requested by the cacti and succulent gardener in Copenhagen
Botanical Garden to start an education as greenhouse gardener. It is
a three year, eight month education with both school and practical
training. Due to my former experience, I've been able to cut it down
to two years, two month. The Botanical Garden only takes second term
apprentice, so I have to find a first term practice place. Pinching
cucumbers for half year aren't me, but then I get this great offer:
Practical training at
New Plant Nursery in George, South Africa.
It is the biggest nursery in South Africa with indigenous plants.
It turns out, it is not that easy. The Danish educational system are only based on Denmark, and if is wild: Some of the countries of the European Community. I spend real long time trying to figure, how it can be done. I have to get the place recognised as a certified educational place, get an insurance, a flight ticket and get a working/study visa. It turns up, after a long waiting, I don't need a work visa, I just have to renew the three month visa while I'm there. Where I'm going to stay and details like that have to wait until I'm actually there. I have to sign up at the school, get the contract with the Botanical Garden, and last but suddenly not least: Get someone to look after my more than 120 plants from 87 different families. The gardener from the botanical garden take it on his shoulders. Many more details like mail, money and - stuff - takes me more than two month, full time, to sort out.
George, named after King George II, is located in the Western Cape, rather close to the Cape. It started out as a timber-town, but the only timber fund now, is pine trees and some Eucalyptus. Is the largest town on the Garden Route, with a population of 140.000, and expanding rapidly. It was founded in 1811, is the sixth oldest town in South Africa and has some nice old buildings. It is located eight kilometres inland in low hills. The mountains starts a bit further inland. To tourists it almost only known for the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe; a steam train from 1928, which have been closed for some time due to landslides. When I first visit the town in 2005, it reminded me of any west Australian town. Calm British Colonial stile all the way. The surrounding nature is awesome: Fynbos, forest, Garden Route it selves, rough mountains - succulent's paradise.
The nursery it selves is located between George and Wilderness, five kilometres to each, it the fork between the costal highway and Victoria Bay Road, in farmland. The 70 employees grow 600 different plants, mainly for local sale. It is around 100.000 square meters.
29/1. I booked a British Airways flight through Travelstart. Due to a cabin crew strike (which neither BA nor Travelstart bothered to inform me about), I had to reschedule the Johannesburg flight, leaving one day before. Neither BA nor South African Airways could change the last leg to George, and Travelstart didn't bother. 26 hours in Jo-burg was not my dream, but what can I do? Got a mail half an hour before leaving; confirming the change. Then I just have to get a confirmation on the vital correction on my name on the tickets. Asked Travelstart to make it 14 days ago, but ended up doing it my selves, even though I can't. BA will try, they promised, Saturday. Gets it confirmed in the train, halfway to the airport. Then I just have to worry about the immigration.
Smooth tour until Johannesburg, where I'm are supposed to have a printed ticket. The E-ticket number I have is a British Airways number, and that does not work for South African Airways. Another unfriendly thought goes to Travelstart! Lot of talking gives me a screen-print, which with some more sweet talk transfers into a boarding card. Spent the waiting hour buying a simcard and some cell phone airtime.
Call the nursery from the George Airport, and Mandy picks me up. A huge improvement from the Danish snow I left; here it is 22 C and partly clouded. On the way to the nursery we pass by the giant mall to pickup my kitchen and some food for it. Here we meet up with Paul. Great people, this is turning out real nice. We get back to the nursery, but I can only manage to see some of the private garden and a part of the huge and extreme cosy house. Meets a lot of my new colleges, their two daughters and two dogs, but I'm afraid 5½ month will be too short for me to learn their names.
I get an new cleaned cabin in the back of the garden. A rondawel; a round hut, five meters in diameter with a small bathroom attached. Real cosy and "authentic". Same size as at home, but the surroundings are breath taking! Rolling fertile hills, surrounded by mountains. A beautiful garden with huge familiar plants. I get settled in, and go back to the large house and chat with some of the others.
Mandy and Paul invites me to dinner, and we talks to we more or less drop. It has been a long day, but I still have to write my diary. Plenty of insects play their music under the African night sky, and a full moon lights up the surrounding hills and mountains. Temperature drops only slightly to around 20 C.
30/1. A good nights sleep, and I'm ready to checking out the surroundings. The sun is shinning and the temperature climbs to 27 C. Spend some time trying to get the wireless internet connection I brought, to reach my cabin, but lack ten meters, never mind what I try. Wandering around Mandy and Paul's garden, which is more like a park.
Shoots some photos of the garden, colourful insects, sunbirds (Chalcoparia) and a toad. My camera starts to malfunction, which is some kind of a disappointment to me: Got it back from the third repair four days ago. Same error again: Can zoom, but not out again. Real annoying, and I will complain when I get home in 169 days.
Here are plenty of flowering plants, some known to me, some completely new. A fig tree with ripen fruits draw mousebirds (Coliiformes), starlings and white-eyes (Zosterops).
Easy evening cooking for the next couple of days and getting the photos sorted.
31/1. Up 6:30 and meet for my first day at work 7:30. My first assignment is repotting five Aloes. Could sound easy, but when they have been growing together in one vine barrow, and they are on my size, it is a bit more complicated. I break up some bricks in the paving, dig big holes, get them in, water them and most of the bricks back in place. Gives me blisters on my hands, a real read neck, bloody sweaty but also a good feeling of having accomplice something.
Half an hour lunch break, and next job is in the shadow, which defiantly is a good thing for my neck. Looking up the origin of all the indigenous succulents in the nursery. Coffee break and then out to make Pelargonium cuttings, interrupted by a employment meeting. Now I actually works here! More cuttings until 17:00.
Coffee and a much needed shower before dinner. Walk with Mandy and her daughter to Paul's parents next door. Fantastic garden and breath taking house. On the way, we passes the new guesthouse, which lays on a small hill, with it's own lake, and with a view to the sea on one side and the wood covered hills and the mountains to the other.
Evening spend with writing, photos and e-mails. I have to confess, not that surprising, I a bit used! Trying to get my web-bank to work: "Access your account every where in the world" turns out to be a too big mouthful for them. Their answer to my mail; asking for help is: Look at our page (the one I can't get in to), or call us (I did mention I were in South Africa). Then I try to get the Coolmenus on my site to work. They does not seem to work with Explorer 7.0, but then again: Even Explorer 7.0 does not work. The only thing I could use from that program is an uninstall function - which it does not have. Must be a beta version from a small and humble company!
1/2. Starts 7:30 in the succulent department with shifting some Aloes in 50 litres bags, and 1800 Portulacaria afra and around 180 different smaller Aloes. Finds crickets, toads, scolopendras, different snails and other small animals between the pots. Then I water 1250 different succulents and do some veeding in the patches between the beds. It is Friday, and I get off at 15:30. Been in the sun all day, and I feel like a schizophrenic beef: Both reed and well done!
A well needed shower and a cup of coffee bring me back to life. Mandy invites me to a tour to Wildernes to make a short visit to one of the employs. She have a house and a big piece of land between the river and a reserve. If that wasn't enough, she has a view to the forests to the third direction and the sea to the last.
On the way back, we take the scenic route between the hills, and a loop though a township. Defiantly the nicest I have seen. Well kept huts and green plants in between. More nature, and once again, I'm puzzled abut the fact: All the domestic animals roam free while the wild beast are all kept in enclosures, big ones, that is.
Home to a late and needed supper. Twelve hours with hard work and one cup of coffee gives a good appetite. Work on the PC for some time, and then connect the TV. After having tuned the canals (all four), I watches something...
3/2. Wakes up half past seven, and I am so aware about my body! It passes after a while, and I start enjoying the weekend. Talks with Paul about some ideas I have for trolleys and irrigation, and then I get a lift to the enormous mall. I need food, soap and other household things plus some electrical stuff. I always find it hard to find things in a new supermarket, and it sure don't help, you don't know any of the branches or wrappings at all. Anyway; it succeeded to find all, and I spend a whole weeks pay in less than one hour, and I can easily carry it in one hand.
Home to fix some bathroom tiles which fell off, when I got a water heater installed yesterday. Then I gamble, and install an old back-up to my PC: Anything to get rite of the bloody Internet Explorer 7.0! Seems to work, fingers crossed. Spending the afternoon by redecorating my rondawel and short visits out in the sun; I have plenty of a weird colour in the exposed areas!
Every evening, one hour before sunset, a big flock of guineafowls invades the lawn. A bit nosy, but nothing compared to the few black ibises out in the nursery at same time. Cook supper at eight, work on the PC and faint at half pass ten.
4/2. Sunday, and a perfect weather. Have a plan about a walk-a-bout, but get stuck-up in the Coolmenus again. Borrows the washing machine meanwhile, and walks with Mandy to Paul's parents. His father has restored cars for many years, and today he did the first run with a Hupmobile. Awesome veteran car from around 1913! Further back in his workshop is a complete Ford T, soft-top pickup, one out of four known. Other wooden-wheel cars in more or less collected and restored condition are scattered around.
Paul has fired up the barbeque, and I'm invited to braai (grill dinner) with the family and Paul's parents. Late afternoon is spend with a stroll around the area. It is a breath-taking area; Big green hills with lakes and forest scattered around. Plenty of birds; sunbirds, woodpeckers, amadines, guineafowls, buzzers, doves, weavers, pigeons, flycatchers, swallows and many more I don't know the names for. Back to the nursery, I give Coolmenu a last chance for another five hours. I'm might work, but I can't surely make it! This weekend went much too fast! Uploads photos and diary before the very late supper.
5/2. First job is to move 392 Plectranthus neochilnus, and prune 235 of them. Then I prune 216 Crassula spathulata, and get a well deserved cup of coffee. More sunshield on, factor 30, and then I'm ready for fertilizing 473 different Aloes. A handful of smelling Humac (nice name for chicken shit), and then watering it down. Cleans up the area, to make it perfect, and then it is time for second break, followed by spraying Roundup. Guess I would have to ware mask and not sandals, if I did it in Denmark?
Mandy asks me to photo some plants, which I gladly do; I'm still not total fit for this hard work, and even though I am covered in factor 30, I'm still burning. Shooting photos in the shadow house suits me fine. Process the photos, and send them off. Lungiswa, the succulent-boss, shows me what to do to morrow, while she is away, and I sneak of to get a well-deserved and needed bath.
While I cook my supper, I open a window. Scares a small gecko, which almost get eaten by a much larger spider. I had a dream of, it would be the other way around! It gets dark half past seven, and I start the daily work at the PC. Not really much else to do in the evenings, and that is fine; I have not much energy left anyway.
6/2. I start weeding the Bulbine bed I was told to. The soil is rather sandy, which makes it easy, except from the grass. Spend the first two periods with it, and finish up with fertilizing them. It turns up, it is very important to water immediately after. Actually; I should only fertilize ten square meters, and then water. Didn't know that, and left the whole bed dry, when I left for second brake. Luckily, it seems like none has gotten burned.
Talks with Mandy about it. I got a feeling of, that as long the fertilizer don't lie directly on the plants, and it kept dry, it won't hurt. The problem is, if they are watered, but not enough. Mandy is not sure, and I promise to make a test with 30 plants: Dry, slightly watered and total soaked.
Afternoon is spend at Paul and Mandy's river cottage. We are collecting some swamp plants, from along their river. Two of the workers have been digging them up, and now we transport them down river in a canoe and on our backs. It is a tough job; the stones in the river are extreme slippery, and the plants and especially their roots are heavy. Finally we loads them into the bakkie (pick-up truck), and drives up the narrow and steep, part gravel road, which once was the main coast road. The two wheel tracks have been cemented on many of the steepest parts, but the seems like it still washes away, when there are a heavy rainfall
It is a breathtaking gorge! Around 100 meters deep, dense forest on the very steep walls, and a twisted river. The area is called Map of Africa: Seen from above, the river forms the outline of Africa. Back to the nursery we unload, and others takes over. I feel very used!
The first sun is showing; I looks like a Bursera or Eucalyptus: Pealing my new own ten off again. Dinner is again a slight disappointment: Tried different things, but there are not really any taste in it. Bought an English HP-sauce, and that kick ass! After a week with next to nothing tastes, it tastes almost as Marmelite! To those who haven't tasted Marmelite: DON'T! Way too strong.
Eight o'clock, and I'm ready to hit the bed. Trying to work on the PC, but it just won't do as I want it to.
