Sunday, December 30, 2007

Fifteen minutes away

Marijke asked me if I wanted to join her for a hike on Silvermine. This after a long lunch under the tree together with Clan Collins (pictures later). So at 5.45pm I piled the dogs into the car, grabbed a backpack with a sweater, some money, water, a cellphone; and whizzed up Ou Kaapse Weg. Marijke and Doc were waiting with Mickey and old Tigger, and off we set. 6pm:

Right beside the wide gravel path, before we turned onto the sand tracks, this pelargonium kept appearing in the dry banks. I must still identify it. It was delicate, small, with almost pastel- apricot petals, that in some flowers became more pink (see later) [Ed. I think it's P. longiflorum...]. Fynbos from far looks uniform and dull green.

Up close it yields:

One of many gorgeous watsonias, dotted regularly about the fynbos, statuesque and saturated with colour. Probably W. tabularis.

A stunning lobelia, probably L. coronopifolia, kept appearing in violet-indigo clumps as we turned to climb up a sand track. Time, about 6.30pm.

Isn't that perfect? Pelargonium myrrhifolium.

Lichen like orange paint on the rocks.

Later I found a spot where crushed big patches of fynbos whose contrasting brown against the green, along with exposed sand, traced a path up the mountain to a place where a rock looked clean and unweathered and freshly-split: a boulder's violent descent to its resting place on and below the path, where it had shattered into several huge pieces again was obvious, and must have been monumentally awesome...

Below: looking back the way we'd come.

Here the same unidentified pelargonium, with colour variation. [Ed.'s mother suggests Pelargonium pinnatum, and Ed. agrees, based on the deep pink blotches above the spidery markings. Any other ideas?]

The intrepid corgis on their longest walk to date.

Marijke, Doc, Tigger and Mickey

Maggie coming back to ask me WHY I keep stopping to take pictures...

Don't know what it is, but very pretty.

Are we there yet?

Around 7.45pm and in the Amphitheatre above Kalk Bay. A stunning surround of rock slabs with a round, sandy floor.

Looking up the terrain of white rocks, patches of everlastings and tree-like pincushions (Leucospermums)

The roof of the Peninsula...

Another mystery, very small, beside the path. [Ed. Marijke suggests Tritoniopsis parviflora, faded]

At last, after two hours, water...Happy Ted.

Joined by his sister...

We walked another half hour, with dusk falling fast, the valley already dark, as I was to find out from some unhappy and worried parents later...I saw an owl in the path ahead of us, sitting like a stone cairn, who flew down, and around, and sat on this pincushion just above us and watched us, head swiveling soundlessly.

He was the perfect ending to a wonderful walk. We left the mountain to him.

Vancouver lilies

Thank you Vince!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Local delicacies

In Cape Town we are lucky to have some delicious local products on which to sup:

Ginger beer from Woolworths to mix with Castle Lager to make my new favourite hot weather drink, the Shandy.

Wonderful cherries from the Free State and Ceres and sweet watermelon from some so far unpinpointed field...

..and fresh flies for our local speciality: mozzarella, basil, fennel and fly salad

Friday, December 28, 2007

Lion's Head hike

Do Parisians visit the Eiffel Tower?

I had never climbed Lions' Head. This evening I went up it with Marijke and her friend Frank. Despite the fact the fact that the path resembled a Continental Highway (Italian, many French, German, and two friendly Americans - GO USA! - and plenty of South Africans), I will definitely be back.

The view from the eastern flank of Lion's Head, over the city bowl and Kloofnek, and a very good tablecloth spilling over Table Mountain...

Along the initial broad gravel path up the base, bringing one from the view of the city bowl to this spread of the Twelve Apostles.

...the western flank of Lion's Head, in beating sun at about 6pm

..and around, overlooking Sea Point, tankers waiting to enter the harbour, and Robben Island in the background.

Oh, the part I couldn't wait to reach: the chains! I have a fear of heights. The drop-off side of a path feels like deep space sucking me into a void. So I was a bit nervous about how much of a fool I would make of myself here. There is an alternate route but I really didn't want to wuss out, and it didn't look too bad. Little children do it in the moonlight! The human highway was doing it...

This is Marijke coming up. It was a bit tricky, but my ascent was more, er, graceful, than my later descent. 'nuff said.

Marijke having a nice rest at the beacon on top.

As it grew later Lion's Head's shadow stretched over Cape Town and into the harbour. We're on the tip of it!

Heading back down...

On our way down , in the shadow of the Lions' Head, the three stone pines that one can see from way below in the city grow out of the rock in a very friendly, solid way.

And in the sun again, this time setting behind a band of fog on the western horizon, Camps Bay below us.

It is stating the obvious to say that to be able to do this in the middle of a city is a privilege. I would have been happier without the chattering tourists, and noticed that the South Africans who were up there spoke quietly when they did, as if in a church, or not at all.

