September – spring, escapism and even clients

I still can’t get over how long I lasted without going completely nuts at home. With a few brief exceptions, it was only in September that I had what one could call multi-escapisms.

First was a trip to the West Coast National Park (yes, I was there twice this year, despite lockdown!) to see the flowers with clients. I advertised on Facebook and after much back and forth of coordinating people and the ideal weather, I had a small group confirmed for a day tour. They were all locals who love nature and wanted to treat themselves to an outing, and not have to drive – my exact target market! The day met all their expectations and I was thrilled to be there and to mix with new people. I even got an amazing Trip Advisor review from one of them, Tim, who is also a tour guide – quite a feat for lockdown!

I also fulfilled a wish – I held a very small baby! It had occurred to me at the start of lockdown, one of those sudden thoughts that come out of nowhere, that I might never again hold a baby. The thought saddened me enormously and I admit to weeping at the thought. Then I received a lunch invitation from a tour operator with whom I work often (under normal times) and his wife had just given birth! I couldn’t get there fast enough, although I had to wait until the restrictions permitted it. Luckily, the new mum allowed me all the holding and cuddling I wanted and a good day was had by all.

My friend Frank knew I was down in the dumps so he urged me out of the house for a walk on the renowned Rondebosch Common. This deceptive looking piece of land, in the upmarket and very historic suburb of Rondebosch, is an institution in Cape Town. Known simply as The Common to many, this open ground of 40 hectares is a National Monument and used to be a military camp – from the days of the Dutch defending the Cap against the British until the Second World War.

Now it’s an important conservation area for some critically endangered species of Cape fynbos and renosterveld, which occur nowhere else on earth. Driving past it, all one observes is an open piece of land with a few shrubby parts and some large pines at one end. But, park your car, take a walk and keep your eyes to the ground and you’ll see a myriad plant species, over 100 species of birds, as well as small mammals, reptiles and frogs. It’s also an important wetland so it’s very soggy in parts which gave me an opportunity to wear my wonderful gumboots – they don’t get out much these days.

September was also the month for my first post-Covid visit to Kirstenbosch – not for nothing is this known as one of the world’s most beautiful Botanical Gardens. They were closed for several months but in September re-opened and my friend Sheila and I wasted little time going there for a few hours. I was in a bad head-space that day so it was just what I needed – beauty, fresh air and a friend. I normally go there very often with my clients so it had felt strange to not visit the gardens for so many months.

Photos of the above outings, plus of course one of Vida, the world’s cutest dog who just happens to own me.

A member of the ferarria family – slightly stinky odour, to attract flies.

Carpets of flowers at the West Coast National Park – one of the loveliest of all the National Parks.

Rondebosch Common and a few flowers

The magnificent backdrop of mountains at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Vida

Last but not last, my usual plea for help to save my tourism business with a link to my crowdfund campaign. All contributions madly appreciated!

NB: advertising on this blog is selected by WordPress and I derive no income from any of it.

August, double prison breakout

August, 5th month of lockdown, and restrictions were once more lifted slightly. The biggest treat was being able to travel outside of ones metro area. What joy! But before that my first break-out was my first trip to a supermarket since March. I chose a store that specialises in fruit and vegetables with many bargains involving buying large quantities. My shopping companion behaved like a prison warden, constantly warning me to move away from people, to stop chatting (I thought I recognised someone but it wasn’t him, blame the mask) and to calm down when my mask caused my specs to mist up resulting in explosive anxiety.

We finally emerged with more vegetables than I have ever bought at one time, including an unnatural quantity of carrots. It seemed obvious to make carrot cake. My cake turned out delicious but I learned two things: it doesn’t require an awful lot of carrots so not really ideal if the goal is to use up many bunches bought on special, and it also requires several somewhat expensive ingredients like nuyts and cream cheese. All of that no longer mattered when one of the dogs jumped on the table and ate the cake that had been barely touched by humans.

The other massive major breakout was .. wait for it .. my first trip out of town. I had complied with the restrictions because I understood why they existed so, until we were given the go-ahead, I hadn’t left town (I don’t know how some of my friends are still alive after ignoring rules because their inconvenience is more important than national safety). Anyway, where to go? My budget was very low but I wanted to be at the coast – because we’d been forbidden from walking on the beach for several months, can you believe that?