7/2. The working day starts with a Team Meeting. We are three from Succulents and three from Evergreen plus Mandy. After presentation, subjects like; store room for bulbs, weeding plans, hiring more people for evergreen, team uniforms, toilets and restroom closer to the working area and missing water taps comes up. The meeting is in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa. I would have preferred Danish...
I really don't like to wear a hat, but after a rather sleepless night, with a clear feeling of my hair being on fire, I give in. Gets a fine straw hat, and try not to look silly. Well: More silly than usually...
Then the work starts, I shift different plants to give them more room. A small frog jumps away, and it does not look like the numerous toads. It is to my surprise a Xenopus. I didn't think they would leave the water.
Then I fill gabs after sales, clean up after yesterdays weeding and all the black plastic bags with soil from dead plants. Lungiswa shows me how to plant seedlings into four litre bags, and I plant a small bed with them, and water them afterwards. Days last job is to weed some of the plants I Roundup'ed yesterday. They have been watered to day, and are easy to draw up.
Back to my rondawel to drink a litre of juice and get a bath. Not that I need it after a days hard work in 31C, but it just custom... Invades Paul's office to check mails and write diary. Get an invitation to go to the sea to have a swim with Mandy and their neighbour, but can't even find the energy to cook supper. Mandy invites me to take some of their spaghetti bolognese, which the domestic have made plenty of. Real tasteful, and I even find a bit of energy.
8/2. The temperature has dropped to around 26C, and the suns only penetrates the light sky once in a while. I start planting Portulacaria afra. The planting table is in a covered area, and the table is actually in a comfortable height. Then I shift some Aleos to make room for the new plants. I have never been that keen on Aloes, unless they are in the wild, and my lack of affection have just been lowered even more, if possible.
Based on my assumptions about Humac ability to burn or not, we set up an experience together with Evergreen. We apply 30 plants each; one third get Humac and no water, one third get Humac and little water and the rest Humac and plenty of water. The others claim the two first will burn, I claim only the mettle will.
Time for more planting, and the usual half hour weeding to finish off. I got to find a way to slow down; I have produced 17 hours work to day, and I'm not really tied like yesterday. Did promise Nanna to have a look at the nursery's web-site, and have arranged a meeting on Monday. Spend some of the evening to get familiar with it.
Then Paul turns up. I'm constantly using his office, which has the best internet connection. I'll politely ask him to get his own office, but it does not work. Then we have a long talk about stones. All from the minerals over gravestones and the way stone are shaped in a workshop to stone age tools. Paul had a nice collection from around the world, and I have some knowledge about the subject.
The whole family will go to Cape Town in the weekend, and I alone with a nursery, a huge house, three cats, three horses and two dogs. And a car, not to forget!
9/2. I keep planting all morning and afterwards watering "my" plants, I water a lot more. Then I cut some Portulacaria with large leaves. One of the chaps from the office comes around and ask, if he can use "my" car to morrow. They are a bunch going to a funeral. Of cause I can't refuse that, and now I just hope I can borrow a car this afternoon. My food supply have shrunken beyond what I like. Further more; I got my first salary; nicely packed in an envelope with the counting. I wonder what the Danish tax-office will think. Well, as long as they get their 50%, I guess they won't mind.
It starts to get windy, and around two, it starts to rain softly. The temperature drops to 20C, and I'm total soaked and cold when the weekend starts 15:30. Need a shower again, but this time for an other reason. Find the Danish summer dress, but lack the raincoat. Better buy one; worst that can happen is I won't need it.
Back to the big house, I find a depressing lack of cars. I'm not desperate enough to take a horse to the mall - but close. It turns up the family has left, and their other car was at the repair shop. Got it back half pass five, and hit straight for the giant mall. Turns out the shops are closing as I arrival, but Pick'n Pay, where the food are, is still open. Once again, I spend a weeks pay, and are able to carry it out in one hand.
Home to two very disappointed dogs and a real empty nursery. After having cooked dinner, I invades the big house: No room for two large dogs in my rondawel, and can't stand to have them lying outside it, in the rain. They settles down on the porch, and I enter the house where three very lonely cats greats me. Checking out the TV, and realising Danish TV isn't worlds worse after all. The guineafowls having a disappointing evening as well. Can't find the corn they use to get, and they do not appreciate the rice I give them.
10/2. Wakes up to a weekend with some wind, some rain, some thunder and temperatures around 15C, just like a Danish summer when it is worse. Check the animals and start washing clothes. My working clothes from yesterday is still soaked, but I noticed a tumbler. Although the temperature raises to 19C, I'm a bit cold. Change my sandals with shoes, but can't get one on. Turns up a toad has taken residence in my right shoe! That is what it thought!
Take a walk through the nursery to photo the caudiciforms I can find. Quite a few, and a lot of bulbs! Along with the sun, some employees turns up. I seems to be able to find new beds and houses again and again, and stops when I have reach 100 photos. While I process them, the sun and the employees disappears together, and the temperature drops right away.
Spends the afternoon making pages for my internet site with the "new" plants I found. The silent summer rain are interrupted by short thunder rain falls. Feed my selves, the eight big animals and around 100 guineafowls, and due to lack of internet connection; spend the evening in front of the TV. Either I have overloaded the internet connection (got a limit of three gigabyte a month) or the internet provider are struck by lightning.
11/2. Pouring rain again, the internet still not working, and on top of that: The horses has broken out. Paul senior comes bye to ask for my help; they are enjoying his beautiful garden. After a lot of running around in the rain, we succeed to get them back. I'm ready to put my clothes and my selves in the tumbler!
Got a date with Andrea and her boyfriend to go for a walk in the forest nearby at ten, but the weather is not really for it. If this is summer, I defiantly have brought too little of my warm clothes, and I have to do some serious power shopping in the autumn! Lightens up a bit half past, and we head for the forest.
It is a wild area, big hills, wild ocean and this deep gorge, where we follows the creek. The huge invasive trees has been bark-ringed some years ago, and the indigenous plants and trees are coming back. Here are succulents, ferns, orchids, Asparticus and an abandons of other plants.
There should be cats, dears, waterbucks, monkeys, baboons and many other large animals, but we only see frogs, toads, crabs and insects. We end with a 20 meter waterfall, which can't be passed. While we go back, the sun peeks in, but not for long. Been walking for more than two hours, and at least it has keep almost dry. Take a scenic route back to George, and I finally get my very soaked shoos off. Can't figure how to dry them?
Work with the photos, feed the animals and watch a descent movie in the TV, before fainting.
12/2. Still rain! Starts with weeding, the repotting some nice soft Aloes, conferrable in the dry. Then a meeting with Nanna about the nurseries web-site for three hours. A tour to the city with Paul to buy working pans for me and draining pipes for him. Back for more weeding. The weather have improved, and I enjoy the sun's heat.
After supper, it starts to pour down again. Get a heater from Mandy, and if this weather continues, that will be my new best friend! Spend the evening checking up on which plants I have on my site, that NewPlant also have. Nanna ticked off on my Africa-list, and now I check my photos. Takes a long time, but this is a good opportunity to make some nice photos. Ends up with a list of 26 plants, but where exactly are they in the nursery?
13/2. Seems like the weather finally have improved. It is of cause the heater I got last night: Murphy's Law, but when you know it, you can use it! Still have to find a doorstep and tighten the door; too much wind and toads enter.
I start repotting more of the nice soft Aloes, and half past eleven, we have a team meeting. More talk about watering, weeding, ground grown plants, code of conduct, economy, problems, maintainers and work plans. Even though we are only Lungiswa, Nanna and me, somehow I end up being in charge of weeding. Ought to take me more people and languishes to get that confused. Then I go back to my Aloes, followed by shifting Crassulas in ten litter bags. Then it is time to get some room between some smaller Crassulas, and the days work ends with weeding.
I go down to the car workshop, to find some wood for a doorstep. Find the wood, but not a saw. End up hammering a piece of metal almost through. The ends are in the door poles anyway, and it turns out real nice: No cold winds or toads anymore! To celebrate; I sweep and wash the floor.
Spends the evening with finding errors on IPNI; the international plant name index. Reported a miner error the other day, and as usual they thanked for the help. Remembered something about havening found other errors before, and dog them up. Wonder if they thanks me for that list?
14/2. The summer is really back, and I enjoy every minute. The day starts making new friends: Fertilizing! The flies love it, and 100 flies can't make a mistake: I am irresistible. They sit on me, not the fertilizer. Well, it is after all only 795 plants, which have to be watered afterwards. Reminds me of the experiment with Humac and none, little and much water: All plants are doing fine. An other urban legend have been brought to rest.
Can't find the boss; Lungiswa, so I decide the variegated Crassulas need oopmaak: More room in between them. Just when I'm through, she turns up, and tell me to prune them. Lungiswa made cuttings of the Crassulas in ten litter pots we shifted yesterday, and to day I plant them in new ten litters pots. That is heavy duty stuff!
Can't find her again, and decides to fill the gabs after sale. Then I'm asked to find ten of each of five different plants for sale. After lunch, the project is in the "kindergarten" department; the nine centimetres pots. Shifting and watering. And then the more exiting part: Watering Paul's collection and experiments. Days finish with weeding as usual, but then again; not that usual. We have really got to the button, I spend more time finding weed than weeding. We have four areas, and I go through three, and not just usual one row or bed. Cool!
IPNI took it nice, and implanted all of the things I send them. Now I just have to remove the notes from my site. Then I work on a plan to make the photos from the nursery, I can use for my site. Where are they, what time of year will they be ready for photo?
15/2. Day spend with filling gabs after sale, re-potting 323 Aloes from nine centimetres pots to four litre bags, and the usual weeding. I thought we would be through weeding to day, when we got the fourth part, but the Aloes I made went in to a fifth place. Dammed!
Ended the day with a heat stroke. Dizzy, sick and temperature going op and down. Took a cold bath and slept for thirteen hours. That helped, but I'm not peaking.
16/2. Get to work, it is after all the short day; eight hours. The day starts with filling out the Production Plan. Bit complicated: It is only in Afrikaans, some things are by rate, others by time. Sorted by weekday, starting with Friday. Then the math, and I end up with 60. Last week, I heard I had 70+, and a fair amount would be 41. This week, I have had quite some work by hour, and that draws down.
Still some Aloes left to be repottet. There is no soil, so I fill gabs after sale and tidiness up our place. The soil arrivals, and I start repotting. I got this bright idea yesterday: Oopmaak already now, and this painful process can be skipped next month. Save some time and pain! While I place the last 107 repotted plants, two workers turns up, and starts digging holes for big poles to support-lines for trees. Mandy comes bye, and I joke with: Got a be finish placing these before I have to move them to give room for trees. Turns up to be no joke! If I haven't mention it before: I HATE ALOES!
This new room we just weeded yesterday is given to Trees. We are getting one of their beds, but only after I have planted some big Portulacarias in the ground, and repotted 1000+ Cussonias. Do I have to mention: The area we are going to grow the Portulacarias (which are given to us) in, are heavily grown with weed?
The interesting part is, these Portulacarias is first part of an experience I hope to be involved in later. Because of all this confusion, I forget to take my first brake. After finishing the Aloes, I plant 60 Portulacarias in the ground. It is weeding time, and I suggest we do what the other groups apparently do: Don't. Then, when the bed it a total mess, we give it to an other department. Lungiswa does not buy it, but due to our lack of weed, we don't weed today.
After the traditional shower and coffee, I walk through the nursery with Paul and Mandy. I got some ideas of, what might be a good sale in Europe that they might not have thought of. Then Mandy, the dogs and me drive to the beach for a stroll. Endless fantastic sand beach, but a few blue sailors/jellyfish.
17/2. The day starts with a chase: The horses has gone renegade once again. This time it might be to the slaughterhouse, if they are unlucky. Finally we get them back into the enclosure, but does it end here?
It starting to be dark earlier, and I have a hard time getting my supper finish in daylight: I need a lamp for my dinner table. Have a spare bed lamp, but is is not that easy just to move it. In South Africa, there are two common plugs: The very small European one and a giant South African. The larger European can only be used few places. Tinkles a bit with that, while I wash some of my cloths.
Borrows one of the cars, and drive to the giant mall. Walk from one end to the other, but ends up with only one can for my pasta, some plugs for my lamp and the usual food. Spends only half a weeks pay, but my store have been filled during the last weeks.
