From Diary 4.
17. After breakfast, and the panic of distributing knives, plates, chairs and everything else between the respective cabins, we head out to Cornel's Kopf. On the way we stop to see some huge Aloe pillansii growing on a steep cliff wall. We reach the sea further, and the fog lies thick over the low mountains.
On one of the telephone poles along the road sits a large Cape Owl. Many of the poles have nests, looking like crow's nests, but there are also other birds that use them, such as falcons. The crows here have completely white vests. We are out and using the showel once, to get the bus across the road.
As they get off the bus, it loses air on the left rear wheel. I feel sorry for them, and show where the highjack is, and how it works. The spare wheel has definitely known better days, but it survives, we fill in a little more air.
Here the rocks are malachite. Strange rock that sounds hard as glass, but soft as limestone. We walk up over the edge to find a specific place to photograph. We have a photo that was taken 55 years ago, and will compare to the big Aloe pillanse that still grows here. Unfortunately, only half are left. There are only very few seedlings under 200 years old.
At the top there are indistinct remains of an ancient settlement. There is a fantastic view of a very large valley on both sides of the mountain range. There is a strange hollow on the top, and in one area are many crushed rocks, that are not naturally placed but overgrown by many hundreds of years of lichen. Pearls are said to have been found here.
On the way back, we find the most strange plant I have seen in a long time. It really looks like something from a movie titled, "They came from Mars and ate us ..." It's a spiny parasitic plant that lives on the roots of Euphorbias and it's called Hydnora gricana.
The next stop is a little poor in plant, but there are some amazing rocks that are worn by sand and wind. They become angular as opposed to beach stones. We are in an almost barren desert, which is just rough gravel as far as eyes go, and it is far here! There are thousands of empty white snail encasings. In many places there are only 15-20 centimetres between them. It is desert snails still living here. They come up out of the sand, when it rains infrequently, and some of the encasingsmay be hundreds of years old.
It hardly rains here, but there are quite a few lichens. It lives by the fog that rolls in from the sea, and it also helps to keep alive the sparse plants that live here. Some of the others see a adder, I only find the skin.
The second last stop also brings exciting stones. They are really sandblasted. The softer parts are worn away and they look like a bit of wood. I gather a lot for Rikke. Haven't seen anything I could buy as a souvenir. We will stop one last time, this time there is Anacarpus living on vertical slate. New species not yet described.
Right in the last rays of sun, we re-visit a
colony of Carryopsis. They didn't bloom last when it was
greyish, but now they are on top. Absolutely wild! Huge bright
yellow flowers on small plants.
18. Sleeps way too little and is pissed, as breakfast is half an hour late. We finally leave The Old Mill, and head south again. The first stop will be Groot-Graafwater, where the attraction is Lithops. Some of them are huge: Up to six centimetres. Here is also a huge Pelargonium and a new red spiny plant.
We drive a little further out of the dirt road that runs parallel to the country road, and have lunch. I have slept most of the way, and tilt in the car after lunch. I really have to find a way to get more sleep at night. Just dare not fail to arrange photos. If I don't do it now, I'll never get to do it. It's bad enough I have to correct all the Latin names. I can't spell them, know only a few genera, and no species at all. Can't even figure out how to do it ... Just wrote down what it sounds like and there is a big difference in who pronounces it. Some genera I think are new to me, turn out to be old familiar.
The next stop will be Keren's Horticulture with succulents and the like. It is mainly South African, but there are also some foreign plants. It belongs to Buys Wiese, who also has the farm, where we walked around the fields, and saw countless different plants. He bought it 40 years ago and threw all the cattle out of half .. Ten years ago they cleared out of the rest for cattle. He lives by breeding seedlings of the seeds from his fields. Really sympatric man.
I ask for some South African plants I'm looking for. He has one, and tells me it has changed its name. That is, they have split it into two species. The new one is named after his wife in Latin. I will have to buy one, and then get his wife lured into a portrait. Despite being over 70, she behaves like a giggling schoolgirl. She probably not use to that!
