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SOUTH AFRICA
 29/1-17/7 2007 DIARY  6

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 From Diary 5
 5/5. Weekend and a great weather. I'm keen to continue the Le Roux area. The little bakkie is not home, but I can use the VW Caravel. While I drive through George, I gas and polish it's windows. On the other side of town, it start to smell of burned oil and hiss. Pull over and check oil and water: Nothing. The oil is leaking out at the top of the engine and the lit for the spare water reserve is missing. That was a short and expensive tour!

 They offers me the big bakkie, but while we talk, my drinking container leaks and flood the bag with spare batteries, memory chips and all my other "tour-stuff". I know when I'm beaten, and won't challenge fait on a small, remote mountain road.

 "Plan B" for entertainment is cleaning up the rondawel and the Fockeas for my self and the Botanical Garden in Copenhagen. Not that exciting! Excitement comes, when Mandy invites me on a tour to the beach. She will invite her girlfriends on a walk, but want to be sure it is the right place. We drive through George, this time in the big bakkie. On the other side of town, we passes through an real old settlement with some typical English and Dutch colonial style buildings.

 On the other side of this little cosy place, she turns down through wards the water. The real rough gravel/rock road turns more and more steep, and bends like a snake in pain. At one point, we are missing around one meter of anything underneath the left front wheel. The car slowly tilts over, and end in a real steep angel. I advises Mandy to drive down. Have spend a long time driving in gravel pits and military areas in my Land Rover, and have some idea of the "rules".

 We end at a tall and vertical granite cliff with an magnificent view. Not much vegetation, but few nice fynbos and succulents are hidden in the cracks of the rocks. A few cliff-dassies disappears, and we make a fast round. This is not the place to get her girlfriends lured down - but it is nice.

 The way back turns out to be a real challenge: The loose gravel, the huge bare rocks and a decent of up to 30 degrees is a pretty mouthful for the bakkie, even with differential-lock on. I end up running in front pointing out the optimal route. Thanks to Mandy's driving skills, we get the car home. I'm glad I wasn't the driver, considered my luck of the day!

 6/5. An other perfect day - except the lack of vehicle. The warm bergwind heats up the area from the early morning. At nine, the temperature have reach 25 C, and at ten it crosses the 30C mark and still raising. I spend the morning searching for cheep care hire in Gorge. Best offer seems to be 18 € a day. Not that bad - unless you are an South African student, paying Danish tax. Then is looks like a weeks pay!

 Never the less, I start planning a tour. I did a bit of math last night: I'm supposed to stay here for 24 weeks, producing 41 points a week. There have been five public holidays, and the target must be 943 points. I have produced 895,5, and will presumably reach 943 next week. I think I  can take a few days off with good continence; still having ten weeks left. I have fare from seen what I supposed to see of South Africa.

 6-12/5. Absolutely nothing to write about, except I have started a article about the different taxonomy systems through time. There have been a lot! I guess I will have to spend around 100 hours on the project, finding and arranging the information, including the huge taxons. Nice weather in the weekend, but I am not aloud to leave the George area, while my visa application is being processed.

 15-16/5. Use two of my vacation days to work on the History of Taxonomy. It turned out to be a even more complex task, than I had thought. Tuesday, I make a break for the Team Meeting. We won the weeding contest again (maximum points, new record), and the meeting is held at a restaurant. Besides from that, I work from seven in the morning to ten in the evening, with only 30 minutes of dinner break Wednesday. It have been interesting, and a lot of pieces have fallen in to place for me. Thought I would be finish, but it turned out to be more than a 100 hours project! Worst is; it is winter again, and although I am wearing all my warm cloth, I'm cold to the bone -all day.

 18/5. Even though I took a couple of days off, I reaches 51 points of the 41 expected for a whole week. Spend all spare time, including the weekend on the History of Taxonomy. I hope it gets good, at least; I'm sure it get huge! Have passes the 100 hours, and still having a lot of threads to follow up. I wished I had something to use it for!

 20/5. Heavy rain, strong winds, and the day temperature does not cross the 10C mark, nights is even colder! My rondawel (and I) are not created for this kind of temperatures! The mountains have gotten a white top during the night, and it remains. I ware two pairs of pans, both fleece jackets and my raincoat - and I still freezes! Does not help we have to go out to dig up Bulbines. Got an order for 7.500, and that is more than we have.

