Study Abroad to South Africa

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Getting Grounded Before Taking Flight

The Last Half of Our Last Day

The second place we visited was The Stellenbosch Community Development Program (SCDP ) in Kayamandi.  This was a very emotional experience as it put us face to face with the reality of poverty in South Africa.  Our guides were Jacque Treadway, manager, and two of the healthcare workers there.  At their headquarters located next to one of the affiliated primary schools, they explained to us the epidemic of malnourished and overweight children. In some cases, the children are malnourished and underweight from lack of healthy food, and in other cases children (especially young girls) are overweight because of junk food and the perception of weight as a symbol of economic status.

This program provides food (donated by organizations and companies) for children in need on a daily basis. The community development program works with families and collects information to determine needs and to help prevent dependency.  The program works and teaches with about 100 mothers; demonstrating how to grow their own vegetables and providing them with a place to garden.  This allows the mothers additional nutritional food and gives them opportunities to turn what they have learned into a source of income and empowerment.

We toured the gardens at the development office and then went on a walk to the nearby satellite garden, witnessing the general living conditions and visiting with some of the mothers who garden along the way.  The motto of the organization is “Not Afraid to Love” and we encountered many of the children of the area who embodied that phrase.  They were full of smiles, were very friendly, and loved to have their pictures taken!  We received many waves and thumbs up from people in the town,  many of them children,  and later learned that they love and admire Americans and our culture.

In the second (satellite) garden we noticed some issues with compaction and plants growing in subsoil (recent site grading had removed topsoil) and offered some suggestions which Jacques warmly accepted (he is not a gardener by trade).  He welcomed additional recommendations and Emily quickly offered to put some gardening information together to send once we return to the U.S.

It was great to witness the outreach that the SCDP is doing and the difference they make:  http://love2give2children.org.za/  .

It was also great to see the impact gardening can make to a community with so little.

After our visit, we had dinner before spending another 30+ hours traveling back to the U.S. (where we arrived safely).

South Africa was amazing!  We were continually surprised by the friendliness of the people and the beauty of not only the landscape but the culture!  We would like to thank everyone for joining us along the way, and showing your interest through your comments!  We would also like to thank all of our great tour guides for sharing their knowledge with us and making our trip such a rich experience.

Please join us to learn more and see pictures during our Brown Bag in a few weeks!

-Tim Snyder

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Sustainability in Stellenbosch

The First Half of Our Last Day

I would like to begin by saying, on behalf of the Class of 2011, a big thank you to Longwood Gardens for the rare opportunity to have a wonderful experience like this to enhance our already great two year Professional Gardener Program.

Our last day in Stellenbosch and South Africa began with packing, breakfast and loading the cars a final time prior to our last two destinations.  It was another day of experiences never to be forgotten.

Our first stop was the Sustainability Institute located in the Lynedoch EcoVillage 15 minutes from the center of Stellenbosch.  The institute, working with Stellenbosch University, offers Masters and PhD programs in sustainable development.  They have a number of sustainability initiatives that focus on education, ecology, early childhood development, and the teaching of hands-on skills in eco-development. The institute has been crucial in the development of the EcoVillage as a real life example of creating sustainable communities. http://www.sustainabilityinstitute.net/

Our tour guide Bryce (head gardener), who introduced himself as been “born a gardener”,  was very curious about our group and our visit; he doesn’t recall any other garden group visiting before.  He emphasized that in the programs, including the early childhood development, it is important to bridge the gap between man and nature as that connection is often missing.  One way they create this context is by first “consulting the spirits” to stop and question whether the place is appropriate for the tree or not, and to get in touch with the greater environment both above and below foot when planting trees with the students. All of the trees on the property (mostly endemic) were planted by Bryce and the students over the last 8-9 years providing opportunities for hands-on experience.

A proud feature that Bryce showcased to our group was the wastewater treatment.  All of the waste from the site is distributed either to a bio-filter or into biolytic filters (worms break down the waste) and then to the bio-filter wetland where microbes and plants break it down.  The system uses pumps to run the water through a UV filter and back to the buildings as grey water for flushing and irrigation.  An advantage to this system is prevention of disturbance and impacts of typical sewer system installations.