Alex, who will be the driver / guide for the next week's time, joins us. Hope not to replace Graham, because he is a fantastic "reference book". Of course, it helps, he knows what plants to expect to find in the area, but he has it all in his head!
There is a river nearby, but it has an amount of salt two, and a half times more than the sea, so it has no irrigation value. There are table mountains in the background, and as we continue, it becomes more lush. We make a stop in a ravine where there grows some flowering Aloe glauca, which just isn't blue. I see a single hyrax, otherwise it is only birds and insects.
On the way up the slope, I find a one-year-old turtle - man, it is it cute! The valley is full of irrigated fields and, like everywhere, the "fields" are fenced. Either nets and a few rows of barbwire have been used or just six to ten rows of barbwire. Everywhere they are strung like piano strings.
We drive off, and I sit and sleep in the back seat of Maddy’s car. We are the regular gang: Maddy, Mary from England, who is about 70 and hard to keep up with, and me. My body hurts! I am down so many times, my lower legs are shaking violently. The neck pain of sleeping in the car, and five hours of working with a PC on a bed is probably not ergonomically correct either. One groin is wildly sour and the headache is never far away. The tick bite is constantly itching along with the other bites, and some of the thorns have started to become inflamed. Is hot on the forehead. and constantly get chills. If I was my horse, I would go out the back and shoot it!
We swing off in Clanwilliam, to get to what I consider the highlight of the trip: Dioscorea elephantipes. It is one of my first plants and a real favourite. They make a turtle-like tuber up to a meter in diameter, and then on top of the ground! Unfortunately, it has become quite late in the day and they are in deep, thorny and impenetrable scrub. As the icing on the cake, the bloody farmer has decided that precisely in the centre of this colony, should be his trash / firing place be located. I try to shoot a couple of photos while I'm hurt by the thorns, and I'm not really in a good mood.
The scenery is stunning: Steep cliffs that resemble building blocks, the dark blue Clanwilliam Lake and an almost cloudless sky. We drive into town and book into the Strassburger Hotel. I ask, a little naively, if there is internet in the city. Yes - tomorrow! I'm allowed to borrow the director's and spend a quarter logging on. Can't really allow me to start reading emails; just send one to Rikke about, I'm fine. I am surprised that they even bother to be online. It's damn expensive, up to two kroner a minutes, and then it's 28K modem speed - when it works! Also finds a postcard, and the man at the counter even has some stamps, and is willing to send it.
I have taken at least 210 photos today, and am aiming for the diary. And then maybe the one from yesterday, and sort the photos from yesterday. And keep the card up to date - I'm a little week behind with it. Dinner is one of the better experiences: Buffet with two soups, parsley pie, baked fish, salmon, tuna mousse, seafood salad, roast beef, wiener schnitzel, various salads, meat pie, baked potatoes, homemade ferrets, natural rice, cheese table and ice cream dessert, chocolate mousse brandy cake and coffee.
19. Eight hours of sleep was just what I needed. The body is still sore, but the mood significantly higher. The breakfast is as sumptuous as the dinner, and we get packed lunches, that we have been given before, just two boxes each.
We follow the main road down to Citrusdal, and then turn inland onto a small dirt road. We get through huge citrus, almond, apricot and other orchards down the valley. Up in the passes where we are close to 1000 meters up, the landscape is more alpine, but without frost. At first, the fog is at the top of the mountains, but it is gone as we get up there.
We stop a few times in the heights and find, among other things, a small plant called Zyonella orchioides, which is not an orchid, and a true orchid called Sateyrium erectum, which is completely flat. The leaves touch the ground all over. Latin, then, is easy, right? We also stand in the Grootriverhoogte Pass and enjoy the view. Below us is first cedar forests, then lush fields and orchards.
