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SOUTH AFRICA
 29/1-17/7 2007 DIARY 5  


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 From Diary 4
 7/4. Saturday, but I have to get early up to be able to meet with the digging machine. The rain have stopped, but it starts as a gray day. Suites me fine, if the temperature can stay below 30C. I really hope it will work out with that machine; it is an expensive test, and it is back-braking if it don't. But there are a lot of unknown factors: How big is the machine, how good are the operator, how much will the plants stand and much more.

 Turns up to be a standard JCB with a experience operator. Unfortunately, there is only me to point out the places to dig, jump down the hole to free the sometimes huge plant and run with it, over the holes, to a temporary depot. The brand new and, in this environment; huge machine struggles to get through the old riverbed. Concrete like gravel with fist- to head large rocks firmly embedded.

 After a few experiments, we decides to dig a one meter deep drench besides the plant, and then easily get it out of the wall. Some plants are more than 50 centimetres in diameter, some are long and thin, some are like a huge football, with a long pole root, and they are hard to get up one piece.

 After we have dug up around half of the marked plants, he flattens the area, and drives out the plants I load and unload by hand. It have taken the whole day, and I'm beaten, extremely dusty and soaked in the rubber-like sap, blended with soil. Now I just have to load and unload them to the bakkie. And use an other hour to divide me and the sap/dirt/dust. If I had, it is over: I do not feel bad about taken the day off Wednesday, to go to Addo!

  Quiet evening in front of the TV. I wish I had remembered to turn it on, before I sat down... Well, it doesn't matter, it don't work anyway.

 8/4. Empty the vehicle at the nursery, and drive up to fill it again. Sort the plants by size and quality. About five percent have damages, and will get some special care. I think that is a acceptable rate -  especially with the enormous work it is to dig them up by hand, in mind. When I get back, I wash all my cloths to get the rubber-like sap of. That does not work, but the offering of freshly washed cloths under open sky make the rain gods generous.

 Try to get my phone and camera back to life. They got squeezed between me and a giant caudex. After intense cleaning, adjustment and hammering against the edge of the table, the phone awakes, but the camera newer comes through. Too bad, it represents after all two month's pay checks. During the night, a vicious thunderstorm passes through - they claim. I didn't notice.

 9/4. Paul and Mandy pops bye, from their tour out in the wild. Besides from plants, they have seen the animals I missed in Addo. Would have loved being on that tour, but I have to admit: I just can't be two places at once. Spends the afternoon making cuttings of Portulacaria afra for the mistletoe project.

 I am able to find some great looking branches; dense and round like small Christmas trees. I can make 30-50 cuttings from one bush, without it nearly can be seen. Those are old, big and dense bushes, some more than four meters high, with a stem around half a meter in diameter  - waiting to be bulldozed.

 Once again, I really feel bad about all the plants we have to leave behind. This is a great area, with so many of the interesting plants I usually see in nurseries - and the are doomed. Some are real old plants, some are much more fat and dense, than those from cultivation, some have "personality", obtained through tough living, and some are just rare or beauties. See some of the plants on: Plants of Blue Water Bay.

 All the plants, the approximately six centimetres thick layer of succulent peat and the top of the ancient river bed, will be roughly cut off. After the house have been build, fortunes are spend on new peat to sustain the flat, dull square of grass that needs regular watering and cutting. Go figures...

 In the evening Linda helps me with the English on the Taxonomy Plant Collection, and that makes a huge different. I know my English isn't good; I am a mathematician, and have not really learned English properly.

 10/4. Time to go "home" to George, but first I have to visit the local succulent nurseries. At Linda's, to count and measuring the Fockeas, and pickup a couple for Copenhagen Botanical Garden. Then to Misty Mornings/Cape Flora and Weldevrede Succulent Nursery. I'm not interested in buying plants my selves, but I have a list of weird wishes from friends around the world - and I'm still curious.

