Tankwa Karoo - Elandsberg, Gannaga, Leeuberg
by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa
In the Karoo, usually there is a sandy rocky river bed, with a ribbon of green winding across the landscape, as the roots reach down to hidden water. Each of our concrete bridges was marked by careful craftsmen with the year it was built. One day we’ll find mine.
|Bridge over the Doring River|
He stopped to lower the tyre pressure. Roads are notorious. Sharp stones (we admit it’s our fault, we blew a tyre on the way to Kgalagadi!)
Remember before GPS? My father was a civil engineer; from him I learnt this is a trigonometrical survey beacon. Driving across country the beacons seem unattainable, but of course there is a road. Elandsberg was an easy 4x4, or a long walk. From where the world drops away, dizzy making.
|Trig survey beacon on the Elandsberg|
In a Henry Ford – any colour you want so long as it’s black – this magenta vygie covered the plains, poured up the mountain slopes, climbed thru the rocks. The shimmering electric colour was eye-watering. Vygies – ankle to knee high succulents, in every colour you can imagine, except blue.
|Vygies, succulents, mostly magenta!|
Up the Gannaga Pass. Stopped to admire skilled stone work, as we wound our way up. Modern repairs are done with a slab of grey concrete.
Winding back across the plain, we saw Hoodia in bloom. It was used by nomadic San/Bushman hunters against hunger and thirst. Tucked at its base, grateful for any shade, are yellow daisies. Not the same as we saw later in the Hantam NBG.
another yellow daisy
On the Leeuberg 4x4 trail. The road climbs up; over the bonnet is nothing but blue sky. On the crest, beyond the bonnet is an endless abyss. NOT an adrenaline junkie, I used my wide brimmed hat, looked at rocks and plants, where the world still existed.
|Leeuberg 4x4 trail in the Tankwa Karoo|
Trusting the Ungardener to drive his Land Rover with skill. Deep breath. Now we go down. And stop. For the flowers. Red and orange leaved Oxalis, a Euphorbia not the usual lime-gold but a gorgeous glowing tomato red, and Karoo violets. Where he trusted the Land Rover to STAY, good dog!
|Do not adjust your set|
The road really was like that
|Karoo violets Aptosimum indivisum|
BUT. At the bottom of that slope was a steep V-shaped gully. Up began with a heap of loose stones. Two car lengths, and we paused to slide slowly, back, down. To the bottom, diff lock, and try again, a little faster. I hold my breath. The Land Rover does its magical moonwalk on four feet! And we climb ponderously, like an elephant.
|Rock by nature above left|
Fifties farm house
The rock is broken by nature into tidy rectangular geometrical pieces. Which lend themselves to building. This mud brick (adobe) farmhouse returning to the earth, was still used in the Fifties.
|Old steam engine in the Tankwa|
Amongst the quiver trees Aloe dichotoma, a steam engine. Quiet now.
We stayed, with the birds and the bees, in the Elandsberg cottages. Off grid!
Pictures by Jurg and Diana Studer
of Elephant's Eye on False Bay
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