 This is how the mid-winter should be, but it is two month too early. Both by the calendar and the fact I'm going to stay here two more month. My plan about going on some tours might still be valid - they are just going to be much further north, that planed at first! Actually; I have to go much further than South Africa!

Launches the History of Taxonomy, even though it need translation from Bihrmannic to British - as well as this diary does.

 22/5. I am invited to birthday tea at the botanical garden. A local taxonomist will give a speech about  Carl von Linné, and Paul drives me in to town. I guess it would have been more interesting, if I haven't written the article. Not anything new, but I can fill a couple of her blank spots. We were asked to bring a plant, described by Linné, but I brought a copy the original taxonomic tree from 1753. Haven't figured I would have to explain it for all, but it went all right.

 Get back to work at two, but don't feel that good. Lack of water, I guess...  At least the weather is improving; the temperature gets above 15C a day, and then it is durable. Night time brings it down to 8C, and the mornings are still chill, until the sun appears.

 24/5. Pick-up my visa extension. By some weird reason, it says: Holliday Only, even though we were very specific about the student part of my stay, when I applied for it. Considering I have been standing in line for two hours (the only one in front of me was asked to wait next to me, and was still waiting when I left), I just head for the door. I am getting Danish company next week, and I sincerely hope that will boost my holiday/tourist status.

 25/5. I have lost one and a half day this week, but I still reaches 71,5 points of the expected 41.

 Spends the afternoon trying to figure how to bring back home two Fockeas around 35 centimetres in diameter. They have to be packed very secured, but the maximum size for suitcases don't leave much room. Will have to pay additionally for one of them: 3€ a kilo to Johannesburg and 180€ for the suitcase to Copenhagen. On top of that comes health certificate, export and import permit. I might get them for a fair price, but they won't stay cheep!

 26/5. Great weather, and the VW Caravel is back from the workshop. I volunteer to take it for a test-drive. Chooses the Montague Pass Road, which offers magnificent views through the mountains and walleyes. Been on it before (MAP), but this time I'm also looking for Lycopodiella cernua and Peperomia retusa. After having studied the taxonomy systems, I have decided to use Reveals from 1996, and that includes a few more classes, and I know exactly where to find them.

 Having a great tour, and the car seems to act nice for once. Well, except for the window won't open. Got a complete new system installed a couple of months ago, but nothing last for ever - on a VW Caravel.

 27/5. An other perfect day. I walk over the fields to the river Swart, on the other side of the highway. On the way, I passes open fields with cattle and a nice little artificial lake, still well covered with plants. On the other side of the highway, two hunters are hunting - with laser. I ask them if they have been lucky, and they say: Yes, plenty! It is down hill, so I guess it is a perfect spot to catch speeding drivers. .

 The hillside is covered with pine trees. Seems like someone have planted them, without considering how to harvest them. Real dense forest, but I finally makes to the riverside. There is no track, but the boulders and solid rock forms a rough, but passable track. The rocks are sandstone, many places on their way to marble.

 Here is not many animals, but I scares two dears - and they scares me with their loud "bark". Further down, a ring-tailed mongoose (well, -looking animal) jumps the boulders in front of me. The vegetation is pine trees and indigenous Podocarpus with a wide selection of ferns and mosses underneath.

 Two spots reveals Selaginella kraussiana, which originates from here, but can be found all around the world. I did not plan a long tour, and haven't bought extra battery or anything to drink. I decides to head back, when I cross the highway, few kilometres from home. 

 31/5. Have made 101 points in four days, but the fifth day won't contribute. I simply don't feel good, and after an hour of work, I head back for bed. Dizzy, slight fever and sick. Sleeping doesn't help, and I end up working on my internet site: Distribution maps for my plants. Feel a bit cheating, not working, but on the other hand: I have made two and a half time the work I were supposed to do this week.

 1/6. Finally, Bo from Copenhagen Botanical Garden arrivals. He is here to grow plants in a large scale - and take me on tours!

 2/6. Spend the day shopping with Bo, who needs a few things for his "hut on the hill". The evening is spend in cosy company around the braai.

 3/6. Feel a obligation to make sure Paul's car won't suffer from a flat battery or square tires while he is on Madeira. Said in an other way: I plan to pinch it, in his abandons. There are a few national parks some hundreds kilometres north of George: Karoo NP in Beaufort West and Camdeboo NP in Graaff-Reinet, I would like to see.

