Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Flowers, ferrets and water like smoke

I packed my Cape Town bag - wallet, phone, camera, sunblock, pepper spray, wild flower book, and kikoi - and we headed south, to the tip of the Cape peninsula, about a fourty-five minute drive from home. 

At Misty Cliffs the familiar salt haze hung above the rocks.

And at the gate to Cape Point, tourists lined up in rental cars. Most of them raced to the point itself, leaving us to cruise the backwaters of this, the last part of Table Mountain National Park before the land is swallowed up by the big blue ocean(s).

I produced our 'couples' Wildcard. His 'n hers. It cost an arm and a leg but with our trip to the Kruger earlier this year it paid for itself, as it gives one free entry into national and regional parks.

And then we were in the land of rocks that look like flowers and flowers that look like rocks. Cape snow (Syncarpha vestita) and Table Mountain sandstone make for good optical tricks.

Out in the flats near Olifantsbos an unusual amount of water rushed through the fynbos, like cascading Coca Cola. It is as clean as clean can be.

The Frenchman still looks down his British Columbian-influenced nose at it. He believes that freshwater streams should either be turquoise or seagreenly transparent.

Near the actual sea, on the Indian Ocean side of the peninsula, the now-familiar pink mounds of Chironia appeared.

And Lachnaea densiflora, whose populations are diminishing. The cited reasons? Urban development, golf courses, vineyard expansion, and alien plant invasion.

I think this is Pelargonium myrrhifolium (and this particular photo was taken with my little Canon SD120, for those who are interested in such things.)

Tortoise berry - Muraltia spinosa.

I nibbled some of the ripe berries. Quite a nice flavour. Very astringent.

At the beach - wind-whipped - two tourists wandered like us, pale and newly-hatched from a Northern Hemisphere winter, with a guide, local, very tanned. To their delight some baboons came down to feed near the kelp that had washed up on the sand. Black oyster catchers ran back and forth on the rocks, before flying up with their wheeling cry. I kept my distance, checking on flowers that grew at the foot of the reeds that fringed the nearby river emptying onto the sand.

A tiny, tiny and very fragrant pelargonium.


And everywhere, this trip, which came on the heels of very late, heavy and unseasonal rains, yellow Senecio. I have to learn to tell the species apart. They grow on roadsides, mountain slopes, flats, in neglected lots. Everywhere.

The reeds were clotted with snails.

...and Lobelias.

We ate our picnic sandwiches and sipped a shared beer in the shelter of the car while the wind buffeted the beach, and then started the drive back home.

See? More Senecio. I think.

And again - overlooking False Bay.

One more time.

We stopped at Boulders*, admired the gorgeous water and faraway penguins, and on our way out again suddenly saw a spotted genet cross the path above the penguin beach. I could not believe it. I've never seen one before. A long, slinky spotted feline-like creature - beautiful., I... then got into an altercation with a horrid Italian man who was offended when I asked him to stop for a second so that we could (all) see the genet. I assumed he'd be pleased, like any ordinary person. Instead he looked at me and at the genet in utter disgust and replied in a hiss through his teeth when his friend asked him, Che cosa fa - 

...Un ferret!

Ferret? It's NOT a ferret I hissed back. It's special!

He then stomped off past it, scaring it away and I may or may not have said loudly to Vince that this guy was an a*^$#&*#. At which he turned back and started to yell. Later in the carpark, he appeared again and said I was lucky he had not broken my nose, at which point the Frenchman got between us and suggested he try and break his nose instead. We parted at last, hurling insults at each other like guttersnipes. His parting shot, Go back to Germany! 


I'm not really one for violence but I would have loved to have seen him get just one bop on the nose.

And that was the end of that day. 

Above Simonstown, in the wind, there was a waterfall flowing backwards, its mist like a trail of smoke above the mountain.

* Boulders, with penguins (last year)


  1. A world without a*^$#&*#, almost a definition of paradise.

  2. Sounds just the chap to have a cross ferret down his trousers! There are, sadly, usually such churls popping up, unwanted.
    My Southern self is always delighted to see your pictures. Thank you.

  3. Dinahmow's comment is perfect!

  4. That nasty man was lucky he missed a meeting with your pepper spray. (Btw, what *is* the pepper spray for?)

  5. Had to Google a spotted genet--beautiful! The second encounter would have provoked me to use that pepper spray on the ill-natured tourist.

  6. Replies
    1. The pepper spray is in case we come across some smoked salmon that lacks appropriate seasoning :-)

      I've never used it, but it's one of this probably silly, just-in-case accessories. I usually only take it hiking. There have been muggings, and there is a higher risk of theft from one's person in Cape Town than in New York. It's not much use to one though, unless it's actually on one's person, and in the summer southeaster I think one has more chance of spraying it one's own face.

  7. No surprise here at your man's bold intercession and one suspects the crazy dolt got off very easy by not accepting Vince's bold challenge. It's just like a foreigner, by the way, not to recognize a genet. Sheesh!

    Great pictures! Great trip! You know many of us live vicariously through you guys. And what a life you enjoy..

  8. How can he have considered a genet a ferret!!?? So beautiful!

    Thanks so much for the fabulous photos.

  9. Some people just can not appreciate the beauty in life. I'm glad you and Vince do!

  10. Beautifil pictures! And speaking of the mountain streams which influenced my French je-sais-mieux-que-tout-le-monde attitude towards brown water, let's not forget the southern French Alps, and especially le Loup and la Vésubie, north of Côte d'Azur. Here is a sample of what they look like, found on the web: :-)

  11. ...........LOL..........go back to Germany, OK who was wearing white ankle socks and sandals!


  12. I'm so happy for you! Even after all the years I've lived in USA my heart aches for Home.

  13. Love your style of writing, your humour and your knowledge of plants and food. Also that you inhabit two worlds as we do and that your love of South Africa shines out so strongly!


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