Take a stroll down the road; one amassing view after the other between the large hills. Sometimes to a lake, sometimes to the sea or other hill. Could fill a memory card with it! Where the road ends with a large gate, there is a small hut. The owner comes out, and we chat for a couple of hours. Turns up we have the same view on a great variety of things, even though we are from two complete different cultures, and neither of us have the common view.
Get back around four, and it is time to start dinner: Chops of an ox, fried and cocked for about an hour with milk, tomato paste, worcestershire sauce, HP sauce, garlic BBG and chilly-garlic spice and some soya, et ends up tasting of more than usual - great!
Do a little maintaining on my rondawel: The suns shines in my face at 6:00. Folded paper in the small window over the door, and a small list on the door. Then it is time to up-load the weeks photos, of which there are less and less, but still a few.
18/2. Starts the day in the large library, searching for caudiciforms not already on my site. Find more then 50 in the first book; I got more then I needed! Mandy rounds up a lot of people, and we go to the Pepsi Pools. We almost gets there, and suddenly the VW Caravelle fills up with white steam. A sensor has broken off the expansion tank.
The pools are in a deep gorge, cutting it's way through indigenous forest. The name originates from their colour; just like cola and as clear. The small track get more and more difficult, and I end alone where no one have been for a long time. The most easy access is blocked with very rotten branches, which turns in to dust when I pass them.
I could be shooting photos all day, both views and plants, while I jumps, climbs and fight my way up into the gorge. Go as fare I can without getting wet - and a few meters more. Just wanted a last shoot round the corner to the next pool, and ends in the one I'm at. Save the cell phone and camera by inches, and decides it is time to backtrack to the rest of the company. They have been swimming in the cold water, but claim it is great.
Paul has driven back in his car to fetch coffee and snacks, and we sit and enjoy at the fist pool. Try to block the hole in the expansion tank with a branch, and drive carefully home.
I go back to my rondawel to do some maintaining on the toilet, which have been leaving a stream on the floor. Then removing some visit-cards from geckoes on the walls, and cleaning the windows. An other weekend has passed in what feels like hours. Spends the evening finding more plants in the books and upload to days Pepsi-tour.
Throws out an other toad, which were peeking out from a hole in the wall. Should be the last one, after I got the doorstep fixed.
19/2. Wakes up to an other toad - or is it the same? Toads have their territories, but this one should look for a new! Nice warm day again, which is being used for planting the last large Portulacaria in the ground, filling gabs after sale, water an enormous amount of Portulacarias, find plants for sale, and planting 250 cuttings in four litre bags. Checks the first bed for weed, and it is back!
Spend the evening at the PC, working with the "new" names I have found. When I get home to my rondawel, one toad is sitting right inside, on the doorstep, facing out, an other tries to hide. Both finds them selves in the cold (17C), dark night, real fast. There are holes in the walls inside, but I can't find any outside. Trying not to fall a sleep before nine...
20/2. I starts the day planting cuttings of small succulents into four litre bags. Lungiswa tells me, the "planting bags fast or nice" contest will be on somewhere between eight and ten. They spend a lot of time turning the bags even, and I just throw them down, four by four. When they are watered, I can't tell the different! They claim it isn't slower, and it can be seen.
I continues planting plants while I wait for the other contestant. Then my wheelbarrow disappears. I try to find an other one, but they seems to be in use. Then I just fill bags on the table, where there is plenty of room.
One of the other workers ask me to place my plants on the floor; we are getting soil. Placing things on the floor, that are going to be removed real soon seems like completely waste of time to me, but what can I do? Start filling gabs after sale and weeding some pots. Lungiswa comes bye, and I get her wheelbarrow.
When I'm done putting plants out in the bed from the floor, we have gone soil, but my bags and the pot I scoop soil with has gone. More wasted time. At ten, Evelyn cones bye, and starts counting my plants: The contest has been on! She were the other contester. Don't know the outcome, but in two hours I have only produced around 125 bags. In the next three, I make 325 more, and I even have to shift my operation to an other sheet. I were only supposed to make 35, and I later learn Evelyn is famous for making 50.
It has been time for the team meeting. Usual stuff, and back planting Portulacaria afra until weeding time. I fill out my Production Plan, which starts Friday. I have already produced over the 41 points, it is Wednesday, and should be able to take the rest of the week off, with good confidence. Actually, I have planed not to work in the nursery to morrow: Mandy, Paul and I are going on a fieldtrip.
Spends a long time trying to make a tasting supper - but fails. Then I try to concentrate on the "new" names for the site, but have to give up: Too tired.
21/2. ROAD TRIP! Mandy decides to stay home, but Paul and I hits the road about nine. It is 350 kilometres to Port Elizabeth, but it is a beautiful stretch, centre of the famous Garden Route. It is hill after hill, and in the distance, I can see the mountains. It all looks so fertile, but on all farmland, the sprinklers are going. Some of the original forest are still untouched, but much have been changed into extreme fast growing pine.
We passes the worlds biggest sanddune. It is huge! Hundred meters high or more, and it stretches for kilometres. The sea on one side, one of the very few natural freshwater lakes on the other. The level of the lake is below sea level, but it is seawater which have been filtered through the dune.
We are lucky to be the last car to pass a roadwork. On the other side, hundreds of care waits. It is a long stretch, and they only shift direction every half hour or so. We passes some larger town and large areas of townships. Many are "Mandela houses", water, electricity, toilet but very small concrete homes.
Some of the landscapes we drive through reminds me of Australia, Denmark, New Zealand and Germany. Round the corner, and you are on an other continent.
Here are amassing views, every time we pass a corner. The sea, the green hills, the dense natural forest and the fynbos with it's Porthea and red heather flowering. We passes the gorge with worlds tallest bumpy-jump, around 450 meters. Cost about the same as one on a marked in Denmark, in which you get 60 meters, but here you get a video as well.
On some remote hillsides, I see a few baboons, and a bit later there are some just next to the road. We enter the Western Cape, and more Aloes and Euphorbias turns up. I couple of ostrich on a fenced fields and a few gazelles on a other, but enormous hordes of milk cattle. We reaches Port Elizabeth and Linda. She have a large garden with several huge Ceibas from Argentina. One is two meters - in diameter! Lots of other exiting stuff to be found around, but we are invited for lunch.
Linda runs a rescue nursery, and there are plenty for her to do around here! Delicious lunch, but nature draws! On our way out to the Fockeas we are here to see, we passes the city dump. Seems like many don't bother to go the last couple of hundreds meters through the Aloe Reserve, but just dump out site the fence. We passes some large Aloes, without roots, and Paul decides to give them an other chance.
We finds the Fockea area and walks around for half an hour. The nature is amassing! The vegetation is only one and a half meters high, but here are a abandon of different species. The area that is picked out to be bulldozed is enormous, and here are millions of real cool plants, just waiting to be killed. At least there are some doing something, but the size of the area makes it impossible. And the animals?
Next stop, as for the lucky plants, are Linda's nursery. It is, no surprise, huge. Real well kept with nice grass paths and all kind of bulbs, Pachypodiums, Aloes, succulents and much more. All are placed in species groups, which are in approximately the same habitat as the came from. Beautiful.
Time to hit home, it is after all 350 kilometres. To me, it feel like 50 out, and the tour home as 100. So much to see - while it was light. On a small de-tour, we se a couple of storks. Arrives home at nine, and the supper get an other round of breakfast. Writes the diary, but the photos most wait.
Haven't seen any toads to day, and after having heard Linda's story, I'm glad it is only toads I got. She were living in the rondawel while it was brand new. The sealing wasn't fixed, and four or five boom-snakes stayed there every day, waiting for the nights hunts. I'll take toads any time!
22/2. It starts to rain, when we starts to work. Think it is bad, until I hear: It is a blizzard in Denmark, frost, wind, 40 centimetre snow and piles on meters. Continues with the Portulacaria I left Thursday, and ad an other 340 to the bed. Then I weed a bit, and the weather improves. After lunch I cut, repot and pot the cuttings of some large Crassulas. Some more weeding, and that day has gone.
Spends the evening with yesterdays photos. A slideshow from the tour and some new photos for the caudiciform pages. Guess there are no reason to be carrying my camera all the time, any more. It is tough to it, and there are not much I haven't seen in the nursery now.
23/2. Caught a snake last evening, but without noticing it. Poor bugger got caught in the door. The day starts in the succulent and news house. Shifting a lot of plants to make room. Repot some mother plants to large pots, and squeeze them in. Fill gabs after sale until lunch, and then there are more mother plants to repot.
The last job of the day it to plant the large Aloes we found in Port Elizabeth. Very leading, I ask Paul who's bright idea it was to bring them. He has no recollection of any Aloes, what so ever... They go into the horse's field, along the fence. Finish the Production Plan; only 56 points this week - but I did take a day off...
Got a letter to day, confirming I have been accepted at the school. I thought that was in order, but; nice to have that fixed.
Event though I have bought enough food and stuff to last from Saturday to Saturday, I have to shop to day; the milk couldn't stand the distance. Joins with Mandy, and while we are at the mall, we might as well look for some cloths. I am very pleased with the working pans I bought for 8 €; they are even long enough! Got to have some more. Good quality T-shirts: 2€ and so on.
I'm invited to braai along with Mandy's sister and family: Cosy, and brilliant food. Then Paul introduces me to braffee; Local brandy and coffee. It really take a strong personality to stop at two!
24/2. This day should turn out real hot; around 33C. It is cloudy, but is not more than eight. Well, it is 20C, and with the blizzard at home in mind: Pretty nice weather. After ten, the heat is on! I take care of my laundry, and repot my large Fockea. Then I pinch the little bakkie, and drive inland to hit the mountains, hoping to be able to navigate home! With that in mind, I bring plenty of water.
First into George and then north pass Saasveld (red tour on MAP). Follow the mountains, and get quite high. Stops when I pass the "Pepsi-river", and walks along the river and then along the small road. Here are caudiciforms; some large in the roots of possible Cyphostemma and some smaller of Kedrostis, probably africana or nana.
They are flowering, and I can't help my selves: I got to have a pair. Find two smaller ones among the hundreds on the roadside. One is high and slim, the other real flat. Here, as anywhere else, where I have seen them, the leaves changes shape from triangular roundish to rather serrated. Some are almost succulent, other paper thin.
The road have been small, but paved. Now, it changes to gravel, and at the same time, few houses turns up. The area changes a lot: High hills, green farmland with milk cattle, small artificial lakes, pine- and indigenous forests. It is all fertile and green.
Makes a few other short stops, and a long in Woodville. Can't refuse a sign: Big Tree. It is a Yellow Wood; Podocarpus falcatus. It is not that big, only twelve meters in circumference and 33 high, but the walk though the forest is interesting. Been working a bit on taxonomy, and tries to find members of the three Classes I don't have: EQUISETOPSIDA, LYCOPODIOSIDA and PSILOPSIDA. They are horsetails and something looking like mosses. Guess it is only mosses I find, but this micro world is interesting and beautiful as well.
Had thought, I could make it all the way to Knysna, but at five, I'm only 1/4 of the way. I turn around, find a road heading at the coast, and find the main road at Wilderness. Great tour, hope I can borrow the bakkie an other time.
Spend a lot of the evening sorting, uploading and writing text to the photos.
25/2. Good thing I made the tour yesterday; it is cloudy, and even a bit of rain to day. The temperature just makes it over 20C, and I have energy like a lizard in a fritz. A good friend of mine cheers me up: He send photos of the 35 centimetre snow, covering Denmark. Only exceptions are the much higher piles, blown together by the wind. An other very good friend boost the spirit an nudge more; she have given me the latest Meat Loaf CD, which I open to day: Great!
Spend the day cleaning my rondawel and trying designing a special pot to the two Kedrostis while I enjoy Meat Loaf. Have been cooking on my supper since half pass ten: I'm making a traditional South African meal, and my favourite: Oxtail. Should be served with mashed potatoes if you ask me, but it will be fries - if the oven can get warm enough.
The oven is not warm enough, but they are crispy - because they are dry. Well, it is still a real delicious meal!
26/2. Partly clouded, small showers and just below 20C. I wish the succulent department had more tunnels! Squeeze in the last large Portulacarias, and then it is time for some Bulbines. In the lunch break, I take a car to the nearby nursery I tried some days ago. There are open between eight and five, Saturday is closed as well, so the lunch break is my only chance to buy a branch scissor. Or not: It is their lunch break as well! Hard firm to deal with!
