Whitlocks Round the World - Travel Diary for South Africa (again)

Click here to read the latest newsThe diary of our trip round the world. You can view other diary entries by clicking the highlighted months at the bottom of the page or by clicking on one of the countries visited so far. Click our logo (on the left) to see the most recent news entries. We are adding new entries from Internet Cafés as we travel, so updates may be irregular. Please check back often to see how we are getting along.

Countries visited so far: UK Latvia Lithuania Poland Slovak Republic Hungary Romania Bulgaria Greece Egypt Tanzania Malawi Mozambique South Africa Swaziland South Africa (again) Argentina Bolivia Peru Ecuador Vietnam China Mongolia Russia England


January - February South Africa (again)
Durban
We took a minibus from Manzini to Durban, where we stayed at ´Home´Backpackers for a couple of days. We were not too keen on the atmosphere there, or generally in Durban, feeling that there was still a lot of tension between racial groups there. We never felt threatened at all there, but people kept warning us not to stand here ar not to wait there, or to take a cab if we went anywhere. We found it a bit claustrophobic. In the aftermath of apartheid, whites live in little walled compounds behind barbed wire with `24hour Armed Response`burglar alarms, scared of the indigenous people outside, while the ´blacks` try to live dignified lives in sprawling "squatter camps" on the outskirts of town.

Don´t get me wrong, I´m sure Durban has a lot going for it. That´s just the impression I had. Direct all angry responses to me, just a naïve European!



4th February South Africa (again)
Cape Town
The Whitlocks at Cape of Good Hope - Click to enlargeWe travelled to cape Town, a journey of more than 1700km, by bus. This was the longest bus journey we had taken in one go so far, but it should have been a comfortable ride as we had booked our trip with Translux, a luxury coach service. Unfortunately the coach broke down and we waited for five hours at a roadside service area for a replacement, which was not nearly so luxurious. Another 24 hours later we arrived in Cape Town and went straight to the Translux office to complain. The results were excellent, as we managed to get a full refund! With the extra cash in our pockets we set out to explore Cape Town.

We spent about ten days in total in and around Cape Town. For the first few days we relaxed around the Lighthouse Farm Lodge, where we stayed. There was a kind of 'alternative lifestyle'thing going on there, with organic herbs and vegetables available from the garden. The children played with 4-year-old TK, a permanent resident there with his mum, Eleanor, the most chilled out and sociable black person we met in South Africa (I hope she won´t mind me saying). It was a nice easy-going place and we loved it.

In Cape Town we explored the town centre and the Waterfront, where there is a big and highly sophisticated shopping centre. We even went to the IMAX cinema there.

Then, for the five days leading up to our flight to Buenos Aires, we used the money we had saved in Africa to hire a car. It was a proper little holiday, and a good way to celebrate our half-way point, the Cape of Good Hope.

During those five days we explored the Cape Peninsula National Park, camping on the sand dunes at a place called Sweetwater, where I saw a seal cleaning itself on a rock on the beach when I woke up in the morning, swimming with the penguins at Boulders Beach and cooking over an open fire. Then we drove inland and up into the mountains of the Cape Winelands, through countless beautiful mountain passes to a small town called Montagu. There we camped again, this time at a 'guest farm'. It was hot and sunny, but with the freshness of mountain air, and a lovely pool. We were refreshed and revitalised when we returned to the Lighthouse Farm Lodge for our last night in Africa.



Early February South Africa (again)
Fynbos in the Cape Peninsula National Park
Fynbos in bloom - Click to enlargeBy Nick
While we had the use of our hire car in the Cape Town area we decided to visit the Cape Peninsula National Park, one of the world's conservation areas, which consisted of a great amount of amazing flora and fauna. My studies at college in the UK were mainly aimed at the management of our many natural habitats and so our visit was extremely interesting, especially to me! Together with our initial tour of the environmental center and our national park guide book, I discovered a whole new world of specialist flora indicative to the Cape Peninsula National Park, called Fynbos. There is a richness in plant life here I never knew could exist in one place. According to my book there are over 7 700 plant species found in Fynbos, which is a lot for such a small area. Of these roughly 70% are endemic to the area - that is, they are found nowhere else in the world. Many of these are threatened with extinction from things like flower picking by tourists, fire at the wrong season (Fire is a good thing at the right time as the plants (Protea family) use this method to disperse their seeds) and the spread of non native plants. The richness of the Fynbos is well established by its heaths or ericas, and the facts go on, there are over 600 different species of plant within the heaths.

So as we continued our walk amongst these wonderful plants the children enjoyed pointing out the different types as the hot sun shone down on us. As a family we talked about how it was important to recognize how amazing this place was and that we would never again get the chance to see this for real in our life times (well not mine anyway). They did humour me because they know what I’m like when it comes to wild and beautiful places. I continued on in my new floral world and the most striking features of the composition of fynbos were the presence of many eye-catching members of the 3 main types of plant; the Protea family, the Erica family, and the reed family. These fill the niche usually occupied by grasses, but the largest family in number of species is the daisy family, with just under 1000 species of which more than 600 are endemic. Furthermore, many species from the family Iridaceae have become household names and if you’re at all interested in plants for your conservatory you would have heard of popular species such as babiana, freesia, gladiolus, iris, moraea, sporaxis and watsonia.

At home in the British Isles there are 1500 plant species in 310,000 square kilometers, but the Cape Peninsula National Park contains approximately 1200 species of plant on 78 square kilometres, Remarkable isn’t it?

Another remarkable feature of fynbos is the number of species found within small areas. It was such a splendid sight during our visit and I couldn’t resist putting in the statistics so as I never forget just how remarkable this little piece of the globe is and I hope remains, for generations to come.



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