I had an invitation to visit a
South Africa, I have done some pro-bono work on in the past. Now, it
should be launched commercially, and I'm asked to give my input, and
hopefully work on it, in the future. It might involve a nursery, a
small botanical garden, routes in the unspoiled wilderness and
information about the plants and animals found within the area, for the guests.
At this first visit, I will photo-document the entire area before
any alterations takes place. I will visit the nearby tourist sites
and valuate them for further cooperation. I will make up a rough
plan for the entire area, placing the individual components in a way
that appreciate the natural landscape and at the same time gives
easy access to each. Finally, I have to make up a plan for the
vegetation, aliening it with the natural occurring species.
Realising how little I actually
know about South African highland plant's, I figured I might do a
tour around the premises.
While literature list various characteristics within the flower,
they fail to list the growing conditions for these plants. That is
what I need to know, and it seems like visiting the original
habitat, is the only way to learn.
I've been on a
South Africa round trip,
a small trip up north from Namibia and been
living in George for half a year,
but here are still so much to learn and explore.
I will be able to observe, measure, learn and
understand the plant's preferred conditions in the wild. I will analyse
light, pH, humidity and concentrations of nutrition along with other factors
like ventilation and animal interaction. This is a very little
studied subject, and with the array of species found in a relative
little but climate diverse area, this area offers a perfect study.
At the same time, I hope to be able to collect
material for DNA-tests for Dr. Tanja Schuster, who is mapping
Oxygonum. Along the way, I will visit the wild and
unspoiled nature, scattered around this area. I plan to do a quick tour
from South Africa through Lesotho, Swaziland,
Mozambique, Zimbabwe and
Some facts about the country.
(Jump to diary)
Republic of South Africa is a huge
country in southern Africa. It is bound by Namibia to the west,
Botswana and Zimbabwe to the north, while Mozambique and Swaziland
is found to the east along with the Indian Ocean and to the east the
Atlantic Ocean. It covers 1,221,037 km², measuring roughly 2000 times
1000 kilometres, and it feels
significantly bigger, driving its roads!
The interior of South Africa consists of a vast, in most places,
almost flat, plateau with an altitude of between 1,000 meters and
2,100 meters highest in the east, sloping gently downwards towards
the west and north, and slightly less so to the south and
south-west. This plateau is surrounded by the Great Escarpment,
whose eastern, and highest stretch is known as the Drakensberg which
I will pass.
I also do a trip along the coastal belt, below the Great Escarpment.
This is hotter, drier and less intensely cultivated than the
Highveld above the escarpment. The KwaZulu-Natal – Lesotho
international border is formed by the highest portion of the Great
Escarpment, or Drakensberg, which reaches an altitude of over 3,000
meters. The climate at the foot of this part of the Drakensberg is
temperate. The south and south-western parts of the plateau
and the adjoining plain below is known as the Great Karoo, which
consists of sparsely populated scrubland. To the north the Great
Karoo fades into the even drier and more arid Bushmanland, which
eventually becomes the Kalahari desert in the very north-west of the
country. The mid-eastern, and highest part of the plateau is known
as the Highveld. This relatively well-watered area is home to a
great proportion of the country’s commercial farmlands, and contains
its largest conurbation (Gauteng Province). To the north of
Highveld, the plateau slopes downwards into the Bushveld,
which ultimately gives way to the Limpopo lowlands or Lowveld.
Despite a population of more than
55 million citizens, here are quite some
nature. I have done numerous tours around mainly the desolated
areas, and this time, I plan to go along The Garden Route along the
south-eastern coast, and up the eastern coast through Lesotho to
Swaziland, and back from Botswana through the central part.
MONEY: The currency is South African Rand. 1 DKK=2 ZAR.
South Africa is in a subtropical location, moderated by ocean on two
sides of the triangle-shaped country and the altitude of the
interior plateau. These account for the warm, temperate conditions
so typical of South Africa. It's a
relatively dry country, with an average annual rainfall of about
464mm; the world average is about 860mm. While Western Cape gets
most of its rainfall in winter, the rest of the country is generally
a summer-rainfall region.
Temperatures in South Africa tend to be lower than in other
countries at similar latitudes – such as Australia – mainly because
of its greater elevation above sea level.
Over much of South Africa, summer, which I hit, is characterised by
hot, sunny weather – often with afternoon thunderstorms that clear
quickly, leaving a warm, earthy, uniquely African smell in the air.
Western Cape, with its Mediterranean climate, is the exception,
getting its rain in winter - which I hit.