Other highlights included a recently planted ‘woodland’ area which contained a number of different plans such as: Virgilia (keurboom), Leonotis ocymifolia (lion’s tail), a huge Verbena bonariensis (purple top), buddleja salviifolia (sage leaf buddleja), and Tarchonanthus camphorates (camphor bush) to name a few.  We also saw some residences and buildings being built with sustainable features and materials such as adobe brick, recycled brick, solar tiles, solar hot water and a biogas digester which collects methane gas from decomposing food waste and makes it available to cook with.

-Tim Snyder

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Still in Stellenbosch

Our first full day in Stellenbosch began early Saturday morning at Vergelegen.  The name translates in English to: “situated far away”.  Vergelegen is a 3000 hectare estate that includes timeless gardens, wise old trees, incredible vineyards, a lovely little restaurant, and magnificent views of Stellenbosch and its surrounding wine routes.  The estate dates back to the 18th century when it was a homestead and the gardens produced fresh fruit and vegetables that were otherwise unavailable.  Some areas of the gardens were separated by walls constructed in 1680, while others have more natural boundaries of 300 year old Camphor trees.  There are plenty of these gorgeous specimens on the property as they were very functional years ago when people wore mostly natural fiber clothing.  Often the timber was used to make chests and other furniture pieces for storing such items that were susceptible to damage from moths.  The trees themselves stood tall, wide at the base, and were quite majestic, one of them was declared a national monument in 1947.

Because we are about to board the plane and have not had access to the internet at our hotel, I will have to continue this later.…please enjoy a sneak-peek with the images below….

Now in the Amsterdam airport, we are waiting to board with Delta and arrive in Detroit to catch our final flight back to Pennsylvania.  Feelings are bittersweet.

To continue with Vergelegen, I want to mention a few of the stunning trees we encountered while touring the gardens.  They do love their trees and have a particularly lovely grove of Yellowwoods, (Afrocarpus), which delicately grow just beyond the mountain-fed river and seem unworldly when one steps inside.  Aftrocarpus falcartus, formerly Podocarpus falcartus is considered South Africa’s national tree, as it too was useful in so many ways.  Another gem not to be left out is the impressive King Alfred Oak specimen( Quercus robur), which we were able to climb inside of and look from the inside out.  The Oak is 300 years old, one of the foundation plantings, and work is now underway to build a boardwalk around its base to prevent soil compaction.  Vergelegen’s horticulturalist and our tour guide, Richard, is busy working to keep this specimen preserved for future generations by seed propagation.   One more specimen that cannot be forgotten is the 100-year-old Camellia that gained recognition from the Camellia Garden of Excellence.  It is rare to see one of this size in the States , and it filled out the Camphor understory so perfectly that it seemed like these two plants have been rather fond of each other’s company all these years, like a beautiful friendship.

Day two in Stellenbosch was sunny and crispy cool.  We were better able to view the surrounding mountains and valleys that lay atop the land as we made our way to see Una van der Spuy at her home, Old Nectar.  It was a short, fifteen minute drive just outside of town and as we piled out of the cars and approached the house, a large dog by the name of “Simba” barreled out to greet us.  We waited at the bottom of the stairs expecting an elderly woman to slowly make her way around the hedge.  I was surprised as she almost popped out from around the corner to great us with a smile and an enthusiasm to begin talking plants with us.  Ninety nine years old and she is prompt and professional, graceful and artistic.  After a warm greeting, she immediately began talking Latin and naming some of the larger trees that serve as a frame to her colorful garden.  With a rocky mountain backdrop, Una planted what pleased her and not necessarily what grows natively.  Some of these were species that we see back home such as Gingko, Magnolia, and Elm.  She quickly made the point that a gardener should not choose a plant for its flower, but rather for its foliage.  She liked to use a theme of gold, silver, and bronze-colored foliage to bring further dimension to the landscape and to “relieve the background”.

She went on to give us the history of her garden, herself, Old Nectar, and South Africa in that particular region.  She explained to us how she began the garden around the gable using little more than her own strength to complete construction.  Most of the garden she expanded herself and still continues that way today, with the help of some friends along the way.  We made our way down to the rose garden which comprised of 7 or more beds of different varieties, each lined purposefully with a silver border to enhance the brick pathway laid some 64 years ago.  Una’s favorite rose is the German pink, which flowers into November and is pictured in the slides.

We wrapped up our visit with Una enjoying a cup of rooibos tea as she answered questions and talked about her first experiences using a computer for writing.  It was a perfect morning with a perfect view, with an unforgettable woman and her garden.

