South Africa 2006
Blog Home
Category Index
About This Blog
Shields Gardens


Jim Shields' Blog Home : South Africa in 2006


We will fly from Indianapolis to Dulles (Washington DC) and thence by South African Airways to Johannesburg. It will be an approximately 18-hour long flight.

We will attend the International Clivia Conference in Pretoria and the Pretoria Clivia Show, then drive to Kruger National Park. We will visit Kruger and other game parks in the area, and finally attend the KwaZulu-Natal Clivia Show in Pietermaritzburg. After this, we fly from Durban to Cape Town.

In Cape Town we will visit Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden and tour the Cape Peninsula area. After the Cape Clivia Show, we drive north into the wildflower country.

At the end, we fly from Cape Town to Johannesburg and catch our South African Airways flight from Johannesburg to Washington Dulles.


Actually, almost all our preparations have been taken care of at this point. Our local travel arrangements in South Africa are being handled by "African Insight," and most of the details were finalized weeks ago.

I'm still worrying about some of my winter-growing bulbs that seem to want to start growing now. That means even more flower pots on the deck for the house- and plant-sitters to take care of while we are away. Haemanthus coccineus is starting to bloom, at least a month earlier than last year. Haemanthus barkerae bloomed a couple weeks ago, entirely unnoticed by me!

The big greenhouse almost takes care of itself. The environment controller turns on the exhaust fans when it gets warmer inside than the set point, and turns them off when the temperature drops back down into the set range. Should it get too chilly, the controller will turn on the gas furnace for as long as needed. The drip irrigation controller waters the pots it can reach periodically. Only a batch of pots on the floor beyond the drip irrigation system will need the attention of my daughter, Andrea, who is plant-sitting on the weekends while we are gone.

Take Your Pills

One thing to keep in mind, if you are going to travel outside the USA and you are a "Senior Citizen" like my wife and I are, is that you have to take all your pills with you when you leave the U.S. Unless you know a physician in the country you are going to visit, you probably won't be able to get new prescriptions overseas. In many cases, medications available in the USA may not be available in other countries.

On the other hand, many prescription drugs in the USA are freely available without prescription in some other countries. It's a "catch as catch can" situation and virtually unpredictable. Therefore, before you leave, get enough refills on your prescriptions to last you until you get back home again. I'm in the midst of doing that right now.

We are going to be in malaria country for about a week or 10 days of our trip, so we will have to take malaria medications to prevent infection while there. You can get some ideas about the health hazards to be found in any country of the world by going to the C.D.C. web site.

Most of South Africa is free of malaria. We fly into Johannesburg and will spend about a week in Pretoria. These are in the High Veld, at quite high elevations, very dry most of the year; and it can get downright cold there in winter, with occasional overnight frosts. There is only mimimal risk of contracting malaria there.

Kruger Park is in the Low Veld, in Limpopo Province, and is definitely malaria country. Limpopo Province, formerly known as the Northern Province, is mostly Low Veld, warmer in winter, wetter in summer, and home to malaria. Kruger is a wonderful place to visit, but go prepared to avoid catching malaria.

Jet Lag

I wonder what the best way is to deal with jet lag? The time difference in South Africa is +6 hours from Eastern Daylight time in the USA.


This time, I decided to try the approach of getting up earlier than usual for a few days before the flight. There are 5 days left till we leave. I'll get up at 5:00 AM for a few days, get up at 4:00 AM on the fifth day, and get up at 3:00 AM on the morning we actually leave home.

I am going to miss most of the autumn bloom of my Haemanthus coccineus bulbs here at home. Two are in bloom now, but others are just showing the tips of their new scapes. I see more scapes starting already than I had flowering all last autumn. Haemanthus coccineus have the most impressive blooms of the various Haemanthus I grow.

Haemanthus coccineus (c) copyright Shields Gardens Ltd.
Since it is going on spring in South Africa, we probably won't see any Haemanthus in bloom while there. In past years, we were there in winter (August) and in late autumn (May), but too late for Haemanthus. We expect to make up for that by seeing lots of Clivia and many spring wildflowers in bloom, which we have never seen there in the past because of the timing of our previous visits.

Over the Atlantic

At least, I assume we are over the Atlantic Ocean. We left Dulles International Airport 2 hours ago, at 1:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time, on South African Airways flight 208. We are due to land in Dakar, Senegal, at midnight, Dakar Time, for a crew change, then continue on to Johannesburg. Total flight time including stop at Dakar, about 17 hours. Is that time stuff all clear? Probably not.