ANIMALS and PLANTS:
Due to the share size, but also the altitude and climatic variations
throughout the waste area, animal and plant life is numerous. Huge,
semi-un-disturbed areas, national and private parks offers rich opportunity
to enjoy it.
The plants in South Africa I especially want to find, beside from the
Oxygonum are some of the awesome and numerous caudiciforms, found here.
Besides from the technical gear, I only bring a few items and cloth.
I have learned to do with little, and I guess I will be able to
pick-up even more, if I want to. I do rent a small car to use at the
project, and a huge 4x4, completely equipped with camping gear and
The total weight of my brought stuff is kept down on 4,5
kg in the bag, including the 1,5 kg Mac and the technical gear which
is reduced to 271 grams. Two kg on me, including the rather heavy boots
and jacket. It can all comfortable be tossed
into my new 25 L back-pack. One might argue, driving in my own
car should not mean the luggage have to be reduced, but I don't want
to "flash" a lot of gear, nor carry it into hotels - or leave it in
over the photos, to enlarge them and see the text)
28-29/11. After a short flight
to London with SAS, I continue on a
night flight with Virgin
and reach Johannesburg in the morning, just to wait
three hours for my connecting flight to Port Elizabeth.
Spend part of the night, watching the new Jurassic Park
and the new Mad Max. Most suitable with the adventures I
have planned: Wild animals and driving in the
dessert. Considering I already have spend 38.000 DKK/€5000,
I sure hope this will turn out the adventure I'm looking
I reach Port Elizabeth at the expected time, and within
ten minutes, I am through immigration, and meet Cingiswa
at Budget. She is attached to the
Ubuntu project, and will
drive with me to the farm. After five minutes, we have a
brand new, but tiny Chevy Spark, and hit against
Bathurst (I would have preferred an older car, with
plenty of scratches and dents, covering those I give it).
We make a short stop at an open supermarket,
and shop what is needed at the farm. I pay 1000 ZAR, but
we have bought six kilos of meat among many other
things. South Africans tend to eat significantly more
meat than others, I know. Vegetables might be a quarter
of a tomato - just for show.
The road leading east is fantastic! Huge, green hills with
plenty of diary-cattle and giant Euphorbia trees
and four meter tall Aloes. It is a 150 km drive, and
we get time to be
She is a real skilled woman and have a great sense of
humour. I see several buffalos and large antelopes along
with some ostrich. We drive along the sea, and passes
some of the huge sand-dunes. I try to capture it all,
but these huge landscapes only appears as a green line
on my photos.
A short stop at a farm-stall to buy some bread and the
tea, which I forgotten.
The last ten kilometres to the farm is
gravel road - not what the Spark is made for - but it is a
rental - but without insurance. We find our way through two huge fences, and
meet with Xolea, who take care of the inside and Bulelani,
who is in charge of the premises.
Xolea give me a short tour around the buildings. Several
houses and quite some stables, henhouses, goat sheets
and - other sheets. In general, the buildings are
in good condition. Many new roofs and newly painted. The
boys tell me, they are a bit bored (mainly because they
don't have a transport to the town, I guess), and I make
up a few projects for them, to begin with. (They don't
complain any more):
The view from the terrace is absolutely breathtaking.
Within the farm, two canyons lies in this direction. The
one behind run down to the river. The vegetation seems quite
undisturbed, and the number of invasive plants are
limited. Massive flowering yellow Acacias and blue
Jacaranda trees, red
Aloes and many more indigestive plants are in full
flower. Numerous birds are singing, and I'm told 200
species have been seen here. The neighbours peacocks
have gone awole,
refugees here. Pretty but so noisy! I am looking
forward to explore this area. The owner; Bo calls, and we
have a long chat about the use and possibilities.
As it darkens around seven, the temperature drops from
25C to below 20C. I make a cup of tea, and just now;
remember how Rooibos tea taste, and wished they have had
something else in the farm-stall. I find some other tea
in the kitchen; Green Rooibos tea: Even worse!
I work until nine, and then I figures: Bo have spoiled
them; cooking supper for them, I guess. I have to make
30/11 After a good nights
sleep, I wake up with a feeling someone is watching
It is a peacock, right outside my window. I'm the first
one up, and I enjoy the birds sinning at the terrace.
The entire valley is covered in mist, but soon, the
first beams of sun break through.
The wide range of large and colourful butterflies start
to swarm, and the monkeys are raiding the shadow house -
again. A small herd of kudus crosses the clearing on the
hill in front of the house, and I might see some
warthogs in the bushes. Here are also the larger
bush-pigs, which unfortunately don't fear humans. They
resembles huge boar, but are even more aggressive.
