Last night we had managed to find accommodation for the remainder of the trip at the Best Western Cape Suites Hotel – convenient, comfortable and at the right price, which means that we had to book in at reception via Eunice’s internet link on her iPad – hotels around the world seem to have widely differing prices, all depending on where and how you book.
From the beginning, we had scheduled a few days to wind down – in a way, ‘reserve days’, in case car or personal health problems had forced us to experience delays during the plant hunting phase. Although this Diary is primarily focussed on our plant stops, I’m a ‘completist’, so in the words of the BBC Mastermind series on TV: ‘I’ve started, so I’ll finish’, I’ll briefly report on the remainder of the trip.
Picking up any tourist brochure for Cape Town, some major attractions stood out for me. We had already visited the Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden on the day after our arrival and yesterday we had seen the whales at Hermanus Bay – from a great distance. Today we paid a visit to the Penguin Colony at Boulder Beach in the Table Mountain National Park.
I have been on a number of succulent plant related trips that have taken me into the tropics and allowed me to photograph plants that are iconic of extremely dry and arid places. At the same time I have then seen these peculiar birds that are just as much iconic, but of icy cold regions of the South Pole – the two icons seem to represent complete opposites in nature, and yet ….
On a trip to the dry Atacama Desert, to places that are ranked as the ‘driest place on earth’, we visited Isla Chanaral, part of a Penguin colony and saw the Humboldt Penguin. They actually made their nesting burrows underneath the stems of Eulychnia chorosensis, one of the local cacti.
A few years later, on a trip to Patagonia and its cacti, on a beach south of Trelew we ran into another penguin breeding colony. I tried but failed to take a picture of an Austrocactus or Gymnocalycium alongside a penguin – they do co-exist but in the reserve were encouraged to stay on paths to avoid damaging the burrows where they were rearing their young.
After a trip to Baja California, Alain and I spent a similar ‘reserve day at San Diego’s Sea World that has a simply wonderful penguin display, although of course in nature, these birds occur only in the southern hemisphere.
So it was only natural to me, after a trip to see the African succulents, to want to see a local penguin colony. This was by far the most accessible reserve I have visited – we were here during a Spring weekend and there were easily more tourists than penguins about – what a contrast with Chile where our little group of 9 and our guide were the only people in the colony at that time.
We got stuck in the expected spring weekend coastal traffic jams that are so common in the UK but still found time to pop by the Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden to visit their book and souvenir shop. There were some books that I had seen during my first visit that I decided not to get at the time as they would only have been extra luggage to lug about. Now was the right time to try to optimise my luggage weight allowance!