Back again, I first I shift some Bulbines, then I plant some and the day ends with preparing some "wild" for planting; cutting them in to pieces and removing dead leaves. There are still a shower from time to time, and the preparing is in a sheet.
Spends the evening digging deeper into the EQUISETOPSIDA, LYCOPODIOSIDA and PSILOPSIDA. Find all the families and the number of species.
27/2. Lungiswa is ill, and I'm left alone. Make the last Bulbines, fill the gabs after yesterdays large sale, water some Plectranthus and most of the succulent house. Starts weeding, and that is depressing: I thought we had it under control, but the last couple of weeks rain and sun have caused an exploration.
The cutting department have decided to empty their house, and I'm forced to collect ten square meters of cuttings, and I have nowhere to place them! The succulent department is only a couple of month old, and we have nothing. We just squeeze us in, in other departments.
It has been a hot day, but at five, when we leave, the sun disappears as well, and the temperature drops. I continue my work on the new classes: Use the library, and finds out which members I might be able to find around here. That give me a list of names, but I will need photos to find them in the wild. Surf some more, and come up with some. Seems like these ancient groups of plant can be found all around the earth.
28/2. An other day with cutting, planting, watering, spraying and weeding. The first month have past, and I don't experience much new. There are some plans, but I will change the diary to an other form, not based on days. Upload each Saturday - I think...
1/3. It turns up, I try something new to day. First I design and order some tools for digging up large caudiciforms in the wild. The we sew seeds, which is much more complicated than I thought. The soil is being filtered several times, and placed in layers and then pressed. Water is added, and the layers get mixed. New sand on top, press again. Small seeds mixed with sand (which my grandfather thought me 35 years ago), and fine sand covers the seeds. Press again, and cover the smallest seeds' trays with glass. The glass have to be turned each day to prevent drops.
After work, I dismantle my oven. Swap the top and bottom heating unit, and viola: I can make fries.
2/3. Same procedure as other days... I only makes 50,75 points this week, got to do better... It is caused by too much work by hour, not rate.
3/3. Weekend, and I had a dream of continuing my discovery of the mountains, but the weather does not encourage: Total cloudy and part rain. An other day at the PC, creating new pages for my site. Bit of luck when I went shopping: It finally succeeded me finding a etui for my scissors, a hat with wide shade and a raincoat. Went by one of the other nurseries, but nothing new and interesting.
4/3. Much better weather to day. Borrows the small car, and continues my exploration of the mountains. The views are breathtaking! Plenty of flowering fynbos, indigenous dense forest, giant green hills with huge hordes of grassing milk cattle, few pine forests, deep gorges, bare rocks, mountains disappearing up in the clouds. What puzzles me is the scarce population in a fertile area like this. Might just be, the landlords like privacy?
I follow the main gravel road until a sign: Bergplaas tempts. Up and up, through fynbos and pines. Stops several times to search for plants, animals and views. Here are an abandons of plants I know from culture, and some I newer seen before. Different succulents, two species of Lycopodium, orchids in the trees, different Pelargoniums, mistletoe, colourful beetles, giant cutthroats, butterflies, vultures, large groups of both swallows and storks and much more.
The small road passes a small creek on the other side of the pass, and here I find sundew and frogs and much more from this habitat. The road ends at a gate, and I have to turn back. Back at the main gravel road, I head further east. Drives only a few kilometres, and just have to stop again to explorer.
Around three, I take a road leading south, out to the coast and the main highway. Make a wrong turn, and loops back to the mountain, but what? At one stop, I spots some Dioscorea, probably sylvatica. In the nearby tree, some fruits hangs. Deep down in the gorge, the river zigzag it's way towards the sea. At five, I finally reaches a mobile-net, and can call home and tell: I won't be able to make it to the concert tonight. It is still a long an beautiful way home, and I won't miss any of it.
Arrivals at the nursery around six, with some astonishing experiences - and 431 photos! Will take some time to sort them through! Now, I have seen half of the mountain road to Knysna. See the blue tour on the MAP. While I work with the photos, the wind and rain returns with new force.
5/3. Pouring down from late night to end of work day. Water and mud everywhere. We defiantly need more tunnels in the succulent department. The plants might stand the abundance of water, but I'm not really enjoying it! The rain returns with new force at eight.
6/3. Tried something new to day: Driving a tractor. Well, I did it a lot 30 years ago, but haven't done it since. To the other's big surprise, I even succeeded reversing with the trolley.
In a meeting with Nanna and Mandy we decided to let me stay in the succulent department. I could work in Trees, Ever Greens, Bulbs or Colour Pots, but I would like to stay. Having a hard time understanding the other leaders - Afrikaans is not that easy to learn! Further more; I would like to follow the cuttings and seedlings I have been part of producing. And, if I'm going to take care of the department while Lungiswa is in Denmark (of all places), I would like to follow it some more. Then I can join the other groups if they do something special , that the succulent doesn't.
I still have some other tasks I should find time for: Repotting Cussonias, rescuing Fockeas, photoing plants for the nursery's homepage and see some of the surrounding nurseries, botanical gardens and nature. I have to learn more about making cuttings, scouting and controlling pest and ID'ing plants. And, somehow, I ended up designing the succulents new and very missed planting and storing house.
7/3. Starting the big task of lifting the Cussonias, to form and explore their caudexes. Everybody else are concerned about the top of the plant, but I care about the root. The green stuff on top is just a thing you can't avoid! There are a lot, and I just get about a quarter done during the day. Then they have to be pruned and shifted in to a tunnel. They all have to be treated individual, and their characteristics being used to create a sculpture. They don't have to be alike, like other nursery plants, actually; it is better they are real different. Small dense, twisted and weird looking, and not the slim, tall tree they would have been. Kind alike bonsai, but not the same.
8/3. To day, I learn two other employees how to treat the Cussonias as caudiciforms. Explain; it is a complete new way of thinking, and they shall forget all they have learned. Every plant is unique, and have to be treated special, to get the most out of it's characteristic. It is like sculpting, but with a given start. Turns up very well, and we get half of them proceeded. Should be able to finish to morrow. While we work, many of the others comes bye, and stand and steer: They think we are going insane: 90% of the root over soil level and all the leaves cut off!
Spends the evening working on my moss photos, and a site for them. It is amassing how good close-up photos my little Canon Ixus 4.0 can make! Turns up, I probably have discovered the last five Classes from the Plantae Kingdom. I wonder if I can find them again, and I will be able to keep them alive?
9/3. Went a bit better this week. Made 78 of the expected 41 points. I only have help with the Cussonias for a a couple of hours, and don't get through them. The weather have been perfect; around 30C and full sun. Hope it last through the weekend.
10/3. The weather is perfect, at 7:30, the sun is shining and the temperature already on 20C. Leave the nursery at nine, heading for the mountain road I have been discovering. It's name is Seven Pass Road, at that suits fine. I drive back by the main coast road to where I left last.
One of the interesting plants I find looks like a Venus Fly Trap; Dionaea, and grows on a real open path along with Sundew; Drosera (same family: Droseraceae) and nothing else. I'm not sure what is is; there are only one species of Dionaea: D. muscipula), and it is not that one - I think.
In a farmer's enclosure, I find a group of blesbok. I sneak slowly closer to get a good photo, but it turns up the biggest problem is; not to get the camera lens greased by a wet snout.
Make stops at open hill sides, by rivers and creeks and artificial small, old lakes. It turns out to be a real hot day; mid thirties. At one point, the large coolerfan don't stop, which is normal enough for up to ten minutes, but when I get back after an half hour or so, it still runs. Not surprisingly, the battery is almost flat.
Ends up walking several kilometres to a shooting range to ask for help. Nice people, drives me back, and try jumpstarting cables. Nope! Then we put his battery in my car, and that helps. The alarm goes on, and I think I have to turn the engine off, to reset is. Waits to I get to the big asphalt road at Knysna, and gain a descent speed. Works, but I head straight home! See the green tour on the MAP.
Well, I have done the Seven Pass Road, but I would like a few more stops at the Knysna end. No one home at the nursery, probably at the beach along with every body else. Spend the rest of the day cleaning, washing, sorting photos and trying to determine the name on the Venus Fly Trapper-like plant I found.
11/3. The weather is fare from as great as it were yesterday; cloudy and around 20C. Wait until one o'clock before I trust it won't rain. Due to a lack of a reliable car, I decides to walk to Victoria Bay; I am, after all, living on Victoria Bay Road. Fields, small hills, few houses and great nature.
Victoria Bay is a nice bay with bathing and surfing. A strip of B&B and houses for rent along the slim shoreline in front of large hills. Try the shore to the west, but is is a bit too rocky to be pleasant. See, what I first think is a road op on the mountainside though east. Fights my way through dense bush, and find the famous railroad; Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe, and follows it east on. It is from 1811, and the cuttings through the rocks have been covered with fynbos, succulents and other interesting plants.
Passes marvellous views, both over the sea and up through gorges. At one point, I surprises a group of klipdassie or hyraxes: Procavia capensis. Looks like rabbits, but their closest living relative are the elephants! Passes a few tunnels and bridges, and ends at the highway by Kaaimans River. Walks along it till am back at the nursery. The sides are interesting; I have been looking at them each time I drown here, but this time, I get the flower photos. Back after four hours walking, rather thirsty, but with 250 photos. It does not look like much at the map, but it is around 15 kilometres.
My camera has it mind of it's own, and most of the photos are in a real large size I can't reduce to the size I use to use, automatically. Spends some hours on that, and ends up having dinner at ten.
12/3. Offers to go to George with the VW Caravel, when Paul drives the girls to school. The VW once again need to have an appointment with the mechanic. I might be getting old, but I really like the cars without computers! Now, even the most simple problem is a mystery, unless you have the the matching analysing computer.
It is amassing how busy the town is! Driving and walking people over all.
Been asking around in the horticulture offices, in Copenhagen Botanical Garden and in some carnivorous plant newsgroups, and no one can come up with a name for the plant I found Saturday. Paul and Mandy helps me, asking two of South Africa's leading botanicals.
Getting through the Cussonias, and after some planting, I try something new: Preparing some huge Fockeas for Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Well; I spent several hours untangling their vines.
Get some alarming news from Denmark; my good friend and coming boss at the botanical garden is on Galapagos on a scientific expedition as part of the Danish Galatea Expedition III. One month, closed islands, all paid for. My envying ends when I learn he have been attacked by a shark. Got three deep cuts in the arm, lost way too much blood, but have been flown to Quito, and will recover full, with some scars to show the grandchildren!
13/3. Nanna have done some homework, and she comes up with a likely name for my mysterious plant: Alopidea carpensis or A. delicatula. Can't find photos of them, but other members of that genera have these distinguish leave edges. It is the Apoaceae family, like hemlock and carrots. Later, I get confirmation from the legendary Ernst van Jaarsveld, that it in fact is Alopidea carpensis.
15/3. A lot of things get more and more interesting, the more you get in to them, and spend some time on the subject. Aloes are not one of those! Been pruning close to 300, from four to 100 litres bags.
16/3. Nine of the students (get their 9. and 10. grate at the nursery between working), are graduating to day, and at two, there are speeches and lakker snags at the lawn.
17/3. Weekend, and nice sunshine - until eight! Spend the day washing, shopping and on the PC, working on the taxonomy pages. New layout for the main Taxonomy page (can't be seen, but it is faster) and a lot of time on the Taxonomy Explanation page. Is it just me, or is this a bit difficult?
Watch TV in the evening, and the most amassing thing happens: The power failure occurs in the last bit of the credits, after the film! Must be caused by the heavy rain.
18/3. Mixed weather, and I fumble with the taxonomy of Algae! At ten, I just have to take the chance, and start exploring the other side of the old railroad line. It is not that interesting as the other way. The terrain pretty much the same, but it have been planted with pines, and they have been cut down recently. A small river (which can grow large) follows the railroad, and in heavy rain periods: Wash it away!
Ends up where the new highway passes the huge mall, east of George, and follows the highway home. Route 5 on map. Starting to be rather windy, and that gives me an excuse to stay inside, looking at photos and cleaning my rondawel for the rest of the day.
