Having taken a look to the east and south of Springbok over the last few days, it was time to finish our look at the Richtersveld where the north eastern part still needed a visit. Readers of articles and books on visits to the Richtersveld will have come across the name Umdaus with plants recorded from there. In fact, it almost seems as though this ‘place’ had to be a succulent plant paradise! We looked at the rather inadequate maps that we had with us – nothing. We asked at the hotel where we were staying – blank looks. I spent an hour or so at THE bookshop in Springbok, the one where I bought enough books and maps to cause concern about exceeding the hold luggage weight allowance but again, nothing. I asked the guy (I should have asked his name) who was very helpful and seemed quite knowledgeable about the plants and geography of the area and although he seemed to have heard of name, could not pin it down on a map. He suggested that I’d browse through some books about the history of the area and from these I gleaned that Umdaus was a holding area for cattle that had been driven south, across the Orange River. But where was it? Roughly north-east of Springbok, but it seemed unlikely that we would find anything actually bearing the name. of course, many of the books I bought were published by Umdaus Press and their website rather mysteriously states: ‘Umdaus is the Nama name of a hilly area, very succulent rich, in the Richtersveld. Plants like Pachypodium namaquanum, Hoodia gordonia, Hoodia alstonii, Aloe gariepensis, several species of Conophytum and many others may occur here.’
May? Of course they do! That’s why we wanted to go there, but where was it? Friends from England had given us details of plants growing at Umdaus, as though they were talking about something well-defined and known, like Piccadilly Circus in London.
We started near the turning north off the R382, the Port Nolloth to Steinkopf road, just to the east of the Anenous Pass, an area that we had visited on the 16th. We made seven stops, so I’ll limit myself to one image per stop.
Tracking down a name for this Bushmans Candle took me to the book of that name by Charles Craib & John Lavranos (highly recommended) and there, on P 109, another clue to the where abouts of Umdaus: ‘The Wyepoort Valley, also known as Umdaus …..’ Now all I have to do is find Wyepoort on a map – Google Earth draws a blank.
Although our eyes are mostly focussed on what grows in the ground around the car, occasional glancing up hillsides also helps, and so we came across this population of the Halfmens. Zoom lenses are great, but can also create the impression that we are too lazy to climb to the top for close up. These were a lot farther away than the image may suggest and the hillside that we would have to conquer was pretty unstable, so for now, we were happy with these shots.
We had seen plenty of Conophytum, even if our ability to name them was somewhat hindered by the fact that most of them were at rest. This surviving quartette impressed me because of their trunk-like stems that suggested that these plants were of significant age. Having killed Conophytums in my own collection, mainly by treating them like cacti where growing and resting seasons were concerned, I had never considered these plants to be long-lived.
I guess it is because my first love is cacti, that I can’t help myself taking images of cactus-like succulents, even though the typical Asclepiad seed horns have no equivalent in the Cactaceae.
We had been right not to risk our legs and necks on a long climb up a steep hill with unstable soils underfoot. We had hoped that sooner or later the plants would come to us, well, one anyway, and it had!
I can’t recall what prompted S2698, certainly not this Lithops, much too small to spot from a moving car. Some 16 years ago I went through a ‘Lithops’ phase and ordered seed for all the Cole numbers from Steven Hammer. Germination was spectacular and the plants were well on their way, until a year later I returned from a trip to find that all had been taken out by sciara fly larvae. Amazing that plants survive here in such harsh conditions when they die so easily when mollycoddled. Cacti & succulent plants thrive on neglect! Hobbyists kill more plants in their care by providing too much water and food in an environment where pests such as sciara fly abound.
I promised an image from each of today’s stops but S2699 is just two images of a gate, where we managed to get on to the N7 for a quick journey back to Springbok.
Today’s story is not finished here. When we met up for dinner, Eunice broke the news that her iPhone had somehow managed to fall out of her pocket during the day and despite a thorough search of her room and the car with all the many bags for cameras and gadgets that she had brought along, could not be found. She believed that the iPhone would have been switched off, to safe the batteries, so ringing it, to see where it was, proved not to be an option.
Would we consider going back over today’s route tomorrow? We were not keen!