could get some good misty or rainy shots around Boston or Bulwer and then slink home wetly as we’d often done before.
By the time we passed Boston we could see that the jinx was in trouble. There were large gaps in the clouds that had become quite dramatic, and we said nothing so that we didn’t jeopardise our changed fortunes. Just a few kilometres before dropping down the long decline into the Mkomaas Valley the sun was trying to peep over the horizon, lighting up some orange patches of cloud. We stopped at a farm entrance and did what we could to use the tall grass, a steel gate and a clump of skeletal trees a short distance away to celebrate the demise of the jinx.
With our fingers almost snapping off with frostbite we welcomed the heater in the car and drove into the gloom of the deep valley, then on and up the far side, reaching a Bulwer bathed in golden sunlight.
We made a few more stops before getting to Underberg as the light strengthened, making our first planned halt at the viewsite overlooking the town. There was still a substantial frosting of snow on the high Berg, and as the sunlight descended on the still-golden autumn trees in and around the village we took out the cameras with deadly purposeWe’d planned to do some panorama shots, and this was a good place to start.
The air was still cold, especially in the shade of the big pine tree, and the heater played its part yet again.A brief stop in the town gave us a few shots, with the autumn’s golden leftovers still good enough to use.
Then it was on to Himeville to try to find Cobham, a little KZN Wildlife nature reserve. My geography let me down, and we found out later that we’d been on the right road but hadn’t gone far enough. In spite of this we found some good places and tried some panos again, and Nola got a mini lecture on the way light works in reflections on the surface of a body of water. It was an interesting discussion and she asked me a bunch of questions that really made me think before answering
It’s beautiful countryside, with the backdrop of the Berg and Garden Castle always there. By now the light had flattened somewhat as the jinx retreated in confusion, but we set the cameras to work anyway.
We didn’t get to Cobham after all, ending up back in Himeville to ask where we’d gone wrong. Not wanting to drive the same road again, we headed for the road to Sani Pass, stopping at the end of the tarred section as the road from there was a stop/go struggle. There are some remains of old buildings there and we experimented with them, settling on an abandoned shack that we claimed as my newly renovated Berg Cottage. What the road construction workers made of our antics as we posed for pics in the shack entrace we’ll never know, but they’re probably still telling their friends about us.
I really like my Berg cottage. I’m going to try a land claim….
Looking for a place to down some sarmies and coffee, we made a small detour to Kenmo Lake to see what effect the three weeks since the photo frenzy had had. Much of the colour had gone, but there were still some good spots for mood photos. Nola and I are convinced that despite the popularity of the place in its autumn flush, the best time there is in the bleak mid-winter. We’ve done it before and will be doing it again. We’ve had our time there the prime season and don’t see the need to do it again. The only problem with Kenmo in July is the total loss of feeling in fingers and toes while crunching through the frost that at times seems knee deep.
The journey home was uneventful apart from the stray animals and lunatic drivers along the road, but we survived the ordeal. Apart from some images that we’re happy with, the highlight of the day was the dismantling of the jinx that had seemed to have an iron grip on our outings. Next stop? We don’t know yet, but there are a few thoughts brewing.