Bulelani turns up, and offers to take me for a walk. The
common gravelroad is actually running within the farms
premises, and we follow it towards the river. I still -
quite unsuccessful - try to capture the fantastic view
over the bush-covered hills. I have slightly more
success with the flowers, plants and smaller animals.
We walk through massive Euphorbia trees, some with a
stem exceeding half a meter. Giant Aloes flanks the
road, which winders it way through the huge hills.
We meet the neighbour, whom seems to be a great guy.
Then we reach the river, which is surrounded with
palm-trees. Bulelani is eager to head on, but
considering how fare we already have walked, I recon
just documenting the farm, will be a challenge. Walking
outside it might be interesting, but will have to wait.
On the way back, we make a loop to the historic church;
within the farm. It is more than 300 years old, and still in use, and without looking
for the oldest gravestone, I find one from 1891 - some
may be older. The most recently I see, is from 2007. Kind
of fun a atheist have bought a church.
Back at the farm, people are ready
for a shopping tour to Port Alfred. Cingiswa have some meetings
with the accountant and a lawyer. We also go to two
malls. I need some working boots, trousers and
sunglasses, and we need a bit more food. We take another
road, with might be shorter, but is gravelroad almost
the entire way to town. The Spark is not really into 20 kilometres
of rough gravel! Never the less, we get to the town, and
get most things sorted out.
Back on the sealed road - and only twelve kilometres of
gravel. I got a feeling of, the surroundings are awesome,
but I have to have my eyes on the rough trail constantly.
I start clearing the area around the farm from loose
building materials, trash and other unnatural materials.
It is real hard to engage the boys. The household litter
building up, and I'm not going to drive it
into town in my new rental. Might not be environmental
right to burn it it all, but I lack alternatives.
It is a nice sunny but windy day, and as I try to gather
the burning material, the wind shifts and I loos quite
some of my hair and several centimetres of my moustache.
Then Cingiswa ask me to drive back to town. The money
she transferred to her son have not reached him, and she
have no receipt. Of cause, the transfer have gone through
when we finally reach the shop. Back again, I clear some
more, but keep my distance form the fire.
Late afternoon, Bulelani offers another tour, and Xolea
and the dog tags along. He hadn't even seen some of the
buildings, and never been out in the wild parts. It is
down hill in front of the house, then around the first
hill and down to the river. We passes a wide range of
interesting plants, including several species of
Euphorbias, Aloes, Asteraceaes and - succulents. A
huge Cycas, flowering bulbs, Asparagaceae, Sansevierias,
Portulaca afra, huge Pelargoniums, Fabaceaes,
Cucurbitaceaes with fruits
(Coccinia sessilifolia) and many more interesting
plants. Here are also ten centimetre millipedes, huge
beetles, some termite nests, crab-spiders, more
butterflies, the remains of a huge snail, lizards,
skinks and the tracks from deer, pigs, kudus and huge
dens, made by the warthogs. It is almost dark when we
get back, but I do a bit more cleaning, and sort out the
tin cans and glass bottles. They have to be brought down
town. At least, they are clean now.
While Xolea cook and the others
watch TV, I unsuccessful try to get the charged internet
stick to work on my computer. Then I write diary and
start on the photos. Great dinner with chicken on a bed
of potatoes, corn, peas and carrots with beaked beans.
While working afterwards, I can't help noticing; My hair
is not the only thing gotten burned today: I am pretty
red on exposed areas. Once again,
it is getting way to close to midnight before I'm finish
- or rather quit.
1/12 Cingiswa ask me to drive
her to East London, 140 kilometres up the east coast.
got a few hints for what to do in the area, and figure;
I make a day of it. It is another perfect sunny day,
with temperatures between 25 and 30C. The boys tag
along, and we leave before eight.
Close to the farm, we encounter a little tortoise in the
middle of the road.
We follow the coast the entire way, crossing one big
river after another. Massive hills offer plenty of green
grass for the diary cows, and here are not any cities
along the road. Just a few tiny Mpondo villages and huge
resorts. We drop off Cingiswa on the other side of the
city, and she can hike from here, almost to the Mozambique
The first site I thought about seeing is the aquarium,
but I recon the boys don't care. The next site can't be
found by my GPS, same with the third. The
be a reserve, but what the GPS leads us to, look more
like a dump-site. I give up, and ask the boys, what they
want to see. A mall it the first, and while they buy
stuff, I find a holder for the GPS and some internet
Then Xolea want to go to a specific beach, but
don't know where it is. We find another on the GPS, with
a bit similar name. The GPS start to act weird, but
after a few pirouettes, we find the water. Defiantly not
the right beach: It is only skinny, white chicks. Xolea
is forced to watch them, while Bulelani and I go for a
work in the bush-covered massive sand dunes. I find a
bright yellow terrestrial orchid and some Sansevierias.
