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…