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Blaauwfontein Mountain, East Griqualand

Lovely beyond any singing of it

"There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it. The road climbs seven miles into them, to Carisbrooke; and from there, if there is no mist; you look down on one of the fairest valleys of Africa"

So begins Alan Paton's Cry the Beloved Country and it's not only Ixopo that has grass-covered rolling hills lovely beyond any singing of it.

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Dog, dam, paddlers, grasses swaying in the wind -

There's been so much rain in East Griqualand, the place my mum called home for the six years that the dams are overflowing and even the little trickle that ran over the road has become a river.

Nestled below Lesotho, it can be cold in winter, even snowy, and is a 3.5 hour journey from where we live in a sub-tropical zone.

KwaZulu-Natal is like that, from the sea to the mountains in a short space of time.

I had never been to the farm where my mum grew up but recently when camping I discovered the people we were talking to were not only related to us by marriage but were also farming the land my mum spent so many happy years of her life in.

So we visited them, of course -
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Spider webs and rain

We use the term, "brushing the cobwebs away" to indicate when we haven't done something for a long time, when our concept of how things work have become rusty with disuse.

However, as I am so often these days now the first down the path towards the waterfall, I must tell you that brushing cobwebs away, fine sticky tendrils that cling, has become a daily occurrence.

The first time it occurred, I thought the spiders must have been particularly busy the night before. Now I know they are always particularly busy, but it's just the first down the path in the morning who has the job of breaking all their hard work. I console myself with figuring that spinning webs is what they do and they can make and mend easily enough. But I do sometimes wonder if, as I appear, a great cry and lament may go up amongst the spider brethren, to the effect of: Oh bother and blow - not that clumsy destroyer again. What is she doing here again this morning?

Fortunately for me however all their curses and imprecations are below the sound level I can hear - besides, I can't speak spider anyway.


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View from my morning walk

I see this view almost every day; and yet it's never the same view. Some days it is shrouded in mist and other days the sun shines and the insects sing. From the more subdued and fewer songs in the morning, to the ecstatic singing as the sun rises, even the bird-song differs, depending on when I get out there.

Currently, the flowers are small and scattered throughout the grassland, though the early aloes are beginning to bloom and the wild dagga too. Autumn is in the air. Soon the grass will be sere.
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Another photo of our "strange and wonderful" Leonotus leonuris as +Hudson Ansley Hudson called it.

It's not often the top tier bends down so you catch a glimpse of its admittedly hairy crown.

I'm loving the new camera in the phone ... really amazing how they just keep getting better.

Taken during today's walk

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Turpentine Grass bowed down by the rain

Strong-smelling and not eaten by cattle, Cymbopogon caesius is a large grass that towers over smaller, lesser specimens.

It is common to all areas in South Africa, with the exception of the Western Cape (with its markedly different climate) and is found in almost any grassland in South Africa as a result. Plus, with its height and highly distinctive flowers, it is hard to miss.

Taken in the early morning, it was full of many spider webs.

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Wild Dagga

Named because apparently you can smoke it - though it seems more effort than it is worth, this autumn flowering plant helps succor our bees and birds through a long, dry winter.

The rain has been unseasonal this year - more heavy rain, but not in the catchment areas and every time it falls hard, our middle boy tries to shoo it away to Cape Town, where it is really needed.

But cold mornings when light drizzle has fallen through the night are perfect for fixing a few flowers in photos. I especially love how it makes you realise how the world is full of spiders and their webs and how each hair of the Leonotis leonurus is outlined by the rain.
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Break in the clouds above the sea

From Kloof you can see the sea. It's just above the light filtering through the clouds. Here is where I take my daily walk. The helichrysums are in flower (they're the yellow bits you see). The Krantzkloof Nature Conservancy or Kloof gorge is surrounded by development but remains a tiny piece of paradise.

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Orchids of Kloof

This is such a very useful article for anyone interested in orchids and particularly for those interested in tracking down the orchids of Kloof.

There are apparently 61 orchids found in the Krantzkloof Nature Conservancy; I have identified about 8 species - mostly grassland ones since that's mostly where I walk in the mornings. But over weekends I guess it is time to get into the reserve's more forested areas - just have to remember to spray myself liberally with mosquito and midge deterrent before-hand! Things can get very muggy and itchy in the forest zone.
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Zaluzianskya natalensis

A species that is fragrant at night, and endemic to Southern Africa, this member of the figwort family is found in the Krantzkloof Nature Conservancy.

It is rather striking with the buds showing dark red but when the flower unfurls it is white underneath. Though not the tallest flower, they are very hard to miss when in flower ... except that I now read in my Elsa Pooley the flowers open at dusk or in dull light, which describes the morning full of clouds yesterday. You felt like a pirate embarking on a stormy ride, with only some of the rocky outcrops visible before a bank of layered clouds. Much threatening of thunder and lightning but it dispersed as the sun shone more fully. All the grasses were covered with dew and the morning would have been perfect but for a drone that was taking video of some runner (apparently with permission from the conservancy - that's what they said anyway) but which sounded like a swarm of angry bees and chased all the bird-song away and left the zebras huddled up at the top of the cliff-path.

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