5. At six o'clock. Not because I really want to, or am fresh. You just dive so damn early here. Colin had invited me to breakfast, which suited me well, since I had run out. We drive down to the water, where the whole camp is set up. There are about eight involved in making camp, filling the bottles, finding gear, preparing the boat and getting it into the water, the captain and the divemaster. And then I'm the only diver! A little embarrassing, but Colin takes it well, though he loose money.
While standing with a cup of coffee, watching the other work hard, a humpback whale pops up in the bay. It is no more than 1-200 meters out, and we can clearly see it. It does make some flicks with its tail, high above the surface, but i is camera shy. Only do it, when I'm not ready. It is on very shallow water and rubs against the sandy bottom.
We sail on the Two Mile Reef, and watch Coral Garden and The Caves. Loads of brightly coloured fish and other animals, some waves and water only 22 degrees. Have a really good dive, but will settle for one. It's just too cold. In the summer, they can reach 28 degrees; it is significantly better. I'm getting set off at camp, around 10, and start preparing for my departure tomorrow morning. Clothes mus be washed, stay paid (100 kr per day, nine days) and photos and diary from yesterday must be collected.
I finish at one o'clock, and head up to Colin, to back up my photos and diary. Knowing Murphy's Law, you can try to manipulate it. I walk home, and work a little on my website. Have learned new, and found a whole new family of caudiciform members. Have dinner at the neighbour's house and head to bed early. I'm behind, and diving is always tiring.
6. Early up and up to Colin for morning coffee. We're not driving right away: Maddy has a hard time saying goodbye to Colin. Right after we cleared the town, it started to rain a little. It is no more than 13 degrees, and the whole trip down to Port Edward, it rains more or less. It is the first rainfall they have received around here, so it is welcome. Personally, I felt better with 35 degrees and sunshine.
First we drive through enormous eucalyptus forests. Same thickness and height as large flagpoles, just slightly more leaves at the top. Then sugar cane starts on the hills and just before we hit Port Edward, it turns over to bananas. We wander up a very long dirt road and come to a huge house in the middle of a banana plantation. This is where Alexander and his girlfriend Michelle live. Alexander was born in Madagascar, and has lived for many years on a small French island. Now he grows bananas and cut flowers.
We get rooms with separate bathrooms in different wings of the huge house. Meet in the kitchen, where we chat, while the guys feed their large collection of butterfly larvae. They are of a local species, where all the males are the same and there are five or more different types of females. They each resemble another poisonous species in particular. They only take six weeks from eggs until they lay eggs. They have a unbelievable appetite!
They prepare a delicious dinner for us: Spicy green beans, ostrich steaks and Madagascar pepper. For dessert, there are baked hollowed out apples with sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and butter filling. A bit of a joke: Alexander has been looking like a madman for unsalted butter, and has finally found something, and then it's Danish. I think Danes and South Africans are the only ones who use salted butter.
Ostrich is pretty new on the South Africans menu. It was only when the bird flu came, they did local advertising. Then they got the taste for it. A bit of a laugh when Alex told about it: "After the bird flu" Maddy added: "After the bird flew" and she was sure ostriches couldn't fly!
We talk quite a lot, mostly about living in a foreign country and South Africa in general. Then Alex mentions a disaster in the United States. Huge flood in Louisiana with over 10,000 dead. Help from over 60 countries, including 1000 doctors from Cuba and money from Bangladesh. Bush has stated he will receive help from every country. Something wild!
I have a small point on my arm that itches completely crazy. A closer look revels a little tick. If you do not get rid of them quickly, you will have a fever. It takes about 14 days to develop: I can reach it, just before I go home. There are different ticks that each cause their own disease. Only one of them is as bad as the Danish variant, so I can take it easy.
We raise the meeting just over ten. The others have to get up early and today's 550 kilometres of rainy weather has taken on Maddy. I just need to arrange five photos today and write a little diary.
7. Alex shows us down to a certain spot on the coast of Port Edward. Here are the gaps between the huge rocks filled with succulents. Fantastic nice area. We start by jumping around on the stones, but then they become overgrown with an ancient lichen - so rather enter the plants. Here are Ceropegias, Albucas, Hermanthys albiflos and other caudiciforms as well as a lot of succulents I can't name.
