30 July 2011

Next letter

Dear Stinkabelle
Missing you and Dougal lots and lots. But at least I have time to photograph flowers and don't have to keep an eye on you to see that you are not disappearing over the horizon or falling down a hole. This is a weedy little iceplant - Mesembryanthemum barklyi - growing along the banks of the flooded Orange (or Gariep) River where we camped.
Sadly, we soon had to pack up once again and negotiate our way out of the Kamgab Canyon. Luckily we managed to get the one car started with jump leads (one too many hot showers?) and we drove through the veld that was red with this strange little ground-hugging iceplant called Trianthema parvifolia. Apparently the name comes from the words tri for three, and anthos for flowers as there are three tiny flowers in the axil of each leaf - which you can see in this close-up.You would have gone mad chasing lizards.
Once we got out of the canyon, we drove to a view point, coming across this huge Sociable Weaver's nest that had caused a Quiver Tree to collapse.
From the view point we could see for miles and miles! Almost to Cape Town. You can just see the cars far below too. This beautiful Gariep River Aloe (Aloe gariepensis) was growing on the koppie, with lots of sunbirds visiting it, but they were too quick for me to photograph them, so I had to photograph this nest instead. (Not sure if it was a sunbird's though.)
One of the cars had two punctures - both at the same time, so while they changed the tyres, I had a good fossick around and found this bright beetle visiting a daisy - Arctotis venusta - which attracts beetle pollinators by having this black beetle spot that tricks beetles into thinking there are some pals of its on the flower.
I also saw a funny little bee about half the size of a honey bee visiting this Snake Lily (Ornithoglossum vulgare).
We soon got going again and made it to our campsite next to a Shepherds Tree (Boscia albitrunca) in good time. Ian and Peter decided to sleep out tonight and you can see their stretchers under the tree. While Ian and Peter slaved away to produce the supper, I climbed up the nearest little koppie and discovered ...
these lovely Oxalis flowers - possibly Oxalis pulchella - and
this gorgeous little wild iris - Moraea polystachya.
Looking down on the campsite made me realize how insignificant we are in this landscape, yet also how dangerous we humans are to this fragile and beautiful place.
Well enough philosophising for now!
I hope that all is going well at home and that you are looking after Leticia. Say hi to Doogs, Fat Cat and Dawnie
love from the Food Lady

29 July 2011

Kamgab Canyon

Dear CocoWe are now into the fourth day of our trip. It is quite chilly in the mornings so I take a while to get out of my comfy sleeping bag, and this morning was no exception. After coffee and rusks, we packed up our tent and said goodbye to the Namaqua Hunting Dog - who you can just see in this photo of the Orange River looking towards the Groot Melkboom- and set off again into the desert, stopping only to admire the amazing flora - like this little Acanthopsis disperma growing on a quartz koppie, and this Ceraria namaquensis which has strange fat leaves growing in clusters on odd, slightly raised, black patches on the bark.
We even found fairy rings - as good as the Namibian ones!
To get to our next campsite, we had to tackle the Kamgab Canyon which was quite challenging. We stopped for lunch halfway down where once again we were surrounded by beautiful flowers like this Cleome.
After lunch is was hard driving all the way, which everyone managed with ease.
Peter and Ian were in for a rude shock when we got down to the river as the beautiful campsite they had been promising us had been washed away in the devastating floods earlier this year. So we had to do another Plan B, and one of the cars got stuck in the soft sand on the way to another glorious campsite chosen by our able leaders, so the Alph had to help out and pull the Fowld's trailer up for them - with Peter directing.
The next day we had a lazy day at the river, starting with a slap-up brunch and gin and tonics! So you can imagine it wasn't a very productive day although I did try to do some proofreading.
That night we all decorated the table with white quartz and thorny leaves, red wine and silver goblets, candles and camelthorn pods. It looked quite splendid. The Alph made a fire and Ian and Peter cooked some beef fillet,
interrupted occasionally by some car stuff.
The meal eventually got going - and no, Meryl Streep didn't join us - that is Angela.
Robert had to make a satellite phone call to sort out a few car things - so you can see that even though we were deep in the bush, we were maintaining very civilized standards!Right down to the meringues, black cherries and cream dessert.
I hope that you are not letting Dougal eat all your supper,
lots of love
the Food Lady

