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SOUTH AFRICA
 29/1-17/7 2007 DIARY 8

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 From Diary 7
23\6. The weather is not like I ordered, but we head south towards the Cape. Have a hope about one side of the peninsular will be calm. Drive through and over large mountains, but the slightly rain and strong wind keep chasing us. Make a stop in Fish Hek to check out their antique stores. Lots of nice stuff, but nothing we want.

 The car won't start. The battery was changed twp days ago, and it not properly attached to the cables. Get that fixed, but it turns out it have affected the immobilizer. Have to call Paul to get the reset trick. Could be worse! While fettling with the car, the rain and wind increases, and we go to plan B: A shorter tour around the upper part of the peninsular.

 Make a stop with a huge sculpture shop. A few huge wooden, but most in soapstone. Some are replicas, but other are real nice unique works. Next door, a small shop with art from local workers are sold by an American woman. Nice things, but I have a hard time seeing them in my home.

 The weather have not improved, and we head back. The famous table mountain is almost disappears in curtains of rain - when it is not covered in clouds. Passes a big mall to do some serious shopping. Home to fire up the braai, and Bo makes magic - I do the dishes.

24\6. An other day with clouds and shower. Well, the showers stops - when it turns into whole day rain. We stay in town; nature is best admired in sun! Get out to the Sunday Green Point Marked just as it opens. Due to weather and winter, this huge marked is not that big. That is all right; I get my share of wooden masks, pearl/wire work, paintings, batik, balls in wood or stone, and neck- and earrings. All black work, some better than other. Some made in sweat shops further up north in Africa, other sold by the artist him self.

 There use to be a large antique- and a food area, but only one curry-blender and a antique bottle dealer have dared them selves out in this uncomfortable  weather. Don't know how it happens, but we both come out with our hands full - mine with Bo's stuff. Fill it into the car, and drive the short distance to the Waterfront.

 Besides from all the souvenir shops, pubs and restaurants and other tourist traps, they/we are loured by the aquarium. Not only is is a nice closed building, covering us from the fears weather, it actually features some real nice aquariums. The most impressive is the huge kelp-tank, but many of the other smaller tanks, the penguin basing and it's surrounding "walk-in-terrarium" is well made. There are even soft corrals and other marine life in the penguins' basin. Only thing that bothers me is that many aquariums are overpopulated.  

Bo knows a music store nearby, and we checks it out. Real great: An old factory with some of the old interior, a small cafe, a scene, amassing selection of CDs in several stores around a central hall. Not really surprisingly; they do not have the CDs I'm looking for. Make a shortcut thought an other indoor marked.

 Mainly white art, some inspired by black. Notes a small stand with turned wood. A closer look reveals some real impressing art- and craft work. The artist is there, and we have a longer chat with him. He have a story for all pieces, of which all are impressive. Some are one to two millimetres thick. Some made in one piece with bark, some of many pieces glued together. Here are even bottles, not much chicker than the ones of glass. Would love to buy several, but the price is not for an South African gardener student! Photo is not aloud in this marked, and he already have one written warning. I promises to hide from the survey camera, when I photo...

 A cosy bar is located in one of the other old buildings on the quarry. Bo get some beers from a Knysna brewery, I test a cider. The weather acts up, and we head home. The lamb from yesterday is turned into a delicious pokie dish with vegetables and the right spices. And I do the dishes... Bo have bought a KWV 10 Years brandy, which have won in France among the best Cognacs. And it is great! And the price: 10. Works also fine with coffee, milk and sugar: Braffee.

25\6. Rain, wind and desperation! Have not had a chance to make an appointment with
Ernst van Jaarsveld (was at vacation) at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, but this is our last day. Turns up he is back, but at some sort of seminar and Hitchcock is still on leave. Would have loved to meet them, and further more; it means we can't visit the huge closed collections; all at work attend the seminar.

 We see the show house, which is impressive, but known by both of us. The weather turns worth: Heavy rains hide everything more that ten meters away. Kirstenbosch Garden is magnificent, but defiantly not in that sort of weather! Checkout the bookshop and coffee shop, but it only get worse. Give up, and head north through mountains and the Huguenot Tunnel to Worcester.