We finally get detached from the plants. The temperature is around 13-15 degrees and the winds are naturally doing its thing! We drive inland to Oribi Gorge, which is a huge crack in the otherwise relatively flat agricultural land. A single path leads down the canyon, and we stop countless times. Here is the ferns and sundew - small carnivorous plant, Cucurbitaceae with tubers and finally I succeeded: Obetia! A member of the stinging needle family, which becomes a tree up to ten meters tall.
We find countless succulents on the north-facing slope - that's what the sun shines on. Maddy has to pick up the car many times, while I just walk on. After many hours, we reach the other side. On the way back, I see a strange liana that is incredibly wide, a huge Cycas and several succulents.
We park the car at the entrance and take the Baboon Path. Haven't seen any baboons by the way, but in the gorge, there were two flocks of velvet monkeys, or something like that. There are plenty of bulbs that are just starting to sprout or bloom. Then we get to the edge: Wow! Huge gorge with jagged sides. We crawl over the edge and find amazing plants. We find one Petopentia natalensis after another. They are getting bigger and bigger; the last Maddy find, is with a detached tuber of just over 30 centimetres in diameter.
There has been some discussion about the colour of the underside of the leaf. It can be dark purple or completely green. Here we find all variations, sometimes on the same plant. I can only interpret that as: It is not (only?) inheritance, but to a large extent the environment that determines the colour. Lots of light make them purple. Great to get it figured out!
It suddenly gets dark. It is about to be that time, but now there is a fierce thunderstorm and it takes the last light. Too bad; we could well have spent more time in this ravine. Some drizzle during the day, but as we drive home, it is cats & dogs. Alex is well pleased: His large banana plantation was very dry.
They have been fed their butterfly caterpillars, and are well on their way to dinner, as we arrive. Chops with cream stewed potatoes. The dessert is waffles. I'm starting to fix my 822 photos - groan - colossally huge groan! The diary becomes keywords, maybe I can remember something later? Tilt to bed at one o'clock, and set the clock to 5.30. Even bigger groan!
8. Slightly injured, I stumble out of bed for hot waffles. It's good weather again, the sun is shining and Alex is sighing after rain. We are talking about which road to drive: Big arch one way, or the other. Both roads were bad as they used them last, which is almost the same distance, so we choose the one, that were bad because of road work. They do not hold back for having red light on road work for up to 20 minutes.
We have to drive 730 kilometres, and the locals think it will take eleven hours. If we drive a little detour so there is something exciting to look at, it will be 880 kilometres. We gas in Grahamstown and find out at Addo Elephant National Park as it gets dark at six. There are not many available cabins, but we get two for 340 kroner each. It is almost log houses, very cosy, but also cold.
Can't make the water heater work, and then it can be just the same! Despite there is a communal kitchen, and a large barbecue outside each cottage, we dine at the on-site restaurant. Maddy is tired of the long drive and I just get a nasty migraine. We get very delicious kudo steaks, dessert, two glasses of wine, two sodas, two coffees and then have to drop 190 kroner in the park's only restaurant.
Haven't mentioned it before, I think - but
everywhere I've been, there have been toilet boards and paper. Can't
remember I've tried it outside Europe before. There is also hot
water everywhere, except here where it just doesn't work. Many
times, I forget I'm in Africa. There are only white people.
Landscapes, buildings, cars and everything else reminiscent of
9. Waking up to four degrees of coldness! There is still no hot water, otherwise it could have been a good hot shower. Maddy makes morning coffee, and as the park opens the gate at half past seven, we are waiting. We don't see much, despite being there at the same time as the sun's first rays. Then we swing down past a lake, and here is a large bunch of buffaloes in the process of drinking.
We are looking for elephants. I've lived on the Elephant Coast for fourteen days, and haven't seen one yet! Then some ostriches emerge. Many ostriches! They are everywhere, and are frequently photographed by the park few other visitors. Then some kudos, forest bucks, gray dikes and warthogs appear. We talk to others, who have stopped at the one lake where you are aloud out of the car. It is on your own responsibility, as they have six lions in the park. The others have not seen elephants either, but everyone agrees, it should be renamed Addo Austris National Park.
It seems absolutely crazy, that we can't spot just some of the 400 elephants that are in this little park. There is no vegetation higher than them. The predominant plant is a small-leafed cousin to the paradise tree. The area is hilly, so you can see large areas.
Last chance: We just skip the big lake before we have to continue today's program. On the way up to the lookout point, I spot three cars holding together. A closer look reveals: Elephants! It is a small herd, with a very young calf standing five to ten metres from the road. They are more or less hidden behind the bushes, but I got to see it.