Lucky me, I have a friend, Veronica, who lives with her sister in the tiny village of Britania Bay, two hours from Cape Town and has what we call a self-catering unit that she rents out, below the main house. It’s literally on the beach .. you step out the front door, take three steps and you’re on sand. Perfect.

I spent three nights there, I wish it had been more. Morning and afternoon beach walks, sunsets to die for, a trip to the nearby lagoon at the West Coast National Park famous for its flowers at that time of year, dirt roads, open roads, new faces and no cooking! One day Veronica gave me a guided tour of the nearby villages and bays and we even had fish and chips at a restaurant – our first post-lockdown restaurant meal, with a beer, too, seeing as prohibition was partly lifted. Small pleasures.

If you ever want a simple, beautiful and very inexpensive getaway do yourselves a favour, book this. Rustic but comfortable and very well-equipped.

The joys of a supermarket full of fresh vegetables and the most delicious carrot cake – most of which was stolen by a very bad dog. At least I managed to have one slice.

On the way home I popped in briefly to see the Tinie Versveld Private Reserve near Darling. This piece of land has been beautifully preserved with rare and previous Renosterveld. The yellow canola in the distance is very photogenic but mono-cultures like that have destroyed more than 90% of the Western Cape’s very special Renosterveld so this reserve is especially precious.

Almost home again, Table Mountain with Lion’s Head to the right.

Ending off with the link to my crowdfunding campaign in an attempt to save my tourism business. I thank you in advance for any assistance you can give.

Dislaimer: the advertising on this blog is random and chosen by WordPress, nothing to do with me and I derive no income from it.

No show flowers

Bontebok

Good grief! I haven’t blogged in almost 2 months – very remiss of me. Winter depresses me, I am not inspired, I sit behind my computer planning for summer and occasionally staring out of the window at the miserable weather, wondering if it will ever be warm again. In typical Cape Town manner it does warm up for a few days, lulls me into thinking summer is back and then it freezes up again. Like today.

But it is officially Spring so a trip to ‘the flowers’ was in order this week, despite reports that this year they are not putting on a good show.

Speak to anyone in Cape Town about ‘the flowers’ and they know you’re referring to the fabulous spring flower display of the West Coast. This is when the arid desert of Namaqualand bursts into endless displays of little flowers that have been hibernating – some of them even save their seeds for several years to ensure there is always life. From all parts of the country, and the world, flower-lovers make the annual pilgrimage to see this miracle. It’s a long drive from the nearest city but it’s worth it to see carpets of flowers as far as the eye can see. The tricky part is to time it well because as beautiful as Spring is in this region, it seldom arrives on schedule. Autumn and Spring don’t really follow man’s expectations in South Africa so one can easily plan and book accommodation, only to find the flowers were better last week or will be next week.

Closer to Cape Town is the West Coast National Park. It’s only an hour away and I love this reserve for its diversity. The flowers are a mixed bunch as opposed to the same type for miles, and there is also game and lots of water. A perfect mix, in my opinion.

My new friend Sheila and I spent a day this week meandering through the reserve. We even did the touristy thing of ticking off every animal species we saw. We didn’t have lunch at Geelbek (as one normally does) but we stopped and ate rolls and other goodies whenever we were hungry. We had an Incident with a Falling Tripod, we rescued a puff adder that was in danger of being run over on the road, we were thrilled to have kudus running across the road in front of us, and we lost count of the many tortoises we saw ‘dashing’ across the road. We also contributed heavily to the Bovril Project. Bovril is a bit like the gnome in Amelie in that he gets to travel to interesting places and have his photo taken for a dedicated Facebook page. All in all we had a fabulous day, despite the fact that the flowers are, as reported, extremely poor this year. Perhaps they’re late but one thing is certain, they’ll be better next year!

Read about the park here and look at photos showing what the flowers are supposed to look like.

Puffadder

The little puff adder that we rescued – by asking someone else to flick it into the bushes.

weaver

I’m a rotten bird photographer so am rather chuffed with this shot of a weaver.

Seeberg

My favourite place in the park is Seeberg with this house built on a rock and with the best views of the lagoon.

zebra2

This is the best I could do with these zebras as they were very far away. The one in front is not dead, his tail was flicking.

