Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cape Town City Bowl

Cape Town City Bowl

Sunday I finally went into town just to stroll around and explore.

Sounds easier said then done. First I had to get a good map of the complete city, because people seem to be utterly unable to give comprehensive directions and not only because they tell you to turn left or right at the robot (which is a traffic light…!?!)

So - well equipped, missing only a handheld GPS – I found the miserable suburb center of Clairmont, first walking for about 40 minutes through a really rich neighborhood (think Westchester) with very tall walls around the properties, crowned without fail by several lines of electric fencing in different arrangements.

As the train for town had just left (they only come every hour or so), I proceeded to the Main Road to find me one of those Mini Van Taxis, where you cram into tiny seats two per, and the conductor-guy never stops his screaming, announcing the route and searching for more passengers, right over the driver’s continuous honking. 40 minutes later when we got to the final stop, the Mini Van Taxi Terminal, I had almost got used to it. This is also the train station and Bus terminal and like everywhere in the world not really a place to linger and enjoy the vistas.

I had one specific destination in mind, that was the Vespa Café, I place I had found on the internet, with a fabulous website advertising a Tapas Bar and Vespa Rental (!) on Kloof Street. But first I had to make my way through a lifeless downtown where large banks, 8-story parking buildings and dark office towers eerily reminded me of Cleveland/Ohio on a Sunday afternoon some years ago. Then I viewed a huge Queen Victoria monument, and figured I now reached older parts of town, not quite first Dutch settlement, but surely colonial.

The choices of people they have places named after and monuments build for, is altogether politically quite incorrect (e.g. Cecil Rhodes) if you ask me, even if they throw in an occasional Mandela.

So I strolled down Government Lane along the Company’s Gardens, a park like pedestrian road, enjoying a pretty dead place save for the occasional tourist taking a picture. Well if there was any life in this place I had not found it yet. So onto direction of Kloof, which turned out to be a short stretch of another quiet street, but with a few cafes and restaurants of the ‘younger’ kind.

I finally found my Café Vespa where I had planned for a delicious cappuccino, only to find it ‘temporarily closed – opening soon under new management’. Bummer! So I choose another place called ‘Arnolds’, where at 3pm a lively crowd of youngsters and not so young ones were busy eating of the breakfast menu, and drinking beers. I started to have a real provincial experience, being reminded of places like Wasserburg, or Nuernberg at best (I am talking about small towns of maybe a couple of hundred thousand people), and actually realizing that despite its fame Cape Town is a rather sleepy small place (the huge and sprawling Townships in the Cape Flats not included).

Later on I found a few hipper and more stylish cafes, which I will definitely go back to, but not particularly for the happening crowd, but rather the free WIFI they offer. Long Street seems to have the most bars and restaurants – I will investigate.

Around 6.30pm I set out back to the terminal to find me a Mini Van Taxi again, as I did not have enough cash on me to take a actual cab, which is rather expensive going all the way to Kirstenbosch. Then in Rondebosch (one suburbial neighborhood over from the Garden) I called to have one of the Garden’s drivers on stand-by pick me up at the BP gas station. After waiting for an hour and a half he finally came and told me that contrary to what I had understood, this only worked for weekday grocery shopping arrangements.

So, I am biting the sour apple (or whatever it’s called) and will look for my own car on Friday. Renting or even buying, there seems to be no alternative at all if I don’t want to start rotting in this place as I am already suffering from serious cabin fewer!

On the botanical/horticultural side I am learning every day. Working in Plant Propagation is rather back breaking as they do a lot of lifting and schlepping by hand, and I have to admit I am quite softened up since my heydays of construction work, and getting rather too old to do this 8 hours a day. Luckily the weather has improved the last few days, once the sun is out the setting of the place and the different lights are beautiful.

And I do find time to look at the plants, and start to make a little more sense of the Proteas, Ericas, Restios and the rest of the Fynbos plants.

Today I learned all about the techniques that they apply, smoking the seed, to induce better germination in those plants. Fascinating! And the different recipes for the soils, general mix and Fynbos mix, both with highly acidic PH around 5-6, with the Fynbos mix being very nutrient poor devoid of any compost.

That whole Fynbos business actually makes me think a lot of the Pine Barrens – there are definitely parallels to be drawn between those two biomes.

Then we looked at all the different Cape Reed (Restionaceae) seeds, how to distinguish male from female plants, how and when to collect seeds, and general cultivation differences (some like it rather xeric – others grow in and beside streams).

This is the nursery with Table Mountain supplying a very handsome background!

…and then I come across these tiny beauties you really have to get very close to with your Lupe to enjoy fully. It was labeled as Syncolostemon densiflorus, Lamiaceae, but I kind of question this. It is cushion forming, and I don't know  it's flower.

O.K. Mystery solved - it is Cotula hispida Asteraceae, and so far I have not found out where it is from...

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