Thursday, August 14, 2008

In Search of Wild Gazanias

Dear Friends and Family

“In search of the Wild Gazania” has been the conceptual title we used for this entire trip, though as yet we have done little searching for wildflowers and are running out
of time.

Last week we went to Cape Point National Park, because we were told that the wildflowers start in the South and then move up the coast north until the entire Namaqualand region is blanketed in wildflowers. Of course, seeing them depends on luck, the amount of rainfall the different areas have had during the winter, warmth,
and being in the right place at the right time. By the way, at Marshal’s shop in Lisle during the summer, there are South African gazanias. They are a great, short, bright daisy like flower that opens and shuts with the sun, often yellow or orange but they come in other colors. In the States they are an annual; here a perennial.

On Cape Point we saw Protea, and some other flowers we were not familiar with that reminded me of large mounds of flowering white moss; no gazanias. What we did find at the Cape of Good Hope were tourists (a rarity right now), ostrich, baboons, and other flowers in purple, pink, and white.

Then this last weekend we got to spend some quality time with Becky and Kurt. We took the dogs with us into the Klein Karoo (Little Karoo), a desert region, mountainous with valleys along rivers dry in the summer and wet in the winter, headed for Calitzdorp. The area is famous for its ostrich farms, lamb, port (like in wine) and succulents. We stayed several nights back in the Matijies Valley, 17 km down a steep, mountainous, dirt road. But what a special place it was. Cold, crisp, silent nights; beautiful stars, great wood fires for braiing (grilling), ostrich watching our every move, cows, sheep bleating on the mountain sides and a canyon that echoed every time a dog barked. And the dogs had such fun barking and listening for the echo; I don’t think they ever figured out that they were barking at themselves.

We stayed in a converted one room school house appropriately entitled the “Old School House” that was in use around 1910-1920. There was no fireplace, but somehow that old place with creaky floorboards and high, high ceilings retained the heat. Of course we packed in food. We had found a truly special place.

Traveling into and out of that valley was difficult but the scenery was spectacular. Large aloes bloomed on the sides of the mountains. There were birds everywhere eating the blooms. Spring was coming to the Klein Karoo.

In the valley the air was crisp and clear. Early mornings were especially beautiful and the dogs loved their morning walk.

One morning there at our feet was something unexpected. A wild gazania had opened in the crisp early morning sunshine. It wasn’t a hillside full, but it was the first blooming one we had seen and it was a welcome sight.

And our neighbors were really curious about what we (and the dogs) were up to. We thought about ostrich steaks and ostrich omelets, but decided to remain good neighbors.

Love to all,
Betsy (and Floyd)

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