The horror stories about the horrors of travel now, since the August liquid explosives scare in the UK, seem much less draconian in the reality of mit all. You do get to take a carry-on as plus one personal item (purse, briefcase, computer) with you. Just leave the liquids, gels, creams, ointments, salves, and toothpaste in the checked luggage.

We had a 6:00 AM flight out of Indianapolis on United Airlines. We and a lot of other passengers dutifully arrived 2:00 hours ahead of departure time (4:00 AM) to find that United does not open their ticket counter nor computer kiosks until 4:45 AM. Thanks alot, United!

Security personnel were there, cheerful, friendly, and careful but helpful. We breezed right through, as there were no other passengers waiting at that moment. Take your computer out of its case, take off you shoes, walk through the air sampler (dare we call it the "Puff Portal?") and through the metal detector. They puzzled over the various odds and ends of junk I had in my computer case, but we eventually got through just fine. Early Sunday morning on a Labor Day Weekend is not the busiest time of the year for airports.

Yes, we are over the Atlantic. Flying southwest, 617 mph at 37,000 ft, where the outside temperature is said to be -50°F. All this from the seatback TV here in Economy Class. We just had lunch, which I found very fine indeed! Beef Stroganoff with rice, followed by passion fruit mousse. There were probably a couple other things in the lunch as well, but they paled in comparison.

The time is now 3:25 PM EDT, 7:25 PM Dakar time, and 9:25 PM South African time. We are still almost 5 hours from Dakar. It will be bedtime almost before we know it.

This entry will not get posted on this calendar date. I hope to have internet access set up by Monday evening in Johannesburg. After that detail is taken care of, I'll post the entries.

Over Africa

It's the early morning hours of a new day, at least in Africa. It is still just midnight in the U.S.A. We are in the same plane, now over Ivory Coast, in Africa. We landed in Dakar as scheduled, on time; but this being Africa, we left 45 minutes late. Things just happened in a much more leisurely manner that at Dulles.

Despite my good intentions in anticipating jet lag, my sleep schedule didn't work out as planned. As usual I'm going to start the first day in Africa with a pronounced sleep deficit and some jet lag. Since there are still 6 hours of flying to go before we land in Johannesburg, I'll try to get a little more slepp in pon the plane.

Pretoria, South Africa

I finally have an internet connection. We've been delayed in getting connected. My laptop's wireless networking does not seem to like strange wireless nets, so that seriously delayed getting connected. My local South African dial-up account took several days to get activated. Hence the long delay in updating this blog.

We arrived here safe and sound, on time, on Sept. 4th. We spent much of the first afternoon in Pretoria trying to get our dial-up accounts with Mweb set up. Our e-mails will be coming from <> for the next few weeks. On Tuesday, Sept. 5th, we spent the whole day in Pilanisberg Game Preserve, a two hour drive northwest of Pretoria. It was a delightful day, with plenty of large animals showing up as we drove through the park. White rhinocerus, impala antelope, giraff, waterbuck, steinbuck, and even a couple lone bull elephants. There was even a wild animal capture crew, catching Cape Buffalo for sale to another park or reserve, complete with helicopters to herd the buffalo.

Five Hippopotami (c) copyright 2006 by Shields Gardens Ltd.
5 Hippopotami

Impala male (c) copyright 2006 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Male Impala Antelope
More images from Pilanesberg

The Clivia conference 2006 opened on Wednesday morning. John van der Linde started the program off with a talk about famous men and the clivias they discovered. Among the talks were some on genetics and its application to Clivia. Johan Spies showed a DNA-based pylogenetic diagram of the relationships among many named Clivia cultivars. Multiple plants of, for example, 'Vico Yellow', proved to be closely related but not identical!

On the second day of the conference, today, we had a great talk on photographing clivia flowers, by professional photography Ian Coates of the U.K.

Ruminations on Guest Houses

We are now staying at the Royal Ridge Guest House in Pretoria. It is a marvelous place! Owner Dot de la Rouviere is a jewel. Highly recommended. It is in a very nice neighborhood, quite upscale. Diplomatic staff of the various embassies live in the same area. The rooms are well done, comfortable, and most pleasant.

The place we stayed in Joburg the first two nights is better left undescribed. Suffice it to say that the owner of that place was apparently eager to get out of the tourist business. It was in Melville, in an interesting neighborhood, not far from the University of Johannesburg; so the area was full of students and somewhat on the boehmian side. The neighbohood itself is lively and itself an attration.

On our last trip to South Africa (hereinafter referred to simply as "ZA"), we were travelling off season, in May. That is late autumn down here. A couple of the places were on minimal staffing, and the weather was bl.... cold at night! We can't recommend some of those places.

