From Dairy 1 we
continue through eastern South Africa
31. I met with Maddy and Colin just passed seven. He is grounded because of ear problems, so he acts as our guide. We make some stops along the way. Colourful flowers lure. We stop for one, but find five to ten others, who are being photographed diligently. I gather some seeds for the botanical garden, of the most exciting. We continue two hundred kilometres down to St. Lucia, which is a serious tourist trap. Just without tourists.
It is otherwise the whale season, but not much is happening in the city. We hoist up a bit of provisions and drive down to the river's outlet in the sea, in Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park. On a little sand island, out in the river, lies a herd of hippos and rests. On another sandy peninsular, six rather large crocodiles sunbathe. There are an incredible number of birds, ranging from geese over kites and willy wagtails.
Maddy spot some amazing Scadoxus puniceus, which has flower stands over ten centimetres. We continue into the park itself, where we quickly see impalas, zebras, kudu, warthogs, velvet monkeys, water bucks, nyalas, gray dikes and a lot of birds.
We stop by the water. Large waves burst over the hollow lava rocks. Large brightly coloured crabs miraculously attach themselves to the rocks. The large dunes are covered in beautifully flowering succulents.
The temperature has started to rise, it almost feels like a reasonable summer day in Denmark. It is one of the first spring days here, and it seems the locals enjoy spring as much as Danes. The landscape is very similar to the Jutland moors. Here, an amazing amount of planted forest has been removed, to work its way back to the original landscape. Further more, it pays better, show off savannah animals, rather than just owning forest / scrub animals.
We reach a good distance around the park, but suddenly it's past three. We are far from home, and it is not very pleasant to drive in the dark, narrow and pedestrian highways. We first land at half past seven, long after it gets dark. I must say with regret, that the internet shet is closed. Otherwise had promised to contact Rikke. Snapping a chop on the way home, and having a hard time finding through the extinguished beds. Bribe the dogs with some of my lunch, and turn the searchlight on the camera.
I have taken just over 300 photos today, and it takes hours to process them. It bears the diary: It is short! Should have really washed clothes, but it's eleven o'clock before I get there.
1. Meet with Colin for morning coffee. I put my fleece jacket on a chair and suddenly it is gone. It turns out the girl threw it in the washing machine along with Colin's clothes. Why hadn't I thought of that? Well, the evening has to be spend with something, and there is no TV in the room.
We drive down to Sodwana Beach, which is a nature reserve. We check the prices of horse tours. Unfortunately, they do not have the ride Maddy recommended, and the others are somewhat steep. DKK 800 for one day, 300 for two hours. We choose to walk the two-hour tour. I've ridden before, but frankly; I've ridden more on elephants or dromedaries over the last few years. That doesn't mean I forgot how one's sitting area feels after a long ride on a bad saddle.
In front of the tourist centre are several Cycas of a quirky and very rare kind with thorns. I shoot quite a few photos and two suspicious guys come and ask, if we want to buy some. They are protected, on the verge of extinction, and should at least not be offered for sale on a reserve parking lot. I shoot a couple of photos of the guys, and let Maddy do the rest.
We drive further into the park and park the car. In the parking lot we find two different Dioscorea's (and some of their seeds) and lots of other exciting ones. Moving slowly towards the sea, it suddenly manifests itself between the banana plants. Huge yellow dunes, blue sea and white foam tops the green dunes. It has gotten really nice and warm, so the breeze feels comfortable. Almost think it sneaks up near 30 degrees. A little more the climate, I had imagined!
Maddy drives back to the "harbour" as I follow the water's edge back. Alternately goes up and down the dunes. There is not much to find on the perfect sandy beach, but there are some exciting plants in the dunes. Among other things, find some huge pods in the dunes, and harvest some beans. Maddy is not here, so I'll have to eat a breakfast burger and have a cup of coffee.
We drive home to pick up Colin, and then head into town to shop for the tour next week. It just seems like everyone has been paid, so the queues at each box reach down to the back of the Spar supermarket. Colin has never seen so many people in town, so we try the little supermarket down by the water. We have that for ourselves. I find a can of butter chocolate. I'm pretty sure you have to be raised with peanut butter to appreciate it, just like with Vegitamite.
It is three o'clock, and the others have things to do. I go down alone on the large area just outside the city. There are some exciting plants, that I would like better photos of. Find even more exciting plants, and entertain the locals who once again offer to help dig up plants. Hope I get some good photos, otherwise I just have to go back. Digital photo is just me!
A lot of small birds are buzzing around the camp. Have seen quite a few of them in captivity, but can't remember their names. Some tiny little ones are amandines, flycatchers, weavers, uh .. -birds? Arrange photos and write a little diary before I go to the neighbour to get a stew. Could the meat be ox tails?
I was scaring the life of one of the dogs, when I went out to eat. It was asleep in the driveway, and had not heard me walking in the sand. It reached through the horror, over the aggressiveness of the very apologetic in a matter of seconds. I'm convinced its head weighs almost twice the size of Colin's entire dog: Bandit.