 On the way, I can see the famous Kangoo Caves and the high Swartbergs with the famous Swartberg Pass, which I missed last time, I were here. In Graaff-Reinet are, besides from the Camdeboo National Park, the huge Obesa Cacti Nursery. Plan to spend the first night in Karoo NP and the two next  in central Graaff Reinet. Should give me time enough to see the parks and other things, and drive the approximately 1000 kilometres (Map). Leave Thursday morning, back for the weekend. And the week after, I hope for a tour west over to Cape Town, and some of the parks and nurseries a bit further north, with Bo. Then, he and Lungiswa leaves for Denmark, and I better help in the succulent department. When they get back, I head home.

 4/6. It starts to rain at ten, and Bo convinces me to take a ride up the Montague road to look for Restios. We take the VW Caravel - it have, after all, just returned after almost two weeks in the workshop. Having a great tour until the rain catches up, and when we are heading down the mountain, the engine starts to set out.

 Make a few stops in George to shop, and at one place, I have to tinkle a lot with the spark distributor, to get the engine running. Aloes and VW Caravel is on the top of my: "What I hate about South Africa-list"! Talking about that: An other thing that annoys me is the "Never mind if it works, as long as it is cheep". My way it the upper site: "Never mind the price, as long as it is the best".

 6+7/6. I quit work after lunch, and show Bo my favourite tours: Mount Hope and Seven Pass Road. We take the big bakkie - and makes it home without any problems. Loose some hours in the nursery, and achieve "only" 64 of the expected 41 points this week.

 9/6. Thought I had figured a way to transport the huge Fockeas to Denmark: Plastic boxes filled with expansion foam. But South African expansion foam is not like that I'm use to: It only expanse 1:3, and I have to work one day to be able to pay for one litre of "expanded" foam. I will need about 100 litres... Plan B is still at the drawing board - looking like a blank piece of paper... Try to cut the polystyrene from Bo's stow-wrapping into protecting pieces, but they are too small to be real good - but they make hell of a mess in my rondawel!

 My plan was to bring them home as suitcases. I would have to pay additionally for one. According to British Airways; 120£ or 84£ if I paid on the internet in advance. Couldn't find the page to do that from, and asked them in a mail. Got this reply: "Dear Mr Bihrmann. I am sorry, we are unable to advise you about your excess baggage related query by email." I would have expected a bit more professionalism from that company!

 10/6. After having exchanges several e-mails with British Airways, it finally occurs to me: I might be taking one of the flights, where it is not possible to prepay for the extra suitcase. That could explain why I can't find the page to do it. Ask them, and bingo: That is the answer. When their system is clever enough not to show that page to me, why does it not show an explanation? And why does their personnel not think of that?

 And why can't you pay in advance for some flights? I would have liked to save the 36 UK£ the discount for prepaying is. It is, after all, a plant I have donated for Copenhagen Botanical Garden, and with the proper paperwork, I have paid around a month salary in the nursery.

 Spends most of the day finding plants to photo for my site. The bulbs are starting to flower, and I get some nice shoots.

 12/6. ROAD TRIP! The workshop gives the little bakkie a fast look over, and I'm ready to go. My plan about taking Paul's big bakkie didn't work: Linda got a lift to George, and will use is while she is in George. That is fine with me; the small car do fine on the gas, and is easy to throw along the road.

 Try to drive right to the area I left last, north of Oudshoorn, but an area ten kilometres south of the town looks just too interesting.  The rain we have gotten the last month have transformed the Outeniqua Pass from light brown to green. It is amassing how many plants that have been waiting for this early winter rain. Red rocks, scars vegetation, and almost only succulents. To my big surprise - and pleasure - I find several Dioscorea hemicrypta, which I didn't know grow this fare south.

 On the other side of the gorge, three almost black and rather big bucks grasses along a small gavel road. They most be wild animals; the fence I can cross won't stand a chance to stop them!

 Passes through Oudshoorn without stopping, and find the area I left last time. A bit disappointed, I have to admit the cloudy and cold weather didn't stop at the Outeniqua Pass this time. There comes a few wind tears from time to time, but it have been raining, and I'm soaked after walking in the low vegetation.

 The lack of light and warmth makes it more easy to drive more, and explore less by foot, but I still make numerous stops. One of the familiar plants I discovers is Gasteria, hiding in the shadows.
 Even though the low clouds takes some of the view, the remaining is still breath taking. Finally, I make it to Kangoo Caves. I giant and pretty empty guest centre is build in front of the entrance. The good thing about that is; I can enjoy a café latte and a cheese cake before the Adventure Tour.

