As promised in my previous post, here are some photos taken when we spent a day in the Lower Mpushini Conservancy during Ashburton’s Aloe Festival. From their programme (left) you will see the festival was over two days filled with much activity, fun and enjoyment.
Being typical birders, we started our day very early at Spencer’s Place which opened to the public at 6 a.m. It was a freezing morning, so we decided to hold off with the birding and enjoy a hot cuppa along with some rusks. This was all in the company of a few dogs, ducks and beautiful Palomino horses.
Our trail started next to the stables, so after petting each of the friendly horses, we ambled through the farm gate and made our way along the trail towards the river (which sadly, was dry).
Being winter, we didn’t find many birds but that’s to be expected. I just love being out in the crisp fresh air, surrounded by nature. Our plan was to visit all the venues open for the festival, but we spent far too much time wandering on the bird trail. Guess we needed to be more disciplined and not chase each and every bird we saw or heard.
There were a number of interesting talks to choose from. Unfortunately, we were too late for the “walk and talk” by Richard Boon about trees and some identifying tips. However, we made it to Hackland Farm to listen to Ruth Grey from Sunbird Aloes. It was such a pleasure listening to Ruth, her love and passion for aloes overflowed inspiring her audience to go out there and grow aloes!!
Hackland’s Aloe Garden is breathtaking. The large number of different species and hybrids of aloes was mindboggling. I never realized how many different aloes there are. It is also filled with interesting garden ‘ornaments’, from an old penny-farthing bicycle, an old farm cart, pots and pans. The garden also attracted some beautiful sunbirds and we were delighted to find the Malachite Sunbird which is not common in that area.
Between each venue, there is a maze of dust roads many lined with flowering aloes. We passed through beautiful farmlands, sugar cane fields and huge areas of glorious grasslands. Along the roads, we came across Nyala, Bushbuck and Impala. The highlight, however, was a wonderful sighting of an African Marsh Harrier feeding on its prey.
By this time we began to run out of energy (damm being over sixty). We decided to quickly pop into Galago Farm for hot soup and homemade bread before reluctantly heading home.
You don’t have to be a bird nut to enjoy Ashburton’s Aloe Festival. There is something for everyone and it makes a lovely day out. Keep an eye out for next year’s event and make a point of attending. If you on Facebook follow Lower Mpushini Valley Conservancy, they play a large part in the Festival and will no doubt advertise the dates for 2019.
In the meanwhile, enjoy the Aloe season. Already many are dying off do “stop and smell the flowers as the saying goes”. In this case, stop and admire the Aloes.