Get the last photos in place, and wash all my clothes, except the fleece jacket, which got a wash this morning. Then I just hope it will dry until tomorrow! Suddenly all the surrounding dogs go crazy. There are quite a few! Most are tiny little crossbreeds, and then there are some German shepherds and the one like "our" lion dogs. It was ten o'clock and I was flipping backwards.
2. We drive out to Muzi Pan Lake, which is a reserve. Maddy knows a small dirt road that leads down to the lake and along it. We reach ten metres of it, before we spot the first exciting flowers. Here are the Aloe, Ledebourier, Cissus, Senecios, Asparagus, Stylochitons, huge Euphorbians, Ipomoeaes, Staphelias, Sarcostems, Cussonias, Raphionacs and not least Acasians!
I see something moving on the ground. It turns out to be a solifo (related to scorpions, but significantly more bird-spider-like). Get some great photos of it every time it comes up with a hand-full of soil. A little later, I find a little white leaf frog. It has pink toes and underside. An hour passes quikly, before we got further into the bush.
I gently dig some of the tubers free on one side, so you can see their surface, size and depth. In one area, there is another who has dug the entire plants. Many tubers of Cissus, Asparagus and Raphionacme lie on the surface. Some are in the kilo class, others are eaten off. Must be a forest pig or warthog.
We walk all the way down to the lake. In the middle of it, lies a herd of hippos. There should be crocodiles, so we are careful along the banks. On the other hand, we can see a large herd of pelicans and a lone flamingo. On our side, there is a large group of black geese and some white-faced ducks.
The road turns inland. Here the grasslands are burnt off and fresh shoots come up. There are groups of bushes and trees that have not been burned. Neither is the grass beneath them, and they look like islands in a green sea. Both sides of the road are burned, but not between the wheel tracks. It gives a very strange effect.
We find a lot of known and unknown plants, and enjoy the warm 30 degrees heat. At three o'clock, we will have to return home; to go shopping. I go past the Internet and home to arrange photos. Colin has invited me to dinner. Smoked pork ribs, cooked in closed Weber grill. Can definitely be recommended! We sit and chat to eleven o'clock, and then I sneak home to sort the photos and write a diary. It got a little short again ...
In the toilet, I find a spider with a leg span of about seven centimetres. It's a male, I hope I don't meet the female in the same little room! Big centipede are crawling around at Colin's place. That is: They are one centimetre thick and six centimetres long. The big ones are said to be 20 centimetres long! It's good to close the door to your cabin at night. Unfortunately, it does not close better, than it just keeps the dogs out.
3.We meet at eight. Colin has no dives, so he can drive us in his big four-wheel drive. This is required the newly opened Mobaso Reserve. It is located along the great Lake Sibaya. Here are not many bad animals, we actually only see a gray dyke and a lot of birds. There are a bunch of cows around too, but beyond their interest in our car, they keep to themselves. The good thing is, we can allow ourselves to jump out of the car wherever we want.
Here are Hyponix flowers and the very exciting Oxygonum dregeanum, of which I have only seen in Maddy's photos. I make some myself, and dug a little. I sneak in a couple of scarab beetles, which are actually pretty shy. We find an abandoned turtle shield and a lot of beautiful flowers. I manages to expose the side of one of the great Crynum bulbs. Have tried several times, but they grow quite deep, and weigh over a kilo.
We were shopping for lunch on the road. Biscuits, a chicken leftovers from yesterday, various cheeses, even a blue one from Rosenborg. When we ate ribs yesterday, I told myself to eat all my food with knife and fork. Now that we are sitting by a lake, with dirty dirt after all the engraving, I must add: "- unless I can't wash my fingers!".
Searches a little under the trees at the edge of the lake. Here, like everywhere else in the area, the "soil" is light gray, fine sand. Finds an exciting plant that I immediately guess to be a hyacinth or lily. Exposing carefully what I hope is an onion, and comes to a relatively large tuber belonging to an orchid. Very exciting, if you ask me. It would fit so well in my collection! Hope I can find a name and a copy in Denmark.
There also grows Sarcostemma with nice tubers, just below the surface, and some small sweet Ledebourgias standing in flowerbuds. Closer to the water, Hibiscus grows, with large yellow flowers. Further up, Aloe umfoloziensis and Kalanchoe rotundifolia grow as flowers here. Between the trees grows masses of Zamioculca's zamiifolia, which looks somewhat different from the ones we get from the Dutch greenhouses. The tubers are sparse, and deep down.
Up in the trees grow two kinds of orchids. One is completely without leaves. The first I saw, I took to be the roots of a common orchid, that had the leaves removed. It also grows ferns on the branches, and in the forest floor, which is otherwise dry. Some of the trees are small Cussonias, which have some amazingly large caudex. They flower and have fruits, and I photograph eagerly.
