Friday, January 6, 2012

Roads Traveled

We traveled up to the plot last week on the N2 and not only did we have Mad Dog with us but we were obliged to take along our rather old Persian cat, Oliver. He is our last surviving cat and it proved difficult to find an enthusiastic cat-lover to attend to his feeding and stroking needs while we were away. So, in the autumn of his life, Ollie has become a traveling cat. And a good one at that.

Wild bush-cat
We spent a few days watering plants and sealing the surface of the new deck. 
Painted Malthoid deck
 I noticed that the Waterberry tree was encrusted again with scale and spent some time gently rubbing it off. On the second morning of doing this, the ants were more aware of my intent and attacked my feet furiously as I decimated their partners in crime.

There are only two surviving green plums on the Harry Pickstone plum-tree, proving my point that bearing fruit is a massive undertaking for a plant, especially when there is no guarantee of regular watering in this harsh climate. I think that under these circumstances, it is best to prevent wasted effort by pinching out the buds at their first appearance. However, another tree has borne two fruit successfully since our last visit. This tree stood in our Cape Town garden for 20 years and barely grew an inch. In fact, it pretty much resembled a bonsai tree. We transplanted it to the plot, where it has found its growing rhythm and now, after bearing its very first fruit ever, we discover that it is not an Orange tree as previously believed,  but in fact, a Lemon tree. Lovely.

The two ornamental Black Pearl Peppers are absolutely flourishing!

Mad Dog and Ollie both blundered their way into this spider's web and destroyed hours of patient work.

Argiope Australis

After a quiet New Year under the stars, we decided that on Tuesday this week, we would leave a day earlier than planned and take a 200 km drive from the plot up to Laingsburg to visit my friend who has recently moved there. We left at midday, in the mounting heat, and drove via Barrydale towards Ladismith. About 10 km before Ladismith, we turned off the R62 and followed a 93 km route of which more than half  is a gravel road, undulating and with sharp bends. Luckily, my driver was excellent and I could enjoy the beautiful Karoo scenery. 

We spent two nights in Laingsburg with our friends. It is really quite a small town and the devastating flooding of the Buffels River in January, 1981, is well embedded in the memory and weave of the town. One of the historical notice boards, which are dotted around town, relates how a resident, crouching on her roof, observed brick houses imploding or spinning around off their foundations to face the opposite direction, in the force of the flooding waters. Our early morning walk in the only lush part of town, the Golf course, revealed surviving trees standing in straight lines, where roads, houses and people once existed.

Awesome Pepper Tree

On Thursday, we were once again on the road, this time using the N1 to Cape Town. I was amazed at the green tinge across the veld. When you consider that it is summer, it is surprising to see the relatively happy vegetation. This surely means that the winter rains in this region were unusually good last year.
Leaving Laingsburg

Descent of the notorious Hex River Pass into the
lush Hex River Valley and De Doorns

De Doorns' Matroosberg Peak, or "Sailor Mountain". 
Some people believe the peak to be named after a
rock resembling a sailor or "matroos" 
standing on the bow of a ship.

We were determined not to buy grapes from the peddlers on the side of the road. The boxes of grapes are stolen on a grand scale from the many vineyards on each side of the N1 in the Hex River Valley. Who would be a farmer?!

Rather than use the Huguenot Toll Tunnel through the mountains of Du Toits Kloof, we used the old road instead and enjoyed the stunning mountains.

Old Du Toits Kloof Pass road, Worcester side

Old Du Toits Kloof Pass road, Paarl side

Our biggest mistake on the trip was taking the Main Road along the coastline, from Muizenberg onwards, instead of using Ou Kaapse Weg. It is summer time on the False Bay coastline, schools only open next week and the traffic arrangements created for the two-year long roadworks project, meant a long crawl in the sun and salty air. 

Poor Ollie just stretched out in his cat-box and dreamed that he wasn't there. 

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