 We are only four, including the guide; a young girl from Belgium. The cave reaches 5,5 kilometres, but is only prepared for tourists 1,2 kilometres in. The first chamber we reaches is huge! 97 metres long, 47 wide and 25 high. The most amassing gypsum formations covers the walls and sealing. One stalagmite is seven meters high. Some formations, like "The Organ" is around 1.500.000 years old.

 Other champers reveals other and even more beautiful and weird formations. We end the normal tour, leave our jackets, and head for "adventure". This cave is warm; around 18-20 Celsius year round. The inner part we are reaching have a humidity around 95%, and the oxygen is low. We passes a low chamber; down to 70 centimetres.

 Then comes the "tunnel of Love", which is not only low, but also narrows in to 27 centimetres. Hell's Workshop have huge and bold boulders and formations, the Kitchen no food, but a chimney. and it is narrow! Only around four metres high, but only slim people can pass through, and there is not much to grip on to.

 We are not aloud to touch the cave at all, except for this narrow parts. I know it spoils the formations, but the polishing by thousands have made the gypsum marvellous. Like polished marble, with amber colour. I have seen many caves around the world, but this is defiantly one of the more spectacular.

 It have taken 90 minutes after one hour of waiting, and I better get on. According to Karoo National Park's homepage, you have to be at the park before 17.00, unless you have a reservation. I have made that in their site, but not received a confirmation in twelve days. Four hours and 200 kilometres sounds easy - unless it is through Swartberg Pass.

 The first part looks like Outeniqua Pass - but where that starts a 50 metres, this starts at 800 metres. The weather haven't improves, and I start to get up in the clouds. Never the less, I makes several stops. One of the interesting plants are the "lily-bush": Nivenia stokoei. There is a nice green cover of fynbos, until I reaches an huge area that have burned lately. The Proteas are still standing, and many even have their leaves, although they have turned brown.

 I reaches the top, but the view is limited to few metres, and the wind and temperature does not encourage me to stay for long! After having decent for around 500 metres, the clouds finally clears, and a beautiful view occurs. I can see for maybe 100 kilometres through narrow passes. Most of the surrounding rocks are almost bare, but few frost and drought resistant plants have fond a bit of soil in the cracks. A small group of steenboks barks, and runs in front of me.

 The road serpentines, and I head into a real narrow gorge, with vertical sides, maybe 2-300 metres high. This area is the wildest mountain area I ewer have been in. I could shoot hundreds of photos, and I still wouldn't have caught one percent of it's magnificent. Meet the first car on this 30 kilometre gravel road. I guess the winter keeps tourists away.

 Then I'm out of the gorge, and after a detour over a private road and a farmers field  (the original road was washed away), I reaches Prince Albert. It is a small colonial town which have change very little the last century. 30 kilometres more, and I reaches Prince Albert's Road, and meets up with present time.

 Not much traffic, almost only roadtrains. I am running late, but might still have a chance to make the last 135 kilometres in 45 minutes. Well - if there have not been a roadwork. 13 kilometres is one lane. And yes: There will be red for some time...

 After I came out of the Swartberg gorge, the landscape have been real brown and dry. The roadwork gives me time to explore the terrain along the road, which seems like the rest of this part of my tour. Few low bone-dry shrubs and died grass, not even succulents. See a few springbucks and a large rodent.

 Make it at the park entrance of Karoo National Park half pass five. Looks deserted, but a guard emerges, and hurrah: He have my name on the list. Drive several kilometres through the wilderness, and in the fainting light, I see four different boks. Could be Gray rhebok, red hartebeest, common duiker and some springboks.

 Checks in, and drive to my own rather large house. Real nice interior, seven meter to the top of the open sealing. Complete kitchen  - except coffee, which I unpacked. I can't figure why there is air-condition and no heating system. I mean: The temperature have not extended 15 Celsius during the day, and it might get down to -2 during the night, according to the forecast. Well; you can't get all for 90 €. Walk back to the restaurant for a chicken salad, which is nice, and a gordonbleu, which unfortunately have been made with chicken. Way too dry for my taste.

 I have driven 300 kilometres, and only taken 220 photos. But it have been a great experience!

And even more in Diary 7

                    

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