I spotted some heart-shaped leaves that belong to a Dioscorea sylvatica. Maddy finds the tuber and I expose the surface of it. Later we find a large old seed stand, that I find some seeds in. Despite being so dry, there are astonishingly many lichens and mosses on the branches. In some places, we find parasitic plants, covered in leaves in otherwise bare trees. We continue along the lake, swinging occasionally into the country.
In one of the drier places, we find low crippled Commiphore africana. An fishing eagle is passing by, and we manage to drive fairly close to it. Could well have used a 500mm lens some times. There are also terns, geese and waders along the lake. A place where people have once lived, is a huge huge Sanseveria. It is of the special kind that has completely round leaves. They are over two meters long and four centimetres in diameter.
Above it grows a sausage tree, Kigelia africana. Its huge fruits of up to two litres, hang dangerously over our heads. There are a lot of flowers on, but they do show off at night or in the morning. Under the tree, we also find a millstone that has been in use for the past ten years. In a field nearby a pretty big bird is walking around. It is related to the bustard, and is called kuri; Ardeotis kori.
We're back at half past five. It's Saturday night and I'm inviting for food at the local restaurant. I reach home to a hot bath. Could not get hot water this morning and after sweating and digging sand away from the tubers, I have a need! I also get to look through the 357 photos from the trip and write a little diary. In one of the camp's trees, a bunch of nuns (small birds) breed.
I get picked up at the gate, and we drive out to the neighbour. I get calamari and a 300 gram extremely tender cow, wrapped in bacon, generously poured into pepper sauce. With a bottle of wine, soda and beer and coffee I have to drop 350 kroner. And it's definitely the best restaurant in the hundreds of miles around!
I learn differently during dinner. In the
local language, which is a bit Zulu-like, means Burman: Neighbour.
75% of all women giving birth in the area have AIDS / HIV.
Practically none of the local inhabitants are left. Three or four
hundred years ago, they were driven of by the Zulus, from the north
and the whites from the south.
4. We start with shared morning coffee, and at eight o'clock, we head out to and over the Mokhatini Flats. A huge huge fairly flat sandy area. It is the finest beach sand, all the way out to the sea. We sometimes stop and find lots of exciting plants along the way. There are Toadbush, whose large fruits resemble toads, beautiful blue creepers, Kaiser lice in the Aloe, various Sanseverierias, Klenia fulgens with flowers and tuber, the small mesemb Aptenia cordifolia with flowers, Aloe chabaudii and several A. umfoloziensis, some exposed tubers of a Talinum, beautifully spotted Euphorbia grandicornis, Ledebourgias, some Aruns, small sweet Euphorbias with spikes, Pterodiscus which is a really delicious caudiciform, Albucas with flowers, Ipomoea bulusiane which also flowers, huge Euphorbia ingens, and many other beautiful flowers and exciting plants.
We reach the mountains, and stop at the large Pongolapoort Dam. On the cliffs next to it live at least two kinds of lizards, which are really nice. There are also some new Euphorbians, some unknown Portulacs, fig trees on the bare vertical rock and other drought tolerant plants on the otherwise bare rocks.
The local boys try to sell different crystals, but I have enough to drag on. There is a great view down the valley. A little water is passed through the dam and it forms a beautiful rainbow. We drive up the mountains, which are closer to enormous hills. There are donkeys walking around, some with goods on their backs, others completely free.
Despite the fact that we are at highs, and the
temperature is comfortable, just around 30 degrees. It was only the
first day, it was cold down here. Otherwise it is around good Danish
We see quite a few people walking along the road, but the houses are further inland. The cabins we can see, are either round with pointed grass roofs and branches / clay walls, or square with double twigs walls down stones between. The roof is flat.
We are now right in the northwest corner, between Mozambique and Swaziland. Here, high up, is Border Cave. Just before we reach it, we meet the girl who works there. She closed a little hour ago. Well, never mind: I've seen the black, smelly holes before! We have driven about 50 kilometres on a very little used gravel and grass road. She may not have many visitors a month.
Here are plenty to look at. First we find Plectranthus, then Aloe spicata. Then suddenly there is a Pachypodium saundersii, which is a spiked caudiciform. There are only a few, and the Cysas: Encephalarthos villosus is also very sparse. There is a great view down over Swaziland (or is it Mozambique?). The rocks are generously dotted with red aloes and then I find terrestrial Orchids. It is probably an Eulophia, but there is no flower in it, so the species cannot be determined.
It is past four, and we will have to turn our nose home. I spot a beautiful Cussonia, and as I am about to photograph it, I discover an Aloe I have not seen before. It turns out to be Aloe suprafoliata, which Maddy (who is Aloe Nerd) has only seen photos of. There are also some Albuca with partially exposed bulb.
It is a long trip home, especially since we do
not reach the asphalt road until after dark. We are home at eight
o'clock. Colin lures with coffee, but I have 536 photos to go
through. Had been expecting to grab dinner at the neighbour's on the
way home, it's Sunday and they have closed. Have to resort to my
last breakfast. Also runs out of water, and the power have gone.
Pretty shitty ending to an otherwise brilliant day.