Thursday, 1 January 2015

And more about Africa - Cape Town

Whenever I  travel, I'm always on the lookout for dyeing and printing, and such. The first thing I saw in the Company Gardens, in the middle of Cape Town was a tree called a wild plum, also called the Kaffir Plum, which is traditionally used for dyeing. Its botanical name is harpephyllum caffrum and I thought the dyeing part might have been the fruit.  I've since found that the bark gives a mauve or pink colour. That's quite unusual and I'd love one in my garden! But I've also discovered that it's something of a weed in Australia and many councils have it listed as a problem species, so I won't be adding it any time soon. I guess I could go walking in the bush with my identification sheet - no-one would mind if I stripped some bark off a tree that they don't want there in the first place, would they?

I also had a close encounter with a squirrel in the Gardens.
I know a lot of people think they're cute but I regard squirrels as an interesting variety of rat. I sat down on a seat to watch the world go by and this squirrel clearly saw it as invitation to join me. I don't just mean sit and beg.
I mean, "I love you, I'd like to sit next to you."

Then it was, "May I just sit in your lap?"  (No photo of this moment, strange to say.) I was busy saying, "No, you may not! Scat! Boo!" It was quite convinced I didn't really mean it, so I had to get up and walk away. Mobbed by a squirrel, such is my life.

One thing I loved about Cape Town was the remnants of Dutch architecture. You have to remember to look up. We're so used to seeing modern towers and there are plenty of those too. But, hiding in plain sight, there's also this:
 and these:

I wanted to take lots more photos of the details but they're on a busy street and it was hard enough to take just these. They seemed so striking, squished in between modern tower blocks.

The other building I loved in Cape Town was the Castle of Good Hope.
It was built by the Dutch in the 1660s and 70s, so it's the oldest building in Cape Town. It reminded me of the forts of Vauban that we saw in France (like the Citadelle de Belfort - sorry, link is in French) and, to a lesser extent, the Henry VIII Device forts we saw in the UK. There is something about ancient enclosed spaces like these - they have an atmosphere, almost a tangible feel of history. There are several small museums within the castle precinct, but photography was generally not permitted.
Of course, I have photos of stones in the wall and cobblestones and such, which I won't inflict on anyone!

In the upper photo of the Castle, you can just see Table Mountain, covered in cloud. It was such a looming presence over the city, it was impossible to unaware it, wherever you went. Along with Devil's Peak and Lions Head, it encloses and towers over the centre of the city. It's about the same height as Mt Victoria in the Blue Mountains, so it's not that tall by world standards, but it's like building a city at the bottom of the Grose Valley, looking up Banks Wall, which is roughly the same height.  The terrain reminded me a lot of the Blue Mountains and, without spending a lot of time on checking, I think their formation was probably similar - sedimentary rocks uplifted and weathered. It makes for spectacular scenery!

Enough about Cape Town, let's go see the animals!