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Hell’s Gate, Orange Kloof

Leader: Suzanne Smith 26 Feb 2017 Hell’s Gate, Orange Kloof

Responses to two recent Sunday trips to Hell’s Gate, Orange Kloof caused long waiting lists. Each time the day started off with rain which soon cleared, so the hikers suggested we hike there every Sunday to encourage the rain we so desperately need! (Some withdrew because they had only brought bathers, not raingear). It was interesting to see the difference a few weeks made to the environment. In January the waterfall and Disa Stream had hardly a trickle; in February they were running well. And of course there were Disas, but much else as well, so the party felt well-rewarded.

Particularly the most recent meet held some surprises. A kelp gull was swimming in one of the pools deep in the kloof. We believe it had good food (tadpoles and frogs), but somehow it had not managed to find its way back out of the kloof, so it was basically trapped in the pool.

On the way out, near the Reserve entrance we found an owl! While waiting for the last couple who were enjoying the views now visible I decided to sit on a rock at the side of the Ring Road to wait for them. As I approached I heard what sounded like a stone being tapped on the rock. I looked, saw nothing. Heard the sharp sound again and really began to think there was a ghost there.

Fortunately I looked up from the rock about 30cm and there was this large owl with HUGE yellow eyes clapping its beak at me in warning. I immediately retreated to the other side of the road out of both respect and fear of having myself pierced or clawed. What a thrill! So I walked on to ‘warn’ the couple. By the time we got back to that spot we didn’t see it at first. Why? Now that it was not being disturbed it had ‘shrunk’ itself back to normal size; feathers sleek, and eyes with large dark pupils.

As soon as we approached it began its beak-clacking sound again, fluffed out its feathers to appear huge and slowly the pupils contracted in the sharp light, once again displaying those large warning yellow eyes! A very special experience. We imagine it must have a nest or little ones nearby that it didn’t fly off.

Suzanne Smith

MCSA-CT

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