 While I drive out to her nursery, she get the necessary paper work for bringing the plants from Eastern Cape to Western  Cape. The permit to dig them up have been made long ago, and I had a copy while digging. Linda's connections are priceless, and what others would have to spend a month on, she do by phone and mail in a few hours. Takes a lot of papers to transport three indigenous plant and cuttings (that should have been bulldozed) 335 kilometres, in the same country. I wonder how much it will take to get them to Europe?

 And then again: After having waited just ten minutes more, a lot of times, some fellow in a office in Cape Town suddenly remembers he also need the landowners written permission. The certificate giving the permission to dig them up in not enough, when the have to gross a border. I wait until four, and them empty my car.

 Have to skip the nurseries, and head direct for George. Just halfway to Storms, my right back tire explodes. Glad I got the punctured fixed in Port Elizabeth! While I tank gasoline and coffee at the Storms station, it turns black night. Combination of time and clouds. Still 175 kilometres to go in a old car. Bit used, when I reach George.

 11/4. Back in the old routine, only different is; it rains more than it use to. Lungiswa is on vacation, but have provided Lucinda with a list of jobs, that will last this month out.

 As a "bonus", the sour from my toilet fails and flood my rondawel, and I got a virus attack on my PC. Further more; the temperature starts to drop, average is 9C at night and 23C at daytime. That is, in South African: Freezing cold when we meet at work, and rather cold when we get off. Mid day is reasonably.

 12/4. After all this time, it finally occurred to me: When an South African realises a problem, he/she says: "I'll make a plan". I have wrongly assumed it was very efficient, because I thought it were English. But it is not; it is Afrikaans, a it it best translated into Spanish: Mañana.

 13/4. There is a monthly weeding contest, which always have been won by Fynbos. Last month changed that: Trees won, and I still can't figure why. They had flowering weed, we had none at all. I thought the contest was all about weed, but general look and appearance also counts. Wiser this month, we scored ten out of ten in all sections except the Bulbines in the ground (nine out of ten). He wanted us to Round-up it because of two-leaved seedlings, but I haven't due to the awaiting of the Bulbine roods I planted. Our neighbour have seeds on their half meter weed, which covers their crop. I have not heard the result yet, but if we don't win, the contest must be about growing the largest weed.

 14/4. The weekend start with a bit of drama: Fire in the huge compost pile. I smell it, and find a small portion of the surface smoking. Calls Paul, and recommend him to take the bulldozer and open the pile. Spraying water on won't help. He follows the smoke several meters in. We place a hose on top of the pile - and hope.

 At ten, I take the VW Caravel and hits for the Montagu road, north of George. Want to see the area and find some mistletoe seeds for experiments. The weather is perfect, although it is cold in the mornings. The red tour on MAP.

 A bit up the gravel road, I figures it is better to fill the tank before the long and lonesome mountain road. It's a hungry beast: 50 Euro, but the worst part it I don't have that in cash. The gasoline station does not except Visa, Eurocard or any other known credit card, and I have to run to the nearest ATM to withdraw six Euro, which cost me - six Euro extra.

 Back on the right track, there is an awesome nature to enjoy. I'm in steep mountains, covered in low vegetation. Here are fynbos, flowering Proteas, Ericas, few succulents and other nice plants. But the mountains them selves are breathtaking! Some are bare rocks, some covered in fine mist, some almost vertical, and every corner reveal several new mountains.

 In the shadow side, where small creeks occurs, a wild miniature jungle folds out: The moss world. All five Classes are represented, and in some places more than fifteen centimetres deep. Ferns, Peperomias and other moist-growers if rich amounts. On the sunny side, it is succulents, bulbs, Bulbines, Proteas and other sun bashers.

 Montagu Pass was the first mountain pass, exclusively build by convict labour. It was opened in 1847 by John Montagu, colonial secretary and chairman of the Central Road Board. The new tool house I passes is from 1855. It looks a lot like a church - in a non-Christian country.

 A small tram passes me on the open section of the Quteniqua Railroad. I follows the road to Herold. Here the hop- (Humulus lupulus?) vine- and ostriches farms starts. The fifteen kilometres have taken me around four hours. Due to the lack of mistletoe, I have to cross over to the Zebra/Mount Hope road. Drive direct to the area I found last, and pinch a few. Then back via a detour, which leads me few kilometres closer to Oudshorn. Passes really nice, fat Tylecodons, but it is getting late.

