Not for the first time, Cliff and I set off for the tyre repair man before breakfast. We were shown the damage done and had to agree that while it was possible to put on an emergency patch, just to get us back to civilisation should the need arise, this tyre too had to be replaced. It was a familiar problem – there was no stock of this particular tyre size but the new tyre would be here first thing the next day, except that …. there had been some problems on the N2, the main road from Cape Town along the south coast. Last August, five workers had been killed at a protest meeting about low wages and working conditions at a mine near Johannesburg. After the riots that followed, things – as far as the daily UK news services where concerned – had settled down, but we had at times sensed an underlying tension. Now, things appeared to have hotted up again. The tensions were not primarily racist, but as is quite common around the world, it’s tension between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ complicated by cheap labour from outside the country. We understand that the seasonal workers in the wine industry, many from Lesotho and Zimbabwe, were protesting by blockading the main motor ways, like the N2, stopping tyre deliveries and more. We had come across a similar situation much earlier in the trip, at Rosh Pinah, Namibia where there was a rumour that due to road blocks and truck drivers striking, petrol was in short supply, immediately leading to long queues at the pumps. The tyre company had an outlet in Swellendam, our next ‘home’ for a few days, so they ordered the tyre to be delivered in Swellendam where it would be fitted when we got there. So we had another few days driving on a temporary tyre with a dodgy spare. We had survived before in much more remote areas, we’d survive again.
We had selected some more Haworthia spots to investigate today, which took us near the N2, so we could take a look at things for ourselves and once again, would keep an eye on fuel levels to avoid being caught out if things should escalate.
S2808 was only 1 km from the N2 as the crow flies, but we must have driven at least ten times that distance from the N2 to get there. No signs of anything unusual by the way. I can’t remember which Haworthia we were looking for, it mattered not, as we did not find it where it was supposed to be. In fact the images I took suggest that we did not find anything else of interest, we were surrounded by agricultural developments. Never mind, we had seen so many fine plants already on this trip that the urgency / slight anxiety feeling that sometimes drives you at the start of a trip seemed to have worn off. Appetites were satisfied. It was good that we were now counting down to our flight home in days rather than weeks. Earlier on the N2 we had even spotted Cape Town on the direction signs. Hmm. if we had to, we could do it on one tank of fuel.
S2809 was always likely to be a more certain target, one that told us that we had arrived:
Clearly this visit should have benefitted from some preparation. We would need to get somewhere where our South Africa bought mobile phone could get a signal, wait to see if the contact was available – it was unreasonable to expect him to drop everything and race over, and even if he could, how long would that take? Common sense suggested that what grows inside the fenced off area might also grow outside and so we took a look around near where we had parked the car and before too long:
… we had found 17 plants. Great, no need to enter the reserve and hang around!. Our goal had always been just to photograph the plants in nature. The fenced off reserves are a necessary evil, the efforts to protect endangered plants in nature is to be applauded, but it’s always more satisfying to see them ‘truly wild’. After all, we could have saved ourselves a lot of time, money and effort by going on a short trip of specialist nurseries in Europe or the US if all we had wanted was a picture of the plants.
You could tell that we had arrived in a much more populated part of the world, along the famous Garden and Wine Routes, with a much greater emphasis on tourism. While we are all aware of the medicinal properties of Aloe vera, I was surprised to see a number of Aloe themed tourist attractions popping up along the N2. We had to stop at one, just to see what it was all about (S2810). Back in the UK I had spent some time volunteering at the now defunct Holly Gate Cactus Nursery and had learned that minor skin blemishes, especially inflamed cactus spines under the skin, would benefit from the application of the slimy juice of an(y) Aloe leaf on the area. At the Aloe Fer Aloe Farm, the shop had an amazing array of Aloe based products, cremes, lotions, drinks, sweets etc. Posters told the story of the plant and its magical properties that you can read about elsewhere on the internet. I learned however that the much larger Aloe ferox is a much better source for the commercial production of Aloe related products than Aloe vera. Despite this plant related subject, I find that I pointed my camera primarily at a series of garden furniture statues that perhaps provided an insight of how we might look on future plant trips – much farther in the future I hope!!!
I can’t think what S2811 was about – it must have been another failed Haworthia stop as all I have are two images of terrain as flat as Holland at its flattest but without the windmills, with views up and down the track.
We had more luck at the last stop today, S2812, surprisingly only 5 km from the Ocean, near a place called Vermaaklikheid where it is associated with limestone. As the name paradoxa suggests, authors seem unsure of where it belongs – it has a number of synonyms: H. maraisii var. paradoxa, H. magnifica var. paradoxa, H. mirabilis var. paradoxa.
The plants grew not far from the road, but on the edge of a steep and eroded slope down to the valley some distance below us. I’m sure that during heavy rains, some of this habitat end up somewhere in the inaccessible valley below us – we were keen not to go the same way. Nice plants!