Bisley Nature Reserve hike.
Sun 10 Jan 2021

Leader: Jan Lens. Report : Penny Purchase. Photographs: Penny Purchase, or if otherwise acknowleged in the caption courtesy of Iain Kerr, Ali Engelbrecht, or Alta

[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULLSIZE - or view pics in accompanying SIMPLEVIEWER Presentation]

It was a cool day for a hike, much to our relief, after a sweltering day before. Some took the scenic route to get to Bisley, but we eventually gathered at the "picnic site". It was 20 m from the pedestrian gate, not recognisable as very overgrown. Jan, a new leader in the MHC, was waiting for us there. He gave us a short explanation of the Bisley history and the current situation. The "Friends of Bisley" group have recently worked hard at removing snares and clearing tracks. They hope to involve the local children from the France township in educational trips in the reserve to acquaint them with animals and conservation. Jan outlined the route we'd take, warned us of some bundu bashing and the possibility of ticks. Gaiters and long trousers are always a good thing in long grass.

At the start we saw 2 adult zebra and an engaging young zebra calf nestling close to its mother. It was an easy walk up to the reservoir where we enjoyed the view across Maritzburg and the hills beyond from this high point. Then it was a bundu bashing exercise going down, down, trying to find a game trail here and there... hiking through long green grass, dodging thorny branches and tendrils, sticks and stones under foot, concentrating on finding our way through the thick bush. Looking down the valley, suddenly we saw animals... a couple of elegant heads peering at us, their long necks like cranes above the tall grass. Giraffe! Then more and more came into view, peering at us curiously, little ones close to their mothers, juveniles, teenagers, big daddies with their dark markings. They cantered away from us, necks and legs moving rhythmically, a big one taking the rear, just like Chris Dobson takes up our rear on hikes! Carolee counted 19 giraffe. It was a magical sight! It left some of us wondering "what is the collective noun for a group of giraffe?" a herd? Someone suggested it was a "tower of giraffe" and how right she was, when I consulted Google later that day. The other collective noun used colloquially is a "journey of giraffe". Both are very apt expressions.

1.An engaging zebra family greets us at the start of the hike (Iain's photo)
2.First sighting of an elegant giraffe (Alta)
3.View from Maritzburg from the reservoir, the highest point of the reserve (Karin)
4. Bundu bashing down the hill
5. First sighting of giraffe
6. A "tower of giraffe" (Iain)
7.A cantering herd (Alta)
8. Ali's boot... she is the same size as this giraffe's foot (Ali)

We hiked on, enjoying the sounds and sights of the bush surrounding us. Dainty summer flowers here and there - yellow, blue, purple and unfortunately plenty of the noxious weed, lantana. But it does have a pretty flower! Yellow and white butterflies abounded, flitting prettily and lightly from bush to bush. Enchanting. We encountered a few obstacles too - all part of hiking - we had to creep low under tangled vines crossing a rickety wooden bridge over a stream. Later we met a long stretch of muddy pools on the narrow track with tall prickly shrubs on either side. Despite the group being dubbed "adventurous", the leader decided to turn back, so we never reached the education centre. We ploughed on, our leader setting a brisk pace and the hikers being spread out... we were good at social distancing on this hike!

9. Bend those old knees, Chris (Iain)
10.Peter's knees emerging from the bridge with tangled vines
11.Mushroom (Iain)
12.Cluster of mushrooms
13. Big mushroom cracking under its own weight
14 Yellow flowers that look like butterflies
15. Pretty pale yellow flower
16. A starry white creeper
17. A red flower amongst the white
18. Purple and white flowers thriving together
19. Spot the 2 butterflies?
20. A resting butterfly with a crumpled wing
21. Black, white and yellow - a good camouflage amongst the yellow and white summer flowers (Iain)

The path led us to the road and after a brief stop, we turned and followed more narrow tracks. Then a broad track opened up and after about 2 hours of hiking on narrow paths and bundu bashing, this was a welcome respite. The path opened out to a small dam with brown bulrushes, reeds and bird life aplenty. On the far side, shrouded by thick undergrowth and overlooking the dam, was a bird hide. Some settled themselves there on the benches to watch the clever weavers building their nests, hanging pendulously above the water. Fascinating to watch! The rest of us found places to sit around the dam and enjoyed our well deserved snacks and chats.

24. This wildebeest got hooked up!(Ali)
25. Bird hide
26. Busy weavers
27. Clever weaver waiting to do his weaving.(Iain)
28. "Hang on, I'm doing my weaving" (Iain)
29. Flowers, long grass and thorn trees - typical of Bisley summer vegetation

The hike ended at the so called "picnic site". Our club treasurer, Chris Dobson, suggested, as the entry to the reserve is free, we each donate R20 towards the "Friends of Bisley" for their admirable work. This was Sue Rowley's idea. Chris said that the club would match whatever was collected, so an appropriate donation from MHC is to be given to "Friends of Bisley". They help the animals to survive and humans to enjoy this wonderful little nature reserve on the outskirts of Maritzburg. It was a fitting end to an enjoyable morning hike.