19/3. Among other work, I get to bring my own idea out in practise: Our x-open; the ground bed with Bulbines, is way too open: Many plants were washed away. If they are regrouped, there will be room for the leftovers from the preparing of the Bulbines we got from outside. Me and my ideas: Hard work, and the ground have to be levelled as well.
Starts at the workshop: Get the bend corners of the spade cut off, and the rive straiten. Can't work with spoiled tools. Turns out nicely, and after the bed is nice, I'm really ready for sitting down - in the shadow. Suits fine: Next job is planting the one to three millimetres seedlings we sew three weeks ago. My fingers suddenly feel real big and clumsy! Back to the workshop and produce two micro-spades.
Great help, but after a couple of hours work, I have only used less than four square centimetre from the 25x35 centimetre seed tray, and we got 15 seed trays more! Lungiswa have made approximately the same, and we figure we be finish around - next year.
21/3. It is a public holiday: Human Rights Day, and I decides to try the direct road to Ballot's Bay. It is only around four kilometres each way, but in a incredible terrain: Steep hills, deep gorges. Few real nice houses along the road, clinging to the steep hillsides. Plenty of succulents on the open walls and Kedrostis and Cyphostemma in the forest areas. I reaches the bay, and climbs the Granit rocks. Find some small caves with some great formations.
The road back is long and steep! Thinking on following the river, to the other crossing. Good I didn't: It is an other river! Spend the rest of the day, inventing watering automats for my few plants. Have a few problems: The bottles collapses due to vacuum, the tubes are too small, making surface tension a problem, and general lack of tools and material.
22/3. Trash day - literally. Get to empty the huge enclosure - with my bare hands - in to the nurseries biggest truck along with an other worker. There are plenty of plastic bags from fertilizer and alike, but they are empty. It is a delicate mix of plastic and organic material, which have been added just the right amount of rain a week or two ago. We drive to the other side of town, and unload - by hand.
Continuing my development of the perfect watering automat, and ends up with one that actually works. Had an idea of one, that should be watering, after the given water had been used by the plant, after a given time. I'm sure it will work, but I can't make it here. The one I make is the classic thicken-waterer - just with hoses.
23/3. One smelly day after an other: To day it is the big Humac-day. Spend the whole day with chicken-shit in my right hand, fertilizing 2000 plants, one by one, and watering them afterwards. Don't seem to be able to wash that smell off.
In the evening, Mandy and I drive to Wilderness, where there are a marked. Pretty good local musicians, homemade delicatessens and craft from more northern part of Africa. Real cosy, but it have been a long (and smelly) day.
24/3. Perfect weather, and I got a car! Head for Bergplaas, to look for different mosses and especially their "flowers". Find the mosses, but apparently it is out of their "breading time". Never the less, I have a great tour in a magnificent landscape: In between the steep hills, glimpse of the flat costal area or even higher mountains appears. Bare vertical rocks, sapphire green grassland, old forests, rivers and creeks. It is all within few kilometres.
25/3. Decides for a relaxing day, the first in nearly two months. Last for one hour, and I'm working again. Back-up of the 2500 photos I have been taking, and try to find a way to store them logically. Fails...
I have to repot a few plants. They were not planted in a material minded for constantly watering like my watering automats provides. Change the button soil to rough bark pieces, and hope that reduces the up-flow. I have this theory that plants will grow better, provided with a constant humidity, if the pot is large enough to give them different humidity. Then they can set their roods where the conditions are just right for them, and they will not loos their capillary roots to drought or drown when suddenly watered. I have always found the tip on plants: "Will benefit for drying out between watering" completely nonsense. Of cause, some plants might need a dormant period, but fare from all those that can stand it.
The garden have been worked on, but the vegetation around my rondawel were not cut back, and it needs! Got to have some sun and light through the windows! Last job is making a semi-roof for the large Fockia: When it rains, it not only get rain, it get it from the roof as well.
27/3. Went to the Garden Route Botanical Garden with Mandy. She is one of the Trustees, and have wanted to show me the garden for some time. It is surprisingly large, and real well placed around a large natural lake. It have a large selection of the local plants, both to show tourists and to show the locals which fine garden plants they have access to, without using foreign plants.
I am defiantly going back to take some photos and explore the garden more. By some reason, I ended in the Southern Cape Herbarium, and was not able to draw my selves out, before it was time to leave. On the way out, I spot a small chameleon in some low vegetation. Mandy tells they are numerous in the garden. I haven't thought I would seen one on this stay.
31/3. The whole family have gotten down to the river cottage, which turns out to be a great idea: It is Saturday, and the temperature extend 30 C. I got a car, and decides; it is time to start exploring the mountain road to Oudtshoorn. It is cross town, and it is even more busy in the weekends.
The road winds it way up to 800 meters, where the Outeniquapass give access to a beautiful valley. It is hard to find parking place on the way up, but I manages to squeeze the car in a few places. Rocks, ferns, bulbs and a few succulents between the scares fynbos. To my surprise, I find sundew; Drosera aliciae in rather sun exposed and dry places.
My camera runs out of battery, and the spare battery is flat. First time I experience that, and hopefully also last. Real bugger in a great area like this! Try to continue, but it is just not the same without a camera. Make a few stops on the way down, where I wasn't aloud on the way up. One one wall, some small springs emerges, and a completely other vegetation occurs.
I take a few specimens for the new self-watering bawl I constructed yesterday. Spend most of the night working on the plastic parts for the interior of the stainless bawls I bought. Should be able to administrate water for a dry, medium and wet bawl for several weeks.- I hope.
In the granite moss, I find a little yellow and blue flower, which I think belongs to an orchid. It's leaves it two till four millimetres long, the flower three centimetres high. Turns out to be a Utricularia.
Back at the nursery, I make the wet bawl and start the monthly photo uploading and editing. Takes for ever: The internet is slow/not there.
1/4. To celebrate I start the last two years of my education to day, I head for the Outeniquapass. As hoped, the clouds is only covering the coast, and above the pass; sunshine and no winds. Drives to where I quit yesterday, and start exploring the dryer parts. This is the start of Little Karoo, famous for it's succulents. The green tour on MAP.
At the first parking area, a roadtrain takes most of the room. Not much to find, still too low. When I get back to the car, the driver ask me for a lift. He have been stranded for two days with a engine error. According to my rough map, there is a town a bit back, and then left for ten kilometres. We passes ostrich- sheep-, goat- and vine farms, and to my big surprise, a single Opuntia field as well. Twice we drive by puff adders, lying on the road.
It turns out to be a tiny village with a closed general store. Try the valley, ten kilometres back at the George road: Same. End up at a small coffee shop, but he get bread, cheese and something to drink. Drops him off at his truck.
A nice gravel road with a sign: Zebra looks irresistible. I got a wake idea of, it might lead to the Mooselbay/Oodshorn road, and heads out of it. It leads through a dry area with hills, a few small fertile valleys with few farms and a breathtaking landscape in general. At the first stop, I find at least twenty different succulents. I'm glad I returned yesterday, and have brought three fully charged batteries and a few spare chips.
New sign: Mount Hope; why not? I drive for a few kilometres, and a new set of plants occurs. I only explorer the few metres of vegetation between the gravel road and the fence. I have spotter ostrich on some fields, and I'll hate to interrupt a group of those giant birds. Further more: Here are plenty, actually more than on the other side of the barbwire.
Just as I think it can't be any better, fat Euphorbias occurs. It can be Euphorbia tuberculata, but I'm not sure. Here are Adromischus alsener, Crassulata namiquiensis, Mesembryantiva squamulacum, real dry Conophytum flavem, Sacarcola crasicola, Alvonia albissima, Hodia gordonii, Alvonia albissima, Euphorbia rudis, Euphorbia longiflora, Caridopsis denticrlata, giant Tylecodon paniculatus, Bulbines, Eriospermun, Monsonia (herrei?), Delosperma and many, many more. I would not have been surprised, if a Welwitschia should turn up!
It seems to last forever, but I'm getting deeper and deeper inland, and have been driving around 30 kilometres without seeing one single car. Just one corner more, one more stop... A gorge at one side, a rocky hill to the other. Awesome! Any botanical garden would be proud of ten square meters of this waste area.
Shoots a hundred photos more, and spots a larger road in the distance. It turns out to be the Mooselbay/Oodshorn road. Almost three o'clock, and I better head home. According to the map, the shortest way will be up to Oodshorn and then down to George. Unfortunately, there is a huge music festival, and it is held on the George road! Takes me some time and twice the packed centre out town to get out of the right road.
Home to sort out photos. After the first, real rough look through, I'm down on 175. Gona be a long night... Finish up packing stuff for the Port Elizabeth tour.
2/4. The little bakkie get a fast service at the workshop, and get loaded with plants. I take the Garden Route 335 kilometres to the east, which brings me to Port Elizabeth. Make a single stop at Storms river and the breast taking gorge. It is not wide, but it's deep! I try before, and failed, but never the less: I try photoing it again.
Arrives at Linda's place around two, and get a real nice apartment. Spends the rest of the day chatting with her, and planning the rescuing of Fockea edulis, and what ever rare plants I will find in the area due to be bulldozed. In a matter of safety, I will be assigned a helper. Ten years ago, you wouldn't bother to lock your doors, leaving your home, in this neighbourhood. Now, you don't go out in your fenced garden at night.
3/4. The car have a flat tire, and after I have changed it, Michael (one of the nursery partners) get it fixed for me. Meet up with Alexander, one of the partners of the rescue nursery. We starts digging up Fockeas little to nine, and it turns out to be a real challenge. We only achieve half of, what I estimated, and after six hours, with a lunch break, I have to give in. I'm not a quitter, and I can't recall ever to give up a job, but this is too tough. My head feels like it is about to explode.
We lay with our buds in the air all the time, and give all we have within us. It is over 32C in the shadow, if there were any! I ask Alexander, if he wants to continue, and he does. After ten more minutes, both his hands starts to cramp, and I stretch them for him several times. Then he's ready to stop. Got to come up with a plan B.
Takes some photos of the most interesting plants in the area: Schotia afra, Kedrostis, senecio, different Euphorbias, thin and fat, six succulents, Aloes, Portulaceria afra, Raphionacme, Bulbine suculenta, and others Bulbines, plus some others, which I can't recall the names on.
Discus our "progress" with Linda, and we agree on renting a small digging machine. Should be able to get in the Easter (where I thought I were going on tour with Paul and Mandy).
4/4. Alexander and I drives out to the Fockea site, and starts marking plants, which will be dogged up. It is not that hot to day; only 31C. After lunch, we drive a bit around in the waste area. It is an area of 12.000 hectares that are due to be bulldozed, but we can't find a better spot to dig. Few places are open enough to walk throw, and those that are, have been dog up.
There are plenty of wildlife in the bush. Yesterday, we saw a monkey, probably a vervet, and to day a turtle and two small bushbucks. Glimpses of lizards and small rodents all the time. A real strange beetle; black with red and yellow hairs occurs, and I event get a few photos, before it fly away again.
It feels a bit weird to walk around here: Looks like a botanical garden, but I can take all the plants I like, just like a nursery, but I don't have to pay. If we have to cut one down to get to an other, it does not matter at all. Returns to the house little past five, much more alive than yesterday.
5/4. Get up real early, to be at the gate of Addo Elephant National Park, when they open at seven. I hope to make it before the great Easter-chaos. They have the worlds biggest elephant population, and the entrance is just 40 kilometres out of town. The park it selves stretches for around 50 kilometres, I think. It have been heavily expanded the last couple of years, but they have still to get animals for the new half.
I make it in good time, and go for the old main entrance, which is in the other end of the park. Drive between two police cars, and make it five minutes before opening. Within a half hour, I find a group of 21 nursing elephants, with their really small calves. They stay around my car for an hour, before anybody else find us. And yes: I shoot a few photos...
Last time I were here, two years ago, I only saw the back of four elephants in half a day, this time, I think, I see all the 460 they have, several times. At one watering hole, more than 60 are gathered. Some commotion, and they all gathers in one tight group. It turns out to be a mating. Some later, one of the other large bulls gets a bit to close, and he is, very noisy, "followed to the door".
Here is a lot of other animals, and very few cars. I see two different snakes, two huge leopard tortoises and a small, flightless dung beetles, Burchell's zebras, kudus, plenty of warthogs, ostriches, bokmakieries, red hartebeest, white storks, black-headed heron, Egyptian gooses, martial eagles and a lot of other birds, one black and white with extreme long tail feathers. Drives around for nine hours, to cover all roads, and give all species of animals a chance to expose them selves.