However, most of those places we stayed in May and June, 2004, were great. A large bed and breakfast in Wilderness, near George on the southern or Garden Coast of ZA, was right on the Pacific Ocean. The owner was a Swiss German fellow, and the food was excellent at breakfast. From a Swiss-run establishment, we would have expected no less. Oddly, the young owner insisted on speaking English with us, albeit with a pronounced Swiss German accent, even when we tried to speak with him in Swiss German.

At the end of our trip in 2004, we spent almost a week at Lionskloof B & B in Cape Town. It was off season there too, but the German owner, Christine, was making up for lost tourist trade by seemingly taking in strays! One young woman, an artist by training, was helping out at the B & B in return for room and board. A few other young people were staying there at greatly reduced rates.

Christine decided that the young people needed a party, so she threw one. We were invited too, as the only paying guests at the moment. It was delightful. Indeed, it took me back 40 or 50 years to San Francisco when I was in graduate school. It was very illuminating to talk one on one with these young South African men and women, and hear their views on the new ZA. Previously, most of the people we had actually talked with were more of our own generation, and reflected more of the past history of ZA. These younger individuals left me with a more optimistic feeling about the future of ZA.

Off to the Bush

This morning, we leave Pretoria and drive over the grasslands of the High Veld toward Kruger Park and the bush country. We won't have internet connections again until we get to Pietermartizburg in KwaZulu-Natal province. Not to worry, we will be in good hands in the interim.

For the first week, we were guided by Colin Christie. Collin is a very personable chap, very experienced in the bush, where he grew up. So of course we used him in the mainly urban part of our trip. Nevertheless, he held up quite well. Colin is a registered cultural and wildlife guide, licnesed by the South African government. All guides must have a government license to guide tourists here. They have to pass periodic written examinations to keep their license. know a bit of first aid, and have a special type of commercial driver's license.

We pick up a new guide today, since Colin has a prior commitment starting tomorrow. Our new guide, Garth Johnson, will arrive here shortly to load us up and head out.

Yesterday, we visited the Northern Cliva Club's annual Clivia Show at a local high school. I saw a gymnasium filled with gorgeuos, near-perfect cliviamplants in full flower. It was really a bit deperssing; my Clivia plants never look that perfect! The most surprising part of the show was seeing how many people were there to see the pretty flowers. Whole families, complete with slightly moody-looking teenagers, were wandering through the display.

Equally surprising was the number of stalls set up to sell Clivia plants and seeds. Besides our old friends, Connie and James Abel, there was Sean Chubb up from Durban, and a whole swarm (or so it seemed) of other vendors. I did not recognize most of the names, although a few others were familiar from the on-line [clivia-enthusiast] group.

In the Bush

We drove from Pilgrims Rest to Timbavati Private Nature Preserve on the 11th. Timbavati abuts Kruger National Park, and it is a collection of private farms which have agreed to take down all their interior fences to let the game roam freely. They also have an agreement with Kruger so9 that the fences between Timbavati and Kruger have also been taken down. Thus, animals from Kruger can wander all through Timbavati.

We are staying at Umlani Bush Camp in Timbavati. The cabins are rondevals made of bamboo cane mats with a thatch roof. The walls in part are only waist high, so there is a lot of air circulation. The shower is open to the sky. There is hot water twice a day, once after the morning game drive and again in the evening after dinner. The only electricity is in the camp office, where you can take your battery-powered items (like the laptop on which I'm writing this) for an occasional battery recharge. The room lights are kerosene lanterns. I wonder how anyone ever did anything in the evenings by lantern light!

The game drives to date have netted us sightings or pictures of the "Big Five" as well as various other wild animals. The "Big Five" are elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, and leopard. There are other large animals, like giraff and hippopotamus, but the "Big Five" are supposedly the most dangerous animals to hunt if wounded.

The first evening drive gave us some fine sightings. We found a small breeding herd of elephants; that is, females and their calves. One female youngster about 5 years of age noticed us in our truck and worked her way over toward us. She was clearly very curious! Fortunately she had not quited reach our truck when the herd started moving away, and she turned and followed them. So we were spared any meetings with a potentially indignant elephant mother.

During the evening game drive, a leopard was reported seen on a neighboring tract, and we drove pell-mell to get there at dusk. It was a big male, lying stretched out on his side, still snoozing from his daytime siesta. These animals are so habituated to the sightseeing trucks, which they know won't hurt them, that they just keep on snoozing when a truck drives up. At twilight, the animals wake up. This big boy also started to rouse himself while we were there.

In three trips to South Africa, this is the first leopard we've ever seen. They've been very rare, but anecdotal evidence suggests that they may be becoming a little less rare. Let's hope so.