We have a quick breakfast in the restaurant, and head west on the famous Garden Route. It is thus named, because it is flanked by unknowingly flowering shrubs and small plants. We stop at a huge ravine. It is not wide, but very deep. We have run across many similar ones. Many times, you can glimpse the sea between the relatively low mountains. Here are just idyllic and beautiful houses and towns. Tin sheds are gone.
We drive through the relatively large town of George, and on the way out of town suddenly some ugly sounds come from the car. It sounds like drive shaft / differential, and there is nothing else to do, but call for help. We wait two hours to be towed. It's Friday afternoon, and the delay means the official workshop doesn't bother to touch it. The two guys towing it recommend a gear workshop. One man's business, though, is - not surprisingly - fresh. He'll try to look at it tomorrow morning, and grab used parts this Saturday.
He gives us a lift to Gorge Lodge which is quite lovely. I ask for an internet cafe, and I get one. We can't find it just yet, but it's been late, and an Italian restaurant is luring. After dinner, I ask for directions. Finds the Internet, but they just shut down. Then I come home earlier.
We have driven 3503 kilometres together in the eastern part of South Africa, and I have to pay 4800 kroner. Extremely reasonable, when you consider that it costs her are half a DKK per kilometre just in diesel. Many of the parks I got into free of charge, as she has a year card: Wild Card. I have a hard time believing it could have been done cheaper, and not even with the excellent plant guide!
10. After breakfast, I try Plan B: To rent a car at AVIS. It can be delivered fairly close to the Newlands Gesthouse, where I will meet the other participants for the Succulent Tour tonight. AVIS here just no more cars in the Gorge. Plan C: Simply fly directly to Cape Town. Calling the local airport ticket office, that didn't answer. The locals say it means no planes are departing for the time being. Plan D: Rent a car at Budget. They have a single back, that they want 1000 + 300 + petrol = 1630 kr. Since the alternative is not to join the trip from the start, there is no plan E.
Maddy helps me with the route. First to the ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn. Then down to LÁgulhas, Africa's southernmost point. Then head to Cape Town Airport and drop off the car after 690 kilometres. It first goes up through stunning mountains. Have to stop sometimes to photograph prospects and plants.
I find one of several ostrich farms that are
audience oriented. I'm the only one, but they have room for about
ten buses. There is half an hour for the show to start, so I check
out the garden, souvenir shop and their free coffee. Four others
show up, and then we drive out to the farm itself. Here is a
fantastic house. Really nice, built in 1811. The stones are local,
but the tiles are Belgian, windows and doors Dutch, and that's how
it is all the way through.
Return to the centre, where you can try riding one. That is exactly why I am here, so I get up one one, who is being chased around in the big enclosure. It seems completely unaffected by a near doubling of the weight, and it is surely speedy!
I must head on, but it's hard to keep driving, when driving through wild succulent fields. Stops several times and 10-15 new succulents are found. One stop at a turtle, and in most fenced fields there are ostriches. Then there are huge mountains and hills. I slowly climb up to a large plateau.
The roads are amazing; some quite like Danish roads. The car only drives 140 at first, but after a bit of practice, it reaches 160-190 kilometres per hour. Watching three crane pairs, guinea fowl, countless ostriches, blood weavers and many other birds, as well as little sheep, goats, cows and a few donkeys.
The last stretch of road down to D'Agulhas is through picturesque small towns that are a mix of artists and holiday homes. The southern tip itself is cliffs, covered with succulents and individual tubers. I get a lot of plant photos, before I remember the tip. A single self portrait and then the nose up north. Wanted to hit Cape Town before it is completely dark!
Most of the way, I have for myself, or a single BMW, trying in vain to shake me off. Through huge cornfields, so far the eyes reach. Arriving in Cape Town just after sunset. Airports are right on the road. I park, and give the keys to a guy in a shed. I have driven 670 kilometres by my self. Enter the Arrivals Hall to call Kotie, who picks me up after quarter of an hour. They were getting nervous for me.
We drive into a wonderfully cosy guesthouse, very nice. I drop the bag, and then we drive to a local restaurant. Only Kotie, an American and an English woman and me. The others must be picked up early in the morning or join in along the tour. I order 800 grams of warthog, which is almost a quarter. Mums, it's great!
Home to arrange 400 photos. I am allowed to
borrow Garth's internet, and finally get mails from Rikke. She has
passed her driving test, so all is well. I arrange photos till
passed one, and set the clock to 7.30