Tourist brochures described Swellendam as a peaceful quiet backwater along the Wine and Garden route and that was certainly the impression that we had as we drove through town last night and again this morning as we looked out on the main street (again, another Voortrekker Straat) over breakfast. We had booked into the Swellengrebel Hotel for a few nights, providing an opportunity to take another look along the road on which we had arrived yesterday. There was talk about more road blocks on the N2, one at the Swellendam exit, but as we were heading in the opposite direction, we were not concerned. Our new tyre would be in tomorrow, so we had another day of taking it easy.
We left on the R324, the road that we had comne in on last night. Past Suurbraak, the road turns sharply north, while straight on is the R322 where almost immediately after the turn was a track with an open gate. Open gate = come on in, doesn’t it? As it happens, we knew of a location for Haworthia magnifica within meters of the gate.(S2819).
Jakub Jilemicky speaks of ‘plants from the Tradouw Pass locality’ and says that they are extremely variable. Our next stop (S2820) was on the Tradouw Pass, so was this the ‘Tradouw Pass population’? As you can see, they are nice plants.
As we were getting back into our car, a young farmer came down the track and asked what we were doing. As usual we explained our plant photography mission. He tried hard to sound angry but failed. In a kinder tone, he said that really we should have asked permission (where?), adding ‘these are tense times!’. We apologised and left.
At S2820 we were entertained by some great views and a small group of baboons along the road – they had been here last night as well, but the light was better today and we had our cameras ready. Shame that we had other cars on our tail so could not stop for pictures until a lay by farther along.
Next we were looking for Haworthia mucronata, a common species that is found from Barrydale to Oudtshoorn. Here (S2821) at Barrydale, near the municipal rubbish tip, the plants were originally described as H. unicolor, rather pale green in colour with elongated sparsely setate leaves.
Was this going to be another Haworthia day? Perhaps not, as we were now heading into Gibbaeum country. We passed Ronnies Sex Shop, and for once Cliff did not comment about the missing apostrophe – what a strange thing to see right along Scenic Cape Route 62, in the middle of nowhere. We did not stop to check out the services offered, but according to their website, when Ronnie was restoring an old building, hoping to turn it into a fruit & veg stall, friends added the three-letter word as a joke. Initially not amused, Ronnie noticed that more and more people stopped by for a chat, curious about the sign. Later it was suggested that he should make it a pub and today it has become a regular pitstop for bikers, local farmers and other passers-by.
We took the track signposted for Warmwaterberg and Brakrivier for S2821. Signs warned that the Barrydale Plaaswag was operating her. It seems that the Plaaswag is a cross between a Neighbourhood watch scheme and a cooperative vigilante scheme; a security set up to reduce the theft of goats, sheep and cattle. It might well be that plant photographers with their cameras could be confused with rustlers, so perhaps we would need to be a bit more careful crossing fences.
The fences were of such a height that not even David was contemplating taking a look at the other side. We had to be happy with pictures of Crassula arborescens in full flower instead.
We drove on a few more km and finally found that the fences had gone. So what might we be able to see? Lots!