Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cape Peninsula, Cape of Good Hope

Take some cucumbers. These were Israeli, bought from Pick 'n Pay, and I took issue with that, as bullets were raining on Gaza. But I peeled and sliced them anyway and put them on soft white bread, from Woolworths, buttered, without crusts. It had been a very long time since I had eaten a cucumber sandwich.

It was the last day of 2008.

We drove towards Cape Point.

On the incomparable road past Misty Cliffs we stopped to absorb the blue.

And I found a flower. A pelargonium: P. capitatum, or Kusmalva in Afrikaans. Coast mallow.

I have written about the colour of the sea here before and I probably always will. It is all the essences of blue. My friend Marijke said of tropical waters, that they failed to inspire in her what Cape Point's freezing seas and white sand did, after she had returned to the Cape from sailing in the picture book waters in the Indian Ocean off East Africa.

After Scarborough, driving near the Cape Point Reserve's turn off, we squealed to halt again so that I could photograph these watsonias growing in burned-out veldt.

Walking carefully through the prickly bits on the white sea sand, I found that I was crushing flowers.

The cleared-out surface was rich with new green grass spikes and thousands of small flowers. Working from John Manning's Field Guide to Fynbos, I'd say it is Roella triflora, below, but I wish I had a couple more books for cross-referencing. I guess I should be googling.

Stunning, cerulean Micranthus, below, but which species I'm not sure. [update, Lynn McCallum says, Most like to be M. alopecuroides as this is the one that occurs in the CGHNR (Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, now Table Mountain National Park) and flowers Oct-Jan.]

And this sure looks like another Roella to me? More to come, too. [Update, 3/20/09: Lynn McCallum says, I think this is Roella amplexicaulis. Amplexicaulis = stem-clasping The leaves look like the ARE clasping the stem...]

The sky was alive with painted cirrus all day.

Once inside the Reserve (free, since we used our WILD card, which had more than paid for itself in the year of our Cape Cluster membership) we drove to Olifantsbos for our picnic. This was before we knew we'd be staying there, later, at the wonderful little house.

Below. That does it. What is it?? Anyone? I still have a lots to use on an Amazon gift card. I'm buying more Peninsula plant books.
[Update 3/20/2009: this from Lyn McCallum: This is Monopsis lutea. Thank you, Lyn! Heavens, it is a yellow lobelia. I had no idea. More here, from the incomparable Farm 215 and more here.]

This was right at Olifantsbos, near a little family of bontebok: Ma, Pa and a foal. Pa ran off an inquisitive intruder while we watched: galloped him right off their range. He didn't seem to mind too much that I was face deep in his flowers. More fire, more flowers. More Roella. Also lots of lobelia. An American architect with whom Marijke works in Cape Town (we work with him in New York), didn't want her to use lobelia in a project because he associated them with the deep blue, squat little force-fed things we see here as annuals. The wild lobelias that she intended are so different: airy, slender, light.

Roella squarosa? Behaving like pale, sun-bleached gentians, growing right in the frayed gravel edge of the tarred road.

At the beach, the wind was blowing hard. On the beach sat a troup of baboons. Yay, my favourite. They were peaceful, though. The big male sat on a rock near the water staring out to sea, thinking. His wife looked after a baby, several members beach-combed. An adolescent sat in the middle of a patch of suurvye leisurely eating their luscious yellow blossoms. It's the only time I have felt some sympathy for them. Clearly these were not the famous marauders. I thought they might be the troup my father grew fond of on his training rides, and whom he greeted every time he rode past them sleeping on the cool tar of the road under an avenue of blue gums. He said they always ignored him, even as he sailed by and yelled, Môre, manne!

We headed in the opposite direction and boulder-hopped to a spot where we were upwind from the smell of decaying kelp, recently dumped by a high tide.

There are three things you may drink with cucumber sandwiches: tea, or champagne, or G&T's.

Ice cubes in the hot sun, with freshly sliced lemon, newly torn gin totpacks and the fizz of just-popped Schweppes tonic.

Right here on the salty rocks grew a mat-like helichrysum.

After lunch we drove further down towards the Point, but avoided the tourbus-clogged tip and its European yap. Instead we turned left just before the Buffelsbay visitors' center and took a road I'd never driven on before. It led steeply down to a deserted wave-beaten bay churning with foam. Up the coast the same phenomenon had buried a little coastal town.

This eastern flank of the peninsula (the picnic had been west) drops into deep False Bay, into a somber, solid blue, and is guarded by marching mountains rising gently before plunging straight into the sea.

It was a wild end to a typical Cape day, where, if you have the leisure to do it, you can drive from your home, visit several different worlds, of sea and mountain and fynbos and animals, and be home in time for supper.


  1. Hmm, I never thought I'd hear you talk casually about a baboon's wife... ;-)

  2. You're tellng me those baboons were unwed?????

  3. Hey M - I think you've got enough beautiful pics to publish your own book of Cape Peninsula flowers! So lekker to 'follow your eye' - so to speak - and such a pity you aren't here for more regular botanical rambles. Missing you already!

  4. Hey Marijks! I know...I miss you, too. High praise coming from you, about the pictures :-) - thank you.
    Did you see the fire from where you were, or are you too "under" Fern Buttress?


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