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Friday, June 26, 2020

Baobabs of Southern Africa

We surveyed his regal kingdom, it was a scene of destruction, an apocalypse, with limbs strewn across the battlefield, tears fell like rain on the parched earth. Weeping and wailing they cried out "the king has fallen. Our king is dead." Fortunately, the Glencoe farm had another majestic Baobab, more refined and elegant (maybe younger), its smooth flesh-like bark shining in the morning light. 

Surrounded by the mighty Drakensberg mountains that rose from the bushveld like castle walls, protecting these massive beasts as they stood imposingly over the Lowveld. This is where my love affair began with these mighty giants and icons of African bush (Adansonia digitata). We have had the privilege of meeting with remarkable Baobabs in Southern Africa and will continue in our quest to capture and write about these ancient trees.


Glencoe Baobab. Hoedspruit, Limpopo Province.
Searching for pancakes when we stumbled upon this noble statesman, worthy of its claim as the new master, prince to the fallen king on the Glencoe farm.


Glencoe Baobab. Hoedspruit, Limpopo Province.
Legend has it that after the Boer war two wagon loads of gold was despatched to the north of South Africa, Hoedspruit in particular. The precious gold was hidden in the hollow of a mighty Baobab and sealed with a termite queen that would provide the mound. This hollow is what lead to the downfall and ultimate collapse of this almighty king of the bushveld. 

Recorded as one of the largest and oldest residents, how sad to witness this fall from grace. A shadow of his former glory, forgotten and neglected, defeated but not dead. The old king lives, and growth was evident, who knows, in 1000 years, he may rule again; unfortunately, we will no longer be around to witness the glory.

Leydsdorp Giant Baobab. Gravelot, Limpopo Province.
Had the privilege of introducing myself to the giant of Leydsdorp, a former mining town in is hay day. Resigned to a ghost town, deserted and abandoned the residents vacated. All that remains is dilapidated buildings and a derelict old pub within the Bowles of the giant. 

Access is restricted as the opening has almost closed, but the giant shared the stories of inebriated miners and ghosts, and we listened intently. Content and elated, we departed knowing that the giant would still be around for centuries.
Manutsa Baobab. Hoedspruit, Limpopo Province.
Hiking through the forest on the manutsa trail takes you into another world, undiscovered and wild. We negotiated our way through caves and cleansed our soles in magical icy waterfalls. The trail leads back through the local village, standing guard in the middle of the informal settlements, you will find an impeccable baobab, not quiet a champion, yet. 

This magnificent specimen watches over his loyal subjects. We paid our respects to the almighty beast and admired the grandeur. We parted knowing that this was the beginning of yet another wonderful friendship. — at Hoedspruit, Manutsa.

Mwachema River Baobabs. Diani Beach, Kenya
While on assignment in Mombasa, our hosts in Diani beach entertained our party like royals. We did not travel for the sightseeing, our invitation and accommodation was bartered on the expectation of fantastic inviting images to encourage tourist to these white sandy beaches in a typical sun-drenched island setting. Requesting a guide to assist in finding the perfect pictures we stumbled upon this unique setting. Remarkable, elegant baobabs sunbathing on this tropical beach with camels and some local inhabitance to complete the scene. It was distractions like this and meeting with new friends that made our working holiday that much more memorable. — at Diani Beach, Mombasa, Kenya.

Mopani Rest Camp Baobab, Kruger National Park, Limpopo
After reading an article on the Mopani Rest Camp in Kruger, we were quick to record that the camp was host to a towering majestic baobab. Determined to make our formal acquaintance, and spend some quiet quality time in the cool shade of this splendid tree. We were reminded by a signpost not to throw stones into the hole as the resident owls were nesting. How special it would have been if they had made an appearance when we captured this moment, oh how memorable this would have been. — at Mopani Rest Camp.

