Cape Town; Days 1 and 2
Hello Everyone! As Summer and Nicole have mentioned, we arrived a little late to Cape Town but have not let our educational experience suffer one bit. Over the past three days we undertook three horticultural, and simply cultural, adventures.
After settling in, the indefatigable Erin Frances Feeney and myself led the group on a historical tour through Cape Town. We first stopped at Company Gardens, a truly public garden in the heart of Cape Town. Company Gardens was founded by the Dutch East India Trading Company upon the founding of the city to provide produce for the Company. It has since developed into a free public display garden, complete with a rose garden, herb garden, succulent garden and a large tree walk, including a massive specimen of our very own Taxodium distichum. What we were most excited about was the amount of use the park received. It is the middle of a very concrete heavy part of the city with very little green space, so this urban oasis was swarmed with families, young couples, tourists and people of all sorts enjoying the public space. After Company Gardens, we travelled to a number of historical landmarks, including St. George’s Cathedral, South Africa’s Parliament, and the Castle of Good Hope, which represent different parts of South Africa and Cape Town’s history, from founding all the way through apartheid.
The next morning we went on a native flora hike through Table Mountain National Park. While we were originally scheduled to hike up Table Mountain itself and Cable Car back down, destiny waylaid us again, as the Cable Car was closed. Instead, we followed the advice of our superb host “Utah” (Pronounced as such, but we’re not positive of the exact spelling) and went for a hike up Lion’s Head, a 669 meter peak between the Atlantic Ocean and the heart of Cape Town, just west of Table Mountain itself. As it turns out, the hike was spectacular, and we were all happy to have the 360 degree views showing the city, the mountain, and the ocean. Additionally, the plants had us stopping every five minutes to gasp in excitement and wonderment, as we tried to at least narrow our new discoveries down to families. The hike involved circling the entire peak, then climbing straight up the mountain on ladders, grips and even chains to reach the top. Our physical endurance and senses of adventure paid off, as the views from the top were simply breathtaking, and the journey there was worth every step. See below for more pictures both of the surrounding views, and the puzzling flora.
After our hike and a remarkable lunch at the Cape Farmhouse (they deserve a plug after the meal we received) we ventured into Cape Point to go on a guided Fynbos tour. Our guide was Gael Gray, who runs Good Hope Nursery and Farmstall (http://goodhopenursery.wordpress.com/). Gael was a delightful soul, in addition to being an accomplished plantswoman, and took us for a tour of her native Fynbos ecosystem (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fynbos). Gael provided contrast knowledge, answering nearly all of our plant inquiries, including a number of burning questions from the hike, and sharing her excitement about a number of rare and unusual plants she had found on the walk. Some of the more exciting plants included a number of Proteas such as the king Protea and Leucospermum, Edmundia, and even some of their Lobelias. There was almost too much to absorb in the short walk, but luckily, we’re travelling to Kirstenbosch tomorrow for a full tour, so we’ll have a chance to see it all again!
Thanks for checking in on us, we’re all happy and healthy. Erin will be back within the next day or two to talk about Kirstenbosch.
Cheers!~ John Whipple