 Right outside the Garden, and on the highway, groups of police cars protect workers with chainsaws, trying to clear the road from the huge trees that been falling within the last hour. We crosses several passes between real high mountains. Worcester lies surrounded by these giants, which normally  blocks ever rain cloud - but not to day.

 Arrivals at four, and find a nice B&B - without breakfast. They have their own house and the neighbour house and two funny dogs. They don't walk, but rock from side to side. Real square in all directions, but real nice. Due to the rain, we cruises the town in car. Not really much interesting, and we settles for dinner at the famous Dros'. A chain of South African restaurants made like the original cellar in red bricks and dark wood. Nice meal, and then home for a braffee and a chat. Still heavy wind and rain.

 When I sneak home from Bo, who stays in the neighbour house, the wife is still awake. Se have written me a nice, long note, and swished on the electric carpet in my bed. A short chat, and I flattens out on the heated blanket.

26\6. Heads out through the easy rain to Karoo Botanical Garden. Does not seem like any employees are at work, but on the other hand, it is open. On the way up to the garden, we have seen all the mountains around the city is cowered with snow. Walks around the central garden, shooting some plant. The sun starts to peek out, and so does the gardeners.

 I have hoped to be able to get some shoots og the leaves for the caudexes a saw last time, but they are still dormant. There are no one in the closed (and dormant) special collections, the weather is still not nice, and when the next shower hits us, we leave. Next stop is Robertson with Sheilam Cacti & Succulent Garden and Soekershof Walkabout.

 I have a small road direction from Cactus Mall for Sheilam, and we might ask for directions to Soekershof there. The garden was started in the 50s, and many of the plants are immensely huge! It seems like the owner is not home, and the black gardeners leaves us, when they have their 20 rand. Right inside it the absolutely largest Cyphostemma currori I have ever seen or heard about. Three meters high, six meters in circumference.

 Although the beds have not been weeded some time, the layout and garden it selves is nice. There are more than 2000  species according to their folder, and I would have loved to meet the owner, but Bo fills me in with names. As in Obesa, the giant Mexican cacti looks so much better than in Mexico. The back is production of cacti and in the closed houses; succulents.

 Next stop should be Soekershof, and before we head into town to ask for directions, I notes; it is on same road! One of the gardeners confirms: It is the neighbour! A sign in the driveway tells it is closed today. Well, they wrote me half a year ago, and now we are here! Before I get to excuse, we are warmly welcomed by Herman and Yvonne.

 They bought a farm in 2000, and had no real plans. While exploring their backyard, they found a amassing amount of neglected huge cacti. They had no knowledge about plants, but found them fascinating, and started clearing the lot for weed. With in these few years, they have made a enormous work, and have collected a assonating knowledge, and a not so surprising love for their plants.

 The original garden, made by Marthinus Malherbe in 1965 was left to it selves in 24 years, but have nor received it glory once again, and have been extended heavily with new plant beds and mazes. There are 2400 different species, and new are still coming. We get the full guided tour, which reveals the owners love for each plant in their amassing collection.

 During a small shower, we have coffee on their poach, and then continues the walk. The weather is a bit better than yesterday, but I fare from get all the photos I would like to get. Suddenly, it starts to get dark, and we have some way to drive. We drive through Hex River Valley to Swellendam, and turn in to the first B&B we see. Bo have been there before, and it is a cosy as he told. But the price has is ten times as much.

 After having seen the small extreme cosy and old, but well restored cottages, with their ready fireplaces, I'm sold. Antique furnitures, brand new bathroom with antique stuff as well. Quite wrongly, I assumes the fireplace will give a nice, warm night. A small creek runs through the nice, well kept garden, and the restaurant look real nice, with it's fireplace. We are, once again, the only customers, and get a splendid service.

 Get the fire going in my cottage, and meet with Bo in the restaurant. Deep fried camembert rolled in sesame seeds, followed by three steaks; one ostriches, one kudu and one springbok with Amarula sauce. The dessert is an South African speciality: Brandy cake with nuts. Bo (or was it me?) invites to braffees, but I check my fire first: Dead? Fire up again, but when I returns after a couple of hours, it is burned out again. The firewood is heavy acacia, but open fireplaces is not as efficient as closed ones. Have to get up every second hour to feed the fire.