The afternoon was reserved for visiting Stellenbosch Botanic.  Here we enjoyed a leisurely view of the gardens and some of their private collections including two succulent houses, a fern house that offered relief from the hot sun, and a handsome collection of Bonsai that included a 70-year-old White Pine (Pinus strobus).  One particular beauty that struck us was a blooming and budding specimen of Bromeliad (Puya chilensis), which is included in the slide show for your enjoyment.    In total, there are 3500-4000 plant labels on the 1.5 hectares of Stellenbosch Botanic.  There are three gardeners and one horticulturist on staff, they are thoroughly occupied as one can imagine.   One of the newer areas of the garden focuses on plants endemic to the Stellenbosch area and it has a centrally located entrance that is more easily accessed by students and neighbors. This concludes our second day in Stellenbosch.  We’ enjoyed Stellenbosch’s accessaability, food, and plant life!

Keep following along to hear about our last day, which put all things in perspective and gave us a new way to view plants and our relationships with them.  It was emotional, somewhat heartbreaking, and entirely inspirational.

See you all soon!

~Carolyn

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Cruising through the Kogelberg…

We are now nestled into the beautiful city of Stellenbosch with a few days left of wonderful places to visit, the sun is shining, the wind is out and we are still in full gear and having a great experience.   I am going to report on our journey to Stellenbosch that included a spectacular drive along the coast through the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve with stops at a penguin sanctuary and Harold Porter National Botanic Garden.
Our departure from Swelledam Friday morning took us through the Tradouw Pass, one of many amazing mountain roads that winds through a vast landscape (dotted with rocky overhangs and vegetation colored in pinks, silvers, yellows and greens)…the combinations are so beautiful that neither descriptions nor photographs may ever do them justice.  This mountain range suddenly brought us into another landscape with a stark change in elevation…that of agriculture and we rolled through acres and acres of hills full of wheat.  We have been told by many horticulturists involved in conservation here how the mass production and demand for wheat has caused many endemic species to become endangered due to the loss of habitat; so as we drove through, I wondered what was once there.
Just before lunch we reached yet another mountain range known as the Kogelberg which lies along the coast of False Bay.  This coastline has a scenic drive on the R44 which spans between the mountains and sea and is simply breathtaking.  Entering onto this route brings you directly through the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site spanning around 3,000 hectares.  This reserve is unique for it’s 1,600 plant species that make up a greater floral diversity number per unit area than anywhere else in the world.  While much of this reserve is closed to the public, visitors may enjoy some hikes, camping, scenic drives and a stop to Harold Porter National Botanic Garden, which was exactly on our itinerary.  On the way we could not resist a stroll along the steep cliffs as we took a short walk to the outcroppings above the coast.  The waves and the wind were a powerful force and the vegetation on the cliffs showed great perseverance.  Here we discovered some Ferraria and Berkheya growing along the slopes along with lush coastal scrub.  This is also known to be an area to observe the Southern Right Whale (unfortunately none were spotted today)!
Continuing along the road we made a quick stop to the African Penguin colony in the town of Betty’s Bay.  Thousands of penguins were dotted along the shore basking in the sun and nestling their little ones from teh cool breeze.  This African penguin is the only species of penguin that breeds on the continent of Africa.  This colony in particular was established because of predation and loss of habitat.
Finally after a quick bite of seafood along the sea we made it to Harold Porter National Botanic Garden.  This garden lies within the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve on land known as the Leopard’s Kloof.  This is one of the nine national botanic gardens in the SANBI network and was started by Mr. Harold Porter himself, an architect from Johannesburg.  He purchased land on Leopard’s Kloof in the 1930′s.  As the land in the area developed Mr. Porter kept this area to preserve the wild fynbos.  After his death in 1958 the reserve was donated to the National Botanic Gardens of South Africa and given his name.  The land was extended by the municipality which allows for some seaside land and trail extension up into the “kloof” or gorge.  This garden is divided into beds that dot along the lawn below the mountains.  They are divided into various ecosystems and plant species that include a restio garden, fynbos ecosystem, protea garden and a disa kloof.  The diversity and display of plants was amazing and the landscape that surrounded it was even more wonderful.  We could not help but venture up to the gorge trails for a little “botanising” as they say and discovered wonderful cliff sweeps of restios dotted with proteas and craggy rocks.  There were also small colonies of sundews, Drosera hilaris, nestled between the rocks and in the shadows of the grasses.  Tim and I were also very excited to discover a spectacular Anemone tenuifoliaperched along the path in full fuzzy bloom.  After all our happiness and excitement we lost track of time as the gardens were closing and made our way back down the mountain to our group and our two little cars to journey onto the next destination…