Then again, I suppose we make a lot of noise when we're on the Eiffel Tower.

Finding family

I have always joked that in the Viljoen family it's every man for himself. We're not exactly what you call close. You fall alone, you rise alone. Combination stiff upper lip and Dutch Reformed insularity. One of the reasons I love the movie Moonstruck is that the whole family gathers around the table and eats no matter what. Yells, screams, subsides and then everyone still loves each other, if grudgingly.

So it's nice to meet fresh blood and an instant cousin. The last time I met Andrew he was a little boy, visiting from and missing the States and asking plaintively for hamburgers. He was here with his mom Judi, my dad's half sister. Our hamburgers didn't cut it.

Yesterday he and his new wife Christine showed up with his (and my)Uncle Peter (my dad's half brother) and Co., for lunch, and after glasses of Pierre Jourdin Rose on the patio we went round the corner to the Cellars-Hohenhort for lunch. It has one of the loveliest gardens in Cape Town.

[It is also home to very good martinis, which I have promised Vince...]

Possibly one of the prettiest parking lots in the world? Castle Rock to the left of the cypress; Fern buttress to the right.

A view through the layered Australian cherry hedge to the citrus garden and ancient (circa 1700's) camphor trees beyond.

The original little vineyard in front of the Hohenhort. Roses are typically planted at the ends of rows of grapes because the pests, especially fungal, that attack grapes show up earlier on the roses, so they act as an indicator of vine health.

Vietnam, Rwanda, Cote d'Ivoire, France, have their fields of sorrow. This is a field of sorrel. In the terraced herb and vegetable garden. Good for soup and sauces for salmon...

Walking down the lawn of the Cellars, my dad giving Andrew a hug.

One shouldn't crop the, er, plumper members of one's extended family from a picture, but one does...Andrew and Christina, side view...
Hopefully, next time I'm in Chicago to visit Lisa, we can hook up.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Vissie? Dit werkie...

Gaan na My Profile toe, onder my self-aggrandizing foto, en click email, of:


Bloody gremlins.

The latest in a line of corgis

A couple of years ago I started needling my mom to get a couple of corgi puppies. A brace of corgis, I said, is what you need. No, said my mother. My father just rolled his eyes to express his contempt.

We have had a corgi since I was a little girl, and the last , the one-eyed Tuffy (the lost eye scratched by a visiting cat), went to her happy hunting grounds (one hopes) many years ago. I can't deal with puppies said my mother peevishly. NEE! snapped my father.


I kept needling. My mom could take them for walks. She didn't like taking big black Ben because he tends to behave in various embarrassing ways (this is why I really like cats) and got into fights to boot. They would be alarm-dogs, I ventured...NO!

So last year we visited a corgi breeder in Somerset West and checked out her squirming little balls of fur. A few months later two larger balls of fur were dropped of at No. 9. Everyone is in love. My father, the small dog hater, says you feel better just looking at them. My mother walks them and plays with them on the lawn at night with a seriously offensive squeaky ball, before they go to bed. And yesterday I took them on their first mountain walk, with Marijke and her two dogs, young swift Mickey and old, doddery Tigger. Ben was allowed along and everyone had a blast. My mom's fears of having to have the small dogs Medivac'ed from the mountain were groundless, though last night the corgis both passed out early and this morning slept through their wake up call.

Off to the Ma! Ben's like, Can we leave?

... on the lower reaches in the bluegum forest

The alien deforestation programme. If it didn't originate here, it's destined to be firewood. An admirable sentiment but perhaps makes some South Africans a little nervous...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Bare Basics

Castle Lager plus ginger beer makes a Sunday shandy...

..and putting wors on the braai is a substitute for attending a place of worship, so ingrained is it in the national Sunday psyche. Actually, I think I should alert Miss Heather to this sausage. It may look familiar...

Eaten on the patio with this nastiness in the background...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas in Cape Town

Um...where's the snow?

Usually, we unwrap presents while we're having Christmas bread, a ringshaped, dried cherry and raisin and nut-stuffed, cinnamon-spicy loaf that comes from the oven hot enough to melt the butter we slather on it. It is accompanied by tea and champagne. Things change, and this is the first year NO ONE in our family has wanted to go to St George's Cathedral, so we skipped breakfast altogether (except for my usual bowl of coffee, drunk after a Skype call to Vincent in cold Vancouver), and unwrapped presents at lunch outside on the patio. We still had bubbly. Too much change is unhealthy.

Hmmm, Serrano ham and melon...

The hugely popular henbag, bought at Pylones by Vince on our evening of shopping in SoHo.

Tonight, another change, we have dinner with our friend Marlene at my brother Francois'. His wife Merle has been preparing a mystery mousse for days. I will miss our flower-filled and candlelit dining room, restored a couple of times of year to its designated function - used the rest of the time by my dad as an extended study. When Vince is here maybe we'll invade it for a proper dinner.

When Vince is Here. Good title...