Thin Parma ham, tomatoes and basil, a good hunk o' bread with local olive oil (Morgenster) for dipping.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
The Frenchman and I went on a three hour walk, first driving for about ten minutes from home and parking at Constantia Neck.
We hiked up past Eagle's Nest and then straight up some rocky scrambles towards the top of the mountain and the sculpted sandstone rocks, the most famous of which looks kinda-sorta like a camel. You'll have to wait for the Frenchman's post to see the camel.
We stopped a lot for pictures (and breathers, for me: it's steep - he could just trot the whole thing), but if you were just charging from one end to the other, I think this walk could be done in two hours. The views are spectacular.
Busted on the ascent! Checking a mobile device while in nature: Tsk. But the Frenchie likes to records his routes by GPS, and was presumably checking to see whether his satellite was awake and tracking him.
The view over the Hout Bay Valley.
At last, the top!
(Vince hiking with his small camera on his hip. The backpack with full kit is superheavy, and too valuable.)
Halfway, or more, and downhill from here. My father's mom was a De Villiers...no other connection.
Bad photo with zoom, but my parents' house.
We stopped here for lunch, on the jeeptrack that allows infrequent vehicles to access the ranger's station on top, one of very few structures on the mountain.
Carniverous Drosera trinervia on the cool rock faces beside the road. Accompanied by a soundtrack of click frogs
Scabiosa africana, and unsure about the yellow. Cotula?
Formerly Albuca, now Ornithogalum, poss. imbricata. Like green snowdrops.
The way home, back to Constantia Neck. After our move from Brooklyn to Harlem, and starting originally during a garden installation he helped out on some years ago (outsize bags of soil up stairs), Vince's knees have been a bit funny. So he was worried about this long downhill jolt. But they were fine.
Massive early summer and unseasonal rain caused unprecedented mudslides on the mountain.
And then we were down again.
A short drive, and cold gin and tonics waited for us in my mother's garden.
And now for the lecture.
Table Mountain Hiking Essentials and Tips:
1. Hike with companions.
2. The weather on this mountain turns on a dime. Pack an extra layer as well as a windproof jacket, no matter how hot it is down below. Trust me.
3. Contrary to popular belief, Table Mountain is not flat. Wear walking shoes or boots. Remember flipflop girl?
4. Pack water and snacks.
5. The sun in South Africa will fry you silly. Ozone hole. Sunscreen, and hat, if you do hats.
6. Map. Slingsby's hiking maps cover the whole mountain.
7. Inform someone of your route, and your approximate return time. Stick to that route.
8. Allow the least fit or slowest member of the party to walk in front. They should set the pace (er, that would be me).
9. Personal Safety:
i) Leave jewelry at home. We remove our wedding rings.
ii) Pack as few expensive toys as possible, and keep them in a backpack, not swinging from your neck. A camera is my necessity. I prefer a point-and-shoot on hikes as it's light and held in my hand or a pocket, and not ostentatious. Cellphone is useful if you get lost or need help.
iii) In the unlikely event that you do encounter unfriendlies, cooperate. Be meek and unconfrontational, and as calm as possible. Hand over everything. Your goal is to leave the situation unharmed, not save a camera. Take nothing on your hike you are not prepared to lose.
iv) For a highly unlikely, worst-case scenario, I take pepper spray. Keep it in a pocket. It's no use to you out of reach in a backpack. Should you have to use it, bear in mind that with the frequent wind you are likely to be sprayed by your own spray. Be aware of wind direction and stay upwind of spray. Practise at home. Personally, I think a codeword is useful if you are in group. At the word, everyone drops, turns and covers eyes and nose. I know. Very dramatic. It's unlikely to happen, but be prepared.
I have never had a bad experience on the mountain. Thousands of people hike this mountain on a regular basis, safely. But headlines are headlines. Most injuries and all (as far as I know) not-infrequent fatalities on this apparently friendly mountain are caused by user-error. Falls, dehydration, lack of preparation and unfitness, and plain stupidity.
But there have been and continue to be muggings, and a minority are violent. Areas to avoid: Karbonkelberg above Hout Bay, Sandy Bay dunes, caution on lower slopes of Lion's Head.
But that leaves you an awful lot of mountain, from Cape Point to Maclear's Beacon.
Monday, December 16, 2013
"...the Mandela I wish to remember [is] the Mandela who cherished his little garden while in jail.
He loved to plant and reap under the rain and under the sun, knowing that to exercise minimal influence over that small parcel of earth was a way of controlling his dignity and his memories and his loyalty towards his comrades. A man who shared fruit and vegetables with the other prisoners, but also with his guards, anticipating the sort of nation that he dreamt of and desired.
That is how I wish to remember Madiba.
Like a garden that grows as if it were made of memories. Like a garden that grows like justice needs to grow. Like a garden that reconciles us to existence and death and irreperable loss. Like a garden that grows, as Mandela must now grow inside all of us, inside this realm that he helped create and that will have to find a way to remain faithful to his life and legacy."
(With thanks to my cousin Andrea who steered me to this essay published in The Sunday Times last week, written by Ariel Dorfman, the Argentine-Chilean writer and human rights activist.)
Saturday, December 14, 2013
Walking the dogs this evening, a few hours before Vince flies north and then due west, to the cold of an American winter, we found bulrushes in flower, in this South African summer. In the States we call these reeds cattails. The species is Typha.
The top part is male - it makes pollen, and later fluff. The pollen can be collected and used as a flour.
The bottom part is the female (it later turn into the brown cigar shape), and I've known for a while that when green they make good eating, but have never chanced upon these plants at the right stage to collect them. I thought these were too mature, but the Edible Wild Plants group on Facebook has just disabused me of that notion.
Tomorrow I will collect some - can't wait to try them!
Friday, December 13, 2013
On the patio at the Knysna Belle, where we stayed on Leisure Island, were this little wagtail and her nest. Extraordinarily messy on the outside, the interior of the nest was a smooth cup. It was nestled in the slender branches of a potted hibiscus shrub, at eye height for me. About 5'9"...
Twice, walking past at night from my mom's room to ours, which was on the other side of the house, I looked in to see the small bird fast asleep, head under wing, chest moving up and down as she breathed. The sweetest thing imaginable.
At breakfast she would march up to the French doors, past the tables and people drinking their coffee and demanding cooked eggs, and right into the house to the kitchen door to be fed.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
An afternoon walk around Leisure Island, not through the small streets now crowded with too-large houses and considerable lack of taste, but paddling on the real edges, on the hard sand under the retreating tide, and the soft white sand of the remaining, low dunes, yielded unexpected treasure.
Orchids. I had seen just one growing in the grass when I drove around the island with my mother, looking at old haunts, mourning the disappearance of loved houses, and looking for her parents' house. I had never seen orchids here before.
The walk with Vince, and my eyes now scanning for yellow, yielded over a dozen specimens on the sandy edges between land and water.
They are Eulophia speciosa. The first result after googling 'orchids leisure island' landed me on a local gardening blog, which identified them for me.
One was already making seeds, but otherwise they are in peak bloom.
Much has been lost to development in Knysna. I hope they survive.
On the salt flats we tramped through edible glasswort (Salicornia sp) and a low heather-like plant* in pink bloom which I have yet to identify.
* Limonium scabrum.
* Limonium scabrum.
And today it is back to Cape Town.
There are always regrets when leaving Knysna. For the massive change and unfettered, aesthetically insensitive construction, for habitat destruction and a population boom, but also for the quiet lagoon, the clear sands, the coucals calling like falling water from the milkwood trees and the children paddling far out at low tide, as they have for as long as anyone can remember.