Glencoe Baobab. (second tree), Hoedspruit, Limpopo Province.
Every cloud has a silver lining, but this was an exceptional golden moment.
Pafuri, Kruger National Park, Limpopo Province
Pafuri, land of the baobab, in fact, we witnessed forests from the elevated vantage of the thulamela ruins. Pafuri ranks as our preferred location in the Kruger National Park, we couldn't resist the opportunity to participate in a guided bushwalk. When asked what we wanted to observe on the walk, we did not hesitate, birds, river course and gigantic trees. Kruger did not disappoint, as we trekked farther and deeper into the wilderness we approached the mouth of the Lanner Gorge. Here at the entrance stood the gatekeeper. An almighty giant, confident it could rival its closest competitor (the Sagole Giant ) a mear 50 km away. We had an engagement with the Sagole Giant, but alas, it was not to be, maybe next time........

Myself Exchanging pleasantries with this gargantuan beast.

Mopani Rest Camp Baobab, Kruger National Park, Limpopo
Like a giant octopus, stretching its tentacles over the bush-veld. Content and cool in the midday heat, we stayed a while to admire the colossal reach of this behemoth. — at Mopani Rest Camp.

Mwachema River Baobabs. Diani Beach, Kenya
While on assignment in Mombasa, our hosts in Diani beach entertained our party like royals. We did not travel for the sightseeing, our invitation and accommodation was bartered on the expectation of fantastic inviting images to encourage tourist to these white sandy beaches in a typical sun-drenched island setting. Requesting a guide to assist in finding the perfect pictures we stumbled upon this unique setting. Remarkable, elegant baobabs sunbathing on this tropical beach with camels and some local inhabitance to complete the scene. It was distractions like this and meeting with new friends that made our working holiday that much more memorable. — at Diani Beach, Mombasa, Kenya.

Leydsdorp Giant Baobab. Gravelot, Limpopo Province
Had the privilege of introducing myself to the giant of Leydsdorp, a former mining town in is hay day. Resigned to a ghost town, its residents deserted the area, all that remains is dilapidated buildings and a derelict old pub within the Bowles of the giant. Access is restricted as the opening has almost closed, but the giant shared the stories of inebriated miners and ghosts, and we listened intently. Content and elated, we departed knowing that the giant would still be around for centuries. — at Giant Baobab Tree Leydsdorp.

Mopani area, Baobab.Kruger National Park, Limpopo — at Mopani Rest Camp.

Thulamela Ruins Baobabs.  Pafuri, Kruger National Park.


Scrambling along the winding trail, we eventually found the Thulamela archaeological site, situated on top of an elevated ridge that overlooks the Parfuri bushveld. Surrounded by ancient baobabs standing guard, watching over the ancestral spirits, the perfect setting. Home to kings and queens for centuries, here amongst the reconstructed walls that housed this settlement, stood some regal and imposing beasts. 


Our guides finding a comfortable location to rest and tell the age-old stories of how the Thulamela people occupied this area for centuries. We could not have enjoyed the moment more knowing that we were enclosed, protected and under the cool canopy of an unconventional king at this historical site. — at Thulamela Ruins, Pafuri.



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Friday, June 19, 2020

Quivers of the Richtersveld NationalPark



I am hot and irritated, we have been driving for hours, and the going is slow. We have passed Eksteenfontein and negotiating our way along a dry riverbed, with the sun starting to dip on the horizon, we wonder if we will make our destination at Kuboes before nightfall.

Richtersveld, South Africa's only mountainous desert will be our final destination, situated in the Northern Cape and on the Namibian border. This harsh, rocky and somewhat forgotten location has us in awe as we appreciate these ancient rugged mountains and magnificent tree aloes that dominate the baron landscape.

Stopping to record these remarkable giants of the desert, appreciating their struggle for survival and contrasting beauty this is what has drawn us to this extravagant landscape (Aloe pillansii-Bastard Quiver tree / Aloidendron dichotomum-Quiver Tree).


| Please enjoy the two videos in this article, covering the reality of this trip |


(Aloe Pillansii at Dragon's Black Mountain near Eksteenfontein)
We noticed these remarkable giant tree aloes, but did not imagine just how colossal they would be, our first on the trip and now etched in our minds forever.

(Aloe Pillansii at Dragon's Black Mountain near Eksteenfontein 
Scale is everything, and this image provides an accurate account of how enormous this majestic beast is, Juanita enjoying the company of the giant of the desert.


