a view into the sordid life i lead

Saturday, February 26, 2005


most places in the capetown (and the eastern cape province) area have afrikaans names. kirstenbosch is the botanical garden. stellenbosch is the wine country. kaapstaad is what every other road sign calls capetown. fucked up thing is that there does not appear to be great consistency between the use of english and afrikaans names for places or streets, so you'll see a street sign that says something in afrikaans which is the same as an english name you're expecting, and of course it's totally confusing while driving around. fortunately it's not easy to get too lost, since the road signs are pretty obvious.

saturday, feb 26 we headed to kirstenbosch botanical gardens, which is about 30 km outside of capetown central. it's probably the nicest botanical garden i've ever seen - apparently the curator was trained and worked at kew gardens in london. if you're into botanical gardens, this one kinda takes the cake. it's set with a backdrop of table mountain. apparently the land was owned by cecil rhodes, and he donated the entire estate to the botanical garden on his death. it's really ridiculous just how extensive the holdings of rhodes were - i'd say it rivaled alexander the great and caesar. arguably even more, since rhodes never had to have his own army or to govern anyone. he was richer that bill gates is today, and controlled more without having to pay for armies and generals. hella bastard!

what started off as a possibly 2 hour jaunt in the botanical garden turned into a whole day affair. teh place goes on forever, and we got into a discussion with one of the resident botanists about aromatic herbs and stuff. at several locations in kirstenbosch we were overpowered by the aroma of curry. not curry leaves, or curry plants, but curry, as in what comes with curry chips. it's a very distinct smell. we first figured somebody was having a picnic. but we kept running into this smell in different locations. we also got corrobaration that we were not imagining things due to rampant hunger from a trio of irish tourists - who know their curry! so we spent about 30 minutes sniffing bark and leaves and flowers and rubbing things. we got nowhere, although we found that there's a lot of skunk-weed in the garden. turns out that the botanist we accosted had been questioned about the curry thing before, but had no idea what people were talking about. unfortunately we could not take him to the points where we found the smell since they were all on the other end of kirstenbosch. but he was gracious enough to tell us about fynbos (i.e., fine bush), which is a plant exclusively endemic to south africa's cape biome. cool stuff. we also sniffed and tasted a few more aromatic herbs, just for grins!

kirstenbosch has a sculpture garden, which, amazingly, was occupied with a set of pieces that we had seen before. insane, but true. all the sculpture is from a place in zimbabwe called chipunga. the very same exhibit was at the evanston botanical garden about 2 years ago, when my parents were here. the term "small world" does not begin to describe how weird this is!

capetown seems to have some horrendous traffic jams. the exhaust fumes smell terrible (almost as bad as india), probably due to the availability of leaded fuel, and the expressways are only 3 lanes. it's almost as bad as chicago. but the scenery is a lot better, and kinda makes up for sitting around idling your engine! fortunately for us, we were constantly headed in the opposite direction to the herd.


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