Images of animals

In Swaziland

Swaziland is an independent kingdom, landlocked and surrounded by South Africa on three sides and by Mozambique on the fourth. It is partly mountainous, partly low veld farmland. It is a rather poor country, by Western standards and even by South African standards. I suppose it is still much better off than anything in Africa to the north of here. It was a creation of the British, for whatever reasons they may have had at the time. During the Apartheid era when there were international sanctions in place against South Africa, it was a convenient place for South African companies to set up subsidiaries through which to ship their products to the outside world. Most of those subsidiaries are probably gone now.

We are staying at a game preserve called Mkhaya, where extensive work is going on in preservation of endangered animals like the Roan Antelope and the Black Rhinocerus. The work has bene supported by the WWF, and the late Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands was a prominent sponsor and advocate of Mkhaya. Needless to say, there are no lions in Mkhaya.

The camp features cabins build of stone and mortar, with tall peaked thatch roofs. They are really quite attractive. The walls however are only knee-high, and there are no windows, no blinds, no privacy except as provided by the forest between cabins. There is also no electricity, but there is hot water and a shower!

Mkhaya Cottage (c) copyright 2006 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved
Our open-air cottage in Mkhaya

Everyone seems to love the camp, except perhaps for me; I'm not quite decided yet. The sit-down dinner was served out in the open around a good campfire last evening. It was followed by a drum and dance and song performance by the staff. This was quite colorful and pleasant entertainment, if a tad repetitious.

Tonight we arrived at Hluhluwe-Imfoloza Park, a KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Nature Preserve. This is one of my favoorite parks in South Africa. We stay at Hilltop Camp, which is one of my favorite places in South Africa. We stayed one night, in a brick cottage with hot water, shower, and electric lights. Only a decent internet access was lacking. At Hilltop, they lock the gates at the entrance at 6:00 PM, but leave the rest of the camp apparently un-fenced. There were two old bull buffalo grazing down the hillside from the terrace, and no barrier between the terrace of the Camp Center and the animals. There are small antelope called Bushbuck, wandering around between the cabins.

We saw Mother Nature in action this afternoon in Hluhluwe: A young zebra foal, maybe a year old, with a nasty wound on the left rear hip, right near the base of the tail. A lion had almost caught this animal, but not quite. The animal was behaving quite normally, and when she turned her back to us, I got a clear picture of the wound. Yet this animal will probably show no permanent damage; the other animals in the little herd of zebra showed old scars from healed wounds on the rear legs. Nature has left these animals equipped to resist the attacks of lions, at least most of the time. I omit my pictures of this for the sake of delicacy; this is intended to be a "family" blog.

Back to Civilization

Before lunch today, we took a boat ride in the Lake St. Lucia Wetlands Park. This area has crocodiles and hippopotamus among other things. Lake St. Lucia is an estuary with salty water. This does not seem to bother the crocs or the hippos, but the latter at least must go to fresh water to drink when they are foraging on land at night.

Cruise Boat at Lake St. Lucia

The day was sunny and mild, there was a good breeze over the lake, and it was very restful riding on the boat under the awning. I don't think I missed any of the animal sightings, but in between my eyes must have drifted closed a couple times. Besides the crocs and hippos, we saw bushbuck on the shore and African Fish Eagles flying or roosting in the trees. This bird is similar to the American Bald Eagle, but with much more white on the head and neck. Very beautiful!

After a long drive on the N2 highway toward Durban, we turned off to the N3 to Pietermaritzburg and on to Howick. We arrived an hour late after dark at the Shafton Grange Guest House on a large farm, where a hot dinner awaited us in spite of the late hour. Aren't cell phones wonderful things?

Today we attended the KwaZulu-Natal Clivia Club show in Pietermaritzburg. We ran into a few of our American colleagues there, Kelvin Lew and William McClelland, who were helping show judge Henriette Stroh measure the entries.

Best in Show was a green throated pale yellow or very pale peach from Marie van der Merwe.

Best On Show (c) copyright 2006 by Shields Gardens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Best On Show, KZN Clivia Club, 2006.

For me the highlights of the show were some patterned pastels, including a fine one from Brenda and Etzel Nuss, and Sean Chubb's beautiful peaches. The Chubb Peaches have come a very long way! I need to get some for myself sometime soon.

Raining in Howick

The rain is falling. KwaZulu-Natal is in the summer rainfall region of South Africa, and September is the start of Spring here. Today they are having an all-day soaking rain. This washed out a couple visits, but we made the 2½-hr. drive out to Roly and Barbara Strachan's dairy farm out by Ixopo (pronounced, approximately, i-KO'-po with a short i). Roly is 86 years old and has been on this farm for about 40 years. His son, grandson, and two young great-grandsons also live or work on the farm.

