Thursday, October 12, 2006

South Africa 2006 Part I

This is the first posting of my 2006 South African field season. It's about two days late because I'm finding it difficult to upload pictures to Blogger on the network over here. Slow, slow, slow, and slower doesn't even begin to describe it. Boy, am I spoiled in North America. Anyways, I started the trip to South Africa at 6:15 am and it took about 27 hours altogether to make it to Cape Town. Esprit Heestand is my field assistant this year. She was really excited to start the trip and she enjoyed the long flight (5 movies and 4 naps, or something like that).

We arrived in Johannesburg after 17.5 hours on the plane from Dulles Airport. We had about an hour on the ground in Dakar, Senegal for refueling. This year I treated myself to business class by cashing in miles for my ticket. What a luxury that was! However, at the end of the trip I was still pretty tired even though I did manage a few hours of sleep. We cleared customs in Jo'burg and then had to hike over to the domestic terminal with all of our gear, up four ramps to the terminal, and then stand in line to pass the luggage back through to the domestic airline.

Here I am, pushing a 200+ lb trolley up the ramps. I guess this is a good way to start the field season. At least I had a good workout.

I arrived in Cape Town on Oct 10 at 4:10 pm. After organizing the car and phone rentals, Esprit and I headed to Kirstenbosch to pick up keys to our rooms and unpack the car.

This very sweet lady is Carol, the Kirstenbosch housekeeper for the visitor's quarters. I met Carol in 1996 when I was the first guest of Fynbos Lodge. It's been great to see her each year.

After settling into the guest room a bit, I called Dennis and Gigi Laidler. They were out for a walk on the contour path above Kirstenbosch, so they came by and fetched us to take us home for supper and some catching up. After supper, Dennis took me out to his shop to show me his new lathe.

Dennis Laidler and Esprit in the shop. Dennis is using a Stubby 1000 lathe, and it looks great in there. I hope to give it a whirl sometime before I head home.

Dennis has his tools nicely organized on the wall of his shop.

The other end of the shop.

I spent my birthday (Oct 11) at Kirstenbosch. The morning started late, but there was time for a walk up the hill. This is a view from the main entrance, looking at the backside of Table Mountain. It's so nice to be staying at Kirstenbosch - this is my daily view.

The first stop on the walk was to check a small population of Hyobanche sanguinea up by the Rycroft Gate. When I was last here in 2004, these plants were in full fruit. It would be nice to know what visits these flowers for pollination.

Up near the top of the garden path, I stopped to admire this bed of proteas. It was full of activity with three different birds competing for the nectar.

This is a Lesser Double Collared Sunbird foraging for nectar on protea.

When he (this is the male) comes up for air you can see all the pollen deposited on his head.

This is a female Cape Sugarbird.

You can see the stamen making contact with her head while she drinks the nectar.

This beauty is the Orangebreasted Sunbird.

One of my favorite birds at Kirstenbosch, the Helmeted Guinea Fowl. These birds have very small brains, which makes them fun to watch.

A side view.

Here's a detail picture of the feathers.

There are a lot of different habitats represented at Kirstenbosch. This lovely spot is a freshwater spring called, "The bath." The water comes up through the sand at the bottom.

The stream coming from the spring flows down through the garden.

An example of thatching on one of the buildings at Kirstenbosch.

Part of the sculpture garden. I always enjoy seeing what's on display here. Everytime I come to Cape Town there is a different collection of stone sculptures in the garden.

Resident artist Gift Muchenje working on a stone sculpture at Kirstenbosch. Gift moved to Cape Town from Zimbabwe and uses handtools to shape pieces of serpentine rock into various forms.

This is one of the tools he uses for texturing. It looks like a hammer that has had a zigzag pattern filed into it. Gentle taps are used to make the texture.

Here are some of the chisels, rasps and files used to carve stone.

Detail of some of the tools in use.

Another view of Gift at work. I enjoyed talking to him about his scultpures and he was very willing to tell me about the stone carving tradition of Zimbabwe.

Here's the raw material from which his sculptures come. There are different types of serpentine - different colors, hardness and characteristics of the oxidized outler layers.

A pair of Egyptian Geese, which are actually ducks, not geese. These are fun to watch in the late afternoon as they settle into large trees to roost for the night. One seldom thinks of ducks as perching birds, but these ones like trees.

I have enjoyed seeing the bronze sculptures by Dylan Lewis in the garden this year. This one is called, Running cheetas II.

Also new to the garden this year is an installation by Willem Boshoff. This is called "Garden of Words" and it represents 15,000 species of plants that he has studied. It speaks to the impact humans have on the planet's biota. It's interesting how he's done this - it's patterned after Flanders Fields and the poppies. Each flower is a sheet of plastic with a description of the plant printed on it, folded into a receptacle on a stick.

Here's a detail view of the Boshoff installation.

This is a sculpture called, "Wild Seed Pod" by Arthur Fata. It was dedicated to Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in 1998. It's one of my favorite sculptures in the garden.

Speaking of favorite sculptures, this is my new favorite. It was my birthday present to myself, and it's by Gift Muchenje. I thought it would be appropriate to have a "gift" by Gift.

My birthday celebration was spent with the Laidlers at a nice restaurant called Barristers. We had a wonderful meal together (thanks, Dennis and Gigi!), and a lot of fun to boot. I was so surprised to receive a beautiful book on the Heritage sites of South Africa. I'll have to look up the name when I have it beside me sometime. It's a beautiful book and I will cherish the memories it brings to mind while I look through it.

This is a map of University of Cape Town, believe it or not. Nick was trying to explain to me where the bookstore is so Esprit can find a sweatshirt with the UCT logo.

Here's Dennis, all dressed up from work. I'm not used to seeing him in a tie. We're usually walking a trail together or throwing shavings around in his shop.

Nick made an effort to open his eyes for this picture and I'm sorry the flash blinded him so badly.

I think Gigi thinks we're kind of silly sometimes, but that's ok.

Esprit agrees and is staying out of trouble.

Yes! Nick took the flash and I (Chris) didn't. Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah. . .

And, to top it all off for the evening, my traditional dessert of vanilla icecream with chocolate sauce. Nick and Chris knew that was what I was going to order after seeing me consume vast quantities of this substance during our 2003 field season in the Drakensberg and Lesotho highlands.

I had a nice birthday. . .

1 comment:

Dennis Laidler said...

Great pics Andi - you can see my perspective of the evening here