Down at the bottom of the valley are large artificial lakes that form beautiful wetlands. In some fields, up to 100 workers end up, or there is a smaller flock of Viennese ladders, tying support strands up. We stop at what looks like a booring high plains and eat the sumptuous lunches. I stay inside the car: Despite it being no more than 30 degrees and there is a gentle breeze, the sun is really vicious.
We walk a little half a kilometre up the hill on one side of the road and down the other. You cannot put your feet down in certain areas without stepping on Lithops that bloom beautifully. Many other exciting plants, including a large red flower of a rhizome: Hyohanes glabra.
We have entered the Karoo, which is known for its exciting plant life. Much of the area is Fynbos, which means fine / thin shrubs. Through Ob Die Berg, and after Prince Alfred Hamlet, we reach the large fruit village of Ceres, and immediately turn off from even smaller dirt road. We pass a couple of lakes - across - and now drive through huge semi-barren hills that are only used for sheep grazing.
We make some minor stops, and reach the Matjien's Fountain, and find Laingsburg, where we will spend the night. Evening as usual: Photos, food, more photos and diary. As to to celebrate I go home in a week, I choose to wash clothes. Looking forward to get home to work soon, so I can relax!
The eight hours of night sleep helped: I didn't fall asleep a single time during the day, and the last part was even dull scenery seen from the car. At home on the hotel, I just look around the huge bathroom once more: Yes, it is good enough: There is not a shower, only a large bathtub.
20. All day must be spent in the park Anysberg. It is a 63,000 hectare nature reserve, owned by WWF. We stop on the road to pick up our local guide Gerhard Marx. We are on a small farm, very far from anything. The owner has a fairly large collection of mature cacti and succulents, most of them strangers.
On most plants there are huge grasshoppers, which only reluctantly move, when you prick them. Not surprisingly, they are toxic. If it was my collection, they were thrown far into the neighbour's fields 10-15 kilometres away! We find a small Pachypodium succulentum, but it looks more like two pencils with thorns, than a caudiciform.
Further out are the cutest little Christmas trees. It's really an Euphorbia multiceps, but it's similar. Here again the crease is dry and masses of lichen on the stones. At the next stop, I find what is probably a new species of Anacaperos. It is considerably more hairy than some of the others. I would very much like to be able to make a description and name it after my grandmother; Doris, who infected me with the interest in plants.
We get to the park and get a pep talk from the female manager, who understandably is very proud of her possessions. It's been a damn long trip out here (and the home trip felt much longer), and then it turns out we could have stayed the night. Then we had saved 65-80 kilometres of miserable dirt road - twice.
We escape into the rear of the park. The earth is undermined by rats. They account for 60% of the park's edible plants, and are something of a problem. Here are some gazelles, some leopards and we see some Oryx. Fantastic animal, and can be seen throughout the drier Africa.
Next special plant is Crassula pyramidalis, which flowers.I'm not quite on top. Pain in the shoulder, and stomach upset. Want to sleep a lot more than dusting up and down rocky hillsides after weeds. Can't remember when we last saw a decent caudiciform, and not at all one you could see the caudex of. Sleeps on all the drives, and also one of the stops.
We drive among some large mountains, which are only sparsely grown, and only with ankle-high bushes and smaller succulents. Turns our noses home, and I sleep most of the way, except when Oryx is reported along the road. Roll over directly to bed, and wake up only eleven hours later, and without being hungry.
21. I feel a little more rested, but still does not run on all cylinders. Gets a light breakfast and then voluntarily crawls in the back seat, even though it was my turn to sit in the front. Blunder a little, as we head east towards Calizdorp. First we stop right at the city limits to see some Haworthias. Personally, I thought the coolest thing is the huge, big coal-black grasshoppers with bright red markings.
