South Africa Travel Diary - p 5 Geissorhiza splendissima (80319 bytes)

2 September 2006
We're now in Nieuwouldtville, staying at the highly recommended House Jacob.  Today we toured Glen Lyon farm with owner Neil McGregor, who is active in preserving native vegetation such as the now-rare renosterveld that grows in acidic clays.  Amid the renosterveld shrubs are an amazing collection of rare and beautiful wildflowers, including Nemesia, Sparaxis elegans and the lily Bulbinella, but especially the Iridaceae:  geissorhizas [see photo], moraeas, and romuleas.  We even hung around until mid-afternoon for the opening of white Hesperanthus cucullata blooms.  Many flowers here don't open until late morning or even the afternoon; on a cloudy day they may not bother to open at all.








Pair of Gannets (69073 bytes)3 September 2006
A break today from wildflowering as we visited the Cape Gannet colony at Lambert's Bay.  About 10,000 or so gannets huddle together, within 50 feet of a bird blind thoughtfully put up for birders and photographers.   Many gannets were engaged in bill scissoring, which is part of mate recognition and affirmation.
   A comment or two about South African food & drink:  our favorite beers are Carling Black Label and the Namibian-brewed Windhoek Lager, but they're all good. We've discovered the very popular Spur chain of steak houses, and always enjoy their tender juicy steaks.  And of course bobotie.  It's a sort of ground beef curry/meatloaf, good with a side of chutney sauce.  Bobotie was brought here by Malay workers, we're told.




4 September 2006Bontebok & calves (98210 bytes)
Most of West Coast National Park is a peninsula that lies between the Atlantic Ocean and Langebaan Lagoon.  The far end is called the Postberg, only open this time of year.  Its veld supports the game here including cape mountain zebra, eland, and bontebok.  The latter is a colorful grazer that evolved on the western coastal plains of South Africa and almost went extinct before steps were taken to save it.
    But disaster struck us.  Thinking that the Postberg gate closed at 6:30 p.m., we lingered with the bontebok, arriving at the gate at 5:20 p.m. to find it already closed and locked, with everyone gone home.  The prospect of spending a cold night in the car left Charlotte a bit distraught, so we climbed the fence and walked about 2 ˝ miles (it gets further with each telling) to Kraalbaai.  It was actually a pleasant evening stroll, what with the sunset and the calls of Karoo Prinia, Bokmakerie, Cape Francolin, and all those doves.  At Kraalbaai we found Hamilton, whose job it was to keep a supply of fuel for houseboats in the bay.  And he had a telephone, which I used to call André and Magdel Kruger, who run the Walking on Water B&B at which we were staying.  André, who leads nature tours and is very active in the conservation Red Bishop (87593 bytes)movement, persuaded one of the park rangers to come get us.  As we waited, Hamilton brewed a fresh pot of tea for all.  The ranger arrived, took us to our car, and opened the Postberg gate.   We followed him back along the 50-minute drive around the peninsula, and by 9 p.m. were having a late supper at the waterfront in Langebaan, feeling of course very lucky and thankful for those who got us out of the jam.



5 September 2006
The always helpful André today gave us a good tip on finding Southern Red Bishop, a must-have on my list.  Bishops are sparrow-like birds, the males of which burst forth into brilliant colors during mating season.  They're usually quite shy, but today we found several obliging males along the Great Berg river near Velddrif, north of the park.  Just where André told us to look.  These were nesting in reeds along the roadside and were accustomed to cars and passersby.






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