I'm running low on fuel, but never the less; I take the road through the new part of the park. Here is a huge amount of Opuntias, but also many indigenous plants. Stop a few times to shoot plants, and end up with 501 photos. An other long night in front of the PC... Ends up with four groups: All animals (but few elephants) [Animals from 3. month]. All elephants [Elephants]. Plants, views and few animals [Addo ENP], and even fewer for [Highlights of month 3].
6/4. The weather follows exactly the same patterns as in Denmark, and probably the rest of the world: Public holyday is a guarantee for rain (unless you are in a way too dry area: Then it will be a sandstorm). I catch up on my office work, and take it easy in general. That is an other term for not leaving the PC for 16 hours.
7/4. Saturday, but I have to get early up to be able to meet with the digging machine. The rain have stopped, but it starts as a gray day. Suites me fine, if the temperature can stay below 30C. I really hope it will work out with that machine; it is an expensive test, and it is back-braking if it don't. But there are a lot of unknown factors: How big is the machine, how good are the operator, how much will the plants stand and much more.
Turns up to be a standard JCB with a experience operator. Unfortunately, there is only me to point out the places to dig, jump down the hole to free the sometimes huge plant and run with it, over the holes, to a temporary depot. The brand new and, in this environment; huge machine struggles to get through the old riverbed. Concrete like gravel with fist- to head large rocks firmly embedded.
After a few experiments, we decides to dig a one meter deep drench besides the plant, and then easily get it out of the wall. Some plants are more than 50 centimetres in diameter, some are long and thin, some are like a huge football, with a long pole root, and they are hard to get up one piece.
After we have dug up around half of the marked plants, he flattens the area, and drives out the plants I load and unload by hand. It have taken the whole day, and I'm beaten, extremely dusty and soaked in the rubber-like sap, blended with soil. Now I just have to load and unload them to the bakkie. And use an other hour to divide me and the sap/dirt/dust. If I had, it is over: I do not feel bad about taken the day off Wednesday, to go to Addo!
Quiet evening in front of the TV. I wish I had remembered to turn it on, before I sat down... Well, it doesn't matter, it don't work anyway.
8/4. Empty the vehicle at the nursery, and drive up to fill it again. Sort the plants by size and quality. About five percent have damages, and will get some special care. I think that is a acceptable rate - especially with the enormous work it is to dig them up by hand, in mind. When I get back, I wash all my cloths to get the rubber-like sap of. That does not work, but the offering of freshly washed cloths under open sky make the rain gods generous.
Try to get my phone and camera back to life. They got squeezed between me and a giant caudex. After intense cleaning, adjustment and hammering against the edge of the table, the phone awakes, but the camera newer comes through. Too bad, it represents after all two month's pay checks. During the night, a vicious thunderstorm passes through - they claim. I didn't notice.
9/4. Paul and Mandy pops bye, from their tour out in the wild. Besides from plants, they have seen the animals I missed in Addo. Would have loved being on that tour, but I have to admit: I just can't be two places at once. Spends the afternoon making cuttings of Portulacaria afra for the mistletoe project.
I am able to find some great looking branches; dense and round like small Christmas trees. I can make 30-50 cuttings from one bush, without it nearly can be seen. Those are old, big and dense bushes, some more than four meters high, with a stem around half a meter in diameter - waiting to be bulldozed.
Once again, I really feel bad about all the plants we have to leave behind. This is a great area, with so many of the interesting plants I usually see in nurseries - and the are doomed. Some are real old plants, some are much more fat and dense, than those from cultivation, some have "personality", obtained through tough living, and some are just rare or beauties. See some of the plants on: Plants of Blue Water Bay.
All the plants, the approximately six centimetres thick layer of succulent peat and the top of the ancient river bed, will be roughly cut off. After the house have been build, fortunes are spend on new peat to sustain the flat, dull square of grass that needs regular watering and cutting. Go figures...
In the evening Linda helps me with the English on the Taxonomy Plant Collection, and that makes a huge different. I know my English isn't good; I am a mathematician, and have not really learned English properly.
10/4. Time to go "home" to George, but first I have to visit the local succulent nurseries. At Linda's, to count and measuring the Fockeas, and pickup a couple for Copenhagen Botanical Garden. Then to Misty Mornings/Cape Flora and Weldevrede Succulent Nursery. I'm not interested in buying plants my selves, but I have a list of weird wishes from friends around the world - and I'm still curious.
While I drive out to her nursery, she get the necessary paper work for bringing the plants from Eastern Cape to Western Cape. The permit to dig them up have been made long ago, and I had a copy while digging. Linda's connections are priceless, and what others would have to spend a month on, she do by phone and mail in a few hours. Takes a lot of papers to transport three indigenous plant and cuttings (that should have been bulldozed) 335 kilometres, in the same country. I wonder how much it will take to get them to Europe?
And then again: After having waited just ten minutes more, a lot of times, some fellow in a office in Cape Town suddenly remembers he also need the landowners written permission. The certificate giving the permission to dig them up in not enough, when the have to gross a border. I wait until four, and them empty my car.
Have to skip the nurseries, and head direct for George. Just halfway to Storms, my right back tire explodes. Glad I got the punctured fixed in Port Elizabeth! While I tank gasoline and coffee at the Storms station, it turns black night. Combination of time and clouds. Still 175 kilometres to go in a old car. Bit used, when I reach George.
11/4. Back in the old routine, only different is; it rains more than it use to. Lungiswa is on vacation, but have provided Lucinda with a list of jobs, that will last this month out.
As a "bonus", the sour from my toilet fails and flood my rondawel, and I got a virus attack on my PC. Further more; the temperature starts to drop, average is 9C at night and 23C at daytime. That is, in South African: Freezing cold when we meet at work, and rather cold when we get off. Mid day is reasonably.
12/4. After all this time, it finally occurred to me: When an South African realises a problem, he/she says: "I'll make a plan". I have wrongly assumed it was very efficient, because I thought it were English. But it is not; it is Afrikaans, a it it best translated into Spanish: Mañana.
13/4. There is a monthly weeding contest, which always have been won by Fynbos. Last month changed that: Trees won, and I still can't figure why. They had flowering weed, we had none at all. I thought the contest was all about weed, but general look and appearance also counts. Wiser this month, we scored ten out of ten in all sections except the Bulbines in the ground (nine out of ten). He wanted us to Round-up it because of two-leaved seedlings, but I haven't due to the awaiting of the Bulbine roods I planted. Our neighbour have seeds on their half meter weed, which covers their crop. I have not heard the result yet, but if we don't win, the contest must be about growing the largest weed.
14/4. The weekend start with a bit of drama: Fire in the huge compost pile. I smell it, and find a small portion of the surface smoking. Calls Paul, and recommend him to take the bulldozer and open the pile. Spraying water on won't help. He follows the smoke several meters in. We place a hose on top of the pile - and hope.
At ten, I take the VW Caravel and hits for the Montagu road, north of George. Want to see the area and find some mistletoe seeds for experiments. The weather is perfect, although it is cold in the mornings. The red tour on MAP.
A bit up the gravel road, I figures it is better to fill the tank before the long and lonesome mountain road. It's a hungry beast: 50 Euro, but the worst part it I don't have that in cash. The gasoline station does not except Visa, Eurocard or any other known credit card, and I have to run to the nearest ATM to withdraw six Euro, which cost me - six Euro extra.
Back on the right track, there is an awesome nature to enjoy. I'm in steep mountains, covered in low vegetation. Here are fynbos, flowering Proteas, Ericas, few succulents and other nice plants. But the mountains them selves are breathtaking! Some are bare rocks, some covered in fine mist, some almost vertical, and every corner reveal several new mountains.
In the shadow side, where small creeks occurs, a wild miniature jungle folds out: The moss world. All five Classes are represented, and in some places more than fifteen centimetres deep. Ferns, Peperomias and other moist-growers if rich amounts. On the sunny side, it is succulents, bulbs, Bulbines, Proteas and other sun bashers.
Montagu Pass was the first mountain pass, exclusively build by convict labour. It was opened in 1847 by John Montagu, colonial secretary and chairman of the Central Road Board. The new tool house I passes is from 1855. It looks a lot like a church - in a non-Christian country.
A small tram passes me on the open section of the Quteniqua Railroad. I follows the road to Herold. Here the hop- (Humulus lupulus?) vine- and ostriches farms starts. The fifteen kilometres have taken me around four hours. Due to the lack of mistletoe, I have to cross over to the Zebra/Mount Hope road. Drive direct to the area I found last, and pinch a few. Then back via a detour, which leads me few kilometres closer to Oudshorn. Passes really nice, fat Tylecodons, but it is getting late.
Have a plan about getting my toilet working, get the camera resurrected, make the weekly up-load for the internet site and process the 265 photos from to days tour, work on some additional watering systems and relax. Back at the nursery at five.
15/4. Tried something completely new today: Just sitting in the sun, doing nothing, but enjoying life. That is a first, and I been here two and a half month. Well, it lasted only for half an hour, but still...
16/4. We won the weeding contest, and are going to eat at a restaurant on the company's tap. I let Lucenda decide, and she choose KFC. We'll wait till Lungiswa is back. Spend the first half of the day choosing and finding plants for the Viscum - mistletoe experiment. That is defiantly a new way to sew seeds on!
19/4. In a General Meeting, the Succulent Group are chosen as The Group of the Month; we have the record of the nurseries entire record for less weed and the neatest area in general. I an chosen as Worker of the Month, probably because I have the most working points - I'm not sure.
20/4. Finally, the Fockeas arrivals from Port Elizabeth. I have instructed all who is involved, how they should be handled. I been explaining all, how delicate their skin are, and how important is is to take extreme care when handling them. I had made a lot of Portulacaria cuttings to make a bed for them, while transported. I was expecting the five plants I had chosen for my selves, Copenhagen Botanical Garden and Paul.
I get them, but unfortunately along with a lot others, and they all have been thrown in the back of a big truck along with some big boards. Guess they will make a fine compost, but it was not what I had in mind, when I in 32 degrees Celsius dug them up with literally bleeding nails. I guess I should have taken the Easter off like every body else; I did not achieve anything else than work my selves close to death.
I take my own plant in to the succulent house to try to save it. In here, I find the last two of 30 seed trays have been flushed. The rest were spoiled some time ago, but these two were under Lucenda and my care - until now. Both Lungiswa and Lucinda are on leave to day, leaving me alone in the section. Who and why someone have flushed the seedlings is a mystery. Less than ten centimetres from the trays are my watering system, which waters them without any losses. I AM DEFIANTLY NOT IN A GOOD MODE NOW!!!
Try to work my temper off, producing 20 hours of work in seven - but I could still kill that ---- who just throw around with the Fockeas! I guess I have the same feeling as a new mother, who just let the nurse wash her newborn child, when the nurse comes back and say: "I kind of dropped him once on his head, and my boyfriend called while the baby was in the water, but I managed the bring him back to life. It's all right? If there's something wrong, you can always have an other".
22/4. Been here half the time to day, and there is still a lot of mountain gravel roads I haven't been on. Takes the VW Caravel, and follows the main road to Herold, where I left last. The yellow tour on MAP. I have never been that keen on this car, and it don't improve to day. First, the armlet falls off in a narrow bend. Then, while I walks in front of it on a rather steep part of the track, thinking about the efficiency of the handbrake, the large fan starts with a loud sound. Finally, I fill it up again, and it engulfs 68 litres which equals a weeks pay. Haven't even gone six kilometres on a litre.
The landscape is not as great, as on the other side of the George/Oudshoorn road, or further south on the same road. Flat hills with little and dry vegetation, but surprisingly few succulents. Finds a smaller tortoise, which must be a male. The shell have almost a horn underneath it's head, which must be mend for turning over it's opponents.
There are very few "new" plants, but still some nice Pelargonium, a few Pachypodium succulentum, some Crassylas, different Aloes, a single Kedrostis, huge Tylecodon paniculatus and I think one Tylecodon reticulatus. Different Euphorbias and small succulents.
Take the road towards Dysselsdorp. All fields are fenced, and I see al lot of ostriches, and that makes me stay on the non-fenced area along the road. Just before I reaches Dysselsdorp, some Portulacaria afra occors. Some with Cuscuta nitida on. This yellow parasitic plant can grow ten centimetres a day, and seems to be totally indifferent to it's host's wellbeing. .