Then we are just inside Anysberg, to
see some other Haworthias, and I am lucky to find a small
branch of a Kedrostis. Then we turn east and come through the
huge Seven-Days-Pass, which crosses through the large
mountain range that separates the Karoo from Little Karoo. We stop
several times and make a long walk with the cars following us.
We pass a single inhabited house on the long road, and it is almost in the middle. Loads of beautiful flowering trees fill the small valley and it looks terribly idyllic. There is not much wildlife here: a single turtle, a little grasshopper and a few flies are all I see. The amazing thing is the countless views between the steep mountains. Every few meters a new landscape is revealed.
Now that we have two guides with us, the names
are better - not! Ask about about some bulbs and they say: Bulba.
Thsn I try a Crassula and an Oxalis - with the same
result: What I already know.
On the way back, they show us two rare Euphorbia gamkensis that grow in their scrapping / rubbish area. Then we rush to Boplaas, which turns out to be a famous winery. Directly into the shop, skip the lecture, and when everyone has bought, we drive. There are rumours about Alex, who arranges the trip, has shares in the enterprise.
We book into an absolutely adorable hotel on the outskirts of Calitzdorp. I get a room overlooking a vineyard and the exposed thatched roof, with two canopy beds and some antique furniture. In all the common rooms, with the antique photographs, there is life in the fireplaces. Dinner is osse buco on lamb. Is it osse sheep? The lambs have grown up among the succulents and live mainly on a rosemary-like plant. They are cooked two hours in red wine, and are more than totally tender!
22. First, we head out to see Gerhard Marx's collection. He regrets it has become a bit dull; most really exciting things are taken out to his new farm. At first, most of his house burned, mainly he work room with all his work - he is a botanical drawing artist. When he had the house rebuilt, the city decided to lay out his neighbouring land for the township. That is, tiny houses, without sewers or other facilities, but with open fires for cooking and an awful lot of people. Black South Africans refuse to share outer walls with others. They would rather live in tiny little one-bedroom houses totally without amenities.
Still, I find exciting plants in the collection, and get a series of photos for a page. He has some Dioscorea hemicrypta, and he ask, if I want to go out and see the big wild ones. Yes please! We drive five minutes and along the road some tubers grow up to 30 centimetres in diameter and over half a meter high. I find some seeds in the many empty fruits, and nibble a little at the Botanical Garden. Doesn't fit Alex, but how did he get his own collection? Excavated it ???
Then we drive out to a field where there is Euphorbia colicurica, Haworthia multicanta, and some bulbs. Unfortunately, no one dares to guess which ones, without flower. If I finally find one with a flower, I get no further than Albuca, Bulbine or the like. Never species. A little irritation. I know the species myself.
We see the first turtle of the day and they
seem to be getting bigger every day. Next place is another and the
most exciting within the plants is Othonna suculenta, which
with a little good will, is a caudiciform. Unfortunately, they are
not exactly in the growing season now. Neither are Tylecodon
cacaloides, but they do look a little more alive.
Alex is going to the bank and I am coming to raise money for Maddy. First a queue, then I'm told that if I don't have a passport, my card needs to be verified: Second queue. It hardly moves either. Alex pulls me out of it, and into an office where I'm waiting, they find out they can't help him. They can't help me either. Back in line from before, which has grown longer. As they finally become my turn, I am told they cannot verify my card without a passport. I complain, the first one didn't tell me, and before I do something stupid, I leave. Three blocks wasted. Raises a few thousand in the machine outside in under a minute. Then I just need 2800 more ....
On the way home, we see five to ten turtles along the road. The largest ones are over 30 centimetres long, and probably weigh close to twenty kilos. These are African leopard turtles, and appear to be extremely numerous, despite the locals being said to cook them in their own shield.
We'll stop for the last time at a
nearby landfill / trash site. There are an incredible number of
cacti and agaves, but also local plants. The most exciting thing for
me is Eriospermum's (where the tuber is completely hidden)
and pitiful Tylecodon venticoseas.