(Aloidendron dichotomum - Quiver Tree)

A welcome sentinel standing guard over the Springbok Vlakte, another remarkable specimen, its limbs finished off with delicate succulent leaves that make this tree so unique, an architectural masterpiece.

It is with great sadness that we confirm the passing of this majestic sentinel over the Springbok Vlakte, the end of an era for this champion of the mountain desert. The road to Kokeboom Kloof will never be the same again, well not in our lifetime.

The video below shares some insight into the images that were captured in this article.


( Golden flakes of the Aloe Pillansii )

Flakes of gold and shimmering in the intense heat of the day, contrasting its elegance against the cobalt blue backdrop, this ancient dinosaur had the scars to prove it.


(After travelling for miles this was a welcome sight that we had arrived at the Richtersveld Transfrontier Tark )
Vast and remote, endless corrugated roads that rattle and shake our vehicle to the point of destruction. It was worth every bump and bruise. The Richtersveld is the only mountain desert in South Africa and home to the Fish River Canyon, the second largest canyon in the world. We were travelling to these remote, distant shores to experience and appreciate a landscape of desolate plains and endless rugged mountains.


(Flowering in winter - what a spectacle it must be? We visited in summer, long after, but their beauty remains )
Twisting and contorted as if to reminds us of the struggle for survival in this parched, lifeless ocean of sand and rock.


(The Dragon's Black Mountain A.Pillansii outside Eksteenfontein, a remarkable tree)
The scenery was extravagant, rugged mountains providing the dramatic surrounding, a lone aloe breaks the skyline to complete the scene. Three of the five species of aloe tree that occur in South Africa grow in the Richtersveld - the quiver tree (Aloidendron dichotomum), Pillan's quiver tree (A.pillansii), generally known as the 'baster kokerboom', and the maidens quiver tree(A.ramosissima).

Here an ancient Aloe pillansii stands tall and proud at Dragon's Black Mountain near Eksteenfontein.

(It's landscaping like these that entice the adventurous traveller, isolated and remote, the silence is deafening)
Our trusty steed for the trip provides a Sense of scale (bottom right) mountainous terrain, and ancient rocks offer companionship to these iconic aloes that stand guard over the wilderness.


(A GPS is critical it this tormented and vast wilderness, one wrong turn and you can find yourself in another world. The approach to the Tatasberg Pluton "Die Toon" ).
Before entering the enchanted forest of a thousand or more quivers, scattered amongst the arid desert landscape, you need to negotiate with the gatekeeper at Die Toon; we were escorted through these gates by dying and deceased Dichotomous. This scientific name has recently been changed to Aloidendron dichotomum, sounding more like the ancient dinosaurs that roamed these lands millions of years ago, somehow it seems befitting.


Video: Day 3 in the Richtersveld.
(Leaving Richtersberg Camp Site, visiting Kokerboomkloof and Helshoogte Pass)





(A lone aloe breaks the scenery, majestic and proud, perfectly at home in a baron landscape)
Not the largest or the most handsome, but strategically placed in the rocky environment made for yet another great encounter


(A hostile environment, isolated and desolate "We went searching for nowhere and we were happy when we found nothing" )
After days of endless poor roads we got to stretch our legs a little, Namibian roads were by definition butter smooth, a welcome change and our chariot showed its appreciation.

(Another perfect Dichotomum comfortable and at home amongst the rocky desert environment )
Perfectly sculptured by nature, isolated in a boulder-strewn veld, pleading with us to stop and admire its presence, how could we drive past. We have visited the aloe tree forests of kokeboom's in the Richtersveld as well as Ganabos near Niewouldville, but Keetmanshoop remains on our list to enchant us.

(Stopping to admire this gigantic tree aloe as it towers over the boulder-strewn surroundings, appreciating the adversity and struggle for survival in this harsh environment )
The image above was taken with a 400 mm zoom lens, I regret the decision not to have trekked across the moonscape terrain to introduce myself.  

(Dusty dry road from Eksteenfontein, providing a gateway to this unique world known as the Richtersveld )
Have you taken the lonely, dusty road through Eksteenfontein and on to Kuboes, and then towards the Richtersveld?
Please share your experience with us the post below.