When we finally make it to the beach, we turn back along
the water. It is a perfect sandy beach with warm water,
and still only a few skinny, white girls.
We head for home, but do
a few photo stops along the way. One at a rather famous Mpondo village, scattered around on a huge hill. I find
a few interesting plants in the area, among them; a
Pachypodium succulentum. Some huge beetles are
swarming around a flowering Acacia, but too high up. We
do another stop at the "East London, Hamburg" sign,
which I have to
get a picture of. Don't say we don't get
As we leave the bumpy side of the road, the petrol alarm starts. It
gone from 1/3 to rather empty in that parking lot. We
still have 60 kilometres to Port Alfred, and I can't
recall any gas stations between East London and Port
Then a small sign indicate a resort have a pump.
It does, but without petrol. Fifteen kilometres from
Port Alfred, we run out. The third car stops, and
Bulelani is squeezed in between a closely packed family.
I start botanising along the road, and find a few
interesting plants: Flowering and fruited orchids,
Asteraceaes and succulents, several species of
Pelargoniums along with a red-footed millipede. Then
Xolea tells me a bit about how the South African
system works, and suddenly, and real fast; Bulelani is
back with a new, filled spare gas canister. Back in
town, I find out this tiny car only make thirteen
kilometres on the litre, and I have even been driving quite
economic. It is real close to one ZAR a kilometre!
The traffic is real light, and real gentle. The only
thing I haven't missed, is the "four-way stops". Port
Alfred have its part, and every time I reach one, here
are four cars, facing each other. Who exactly is going
to drive first, is a mystery to me. The bully, I guess -
tend to be me. It will not work in most countries,
including Denmark; way too many bullies in the traffic.
Back at the farm, we get a visit from a girl, working on
a nearby farm, and Xolea decides to start the brie
(grill). He fails, but head on in the kitchen. I start
on my accounting, photos and diary after a hot shower.
One have to remember when the solar-warmer can be used.
I bit surprised, I can't get my newly bought internet to
work. Later, it kind of work, but I guess we are too
fare out. I finish up before nine - a truly weird
occasion. Guess I just have experienced too little
today. Get a great idea, and starting annoying my former
friends on Facebook with a few, selected photos.
2/12 It starts out as a cloudy
day, and I figures; I can use it to make
some more very needed cleaning of the premises. Start
with the fireplace from the other day, flatten the
building-debris mount, sorting stuff. Then it is the
work-shop's tour. Apparently, the "craftsman" who have
"worked" on the buildings, used it to store the trash,
starting from the door. I dig my way through it, and in
the back, a find a some new tools. Bulelani pops bye,
and drags most of the litter to the fireplace, and we
have yet another slightly toxic bonfire.
Next job is to get the gate fixed. The lack of proper
tools make it challenging, but I get it to work. Then I
make all the measurements on the healers hut. Well,
actually, it is a huge bungalow, measuring thirteen
times ten meters. Here are eleven rooms at present, and
a new plan is needed.
Also here, the "craftsman" have been messing around. He
have torn down some walls and interior, and it is
scattered around the lawns. It is like the entire
village is covered in mounts of debris and a thin layer
of bricks, concrete and parts from the interior. In the
outer areas, it is mixed with barb-wire.
I start cleaning the area from the entrance, sorting it
into rocks, and alike, metal, glass and things I can
burn. It is a great way to encounter the local insects
and reptilians! I end up with several cubic metres of
concrete and alike, some cubic meters of metal and a
fire that last for hours. I get most of the area tighten
up, but the area in front of the healers hut will be
messed up again, and I only remove combustibles and
metal. Bulelani drops bye, and drop some empty boxes on
before he vanish again.
I have worked for eleven hours, only interrupted by a
few tea brakes. The working gloves are a mess now, and I
have several blisters. The sun broke through at noon,
and I have gotten way too much of - again. The underside
of my arms look like I've been fighting a huge cat. The
result of wrestling barb-wire.
Another cup of tea, a very needed and
deserved shower, and I start working on the computer. I
get the internet to work via my phone, and upload a lot.
Bulelani is the cook of the day, and we get some great
pork with jacked fries, rice and baked beans.
I spend the evening listing to South African soap-TV
while I work on the healer's hut. At nine, Bulelani
tells me, he want to be driven to East London to morrow
morning, before the peacock awakes. The forecast
mentions thunder, but I guess, I can try to see some
sights, out in the east - This time by coordinates!
Can't go wrong...
See the next
part of the diary on Diary 2