 Have a plan about getting my toilet working, get the camera resurrected, make the weekly up-load for the internet site and process the 265 photos from to days tour, work on some additional watering systems and relax. Back at the nursery at five.

 15/4. Tried something completely new today: Just sitting in the sun, doing nothing, but enjoying life. That is a first, and I been here two and a half month. Well, it lasted only for half an hour, but still...

 16/4.  We won the weeding contest, and are going to eat at a restaurant on the company's tap. I let Lucenda decide, and she choose KFC.  We'll wait till Lungiswa is back. Spend the first half of the day choosing and finding plants for the Viscum - mistletoe experiment. That is defiantly a new way to sew seeds on!

 19/4. In a General Meeting, the Succulent Group are chosen as The Group of the Month; we have the record of the nurseries entire record for less weed and the neatest area in general. I an chosen as Worker of the Month, probably because I have the most working points - I'm not sure.

 20/4. Finally, the Fockeas arrivals from Port Elizabeth. I have instructed all who is involved, how they should be handled. I been explaining all, how delicate their skin are, and how important is is to take extreme care when handling them. I had made a lot of Portulacaria cuttings to make a bed for them, while transported. I was expecting the five plants I had chosen for my selves, Copenhagen Botanical Garden and Paul.

 I get them, but unfortunately along with a lot others, and they all have been thrown in the back of a big truck along with some big boards. Guess they will make a fine compost, but it was not what I had in mind, when I in 32 degrees Celsius dug them up with literally bleeding nails. I guess I should have taken the Easter off like every body else; I did not achieve anything else than work my selves close to death.

 I take my own plant in to the succulent house to try to save it. In here, I find the last two of 30 seed trays have been flushed. The rest were spoiled some time ago, but these two were under Lucenda and my care - until now. Both Lungiswa and Lucinda are on leave to day, leaving me alone in the section. Who and why someone have flushed the seedlings is a mystery. Less than ten centimetres from the trays are my watering system, which waters them without any losses. I AM DEFIANTLY NOT IN A GOOD MODE NOW!!!

 Try to work my temper off, producing 20 hours of work in seven - but I could still kill that ---- who just throw around with the Fockeas! I guess I have the same feeling as a new mother, who just let the nurse wash her newborn child, when the nurse comes back and say: "I kind of dropped him once on his head, and my boyfriend called while the baby was in the water, but I managed the bring him back to life. It's all right? If there's something wrong, you can always have an other".

 22/4. Been here half the time to day, and there is still a lot of mountain gravel roads I haven't been on. Takes the VW Caravel, and follows the main road to Herold, where I left last. The yellow tour on MAP. I have never been that keen on this car, and it don't improve to day. First, the armlet falls off in a narrow bend. Then, while I walks in front of it on a rather steep part of the track, thinking about the efficiency of the handbrake, the large fan starts with a loud sound. Finally, I fill it up again, and it engulfs 68 litres which equals a weeks pay. Haven't even gone six kilometres on a litre.

 The landscape is not as great, as on the other side of the George/Oudshoorn road, or further south on the same road. Flat hills with little and dry vegetation, but surprisingly few succulents. Finds a smaller tortoise, which must be a male. The shell have almost a horn underneath it's head, which must be mend for turning over it's opponents.

 There are very few "new" plants, but still some nice Pelargonium, a few Pachypodium succulentum, some Crassylas, different Aloes, a single Kedrostis, huge Tylecodon paniculatus and I think one Tylecodon reticulatus. Different Euphorbias and small succulents.

  Take the road towards Dysselsdorp. All fields are fenced, and I see al lot of ostriches, and that makes me stay on the non-fenced area along the road. Just before I reaches Dysselsdorp, some Portulacaria afra occors. Some with Cuscuta nitida on. This yellow parasitic plant can grow ten centimetres a day, and seems to be totally indifferent to it's host's wellbeing. .