Roly has countless clivias growing under large old trees and under shade houses. Almost all are some shade of medium to light orange or apricot. A few are very pale pastels. The plants are allowed open-pollination, and the resulting seeds are left on the plants as long as possible. They are just now harvesting the seed crop, as or just after the plants are again blooming. Roly sells the seeds in bulk, by the kilogram (1 kilo = 2.2 pounds). I used to know how many Clivia seeds were in a kilo, but I've forgotten. Roly declined to enlighten me. When I asked him how many clivia plants he had growing, he said, "I tell people I have 2 million plants, and if they don't believe me they can count them themselves." I would estimate there are between 100,000 and 200,000 Clivia plants growing there in the various areas.

Growing on this farm, Shafton Grange, are some wild Boophane distichum, just coming into bloom. These plants, like Clivia, are used in the local herbal medicine or "Muthi". Such plants are routinely stripped from the wild, even from nature preserves, and used or sold for use by the local witch doctors. Our innkeeper, young Craig Rogers, wants to start growing the Boophone and a few other local Muthi plants to sell for traditional medicines. I explained to Craig how to cross-pollinate his blooming plants to increase his yields of seeds -- but will he remember?

We have added some extra images [see: images link], including some of the Clivia caulescens growing in the rain forest above Gods Window.

Cape Town

We visited the home and garden of Liz Boyd today. What a magnificent place! high on the side of a small mountain, the home is at the edge of indigenous forest. Liz has collected wild Clivia miniata growing in the forest above her home and moved them under the large old trees behind her house.

Inside her extensive shade houses, she has cultivars and seedlings galore. Perhaps her best treasure are the plants of the Tipperary Peach clone she has.

Tipperary Peach (c) copyright 2006 by Shields Gardfens Ltd.  All rights reserved.
Liz Boyd's Tipperary Peach plants.

From Liz's home we drove into Pietermaritzburg and visited Brian Tarr at the Pietermaritzburg National Botanic Garden. Brian kindly showed us around the stands of native Clivia miniata from various wild habitats. He keeps the plants from a givne habitat growing together in the garden, and is careful not to contaminate plants form one habitat with plants from a different place. It give you a good feel for how miniata grows in the wild.

Next, we drove to Sean Chubb's farm atop the rolling hills outside Durban. This time is the first that we have visited Sean when his Clivia were in bloom. I finally got to see Chubb Peach seedlings in bloom on their home turf. Sean has some nice plants, from which he selects the finest to keep for showing and breeding. He also selects some excellent plants for sale.

You are reading it here first: Shields Gardens will be the exclusive distributor in the U.S.A. for peach seedlings from Sean Chubb's breedking program. We will offer plants that have bloomed once already and are selected to guarantee the authentic Chubb Peach color in the flowers. Prices will be announced later. We will also offer offsets of the 'Cameron Peach' clone. The 'Cameron Peach' suckers will be special order, the same way we offer the Solomone 'Apricot' clone.

Finally, we drove to Durban Airport, where we caught a plane to Cape Town.

Cape Town

Back in wonderful Cape Town! We were met at the airport by Gino Nicolella, who guided us around the Cape two years ago. Gino is now marketing director for African Insight, the tour operators who arranged this tour for us. Our guide for the Cape part of our trip -- the last 10 days of our tour -- is Ms. Beate Meyer, from Germany. Beate is fluent in more languages than we speak, and her English has a bit of a Canadian flavor to it. She was an au pair in Edmonton as a young woman, and you can still hear it when she talks.

We are staying at the African Villa right in Cape Town, below the slopes of Table Mountain. It is a very comfortable bed and breakfast with very modern decor. We can recommend it.

Today, we started with Table Mountain, then drove out to Simon's Town where we saw the famous colony of African Penguins. We had an excellent lunch at a restaurant on the beach near the park. From Simon's Town we drove around the cape out to Cape Point and then to the Cape of Good Hope, where busloads of Japanese tourists were having the pictures taken while stand beside the sign designating the Cape (actually in the parking lot).

After the Cape, we drove around The Chapman's Peak road along the steep shoreline. Think of Highway 1 in the Big Sur country of California and you have the picture.

We ended the day with a fine seafood dinner at the Waterfront Grill in Hout Bay, on the shores of Hout Bay. Then back over the mountains to Cape Town and our snug beds in the African Villa.

