OnSafari: Great Drive!

OnSafari: Great Drive!

I asked our guide how rare were some of these flowers? He almost whispered, “There are only 8 plants left on earth of our rarest.”

And no, we couldn’t be shown that. The location of the plants is a state secret. But he would show us his second rarest, only 382 left, the euryops virgatus. Compared to all the other beauties it wasn’t memorable: a kind of scraggly yellow dot-flower weed.

But it made me think of the only other thing so rare that I ever once saw. I was one of the first to trek to see the mountain gorillas, at the time there were less than 350. There are now nearly 1300, so good luck to the scraggly yellow plant!

What fun we’ve been having in the western and northern Cape! Our first game drive in an open Landrover was to see flowers! Sixth generation sheep farmer Wilhelm Van Wyk gave us a private tour of his thousand-acre Papkuilsfontein farm.

It was cold! 42F when we arrived but 28F the night before. But in the glamorous sunshine his fields of yellow wildflowers were unbelievable!

Then to the wonderful Hantam Botanical Park with an outstanding guide who recently had his name given to a new little fly that specifically pollinates one rare wild flower. There are more than 1200 species of wild flowers carpeting the remote western and northern Cape right now and 900 are endemic, 30% in the IUCN risk categories mainly because of climate change.

We learned of dozens of odd and beautiful plants but the one that really caught our attention was gorteria diffusa, a 12-pedal orange plant with two chocolate drops on two of the pedals. What are they? Exact replicas of the one type of beatle that pollinates them! Just to make the bug feel welcome…

Then to the Clanwilliam flower show. This is not like an American flower show. Volunteers spend these two months traveling all over the area and even into Namaqualand to gather wild flowers from the root up, preserving them in an amazing display of living beauty in the Clanwilliam church!

The beauty is exceptional, but the work these volunteers do for a show that lasts only 6 days a year is extraordinary!

Lots of wonderful people all along the way. Outstanding (too much) food and beauty indescribable. We’ll see our big animals, soon, but there’s a lot more to Africa than lions!