Crosses a single small pass with some nice views. I get a feeling of getting closer to "civilisation": More invasive plants like cacti and Agavas, and more trash along the road. Stops to shoot a cacti I recognises from Mexico, but it actually looks as it is doing much better here. Notes a small snake it the top of a little bush. Get rather close, before it vanish in a split second.
Get to the paved road, and heads home over Oudshoorn. Haven't been the best tour, but still nice to get a bit around the area.
24/4. Spends the morning extending my Visa. It turns out it is so easy to get the first three month (nobody reads the small application you fill out in the plane), but to extend it just a bit, is a slow and expensive operation. I only needed my passport to get in, but now I have to provide bank statements, health insurance, leaning contract, passport and other photo ID, student card and flight ticked out from here. And I should have done it within the first two month.
I ends up writing a explanation for not extending the Visa in time, which will be studies by some supervisor. He buys it, and I get a "Authorisation for Illegal Foreigner to remain in the Republic pending Application for Status". That last a month, and in the end of that month, I can pickup the extension. If Paul haven't been with me, I would have had to come back for the "Authorisation for Illegal ....", and then apply. Stood in the queue for more than an hour, without the one in front were served, and it all took four hours.
Paul drops me off at the mall, where we have our team-meeting at KFC. The afternoon is dominated of heavy thunder and showers. The day started with extreme warm wind from the northern mountains, and it was expected.
On the way home from work (a 20 meter walk), I spot a small chameleon. Brings it home for a photo session, and leaves it in the garden. The locals kill them instantly, and they are scared of them: According to the legend, God had made man to live for ever. When he re-decides, he sends a chameleon to tell. So; you have to kill it before it tells you, you will die some day. Sad!
26/4. We get a new bed made, and I have to shift in around 600 Aloes. All from four litre bags to 100 litre. I have mention it before: I do not like Aloes! Looks like I have spend the day fighting with cats.
27/4. Public holyday, and the weather knows! Pouring rain, strong winds and the temperature does not cross the 16 Celsius mark. Spends the day making a few pages on parasitic plants, freezing and feeling sorry for my selves in general. Have stopped the work on self-watering pots: It works perfect, I got enough for all my plants and I am satisfied with it's look. Now I just need my plants...
28+29/4. Weekend, bad weather forces me to stay home. Spend most at the time at the PC.
1/5. Spend the morning of this Freedom Day writing on an article about Carl von Linné's life. Still have to be polished of... At two, I take the little bakkie and heads for Oudtshoorn. Paul have talked about some Dioscoreas, and I have now reach that area in my exploring of the southern South Africa. Get pulled over by a police razzia. Get a 30€ fine for driving with a left front tire with lack of pattern in one side. I'm glad she didn't notice the missing number plate in the back or the broken seatbelt. She does not fill in my country of origin, but unfortunately; she do note the registration number of the vehicle.
Drive right through Oudshoorn, and about ten kilometres north of the town, some amassing hills raises. Partly covered with small bushes and succulents. Makes a few stops, and once again, I'm amazed over being able to discover "new" species again. Head for the area Paul pointed out. On the left side of the road, only reached by the morning sun, the Dioscoreas grow. I have to cross the river Le Roux, but it is the hazard worth. The pink tour on the MAP.
It is a weird blend of plants. Due to drought, there is a lot of succulents, but not the ones I have seen on the more open areas. The lack of sun favourites other species, among them Dioscorea hemicrypta. The typical greyish-blue leaves are easily spotted on the almost vertical rock side. Some have real smooth caudex, others are real rough. It is in their growth period, and I even find some un-mature fruits. It is clearly, they starts all over from the caudex, covering them selves in dead branches.
Here is real old plants with a caudexes of 50 centimetres, and (that is nice to observe;) plenty of young seedlings. Discovers a lot other plants, but the late start on the tour forces me back. Take a fast look on the other side of the road. Here the sun bakes most of the day, and it is dominated by completely other plants. Got a go back...
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
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!
13/6. Wakes up a bit cold in Karoo National Park. The breakfast is served from seven, and I grab a fast bite, before I drive out in the park, to use the first daylight. Not that much life than I have expected, but a few red hartebeest, a gray rhebok and some fast duikers. The temperature is just between five and ten, and the wind does not help. Figures I have to stay in the car with my best friend: The heater, until the sun appears.
The park is made of a group of table mountains and the lowland between them. Low land might not be the right term; it starts around 1000 meters above sea level, and the peaks are around 1400 meters. I drive up through a narrow gorge, and reaches a plateau. Almost no vegetation and no animals. Can't blame them; it is uncomfortable cold!
Drive slowly back, and jumps out of the car numerous times to photo. Probably a waste f time: The light is still faint, the mountain walls I can see is in the dark, and way to large for my camera's lens. Meets the sun around a corner, and get out. Sun in my back, a fantastic view in front. Can se for kilometres to the side, and around 200 meters in front of me are a steep but vegetation covered mountain.
There is not a sound! After some time, the kudus and some klipspringers on the other side of the gorge feel safe enough to start grazing again, and I can hear their hooves hit the rocks, hundreds of meters away. A few birds starts to sing, and some cold insects buzz. I hit further down, passes the centre and drive out on a road in the lowland.
On this stretch of road, it is prohibited to get out of the car. I am sure they don't mean it. Why should they else grow their few flowering plants 20 meters from the road? You just have to take a little walk! On this flat and open land, some zebras grazes. They call them Quaggers, a species that was extinct in 1883. Later DNA analyses have discovered it was a subspecies of Plain's zebra. Animals with "quagga-futures" were selected, and intense breading might lead to an animal resembling the original Quagga: Brown stripes on the front, none on the back.
A large group of ostriches grazes in safe distance from the road - for me. I guess they most be the most dangerous animal in the park.
Here are also cape mountain zebras and some springboks. I make a fast round at the picnic area. A bit ghost-like: Nice lawns, newly painted tables, perfect grills and even a nice blue swimming pool - but no people at all. Meet one old geezer in the mountains, that is all. Bit strange considered more than half of the 40 houses in the lodge were occupied.
I drive back to the camp, and have a look at the small, but modern museum. The temperature have reached a nivaux, making a longer walk realistic. I chooses the long tour, which brings me up the mountain upper site the camp, in over the plateau, over a ridge to an other plateau, and down from that mountain.
There are fare from the vegetation I have hoped for. Mainly small scrub, with almost no leaves. A few ultra small plants flowers, and a few succulents hide under neat the dense bushes. Find what I think can be a Ornithoglossum viride. The flower is weird! The views are magnificent, but I doubt I can get photos of them; here is a slight mist, and I have the sun against me.
On the way over the ridge and on the top of the other mountain, vegetation starts to be interesting. Monsonia crassicaulis (or something looking quite that way) and Pachypodium bispinosum are spread around a small area. A bit further down, some Avonias is growing in bare grit in a small area. Looks a bit like this Avonia, but more scaly.
It is one o'clock, and if I'm lucky; the gorge I was in this morning will be light up by the sun. Drive all the way back to the back of the park, only to find the gorge is too deep to be reached by the sun in mid-winter. Well, the tour was not a waste of time; along the road, on the rock-wall, some of the quite dassies basks in the sun. As with so many other animals, you can pass in meters, but if you slow down, they are gone!
I only have a wake idea of the distance to next destination, and absolutely no clue to the condition of the road. Better leave now... That is; with a few stops on the way out. In one place, I find what looks to me as a Cussonia sphaerocephala.
On the way out, I notes a line of what looks like terrariums. Turns out to be the "Fossil Walk". This area is famous for it rich findings of fossils from the real early dinosaurs. Around 95% of all known species were extinct 251.400.000 years ago, when Gondwana were the world. Interesting, well displayed along an interesting walkway, but I better be going. Turns out I have driven 65 kilometres within the park!
In to Beauford West, where I might as well can gas. Petrol stations are not found along the minor roads, although they might stretch for several hundreds kilometres. 365 kilometres for 200 ZAR is not bad - unless you work in a South African nursery. It is around 4,40€ for 100 kilometres.
I leave the highway, and turns off towards Aberdeen. The area I drive in is flat and very dry. Only small scrub and a few succulents can make it out here. In a small area with even lesser vegetation, I spot some thick Euphorbias, and when I stop and climb the fence, I also see some Brachystemma and - eah - an other succulent.
The road it a straight line - and under maintains. Luckily, they have decided to let both directions use the one free lane in both directions. Except for some of the maintainers crew's trucks, I meet no one for the 50 kilometre roadwork. The rest of the 160 kilometres to Aberdeen have been made, and I keep a good speed.
Just outside Aberdeen, I turn left against Graaff-Reinet. The area is a bit more rich in vegetation, I see a lot of vervet monkeys, springboks, kudus, other boks and even a group of suricates. I reach the town a little to five, and find the Karoopark Guest House, I booked on the web. They have not heard of me, but I think I'm their only guest. I get an nice large room for 20€. The bathroom is larger than my Danish home and my rondawel, there is a small, but efficient heater and coffee on the room. I might extend my stay for a day or two, if I can find something and entertain me with in the surroundings.
Take a short walk back to the centre and the very nice church. The light should be right for the church with the up lighten mountain in the back. It is a Dutch Reformed church from 1886, and it is a replica of Salisbury Cathedral (scale 1:5?) The old (fourth oldest in ZA) and very cosy town is located in a horseshoe of the Sundays River. The Camdeboo National Park covers 15.000 Hectares all around the city.
Dinner in a mansion house from around 1850: Garlic bread and spareribs. Then back to the PC to write and have a fast look through the 285 photos of to day..
14/6. Fast breakfast, and then out in the park, to catch the morning rush. Had an idea of where the entrance should be, but drive all the way out of the city without finding it. Finally, a sign shows off to some sort of centre. The gate have to be opened by hand, might caused by winter shortest og tourists?
Several kilometres in, I meet a ranger. He seems a bit puzzled about what I'm doing. It turns out, it is the maintains- and training centre, and not part of the public areas. He explains to me, I have to go back to town, make around ten turns, find a yellow building and buy my ticket at second floor.
Of cause I get lost, but I find my lodge, and they provides me with a good map, and tells me I can obtain the ticket at the gate, which is in the other end of town. Can't win them all... On the way, I passes the large artificial lake, made by Ngweba Dam, which leys within the park.
Have to pay one €, and I'm in. Well, that is; in the "Valley of Desolation" part. Due to the parks layout, there are eight entrances, some with fee, some free. It is the same ticket that give access to all. The park is approximately 15 times 25 kilometres, with a pocket containing Graaff-Reinet city.
The lowland seems dry and brown, but as soon as I start to descent, the vegetation changes to green. Bushes, Portulacaria afra and Acasias with a lot of smaller plants underneath. Here are an abandons of animals: The park have 1000 kudus and I see a good part of them. Springboks, duikers, dassies are among the animals that are visible - till I get close enough to take a photo. My camera is perfect for plants, but not that brilliant for larger animals or the great views.
Among the interesting plants are huge Crassula ovata, Cussonia sphaerocephala and a lot of species I can't remember the name of. I get higher from the 1000 meters in the valley below, and some awesome views displays them selves around every corner. One point: Topscope, revels the big lake, a table mountain, the city and Spandaukop; an other table mountain. The sun is right for half the views, but it is hard to capture the magnificence of this waste area.
Few succulents hides between the rocks, and the bushes that stands free, have been "bonsaied" by dassies for generations. I lean out to see the wall, and get a 200 meter vertical fall as well.
A big shadow passes me, and it is made from a pair of the large Black Eagles. I had the camera adjusted for close-up, but they turn back, and I get some absolutely amassing shoots! They passes back and forward several times, until the dive down underneath me. Would love to get a shoot from above, but there is too much gravel on the angles rocks.
I drive further up the road, and reaches "Valley of Desolation". It have been breathtaking until now, but this takes the price! A massive wall of basalt, around 200 meters high and the same distance away, made of columns and larger parts - and with the sun perfectly flat in! Start to shoot photos, walk a bit by the path, and starts all over again. End up shooting a video - and I'm still sure I have not been able to capture the greatness of this awesome place. I am so glad the days of negative films are over!