Postberg beach

The beach at Postberg.

Gazanias

 

Bov goes West

The Bovril Project

DSCF2141

No rushing through this park

Bov in the flowers

Bov in the flowers

20140915_172753

In the nearby town of Langebaan, surrounded by monstrous displays of bad taste, is this old house – one of only a few that has been preserved.

 

Flowers for Madiba

I didn’t make it to the memorial last night, which was a glorious tribute to Nelson Mandela, but went to place some flowers at the City Hall this morning. In some ways it’s a silly gesture but it felt good to do that and to mix with people feeling as I did. Afterwards I walked around the CBD and felt something palpable in the air … it wasn’t just summer and tourists and buskers, it was ‘gees’, it was history being made – and it wasn’t the first time we’ve experienced it in South Africa.

These photos are not in the order I want them but WP is playing up tonight and won’t allow me to re-arrange them so …. well, whatever… this was the scene in front of City Hall.

Agang

A new political party gets in on the act.

Angolan

One Angolan or all of Angola? Doesn’t matter, the thought was there.

Bangladesh

Almost a typo from Bangladesh.

big screen

The big screen is there to record your moves,

City Hall

City Hall looking very gorgeous with potted plants and trees and stuff.

City Hall1

The famous balcony where Nelson Mandela first addressed the world after his prison release in the 90s.

Digital tribute

You can sign a book by hand or give a digital tribute.

DRC

The Democratic Republic of Congo is there, too.

flag

People stroll, place their flowers, stroll some more, look closely at messages, take photos, walk on ….

Flowers

Until you go there and see the flowers you don’t realise how much there is. They’ve been pushed very tightly up against the railing (to leave walking space and for more flowers) – the first flowers placed must be quite rotten – you can barely see them under the new ones. I wonder if they’ll be composted and the messages recorded?

My flowers

My bunch with secret message hidden inside the flowers. The selection and process of buying them from the famous flower sellers was as much a part of it as placing them.

Nelly

Nelly Mandela? My sister moment!

Sampler

Someone went to a LOT of trouble making a Mandela sampler…

Tree

Now this made sense – a tree. I hope it gets watered and eventually planted .

Tree2

And another tree

Wine is the answer

Yes, I agree – wine is the answer, with a Coke for the next morning.

More than u think

Madam and Boss

I bought a cheesy top from this lady but it bothered me that she called me ‘Madam’ and another bloke “Boss’ – told her those days are over, no more addressing white people as Madam or Boss!

Not quite spring

IMG_4374

I thought I’d post a few random photos of bright coloured flowers because the next few days are going to be god-awful weather. The forecast is announcing gale force winds, low temperatures and lots of rain.

Never mind that spring is around the corner.

IMG_4421 pink kleinmond

Flowertime

Right, so today was Women’s Day and no clients to worry about so I treated myself to a drive up the West Coast. I had been invited to !Khwa Ttu for a site visit and wanted to see the flowers in the West Coast National Park.

!Khwa Ttu was great – if you haven’t been to this San cultural centre yet you really should go. The knowledgeable guide demonstrated and explained in an entertaining way the history and lives of the San, including some fascinating information about their animal tracking skills and the way they used plants.

There are hiking trails on the reserve and one of them includes a tour of herbs and plants – this one I am going to do another time, for sure. There’s even accommodation, rustic tents or a cottage.

After an excellent eland burger lunch it was time for the flowers. The West Coast National Park was crowded, this being a holiday, and the sun was playing along nicely. I’m not sure I approve of the way people walk all over the flowers and picnic right among them and make children run and jump to pose for photos but that’s what everyone was doing.

We didn’t go all the way to Posberg because I dawdled and spent too much time taking photos and going to my favourite spot, Seeberg, where this photo was taken (and of course I took more of the house and the view), but I can assure you the flowers are showing all their glory even though it’s almost a month earlier then usual.

The coldfront and rain are back for the next few days but as soon as it’s over I suggest you grab the first sunny day and head for the R27 and check it all out!  And my hiking friends will soon be roped in for a hike where there’s a great chance of bumping into zebras.

Phew, I’ve caught up, 3 posts in one go. Don’t know what I’ll post tomorrow, I have lots of work to do and it’s going to rain all day.

Disclaimer

A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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