Groot Melkboom

Dear Coco
The next morning - look who was still here! On our Land Rover roof!
We packed up, shooed the cat off the car, and left for the next stage of the trip - after buying some delicious dates for our Sunday morning walks from the farm at Klein Pella. We saw this cute little Pygmy Falcon ...and lots of amazing flowers that I won't bore you too much with, but this is Hermannia stricta, the Desert Rose.
There are no wild animals here, apart from birds and a few rodents (Dougal eat your heart out) but we saw lots of goats and some cows closer to the river, which is somewhere in those green bushes in the background. At lunchtime we passed this large house in the middle of nowhere, and saw some huge Irish Wolfhound-greyhound style dogs that all rain joyously towards the cars.
You can just see one of them on the veranda. Just beyond the house, we came to our campsite - Groot Melkboom (actually a Namaqua Rock Fig, Ficus cordata I think) but to our disappointment we found someone had beaten us to it. The Orange River has had some really serious floods so there was a bit of flood damage and debris around. We settled down to have some lunch and discuss Plan B, and were joined by this dog that looked like he was related to the dogs we had just passed at the big old house. I think they must be Namaqua Hunting Dogs. While we were scoffing away on delicious snoek pate and fresh farm bread, we were visited by two more very friendly dogs who arrived with a whole flock of goats. I slipped them a piece of ham while their goats drank at the river, and they soon moved on with a friendly tail wag of thanks. Plan B turned out to be a bush campsite a little further up the river, so we all uitspanned and the Alph went for a dip. It was a wee bit chilly for me, so I checked out the Goliath Heron's footprints in the mud - which turned out to have a size 7 or 8 foot - and then had a hot shower that Peter and Ian had rigged up while our backs were turned. Most civilized!
As you can see, it was a pretty heavenly spot. You can see the mountains of Namibia on the other side of the river. The Namaqua Hunting Dog seemed unsure of where to go that evening: to the chap making a potjie under the Groot Melkboom ...or to stay and sample some of the delicious food that Ian and Peter had cooked up for us.
I think he stayed, but after a few glasses of good red wine, it was difficult to see very much in the dark!
Hope you are being good and not driving the neighbours too crazy with your barking,
love from the Food Lady

The first two days ...

Dear Coco
I am not sure if you will get this letter before we come home again because there is no Internet connection in the car, and I have not worked out how to put photos on the blog via my Blackberry yet, but here goes....After our sorrowful goodbye to you, Dougal and Dawnie, we got off to a good start up the N7 with Peter and Ian
arriving in Springbok before sunset. We went for a short walk around Springbok the next morning and thought it was a pretty but rather dirty little town. They have signs saying "No loitering" but we thought what they really need is signs saying "NO LITTERING!"
This is Ian telling us all to stop loitering and get back into our cars!
But eventually we had to do some loitering along the roadside as there were just so many beautiful flowers- especially the fields of these blue sunflax or Heliophila flowers. Their botanical name means "sun lovers" and they were so fragrant that the air for miles around was perfumed.
Even the Alph was moved to take out his camera to photograph them near Pella.
We spent some time checking out the church and some of the locals at Pella - like this little dog that came to see our Land Rovers off her property.
and made it to the campsite at Klein Pella where we uitspanned and watched Peter and Ian make the supper while we sat in chairs in the afternoon sun.
A visitor came and made straight for the Alph.
Hope you are having a nice time with Leticia. Give my love to Dougal and Dawnie and the Little Kittie,
love from the Food Lady.