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Expedition: SANBONA

On the morning of October 12th we, the 9 now cultured students  ventured out of Montagu with a new Nissan Grand Livina for Lauren to drive to our next destination (hopefully you heard that her last car isn’t with us anymore). If only our precious  Livina knew where we were going to be traveling to next! After about a 40 minute drive on Route 62 east we were soon greeted by a Sanbona sign leading us to the game reserve entrance. After another 14 kilometers on the dusty path winding through mountains and farms we reached the welcome gate of Sanbona Game Reserve. As if that wasn’t enough for us we traveled approximately another 35 kilometers into the reserve to our accommodations. Caught by surprise we were welcomed by Ostrich, Zebra,  Springbok, tortoise, and another Puff Adder along the road. Nestled snug at the foot of the Warmwaterberg mountain range we were among the  Karoo landscape and realizing quickly it was us and mother nature alone on 135,000 acres of reserve…

Here on the reserve, Sanbona has a group of over 100 employees working to make this part of South Africa a better place! Through various activities like animal re-introduction, conserving endangered plant communities, and improving water quality and run off through plant rejuvenation we were quickly impressed and anxious to learn more. Marco and Suritha were our rangers during our game drives and plant explorations. Both went through intensive training and took various tests to be guides and teach others about the importance of preserving these beautiful animals and plants. The property we were visiting was previously 19 abandoned farms, but the preserve had slowly expanded, so the animals could be free. Speaking of free I want to share the meaning of Sanbona. San- meaning of the sand people and -bona meaning free roaming. The name of this reserve is very intriguing and the more we encountered the animals there, we embraced the free roaming portion of the word.

When we arrived, we quickly unloaded our baggage and made our way to the lodge to have lunch because we had a game drive very soon. The time arrived and all eleven of us loaded up into 2 land cruisers and traveled down another dusty, but beautiful road leading us all around the reserve. First, I would like to describe the type of land we travelled on the reserve. Basically, Sanbona was made up of 3 different biomes, Succulent Karoo, Thicket, and Fynbos. The Fynbos here on Sanbona is known as the Renosterveld, which is one of the most threatened vegetation communities in the Cape Floral Kingdom. The land also had rock formations that were formed over 350 million years ago, and fossils of marine invertebrates are still being found. Now, onto the fun part of the trip the animals and plants! We started our safari and encountered a herd of African Elephants led by the female “Matriarch” followed by other females and young. The group slowly travelled past our vehicle and some made memorable eye contact with each and every one of the elephants The elephants possessed the most peaceful eyes I have ever seen. As if that wasn’t enough, we then encountered a huge herd of zebra and were also treated to the sounds of mating calls, and experienced a zebra crossing! We then viewed other animals including: White Rhinoceros, Eland, Springbok, Klipsrpinger, Kudu, Giraffe, Baboons, and much more which will be shown in pictures following the posting. As a side note, we took two game drives one in the night and one in the following morning, each lasting quite a long time. Unlike other game reserves in Africa, this one was large and it took time to find the animals on the huge property, so they were not presented to us easily.

While on the safari, we also encountered many different plants like the most prevalent Karoo Acacia or Sweet Thorn which was unbelievably grazed by most animals, even though it bore many 4-5 inch sharp white thorns. As the Acacia ages, it actually loses the thorns in the more mature parts of the plant, and the juvenile branches are loaded with thorns. We were fortunate enough to watch a bull (male) elephant feed on this plant, and it was amazing how they used their trunks to grab the branches and quickly devour the branches, thorns and all; but that is probably because their skin is 4-5 inches thick so they didn’t feel a thing. We also saw many different Aloes, Crassulas, and more Fynbos plants.  On our second safari we went on foot and approached a group of cheetah just waking up from a long nights sleep located under the brush on top of one of the mountains. Believe me when you see the pictures you probably won’t believe me but we were less than 20 feet away from one of the sleepy cats! I digress, after we walked down the mountain into a quartz bed and stumbled upon quite a treasure! We walked into a group of Gibbaeum heathii which for you non plant lovers, they are called babies bottoms and are called this because of the resemblance. Let me tell you, it was a rare find to see them thriving so happily and in such a large group! ****After they age they are called “granny bottoms”!

