Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Camping at the Mountain Zebra National Park

Morning at the Mountain Zebra National Park and we watched new neighbours pull in while we sleepily drank coffee in our camp chairs. Most of the people who camped around us, all over the country, were probably over sixty and well attuned to the lifestyle. You could see that routines and delegation were firmly established, and our own camp set up followed the same lines. Man does tent, woman does kitchen. The Stone Age rules. We saw no same sex couples except for two girls who left the site very early, in a Renault, and who slept in their car during the rainstorm in the night. So no observation was possible. 

We drove out for a viewing of animals, hoping to see the cheetahs that were somewhere in the park, and perhaps the buffalo. Buffaloes. Buffalo. Plural. We had also wanted to do the walk that set off right outside our tent, but were told that a minimum of three people had to go. One to be wounded/sick/bitten/trampled, one to stay with the wounded/sick/bitten/trampled, and one to go for help (and be wounded, faint, eaten or trampled on the way?). We were sad about that. We were not afraid of cheetah. Cheetahs. Cheetah. Plural. But of the buffalo/es, who are very mean when snuck up on unexpectedly and potentially lethal when they charge into you. 

So, no walk.

This was weird. A pristine pool a short drive from camp, surrounded by lawn and braai areas. With rules below. We took special notice of "preditors [sic] can enter the picnic site..."

We saw some kudu here, under the trees, but they bounded away in great leaps.

Sutera halmifolia

Please correct me if you notice that I have made mistakes identifying some flowers...

Aptosimum procumbens - Karoo violet, last seen on Doornberg.

A gogga with a fuzzy coat living it up. Mylabris occulata, or CMR beetle (ID courtesy of woodfirer).

Gazania pectinata growing in the gravel beside the road.

I am hopeless at differentiating between bushy helichrysums.

This view and drive were breathtaking. especially with the cloud cover. We spent a long time up here trying to find the buffaloes, looking at zebra, and scanning every bush for a rhino. And then our tummies growled and we drove back down to camp, for some lunch.

And a beer.This folding table was incredibly useful and versatile. One of my favourite things while camping. It made an instant home outside our tent. For coffee, books, beer, candles, plates...Just thought I'd mention it.

Lunch: toasted sandwiches, on the fire. Leftover potbread, unhealthy white bread out of a bag (and well aged), yellow (!) cheddar, and some cherry tomatoes, which travel very well.

Yee ha.

Clearly we ate them too fast to photograph.  

Time to make the afternoon drive. If you're tired of flowers go to Vincent's post and see landscape and animals...

Heliophila, definitely, and maybe H.subulata.

My new favourite genus, though that does not mean that I can identify its members. I saw my first Hermannia in Namibia in 2009, at Klein Aus Vista, and was smitten with their delicate, bell like flowers. I had no idea what it could be. Above, possibly Hermannia cococarpa.

Growing in a great mass in some stones at an outlook point in whipping wind, perhaps Hermannia depressa, or rooi opslag, in Afrikaans.

And Hermannia linnearifolia? Help.

Here's the happy gogga again, in what I was sure would be the easiest flower of all to identify. Obviously a hibiscus, yes? Malvaceae, yes? So, can I find it in a book or on the web? No. Help! It grew no taller than 6".

Sutera somethingorothera. Definitely. I know. I am forgetting to take pictures of leaves.

Is this tortoise berry, Nylandtia spinosa?

Below, looking like a white version of my birdsfoot violets (Viola pedata) in Brooklyn. Growing in bone dry shale beside the road, I think it is an oxalis, the split leaf helping with ID: Oxalis smithiana. They can also be pink. Closed perhaps because of the wind.

I am not sure where my love of pelargoniums comes from. I get so excited when I see them in the wild. This one was almost crushed by the heavy 4 x 4. Growing in the road, just on the edge, a tiny, tiny flower, smaller than the nail on my smallest finger, and almost black.

Back at home I started a lamb knuckle stew with tomatoes, herbs, peri peri, garlic and potatoes. It was the first time I had attempted something braised on a fire, and I figured about three hours for it, in cooling coals.

While it cooked we snuck up the forbidden path, just a short way.

And found a songololo.

Who played to the audience and curled up.

I used to play with them when I was little. Selina is terrified of them and freaks out 100% (loudly) if she sees even a tiny one in Cape Town (which only ever has tiny ones). She was told as a little girl, growing up in the Free State,  that if you were bitten by one you had to count all its legs, accurately, or you would die. The impossibility still gives her palpitations.

Back at home base: camp salad. Long-lived iceberg, well-traveled avocado.

And the bredie to end all bredies. 

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