Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Great Land

Under construction. . .

As we've been driving, the scale of the landscape reminds us of Alaska - only the landscape seems even bigger here and there has been much more human intervention.

I think shots from the days drive from Montegue to Knysna explain it pretty well. (Although there will be some flowers thrown in for good measure!)

[the weather changed pretty dramatically over the day as well, with fog and mist as we approached the ocean]

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Scenic Route South to Clanwilliam

Under construction. . .

Fog! Nieuwoudtville, South Africa

We awake to fog.

Not dainty fog on little cat feet, but a serious, fully-blanket-the-land sort of fog.

At first I’m disappointed – I want a bright sunlight to shoot wildflowers (most of which won’t open until they have full sun) – but my disappointment quickly turns to amazement. The plants here really are watered by coastal fog! I had read that somewhere, but had dismissed it as impossible, as this is a dry land nearly 70 miles inland with mountains between here and ocean. For couldn't possibly get this far inland! 

Not sure how long it will last, we hurry out with our cameras to explore this unexpected fairy land. 
The fog didn’t stay very long, but it was magical while it lasted.  .  . a great start to a beautiful day.   

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Settling in at the De Hoop Cottage, Nieuwoudtville, South Africa

We will be staying at the Papkuilsfontein Guest Farm and the flower show continues along the deserted and increasingly more narrow dirt roads between Nieuwoudtville and the farm.  
We are staying at the De Hoop Cottage, a charming restored farmhouse with broad views over the veld.
 It reminds me of an Irish cottage, a feeling that intensifies as we settle into the cottage, which is at once simple, rustic, and cozy.   
The views, however, don’t seem particularly Irish. They are, however, a wonderful incentive to get out and explore while the light is still bright and beautiful.
 Once dusk falls, we head back inside, lighting the lamps and settling in for the evening. Not far beyond our windows the dassies play on a rocky outcrop. Their antics provide ample amusement.

Just as it gets dark, our dinner arrives, a multi-course gourmet version of South African farmhouse cooking. We linger over our meal; the food is absolutely delicious and there is enough for many more guests, which causes us to continue eating “just another taste!” far longer than we should.

Outside the Milky Way glows amid unfamiliar stars.   
We go to bed hoping that the barn owl that frequents the fireplace chimney will sweep through and perch in the beams above, but all is still.

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Nieuwoudtville, South Africa

We have come to tiny Nieuwoudtville in search of wildflowers, but first we find a charming small town constructed almost entirely of sandstone. It’s a simple, sturdy, elegant architectural style that makes me wonder about the people who built this place. It makes me think they must have been  practical and hardy, but with a desire for beauty too.
 It’s a pretty little town - and it is little. Still, we aren’t sure how to find the Hantam National Botanical Garden, which is what drew me here in the first place. I’m not even sure where to look for it, so, not knowing what to do (if there is a tourist office as the signs promise, we can’t find it), we head toward our lodging for the night.

Along the way we find the gardens. 
 I expected we’d find it, but it is already late in the afternoon and I’m not sure how long it will take us to get to the cottage where we will be staying. . . actually, I’m not really sure how far that is from town either, since my plan had been to come in from the other direction. It seems like a good idea to first go there and then decide whether or not to head back to the botanical garden (which is really more of a wildflower preserve, like Antelope Valley in California).

Besides, there are quite a lot of flowers all along the road!

 It seems a bit like overkill to go to a botanical garden to see them.

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