Sanbona was truly a treat for our group and it was great to see all the flora and fauna making up such a beautiful part of South Africa. Between the knowledge that was shared with us, the animal encounters we experienced, and the overall experience we all shared, I believe Sanbona will forever be in our hearts. Just thinking of Sanbona brings me right back to when I was staring an elephant right in the eye or just having an early morning conversation with a group of cheetahs. Sanbona lives on and I will do my very best to share that experience with you through some beautiful photos!

By the way…Connie McCaw, you would be beyond impressed by the level of guest service at this reserve!!

-David Sincavage

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Crazy Cacti and Succulents

As mentioned in previous posts we have successfully arrived in Montague which is located in the Karoo.  The weather has continued to be hot and dry.  On October 10th  we visited Karoo Desert Botanical Garden.  Karoo Botanical Garden is one of the nine National Botanical Gardens in South Africa and is part of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).  Karoo means “Place of Thirst”.  It is located in an arid region and focuses on conservation of the succulent flora.

Shortly after reaching our destination, before we were even out of the vans, we were greated by some of the local wildlife.  A Puff Adder (snake) was slithering across the road in front of us.  We paused to let it pass and take some photos.  Not long afterward a tortoise also was making its way across the road.  We were later told that Puff Adders are the second fastest striking snake!  I must say I’m glad that I stayed in the car!!!

The Karoo Destert Botanical Garden is focused on conservation of succulent flora that is native to the continent.  Their collection is grouped by family and they have roughly 90% of the species for each group of genera in their collection.  To aid in proper care of the plants each pot has a colored tag.  The different colors are codes for time of rainfall in the species natural environment.  This allows for easy watering and insures that plants do not get watered at the wrong time of the year.

Karoo hosts between 1500-1700 plants in its collections alone.  In addition to this are the nursery and outdoor garden areas.  Each year 8000-9000 plants are planted out in the garden displays.   About three times this amount are propagated yearly.

After leaving the garden we stopped for lunch at a cafe that was located in a garden center.  We were able to enjoy lunch while also getting to see some of the plants that are sold here at a nursery.

We ended the day’s adventures with a quick stop along highway to climb a large rock outcropping.  At the top was an old English Fort that looked out over the the road and surrounding mountain range.   It was amazing to see the plants growing in a natural habitat,  including a fairly large Crassula growing among the rocks.

On the morning of the 11th we started our day’s adventures by visiting  Sheilam Cacti and Succulent Garden.  There we were greeted and given a tour by a wonderful hostess Minette.  While this is a small garden the main focus is a nursery.  They grow many different cacti, succulents and Cycads as well as some other plants from seed and cuttings.  The nursery, originally a Apricot and Ostrich Farm, was started a little over fifty years ago and has grown to over three hectares.

One of the biggest challenge the nursery faces is educating the public about preserving biodiversity.   Plant poaching is a huge problem and most people do not want to pay for plants that they can collect from their native habitat.  However, this action is very detrimental to the natural ecosystem.  Sheilam is trying to educate people about preserving the wonderful plant life they have and encouraging them to by plants that have been propagated through seed rather that collected from the wild.

Water is also another challenge for the garden.  Water pumped from the river and used as irrigation can have a high salt content and be damaging to the nursery plants.  Due to this they have lined the entire dam with black plastic to prevent salt from leaching.  The main sources for their water come from the mountains as well as tanks that collect rainwater throughout the rainy season .  The greenhouses used in this facility are basic and function well with what nature provides to grow healthy plants.  There is no electricity and the sun provides natural light as well as heat.

After our Tour of Sheilam we stopped for a quick bite to eat and then proceeded to a tour of Olyfberg an Olive Farm.  On the farm we participated in a olive and olive oil tasting, visited the production factory as well as their nursery and orchard.

The farm is 17 years old and was previously a lucerne and vegetable farm. Lucerne is a plant that is used for cattle feed, it is known in the United States as Alfalfa.  There are nine cultivars of olives and seventy one planted hectares.  The farm only produces extra virgin olive oil, this means that the oil is only pressed once.