I am convinced the path I have to follow continues over some huge boulders, and is rewarded with some real quite small plants. One of them could be my favourite Ornithogalum multifolium, even though it is a bit too fare east for it. The other could be Crassula picturata?. Hard to tell without flowers. The bulbs are less than four millimetres, the single leave around 40 millimetres long.
The view is even better from out here! The unfortunately happens; I get lost, and even though I really would like to, I just can't follow the path ;-) A consolation is the absolute perfect views I find along the edge of this mountain. And I even get lost into a small gorge, which revels new plants, among them; a Erythrina humeana. Realising the fact that I will have no chance to choose from the amount of photos a make from this site, I forces my selves back. The combination of just being here, not photoing in not an option!
The only invasive plant I have noticed in the park is some Opuntias, which the park management should do something about. They are not plentiful, but one I find is more than four metres high, and they have a bad habit of spreading.
There is still some animals grazing, and I even get some descent shoots of the dassies. Just before the exit, an gravel road leads to - something. The rocky area is more ore less covered with Aloe striata. I have never figured that as a groundcover! A few Sanseverias hides them selves under other more rough plants, and I find a single Pachypodium bispinosum.
Out on the plains, the scars vegetation suffers from doubt. Round the corner, I find a Agava farm. They are grown for their fibres. Nothing else to see, unless one still can be amassed by large groups of springboks, vervet monkeys, kudus and...
There is an other part of the park a bit further out the road: Gamedrive. Lowland along the lake side with 19 kilometres of gravel road. I am sure "Only 4WD" means you must have all four wheels on the ground at all time. I succeed most of the time... My plan is just to get an impression of the area, and get some shoots of the area with good light. Than I can come back to morrow and see the animals.
To my big surprise and pleasure, quite some animals are still active. The first I see is a group of suricats. A light gray falcon, king fisher, kudus, black wildebeests, ostriches, springboks and bar eared foxes. I have considered to make a little (banned) tour out of the car to make a close-up of a flowering succulent, but then I passes the sigh warning about Cape Buffalos. Well, I have done my walking for to day...
Hits back to the town to find the Mountain Drive. It starts in the other end of town, and to my big surprise: I'm not alone! Have only meet two cars in the park to day, but this small gravel road is packed with running people. It is the cadets from the police academy in town. Several hundred people in blue cotton uniforms are running in formation and sinning. Guess I don't have to look for animals on this stretch!
Probably a nice road, but I'm being a bit hard to impress! Drives through with only a few stops, and hit back in to city. The Obesa Cacti Nursery, which should be big, leys in the back of town, and I thought I might have a fast look now, and come back later, if it is worth it. Wow: It is! It is huge, and the plants themselves are massive. It was started by Anthon as an private collection, and then turned into a nursery. Now, the nursery and the display garden covers 10 hectares.
Unfortunately, Anthon is away for three weeks, and Johan who manages is Anthon's absent is just leaving, and won't come in to morrow. But I'm welcome to walk around and photo. Shoots a few, using the low light, and walks a bit around. It is massive! And caudiciforms larger than members from those species, than I ever have seen. This will take some time to get morrow! And I still miss some of the park - 2/3 to be more precise. I better take one more night here.
Strangely enough; I have only driven 100 kilometres, and taken 375 photos. Never the less, it is going to be a long evening, sorting them out. Make a break for dinner, which tonight contains og crumbled mushrooms followed by a tender kudu steak. Delicious! Try to get through all the photos, and finally; I get through yesterdays.
15/6. Heads out for the Gamedrive in the first light. Strangely enough, I don't see more animals than yesterday afternoon. In the low trees and bushes, the duikers are jumping scared around. A kudu mother and calf are more relaxed, and I get some great shoots. A few other red-brownish shadows disappears like lightning between the dense vegetation.
I reaches the open land. Seems quiet deserted, but in the back corner, a group of black wildebeest grazes. Unfortunately, they have the same security range as the other animals out here: 4-500 metres. I guess a 3-500 millimetre lens would have been better than my 5,8-17,4. But, as they say: The best camera it the one you have, when the motive emerges.
And when the wildebeests runs cross the road in a big cloud of dust, I'm ready! There are several groups of animals on the floodplain. First I encounter some kudus, then a group og fighting blesboks, some springboks. The all keep a rather long distance. I guess they simply are not used to cars. I have not meet any other visitors, and many of the animals in this park comes from outside. The park is only fenced to keep cattle out.
Back in the bushes, I see a black ibis. It have a fantastic metallic reflection on the wings. In a clearing, the suricats have their burrow. One is sitting guard on the mount, and he is jumpy! I would like to go out of the car, and sneak closer, but this is the area with the sign even I respect: Cape Buffalo. A group of helmet guineafowls run in safety, a single ring-tailed mongoose is visible for a split second - like all it's relative.
Finally, I find one of my favourite animals: The Oryx/Gemsbok. The live all the way up from Arabia to here, many places where is is too dry for anything else. Some birds and a large group of vervet monkeys, and I have been this part of the park through. On the way back to town, the road is being crossed by groups of ostriches, springboks and harterbeest. Onyxes along the road and all much closer to me, than in the Gamedrive. The main road to town passes through the park, and it is not that strange to see animals here. The problem is the traffic; I stop to photo a buzzer, but cars pops out of nowhere.
I passes through town to find the entrance for the larger part of the park. Fumbles a bit around, and when I finally finds is, it is closed. Need a special permit from the office and a 4WD with good clearance. I doubt they will buy my definition of 4WD, and even I can't really clime the twelve centimetres clearance the bakkie have is "good". Does not look that interesting anyway; just a rather flat area and a couple of table mountains...
Heads back to town, and
Nursery. But it is closed? Johan said I would be welcome, and after a tour
around it, I find a way in. A few workers weed and federalizes with chicken
shit, and I feel back in New Plant. Had an idea of shooting some photos of the
big sceneries and one of each cacti. After a while and 2-300 photos, I shift to
plan B: Get a few highlights and advice people, interested in cacti and in
It is just awesome: Thousands of cacti, most bigger than they ever grow in Americas. The area is around 110x160 meters, and it is NOT the pass ways that is taking up the room! In between the five to ten meter plants, small species hide them selves. Here are hundreds of species, many of which I never have seen. The only ones I don't see, is the one spreader around in the wild.
Many of the gardens in town, the gas station, empty lots, public areas are planted with huge cacti as well. The area in front of the nursery would be an attraction by it selves! And this is just the old nursery, the new one is real large, right out of town. I drive out to see a bit more, while I'm here, and wow, again! Endless lines of all different sorts, a enormous garden, shadow houses and cacti! Try to get it on photo, but to really show those ten hectares, one should use a helicopter, I guess.
I give up, and find the walking track near bye. It heads up the lover mountains of the park, on the backside of what I were yesterday. Can't take the car, but I can walk around (well, on the track) with good containce (wow, I can't even spell it!). And the "new" Monsonias are not close enough. Here are not many human footprints, but an abundance of hoof imprints. The eatable plants are almost bonsais, and they would make some great potplants. Even though the clock only is around three, the sun is low. Make some great shoots sometimes, and makes it impossible others.
I have heard Portulacarias should have different tastes, and now I believe. Some are just thick stems with little bonsai branches and leaves, other are massive dunes, and I believe all are P. afra. Not much new, but a single Dioscorea, and I'm not sure of the species. The leaves are round, bluish and not mere than one centimetre.
Get some great shoots - I think, but head back a little past four. The town should have some interesting museums and old buildings, but that must wait till some other time. Have only driven 80 kilometres, but there are close to 500 photos to go through. I prefer to sort them while I have just a wake idea of, what they should resemble. And those from yesterday are not done.
I am still the only guest, but I have nine employees this evening. I decides to try their Sirlon, which turns out to be a good choice.
16/6. The forecast said -4C, but I think it have been slightly warmer. Check out, and get away with paying 100€ for those three days and nights. I can highly recommend this Guest House, it is absolutely perfect!
Heads home, but baring in mind; I have the whole day, and only 350 kilometres to go. The first part is through the high, but flat, brown plain. Make stops at at least ten kilometres. First, I find (or re-find) an Euphorbia horrida, Monsonias, a Cucurbitaceae (the fruit looks surprisingly much like Marah) Pachypodium bispinosum, some huge bulbs and some tiny and very nice flowering bulbs.
To my surprise, I find a small colony of what I think is Boophane disticha. They should not be found his fare east, I think, but they seems to do really fine; small seedlings next to one of them. The next valley is more or less covered with Asclepiadaceae, some are just starting to flower. On other fields, I find the usual mix of Hoodias and Euphorbias, looking almost the same. They can only be found few places, but almost always together.
There are not that many flowering plants, but those there are, are extreme bright in their colour. In Aberdeen, I passes through the centre of town - in about one minute. It is a vide but deserted street. I pass bye Willowmore, which looks he same from distance. On one of the brown fields along the road, two large bustard walks around. It is the also the worlds largest bird - that is: The heaviest flying bird.
I reaches the mountains, and start the descent to the lower part of the country. After the pass at 910 meters height, it slowly starts to get greener, and eventually, I reach the farm land, with lush green fields and milk cattle. I reach the familiar Herold area, which now seems green. I guess it is a combination of the recent rain and me coming from even dryer areas.
Arrivals at the nursery around four, with additionally 173 photos. The five day tour have given a total of 1500 photo, 1100 km and I have only spend 240€. Ought to do it more often... That thought last to I try to do the final sorting of the photos, up-loading them and write text... The little bakkie have done real good; except from a broken key for the gas-lit, all is perfect, it haven't even used any water or oil!
17/6. Spend a better part of the Sunday getting the photos sorted through, and uploaded with text.
20/6. Have offered to drive Linda home to Port Elizabeth, and we leave the nursery around eleven. Take it nice and easy, enjoying the landscapes and the company. Make a stop at a farm stall, selling the most delicious homemade cookies and sausages rolls. I have to find a way to avoid that place on my way home; I am not able to control my selves in a place like that!
On the way, we more or less passes the nursery I tried to visit last time, and turns in. Weltevrede Succulent Nursery is a very nice and neat whole sale nursery, mainly with succulents and cacti, but also quite a few caudiciforms. We spend a couple of hours talking with the owner, until it gets dark. I'm glad Linda knew the way! I would have spend a lot of time finding Blue Water Bay from there.
A nice supper, and then I help Linda back-upping her PC.
21/6. Leave Port Elizabeth around eleven, and tries a new way home, driving through Langkloff. It is between two mountain stretches, where the fertile valley in-between is the fruit garden of South Africa. Not many of the plants I'm interested in, but some nice views and a change from the normal N2 highway (and I avoid the farm stall).
Perfect timing back home: Bo's Sct Hans Aften dinner is just about ready. This is the longest night of the year on the southern hemisphere. Not celebrated in modern societies due to religion, but luckily, some Viking traditions have survived in Denmark, and we know when to celebrate nature!
22/6. Repacking my suitcase, and off again. This time the upper site way; Bo and I are heading for Cape Town. Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, The Cape, Greenpoint Marked and other nice places, known by Bo. On the way home: Karoo National Botanical Garden, Sheilam Cactus Garden and Soekershof Walkabout and if we got time; Bontebok National Park.
The Cape Tour starts at noon with the familiar road pass Mossel Bay. (Map of this tour.) The landscape slowly changes into enormous fields; several kilometres wide and even deeper. Few sheep- and ostriches groups, but mainly wheat. First stop at Breede River. The steep cliff on it's side is covered with Aloes, but they will unfortunately first flower in a week or two.
The road is very well laid out and maintained, but a small bakkie and a huge road train with milk manages to take several rolls right in front of us. Add a new dimension to "split milk"! The driver in the car behind us seem to know what to do, and we leave the locals to take care of the unlucky drives.
On several fields, pairs of the South African national bird: Blue crane wanders around (their national flower is said to be the plastic bag). Even though we started rather late, we reaches Cape Town comfortably early. Passes Kirstenborsch Botanical Garden, but I can't remember where exact the real nice B&B I sleep at last is located. Pick up a folder at the closing garden, and find a place nearby.
Huge private villa, transformed to six units, each with separate bedrooms and a nice kitchen/living room. Drive down to the shopping area, and find a fish restaurant. I dive with fish, I don't eat them, but their spareribs are great in any way. Sit an chat to midnight, and faint.
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 Höek 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.
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.
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.
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 50és, 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 Last 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 €