Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hike the Cederberg #2

[continued from previous page]

... so we hired Matt Britton to do some of the walking for us [well, most of it actually] [if not nearly all of it]. Which is not to say that I haven’t been to most of those Cederberg corners myself, some even in the last millenium, but Matt has a 35-year advantage on us and is a young botanist of note doing what young botanists do best, ie hopping around from peak to peak collecting and studying often rather obscure plants.
Matt horsing around with
 a friend at Groot-Hartseer

Also, he had to carry a heavy GPS tracker [with spare batteries: 393g] and a GPS camera, and have a map-reading ability second to none, an enormous appetite and new boots courtesy of Outward Ventures.

Matt walked about 650km over a total of 25 days, GPS-tracking and waypointing and taking over 16000 GPS-referenced photos, possibly the most comprehensive photo-record of the Cederberg ever made over five months of a single year.

In between his Cederberg trips for us Matt has been collecting fossilized dassie urine for a fellow-botanist, an ou who is doing research on fossil pollens all over Africa. This involves cutting out huge, heavy blocks of that black, tar-like stuff you find in caves and outcrops – which is fossilized dassie pee, not dung as many people think – and carrying the blocks for miles o’er hill and dale back to the vehicle. Back at the ranch the research man extracts cores, dates them and finds out what the flora was like a very long, long time ago.

Fascinating – but you do need to be strong to carry all that ancient wee.

Although Matt recorded lots of leopard-signs – including old traps and trees where they sharpen their claws [we’ll put these on the map] – he never actually saw one. The nearest was on the Pakhuisberg path north of the pass, where Matt backtracked for some reason and, after returning to his route, found fresh spoor on top of his boot-tracks.

Gril gril. As we said to Matt, he never saw the beastie but it sure saw him ... Shortly after Matt arrived back at the Travellers’ Rest Farm Stall a lady rushed into the shop to announce that a leopard had just run across the road in front of her, near Alpha farm – where Matt had driven past just five minutes earlier. So Matt missed that one too.

Matt had Jasper Slingsby for company on a couple of his walks, and Rudolf Andrag on others. Our communication process meant that we also captured data on all the places where there is cell-phone reception. Useful stuff. Matt also avoided actual climbing routes, of course – this is only a hiking map – and over the entire period he met one firewood-gatherer [near Algeria] and a bunch of Russian botanists [off the Pakhuis Pass]. Oh yes, and a couple of students at Sneeuberg Hut, who were still asleep when Matt got there from Eikeboom at 7:30 am ... and he also met two klipspringers, a cobra and a retired airport luggage handler. Semper Afrika aliquid novae, as Mac Maharaj said to the Weekly Mail ...

If you'd like to keep in touch with progress on the Cederberg hiking map, go to cederbergmap.blogspot.com ...

Finally, I sadly have to report that this was written on Black Tuesday, when South Africa’s 17-year old democracy started to die ... ’n groot, groot eina. May those responsible ultimately rot in a hell of their own making. South Africa will certainly not remember them well when the story of these days is one day told ...

Tussentyd, gaan maar goed.
Kaartman, 2011-11-22

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