The harvesting season is  February through August.  The olives are sorted, any bruised olives are used for oil and only perfect olives are used for production of table olives.  After being picked and transported to the factory they are graded once again to check for imperfections and also sorted by size.  Processing removes any leaves and twigs, and they are washed with water four to fourteen times before being used for food products.  If they are made into oil they are pressed and the pits removed.  The water and oil are seperated and only pure oil is used.

The Nursery was started mainly for the sale and distribution of olive trees to the local area. Olives are becoming quite popular here and are not readily available.

There are more adventures to come, but that is it for today.  Thank you for following!

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Nicole B.

Tea Tour and Traveling Trials

Saturday we toured Groenkol Rooibos Tea Estate. At Groenkol the tea is grown, harvested, processed, and packaged making it the only rooibos estate in the world! (The other rooibos farms just grow and ship the tea away for processing.) Our tour turned out to be just as unique as the estate.

After yet another trek over a combination of paved, gravel, dirt and sand roads, we were greeted by our charming hosts Annette and Chris du Plessis, who invited us in out of the scorching late spring heat (35⁰C or 95⁰F) to enjoy a glass of iced rooibos tea.

As we sipped the delicious beverage, Annette began to tell us the history of the estate. In the 1950s her father became one of the first rooibos farmers. Although rooibos had been used for years it had previously been harvested from the wild instead of cultivated for production. Groenkol is still in the family and although Annette lived most of her life in other areas of South Africa, she and her husband Chris came back to this beautiful mountainous wilderness near the quaint town of Darling to retire and start their tour business sharing the wonders of rooibos production.

As some of the brilliant sun rays began to fade we piled into Chris’s old retrofitted safari jeep/truck. At one of our many stops along the sandy trail we discovered the fields of scrubby shrubs we had seen before were actually rooibos fields. Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is only endemic to this small region of South Africa including the area of Clanwilliam. This is due to the specialized symbiotic interaction rooibos has formed with the microorganisms in its native soil allowing  it to thrive in harsh growing conditions. These perennial shrubs only grow during the early and mid-summer. For the best quality tea, two-thirds of the plant is cut when the new shoots have turned from light green to red. A six year cycle including planting successional crops of rooibos, cover cropping and fallowing the fields insures a continuous healthy harvest.

Along the way to the processing facility, Chris shared with us his wealth of knowledge about the local geology and fynbos, highlighting various fascinating adaptations of the endemic plants to bloom and thrive without rain and temperatures above 100°F for months.

Once the freshly harvested rooibos plants are brought to the processing buildings they are sent through various machines that shred and sieve them to remove unwanted materials. Some of the waste is utilized in natural cosmetics, skin care products and medicines (Rooibos has also been found to have many health benefits). The shredded rooibos is clumped into long heaps, bruised and then soaked in water to start an oxidation process. This takes place overnight and the tea is spread out to dry in the sun the following morning. Large bags of dried rooibos are allowed to age for two to three years to improve quality. Ninety percent of the tea produced at the estate is exported to countries such as Germany, Japan etc. (but not the United States!).

As the temperature dropped with the sun we arrived at our dinner destination, a large rock formation aptly named The Owl Kitchen (its shape resembles the face of an owl). The delicious home cooked meal, eaten in candle light under the overhand of the cliff, fittingly began with Annette’s special rooibos bread and concluded with a rich soothing cup of hot rooibos tea in the cool, clear night air….

Sunday was a travel day. There is no other way to describe it than to say, “If you’ve ever traveled you know that things never go perfectly.”  I had the task of navigating us from Citrusdal to Montague over 230 km of mountain passes, through gorges  and  valleys, on small ribbon roads and straight paved roads. The scenery was breathtaking, the task daunting considering:

  1. I am directionally challenged!
  2. The GPS, printed directions, and map all showed different routes.
  3. Most roads are unmarked.

As we wound our way south through the wilderness we saw two broken down vehicles and two running cars so we figured our chance of survival was about 50%, which turned out to be true. One of our cars gave us trouble the entire day and finally broke down 3 km from our destination. Thankfully it was downhill into town and we were able to coast to the hotel! We even received a replacement car for the second half of the trip. We are most thankful!

Well, that concludes my section of our saga of surprises….

~Emily

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