 27/6. The breakfast use to be South Africa's best, and we try. Not brilliant, but nice. On the way home, we passes the Bontebog National Park. It was made many years ago, to try to save the bontebok, of which only ten species were known. Great success, and we see a lot, along with mountain zebras, gray duikers, a single bee-eater and other small birds. The best is a sectary bird, real close.

 The park is almost lowland fynbos all the way. This vegetation is almost totally gone, and we spend some time botanise. A large part of the park have recently been burned, but that is natural for fynbos. Actually, some of the seeds needs the smoke to start growing. The Oxalises have been the first to take advantages of the open areas, and some areas are covered with pink flowers. Many different bulbs have started to grow,  but the lack of flowers makes identification too difficult. In a small area, white Proteas are starting to flower.

 Passes the mall on the way home, and arrivals in the late afternoon, after 1280 kilometres. A good tour, nice to get around, but it would have been great with some better weather! I only took around 500 photos, but it is still a time consuming job to sort them in: The Cape Tour, Sheilam, Soekerhof, Annimals and Highlights.

 29/6. In late afternoon, a meeting about Fair Plant and the Denmark Tour is halt. After that, the loud speakers is on, while the braai is prepared. Those girls really know who to party and dance on one cola! Denmark: Be aware!

 30/6. Spend the weekend on a very needed cleaning of my rondawel after last weeks storm, and the enormous work of getting the photos sorted. Then I shift, delete, renew, reform, rename, reconstruct, redo and general fuck-up most of the slide-shows I have made the last half year. It is easy to shift the photos around, but all the texts have to be re-written on the web, and all links have to be changed. The advances is - I forgot...

 3/7. The weeding contest were cancelled, but the girls invites me on dinner anyway. I just thought it were me who invited them...  Anyway; Lucinda, Lungiswa, Nanna and I drive to Spears in the big mall, and get some real nice grilled lunches. Back at the nursery Bo invites me for grilled supper. Tough life, but some one have to live it.

 4/7. After more than a month, the office have finally found out how to apply for an export permit. I have to go into George, find the Cape Nature office, Western Cape Nature Conservation Board, and fill out an application. Then that office will use this information to fill out a application, which will be send to Cape Town. They make the permit, and send it to the Georg office, which will let me know, when I can collect it. With a bit of luck, it will be before I leave.

 5/7. Bo and seven of the leaders at the nursery heads for Denmark. I almost feel sorry for them: The are leaving full sun, 27 degrees and not a wind, heading for 15 degrees and showers, spiced up with strong winds.

 6/7. One of the usual, fast changes in weather equals that! It is a real cold morning, strong winds and only a question of time, before it starts pouring down. And then again: At eight, it turns out to be an other perfect summer day, like yesterday.

 I spend two hours splitting 200 used and cracked 20 centimetre plastic pots. End up with 67 which are not too cracked to be used, worth 3-4. And it was hard work; someone have been standing on them with fertilizer bags. My nails are broken, finger bleeding and hurting. Sometimes, it is nice to know the value of ones work - this is not one of those!

 Spend the weekend figuring how exactly to get my two plants with a total weight of 29 kilos packed securely down. Crossing my fingers for the paperwork will be finish in  time, and the flight companies let me take the two 100 litres boxes. I know I'm going to pay extra, but to both South African Airways and British Airways? And how do I fit all my new working cloth and the stuff I brought into these boxes?

 To give my selves an other quest, I start figuring out why some plants grow in some places and not others. That will answer the question; how to grow them in cultivation. As I see it now (and this might be changed, when I actually learn something about it, in school), there are only three key factors: Presents, possibilities and abilities.

 A plant have to be present: It does not help the environment are perfect, if there are no seeds or cuttings. There have to be some basic needs fulfilled; water, light, temperature, food and so on, for the plant to have possibility to grow. It only have sedan abilities, and have to be protected against different factors; minerals, animals, sun, water, temperature and more. The real hard thing is to find the balance between the factors, mention both in possibilities and abilities. And as a collector; to be able to find the plant.

