In my last account of the beginning of our trip, I did forget one important outing. We spent one afternoon in the Stellenbosch wine country region. The Stellenbosch region was originally known for it’s varietals like Pinotage, but they’ve since then moved on to produce more popular red wine types like Shiraz, Malbec and Zinfindels.
We decided to tour a few wineries and taste just a little because tourist guides warned of accidents after dark. You see, the workers are often paid partly in wine and therefore, alcoholism is quite high. Since we went on Sunday, a usual day off for the workers, we expected to see many intoxicated people walking the roads.
On country roads in South Africa I noticed there is always someone walking and there are often times whole packs of folks just cruising the shoulders.
As we were on our Sunday afternoon journey in the rain and high winds to visit wineries I noticed what appeared to be a dead man along the side of the road. Seriously, his head was near the line on the shoulder and his legs were up in the air as if they were all rigormorti-fied.
No joke…I Facebooked it. I was mortified…
One leg was up in the air, on top of the guard rail and one was below and they looked as stiff as a dead man. Locals tell me he was just drunk.
How does someone get that drunk? His head was an inch from the road and his feet were straight up in the air. I think I’ve been pretty drunk before. Once after 1/2 bottle of Absolut citron one Halloween in college, dressed as Donald Duck – it wasn’t pretty, and once after a frat party my freshman year when I ended up in some other girl’s room at the bottom of her bed after going a trip to the bathroom.
But come on…seriously? Head in the road and legs in the air, I’ve never been. That’s some kind of drunk.
Sadly, it’s common.
We made it out of the wine country alive and we didn’t hit anyone. That’s really a heroic accomplishment and Wilco should be commended, since we were also driving on the left side of the road and shifting gears in the wrong direction, all the while avoiding the people on the shoulders AND the dead man’s head.
Monday morning came and it was time to clean up our apartment we rented in the Waterkant district of Cape Town, and head out to see a few more things before we made the trek east to one of the most magical places I’ve ever seen.
Our first stop of the day was The Company’s Garden in downtown Cape Town. As per our usual plan, we had about 20 minutes to spend and sadly, we could have spent hours walking this historic garden.
The garden was laid out by Cape Town’s founding father, Jan van Riebeeck on order from the Dutch East-India Trading Company in 1652. They sought to establish a place to service and re-provision spice-trading sailing ships on the long sea route to the east. This halfway-house led to the Western colonization of southern Africa.
Early records show the Garden was originally divided into rectangular fields protected by high trimmed myrtle windbreaks. Vegetable crops were watered through a system of open irrigation furrows that were fed by area mountain streams. The design was typical of Dutch agricultural practice at that time, except for the furrows, which had been applied to suit the region’s topography and weather.
From Jan van Riebeeck’s diary we learn that master gardener Hendrik Boom prepared the first ground in the garden for sowing seed on the 29th April 1652. This makes the garden 358 years old and a Pyrus communis tree ( Saffraan Pear ) planted around this time still exists in the garden to this day and is thus the oldest cultivated tree in South Africa.
We also saw quite possible the oldest cultivated banana (Musa sp.) and the largest, and oldest cultivated Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) It was an amazing space, much like a miniature Central Park where residents and folks who work downtown come to enjoy a little bit of nature inside the city.
There’s so much history about this garden, I couldn’t possibly do it justice. If you’d like to know more, please visit this garden history page.
After sprinting through the Company’s Garden and literally running back to get to the car before the meter expired, (which we purposefully made short because we knew we didn’t have much time to spend) we were off to see one last stop in Cape Town, The Green Point World Cup soccer stadium.
We walked around the really cool structure and explored what appeared to be the “old” stadium ruins nearby. It was closed, but Wilco did talk to the guard who was sweeping when we walked by and he said they it’s not that exciting inside. I’m sure it is, but since he works there everyday, the thrill is gone. We also heard that sadly, the city of Cape Town doesn’t know how it is going to keep it open because it costs so much to keep it up and running.
That’s a common side effect to Olympics and World Cup events around the World. They build these amazing structures to host the events and then what do they do with them?
Once again, we hit the road, heading east to the town along the Indian ocean where our main stop would be the tissue culture lab. Along the way, we made one very exciting stop to meet some new friends and see succulent heaven.
I emailed the owners of the Soekershof, who I had “met” on Facebook to see if they would make time on their day off to show me their cactus and succulent garden for just a little while on our way to the lab. They gladly obliged. We were from America, you know. Not many Americans make it out into the country this far.
I was excited to go, but when we pulled in the driveway my eyes lit up and it was all over from that point. I was putty in their thorn wounded hands.
If you ever get to South Africa and you love plants and you don’t stop in to take the private, three hour tour of the Soekershof garden, I’ll commit you.
Maybe it’s because I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE plants with spines. Maybe it’s because Yvonne and her whimsical husband and partner Herman are so kind and knowledgeable. Or, just maybe, it’s because it’s one of the most magical plant collections I have ever seen, but all I know is you HAVE to visit.
Yvonne and Herman decided to retire from the big city of Amsterdam, about 10 years ago. They moved quickly and decided on a village near West Robertson instead of a Chateau in France. They wanted to travel and relax a bit.
Little did they know what they were in for.
Once they moved in and Herman decided he would have a vast lawn and palm trees. Haha! A vast lawn in the desert. Too funny. As they worked to get rid of the overgrown plants to make way for the lawn and palm trees, they discovered a treasure.
Apparently, the person who lived on the property before they did was a bit of a plant collector. He had a collection of spiky things and plants indigenous to the surrounding areas. Yvonne became so fascinated with the plants they uncovered, she wanted to learn more.
It became a bit of an obsession – as most of us plantweenies know all too well. You can’t just buy one aloe or one agave or one echinacea , for that matter. When you are a plantweenie, you want them all.
So, the lawn and palm trees were nixed and the traveling was put on hold so they could learn as much as they could and collect as many different plants as they could to grow the collection.
What began as a really quick stop turned into three hours of chatting, strolling and photographing.
It’s truly a must see. As you can see, I highly recommend it.
Needless to say, we were a bit late arriving at the lab and it was totally my fault. I happily took the blame because I knew it was a once in a lifetime visit and I wasn’t about to have walked away form that place after only one hour.
In closing, I DID get to see the famed Aloe ferox in the wild. It was so incredibly exciting for me. I made wilco stop the car so I could get close. There were big and small ones growing every where.
How can I possibly top this day? I know…could there possibly be a Part III?
There has to be. I told you we ran from sun up to sun down each day. We covered a lot and I want to tell you all about it.
Tune in next week for South Africa Part III.
Will I see a baboon in the wild? Will I be stampeded by wild ostrich? Will I be caught on film wearing a shower cap and slippers?
After that, it’s back to ranting and fun new plants!
Our “gnome” this week is a picture in memory of the best Halloween decoration ever. My clever creation that I put together and have displayed for the past 5 years was taken away from us by thieves this week.
Who steals someone’s Halloween decorations? Boo.
Until next week,
Happy Halloween and happy weeding!
President, Plants Nouveau