 Crosses a single small pass with some nice views. I get a feeling of getting closer to "civilisation": More invasive plants like cacti and Agavas, and more trash along the road. Stops to shoot a cacti I recognises from Mexico, but it actually looks as it is doing much better here. Notes a small snake it the top of a little bush. Get rather close, before it vanish in a split second.

 Get to the paved road, and heads home over Oudshoorn. Haven't been the best tour, but still nice to get a bit around the area.

 24/4. Spends the morning extending my Visa. It turns out it is so easy to get the first three month (nobody reads the small application you fill out in the plane), but to extend it just a bit, is a slow and expensive operation. I only needed my passport to get in, but now I have to provide bank statements, health insurance, leaning contract, passport and other photo ID, student card and flight ticked out from here. And I should have done it within the first two month.

 I ends up writing a explanation for not extending the Visa in time, which will be studies by some supervisor. He buys it, and I get a "Authorisation for Illegal Foreigner to remain in the Republic pending Application for Status". That last a month, and in the end of that month, I can pickup the extension. If Paul haven't been with me, I would have had to come back for the "Authorisation for Illegal ....", and then apply. Stood in the queue for more than an hour, without the one in front were served, and it all took four hours.

 Paul drops me off at the mall, where we have our team-meeting at KFC. The afternoon is dominated of heavy thunder and showers. The day started with extreme warm wind from the northern mountains, and it was expected.

On the way home from work (a 20 meter walk), I spot a small chameleon. Brings it home for a photo session, and leaves it in the garden. The locals kill them instantly, and they are scared of them: According to the legend, God had made man to live for ever. When he re-decides, he sends a chameleon to tell. So; you have to kill it before it tells you, you will die some day. Sad!

 26/4. We get a new bed made, and I have to shift in around 600 Aloes. All from four litre bags to 100 litre. I have mention it before: I do not like Aloes! Looks like I have spend the day fighting with cats.

 27/4. Public holyday, and the weather knows! Pouring rain, strong winds and the temperature does not cross the 16 Celsius mark. Spends the day making a few pages on parasitic plants, freezing and feeling sorry for my selves in general. Have stopped the work on self-watering pots: It works perfect, I got enough for all my plants and I am satisfied with it's look. Now I just need my plants...

 28+29/4. Weekend, bad weather forces me to stay home. Spend most at the time at the PC.

1/5. Spend the morning of this Freedom Day writing on an article about Carl von Linné's life. Still have to be polished of... At two, I take the little bakkie and heads for Oudtshoorn. Paul have talked about some Dioscoreas, and I have now reach that area in my exploring of the southern South Africa. Get pulled over by a police razzia. Get a 30€ fine for driving with a left front tire with lack of pattern in one side. I'm glad she didn't notice the missing number plate in the back or the broken seatbelt. She does not fill in my country of origin, but unfortunately; she do note the registration number of the vehicle.

 Drive right through Oudshoorn, and about ten kilometres north of the town, some amassing hills raises. Partly covered with small bushes and succulents. Makes a few stops, and once again, I'm amazed over being able to discover "new" species again. Head for the area Paul pointed out. On the left side of the road, only reached by the morning sun, the Dioscoreas grow. I have to cross the river Le Roux, but it is the hazard worth. The pink tour on the MAP.

 It is a weird blend of plants. Due to drought, there is a lot of succulents, but not the ones I have seen on the more open areas. The lack of sun favourites other species, among them Dioscorea hemicrypta. The typical greyish-blue leaves are easily spotted on the almost vertical rock side. Some have real smooth caudex, others are real rough. It is in their growth period, and I even find some un-mature fruits. It is clearly, they starts all over from the caudex, covering them selves in dead branches.

 Here is real old plants with a caudexes of 50 centimetres, and (that is nice to observe;) plenty of young seedlings. Discovers a lot other plants, but the late start on the tour forces me back. Take a fast look on the other side of the road. Here the sun bakes most of the day, and it is dominated by completely other plants. Got a go back...

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