Cape Town

Today we spent the morning at Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden, part of what is now known as the South African National Biodiversity Institute, or SANBI for short. It is still the same magnificent garden; and this time for the first time in our several trips, we are here when there were flowers in bloom. We spent a very pleasant and interesting morning with Graham Duncan and John Winter. Graham showed us very rare Moraea and other bulbs in bloom. Graham's mature plant of Clivia mirabilis has a scape starting to grow, very good news indeed after the plant has taken a two-year vacation from flowers. In John Winters' greenhouse, we saw some of the 'Appleblossom' wild collected plants in flower and at least one 'Applebloosom' hybrid (Q3 X Q2). John has two plants of the hybrid Clivia [miniata X mirabilis] in flower. Graham and I eagerly photographed them.

The afternoon was given over to shopping in the malls of the Victoria and Albert Waterfront. We stayed around for dinner there too, and then took a taxi back up to the African Villa. It was a pleasant, low-key afternoon and evening.

By your third visit to a distant place, you begin to find that you have already bought most of the souvenirs that have any appeal to you. This has hit us on this trip. Finally we will be going home with suitcases not much heavier than when we left home.


Hermanus is a seaside vacation resort about 2 hours east of Cape Town. We stayed right downtown, across the road from the shore, in the Auberge Burgundy Guest House. The rooms were warm and comfortable -- it is still early spring here in South Africa -- and, wonder of wonders, I was able to dial into Mweb, my local South African internet ISP. This new update, however, won't get posted for awhile, unfortunately.

We stopped off on the way to Hermanus in Stellenbosch, to visit Cape Seed and Bulb owner Jim Holmes. We looked over Jim's spring 2006 crop of newly blooming clivia seedlings. Jim was in the midst of trying to separate out the 'Snowball' qualifying seedlings from the rest.

From Jim's, we drove on to Hermanus and visited Felicity Weeden's home. Her kitchen, dining room, living room, and probably other rooms, were full of potted Clivia plnts she was going to take that afternoon to Cape Town for the Cape Clivia Show. She is a breeder, not just a collector of clivias. She has a shade house in the garden that was full of very nice seedlings, many in bloom.

Henriette Stroh is in the Cape, down from Pretoria on a brief holiday and to visit the Cape Clivia Show. She drove over to Felicity's and led us back to her vacation home on the other side of Hermanus. This place is not a clivia domain. She grows daylilies here, as well as many indigenous but attractive flowers and shrubs. Her home seems to be set in paradise, with the mountain of a nature preserve visible from the french doors of her living room and bedroom.

After a nice tea with scones at Henriette's, she led us to some of her favorite walks spots along the shoreline cliffs and beaches. Hermanus has some wonderful shoreline walking trails, improved for wheelchairs in most areas, and patroled by a private security force employed by the residents of the town.

After leaving Henriette, we returned to the Auberge Burgundy and then strolled across the central square or market place in Hermanus to the second story restaurant "On the Bay" for dinner, where Irma and I had lunch 2 years ago. The menu is limited but good, and the food is excellent.

Cape Town

We are back in Cape Town tonight, again at the guest house called An African Villa, at 19 Carsten Street, just a couple blocks off Buitengragt St.

Right after breakfast this morning in Hermanus, we went for a Whale Spotting boatride. It appeared that most whales were off sleeping somewhere at 9:00 AM. We finally found two whales dozing on the surface a couple hundred yards or meters apart. These two were photographed intensively by the tourists on our boat, including us. On the way home, just before the harbor, we encounter a courting pair, frolicking on the surface. More pictures!

The whales are in False Bay off Hermanus from sometime in late June until October or very early November. During this time, they do not feed at all; in fact, there is nothing much for them to feed on in these water. To feed, they must return to the Antarctic Ocean well to the south.

They come here instead to have their calves, if they are pregnant, or to mate of they aren't. Other activities are pretty much limited to loafing, "logging> (sleeping on one half their brain at a time), and just generally hanging out.

As a result, the pictures I got of the whales consisted mainly of them floating sleepily with their blow-hole just above the surface of the water. At the end of our boat trip, just as we were nearing the harbor, we encountered the courting pair, lolling around on the surface and occasionally flipping their flukes out of the water. It is a low-key time of year for all but the pregnant moms.

The water was smooth, the wind nil, and the sun was shining. We saw a few whales. It was a successful morning boatride.

On the way back to Cape Town, we stopped in Somerset West to visit the Vergelegen Wine Estate for a late lunch. The grounds are gorgeous, with some quite large, 300-yr old Chinese Camphor trees. The camphor trees have huge trunks with gigantic, lumpy bases. The food in the restaurant was excellent.

We arrived back in Cape Town in late afternoon, well-fed and tired.