 This open up for a new way of thinking: In stead of trying to duplicate the factors from the plants origin, it is about creating a general good growing condition, and then add or remove the factors that either benefit or restrict this plant. Many desert plants comes from a dry and nutrition poor area, but they do surprisingly good at a moist and nutrition rich environment. Their restriction is not water and low nutrition, but competition.

 8/7. While checking my flights the other day, I notes the flight from George to Johannesburg have changed, and it is not confirmed. Try to call South African Airways' George office Friday, but all their telephone numbers on the web and the phonebook are either out of use or faxes. End up calling Johannesburg, which confirm my flight. The person I talked with did not sound like he had the faintest idea of, what he was doing, and it still shows up as un-confirmed Sunday.

 I write my travel agent a mail. The respond: "It seems like your plain have changed time,  and you can't make it to your connection flight to London. You better contact the South British Airways office in George". Not sure if he means South African- or British Airways... Anyway; the airways companies ask me to let the agent do the changing - I can't. Write the agent, but get no reply.

 10/7. Drive into the airport, and I get confirmed: I am in deep do-do! The best I can do, is to stand-by for the 15.35 flight, and if that fails: Pray for a real fast flight to Johannesburg 18.00, a problem less security check, a fast in-checking (can't be done in advance) and a slightly delayed plain for Johannesburg. If that fails, I can always catch a flight to London one of the coming days...

 11/7. I finally get the export permit for the Fockeas, but it is probably too late to get the import permit. 50 days to get the export permit in South Africa, two to get the import permit in Denmark? Well; worse case scenario: I won't have to transport the plants to the botanical garden my selves.

 13/7. Ernst van Jaarsveld is finally back at Kirstenbosch, and writes; I am welcome, but it is one day too late for me to make it. Next time...

 I have been pushing hard to get the papers done for my Fockea export for 52 days now. To day, the last hurtle: The Phytosanitary should be take care of. At two, I get impatience, and the office calls the officer. Don't know why he won't be coming after all, but I'm told to bring the plants out to the airport, and then I can pick the up, just before I leave Monday.

 That was not exactly what I have hoped for; I have a lot of other stuff to store in those boxes, and the expansion foam must settles. But if that is how it must be... Spend some time asking around for the right officer, and when I finally find him - or not, I'm told to bring the plants to Ooudshorne on Monday. It is a 60 kilometre drive, each way, and what will they tell me? 

 Well, so much for being prepared, organised, in good time, following all the rules and in general be a "stand up guy". I could of cause say: It is only a month pay I have waited so fare, and I can grow them from seed in 500 years - or buy the in Europe from one of the illegal imports. I was almost dieing of excursion, digging them up, having countless nights figuring how to transport the, but what the hell? Or...

 Check my travel plan to see, if I should be lucky to get on the early plain. Strangely enough, the early flight is still unconfirmed, but the late one, which I finally had get confirmed while I was at the airport last time, is gone! I like exciting travelling, but not this way!

 14/7. Almost last chance to experience the true Africa, and I have booked the little Nissan bakkie. No doubt where the tour goes: Mount Hope! It have been the most intensive plant experience here, and now, after the rain, there might be some new to see. On the way out, I take the small Montague Pass Road. That give me a great tour, and a opportunity to collect a handful of the mosses for my Taxonomy Collection. I am sure mosses from this climate will do so much better in a Danish windowsill, than the Danish. The South African climate is - with exception of the real cold days - pretty much alike.

 The weather is perfect; 20-25 Celsius, clear sky and not a wind. Find the mosses, and once again, I am astonished over this magnificent, huge nature. From Herold, I drive up to almost Ooudshorne, to have an other look at the Dioscorea hemicrypta in sunshine. Great looking plants, and they seems to be growing even bigger than I thought. Still a bit hard to get good photos; they seems to grow exclusively in the shade.

 Down south again, to the sign: Zebra. On the other side is Mount Hope and the most interesting area I have seen in South Africa. But it takes me some time to reach it; The rain have started new growth in many og the succulents along the road, and some even flowers. I try not to stop too many times, but is is hard!

