My last walk with the Natural History Society of Swaziland was calm and tranquil. The hills were cloaked in mist and the grass was heavy with dew. We followed a herd of cattle across the hillside, through the bracken.
The Tortoise Head Rock is situated on the north side of Strelitzia Gorge (see previous post). We could have scrambled to the top, but the rock was slippery and the average age of the group must be over 65. Broken bones are best avoided in remote areas.
We turned back and had an early lunch by a grove of tree ferns, close to a small stream. I was already full from eating wild blackberries. I snacked on white fruits from a large strawberry bush. I have a similar plant in a pot at home, but the fruits are small and red. They didn’t taste like strawberries at all.
I spent a lot of time trying to take close ups of tiny flowers and orchids. From a distance, the hillsides look homogeneous, apart from the occasional patch of dagga. But it isn’t just grass; there are hundreds of different plants.
At the end of the walk, some of us climbed a hillock to an old stonewall fort. This gave stupendous views across the landscape. No one is sure who built the fort. Some say it was used as a lookout during the Swazi-Zulu wars. Others say it was more recent, dating from the Anglo-Boer wars at the end of the 19th century.
Outside the dry stone wall there was a patch of bright blue agapanthus. I took some photographs as the clouds rolled in, obscuring Tortoise Head Rock and Sibebe in the distance behind it.
I have made many friends walking in the Swazi hills. Here’s a team photograph, taken on a timer. I didn’t notice the stick obscuring Catherine’s face (she’s the secretary).