Cape Town Clivia Show

Today was the Cape Clivia Club annual Clivia Show, held in the Bellville Civic Center. Bellville is an outlying suburb of Cape Town. It was a fine warm day with sunny skies and scattered clouds. Right inside the door, manning the admissions desk, was Dina Calitz. She insisted on letting the two visiting Americans in free. We had spent a day with Dina and Coen Calitz in Stellenbosch when we visited here in May, 2004. It was a very nice reunion.

It seemed to me, without my making an actual count, that Ian Brown and Felicity Weeden has a majority of the ribbons. I made a random assortment of pictures which I will eventually -- I hope -- get posted to the images pages of this blog.


we left Cape Town this morning and drove up north to the West Coast National Park. The wild flowers peaked 2 or 3 weeks ago, but we still found some here and there. I took several pictures, which will eventually be post to the images page of this blog. We had lunch at the Geelbek Restaurant in the Park. It was South African Heritage Day today, a national holiday. The waitresses were dressed in old fashioned gowns, a local fife and drum corps (ages maybe 6 to 16 years) performed, and there was a singing contest. The day was sunny but very mild, and the restaurant and grounds were lively with holidayers, many in old fashioned attire.

Then we headed north and eventually northeast to get to Nieuwoudtville. We drove north on the N7, which runs all the way to Namibia if you follow it far enough. Between Clanwilliam and Vanrhynsdorp, some of the scenery was strangely reminiscent of New Mexico. In the forground stretched what looked for all the world like sagebrush, leading up to the foot of a high, very long mesa. The land was nearly treeless except for a few scattered gullies. The long mesa turned out to be the Gifberg, well known in bulb lore.

The road from Vanrhynsdorp to Nieuwoudtville was even more high desert in character. The "sage brush" was even shorter, and there were sandy patches here and there that were quite bare. We came to the mountains, actually the western South African equivalent of the Drakensberg Escarpment, and drove up ca. 1000 ft. over Vanrhynsdorp Pass to a more luxurient plateau, complete with farms, sheep, and trees. Nieuwoudtville is on this broad plateau landscape. I think this is the Bokkeveld Plateau.

Our accomodations for tonight and tomorrow night are in the Rooidakhuis or "Redroof House." It is fieldstone on the outside and indeed does have a red roof. No telephones. But there is a nice shower.

[Respond or comment on this entry.]

Clivia mirabilis Tour

We awoke early this morning (Monday) to rain -- in Namaqualand, where the rain is supposed to be only ca. 13 inches per year up at this altitude (ca. 2,000 ft. above sea level). Irma and Barbara decided to stay at the guest house, while Beate drove Rashid and me to the meeting point in Vanrhynsdorp for the Clivia mirabilis habitat tour. We assembled at the guest house where most of the others on the tour were staying. Down here in Vanrhynsdorp, at elevation about 1,100 ft. above sea level, it is sprinkling rain intermitently. We debate what to do.

We go. We load into three vehicles and head out to the farm where the clivia plants are growing in the wild. We are asked to kindly refrain from telling people who are not on the tour where the actual habitat site is. There are 10 of us, including Beate; since Irma and Barbara did not come, she has the chance to join the tour. Beate isn't really a clivia person, but she is pretty game, and in better condition to climb around a rocky cliff than most of us! We drive about an hour on asphalt and then dirt roads, under overcast skies and through occasional rain showers. We climb into the mountains.

The two ordinary cars are parked at the point where the dirt track starts to climb sharply. The third vehicle, a 4-wheel drive that can comfortably carry 4 passengers, is used to shuttle us up to the farmhouse. They take the old geezers up first, and that includes Rashid and me.

At the farm house, we unload and find two ladies, Betsy and Erika, putting together the makings of a "braai," or cookout. We look around while the 4X4 returns for another load of visitors.

The farm is diversified. They run about 40 head of the native Nguni (pronouce it like "un-goon-y") cattle as well as some sheep, and they plant such things as rooibos, the small bush that is the source of Rooibos tea. "Rooibos" (pronounce it like "roy boss.") just means "red bush," and the bushes turn out to be very bright green, with scattered tiny yellow flowers. The very narrow, ca. 1 inch long leaves are pointed toward the tip of the shoot and pressed closely to the stem. At a distance, they look almost like evergreen shrubs such as juniper or arbor vitae.

The shoots are picked by hand, and then dried. In the drying process, the red color develops. It appears that the green shoots are loaded with anthocyanins. Since it contains no caffeine at all, Rooibos tea becomes a natural uncaffinated beverage. I've grown quite fond of it in recent years.