 At one place, some real huge and nice looking Tylecodon paniculatus sits a bit too fare from the fence. I climb it, and the first car for hours are of cause the farmer! He relaxes when I tell him I photographing his plants. He have had some sheep stolen lately, and was worried. He tells me, when he was a kid, they used the large Tylecodon paniculatus as sledges. Their moist tissue becomes like soap.

 I can't recall seeing Tylecodon reticulatus before, but here are a few real good looking specimens. The sun is low, even in the mettle of the day, and as long as the motives are in the sunny side, I get absolutely perfect photos. I reaches the most remote and interesting area around three, and suddenly, the clock is close to five, and the sun is real low. Get some great shoots of Pelargoniums, Monsonias, Tylecodons, Crassulas, Conophytum truncatum and a lot of other succulents and interesting plants in general.

 Even though I have seen most of them before, and I am tying to restrict my selves, I end up with 325 photos. Sort real rough through them, and get it finally down to 160. They are in The Final Cut. This have really been a great day, and a good way to end half a year in South Africa.

 15/7. Spend a good part of the day, packing. Would have been so much easier without the Fockeas! The expansion foam does only work, if it get air - which it does not in a black bag. Plan B is Styrofoam, cloth and the rest of my things. End up with two 100 litre boxes on 26 and 30 kilos, and a handbag with ten. I hope I can talk South African Airways into accepting the "special, until September exception" on extra heavy luggage British Airways have. The lady in the airport thought so. I wonder what that will cost me? Should be around 220. I could have done it within the limits, without the Fockeas. Guess it after all would have been cheaper to buy them by Specks, when he gets them!

 16/7. Cleaning the rondawel for the last time, saying goodbye the other employees and walking around in small circles until it is time to head for the airport. One of the girls at the office have pulled some strings, and been able to come up with the Phytosanitary.

 I am actually on my way to a two week vacation in Denmark. I have produced what equals ten weeks of extra work while working in New Plant Nursery, and are employed until 31/7. Normally, I bring 1,5-2,5 kilo of luggage for a three week vacation. Now, I try to get my 66 kilos through the terminal. Newer again!

 First hurtle comes in the George Airport: Seems like there are way too many Stan-Byes to the 15.35 flight, and my 18.00 has disappeared. The nice lady gives me one opportunity: Buy a new ticket, or take the chance on Stand-Bye at 18.00. We have a little chat about that, and who it is that have started changing flights first.

 Next hurtle is the two 100 litre boxes. First, she wants me to pay for every kilo over 23. I show her the screen print from BA's site, which says South African Airlines have to allow me 32 kilos. Then I only have to pay 750. After having gasped a bit over that, I agree to pay 57 for the flight to Johannesburg.

 I were promised I would be able to make Johannesburg in one hour, but besides for the special problems I causes, it takes two and a half. I am so glad I got the 15.35 flight. But the boxes causes more problems. Never the less what their site says, BA do not accept any box, suitcase, sportsgear are any other luggage weighting more than 23 kilos. It you are a first class passenger or you pay 120, you are aloud to bring a extra suitcase, but neither of them may weight more than 23 kilos, and together, they may not exceed 32 kilos. No exceptions! That took me some time to get those 26 and 30 kilo boxes along for free!

 17/7. The custom in Copenhagen get a bit too excited in  my boxes, and he is not the least impressed by my export permit and phytes: He only want to see a import permit. There have not been time to get one (got the export two working days ago), but luckily, there are a hand luggage exception (which the officer didn't know), which allows me to bring up to ten non-listed plants in, if their roods are washed. After he have been taught that, he correctly realises he won't have a chance for a peek in the boxes, which by the way, have made the tour with only one crack. The plants looks fine, but time will show, if they have been squeezed.

 Welcomed by friends with flags and big smiles. Great to be home to one of the first real summer days in Denmark.

 

Flight tickets: 6618 DKr ~ 890
Insurance for 169 days 2880 DKr ~386
Food, petrol, working cloths, hotels, everything; 14500 DKr ~ 1850
Wages 7723 DKr ~960 . I'm glad I don't have to do this for a living!

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