After we are all assembled at the farm house and have had a cup of tea and a couple cookies, we debate whether to go on to the clivia site. The road from here is even narrower and steeper, and in worse condition. On top of that, is is wet and therefore slippery. Finally our host, the farmer who owns this land, drives on in the 4X4 to try it out. He returns satisfied that he can get us there and back again alive. It is again decided that we go "old geezers first." Since that again includes Rashid and me, I'm all for it. I could learn to live with "geezers first!"

Once at the habitat site, we climb out of the 4X4 and the farmer points out to us where the Clivia mirabilis were growing. They are in a gully almost filled with blocks of sandstone and granite rock that had fallend from the cliff walls over the centuries. There is an open thicket of small trees growing in the crevices between the rocks, and under them a mixture of Zantedeschia aethiopica (what we wrongly call "Calla Lily" and what South Africans equally wrongly call "Arum Lily") and the mature Clivia plants.

After the lunch, a subset of the group, including Rashid and me, are taken out by the farmer to a site where some unusal small bulbs were seen. One of these is a pink flowered Lachenalia with a single leaf wrapped around the base of the flower stalk; I hope it doesn't turn out to be plain old L. mutabilis. Some others are a couple species of terrestrial orchids in the genus Satyrium, both S. erectum and the dwarf S. pumilum. Finally there is a small orchid that might be a Disa, but is also perhaps a new species. Specimens of the "Disa" are taken, with the farmer's permission, to send to the appropriate taxonomist at Kirstenbosch. I urge them to send specimens of the Lachenalia to Graham Duncan at Kirstenbosch.

Leaving South Africa

We are 35,220 ft. in the air, flying over northeastern Namibia, ca. 700 miles (1100 kilometers) from Johannesburg. Our plane took off at 6:10 PM, only about 30 minutes late. It is scarcely half full, in contrast to the full to capacity flight when we flew from Dulles to Joberg on Sept. 3-4. We haven't been able to update the on-line blog since we left Hermanus.

We left Nieuwoudtville at 6:30 AM today, and Beate, our guide and driver, had us at Cape Town airport in 4 hours driving time. It was a beautiful, mild, sunny day. After a stop at a Wimpy's for a breakfast on the fly somewhere south of Vanrhynsdorp, we drove almost straight through to the airport in Cape Town, to catch our domestic South African Airways flight to Joberg. The 2-hour flight to Joburg was uneventful, but the meal served, a late lunch, was quite good: lamb stew, green salad. Arriving late in Joburg turned out not to be a problem at all (see above!)

We just ate our dinner on flight SA 207, and I'm catching up on the blog.

[Respond or comment on this entry.]

Heading Home

We're in the air again, on our United flight from Dulles to Indianapolis. We made it with 5 minutes to spare.

In Cape Town, the South African Airways ticket clerk adamantly refused to include the routing ticket to IND on our checked luggage. Idiot! That meant we had to dash from Customs to the United ticket counter at Dulles to get it checked on to Indy. Next time we'll fly British Airways through Heathrow or Swiss through Zürich. Any way but on SAA. Going via Europe generally forces you to spend at least one night in the European city where you connect. On the other hand, the layover lets you start getting adjusted to the time zone changes.

[Respond or comment on this entry.]

Heading Home

It is great to be home. We've sorted through the accumulated mail, and of course thrown 90% of it away. We've accounted for both dogs and both cats now. The dogs were right here and delighted to see us again; the cats reappeared from their hiding places over the course of the afternoon. Onyx may have been happy to see us; Smokie just wanted to be fed.

We had troubles getting connected to the internet during our trip, not because South Africa is primitive but because my @#$!%^&* laptop computer's wireless networking refused to work with any of the wireless nets offered by several of the places we stayed. That has got to get fixed before we travel again.

In spite of all the food I ate while in South Africa, I apparently only gained 1 pound while there. This will doubltess distress my recent traveling companions, and will probably annoy my wife too.

It will soon be October, so it's high time I started moving potted plants that were outdoors all summer back inside the greenhouses. I don't count these pots, as it would probably be too upsetting. I'd find the number much too small while my family -- who do much of the twice-annual pot moving -- would find the number far too large.

It was a wonderful trip. I started it by telling everyone it would be my last trip to South Africa. Now, I'm not so sure about that. Part of my wavering is due to the wonderful hospitality and warm hearted friendship offered to visitors by the people of South Africa. If you every get the chance, be sure to go to South Africa for a visit.

[Respond or comment on this entry.]

August 2006 «  September 2006 « 

About This Blog

This will be a diary of our visit to South Africa in September, 2006, for various Clivia functions as well as sightseeing.


Last revised: 04 June 2010
© Copyright 2006, 2010 by Shields Gardens Ltd. All rights reserved.