Refreshed after a good night’s rest, the Chappies and the Suikerbossies set course for Kirstenbosch Gardens for day 2 of our caching weekend.
In 1660, by order of Jan van Riebeek, a hedge of wild almond and brambles was planted to afford some protection to the perimeter of the Dutch colony. Sections of this hedge, named Van Riebeek’s Hedge, still exist in Kirstenbosch and has been proclaimed a Provincial Heritage Site.
Following British seizure of the Cape Colony in 1811, a series of land grants led the area to pass through many different hands. A Colonel Bird built a house, planted chestnut trees, and established a bath fed by a natural spring, while under the stewardship of the Cloete family, the area was farmed more formally, being planted with oaks, fruit trees and vineyards.
The land was eventually purchased by Cecil John Rhodes in 1895. He provided for the planting of the famous Camphor Avenue in 1898, but unfortunately also allowed the area to become run-down. The land was bequeathed to the Nation by Rhodes, who died in 1902.
At that time, the area was overgrown, populated by wild pigs, overrun with weeds, and planted with orchards. It was under the guidance of Henry Harold Pearson, a botanist from Cambridge University who came to the Cape Colony in 1903 to take up a position as professor in the Chair of Botany at the South African College (the predecessor of today’s University of Cape Town), that it developed into the beautiful botanical garden it is today.
Our next find was a spectacular multi-cache that sends its seeker to collect a series of clues regarding the so-called “Garden Big 5” in order to calculate the final GPS position.
The first stop is at a 7-ton baobab tree, impressively alive and well over 1500km from its natural habitat.
The next was to meet one of the rarest plants on earth – the Encephalartos woodii or Wood’s cycad. This cycad is known to be extinct in the wild with all living specimens being male clones of the last remaining wild specimen (also male) that had died in 1964. Unless a female specimen is found, none of the clones will ever be able to reproduce naturally.
Fortunately, this cycad forms fertile hybrids with E. natalensis. If each female offspring is subsequently crossed with E. woodii and the process is repeated, after several generations, such female offsprings may just become the closest thing we have to the apparent extinct female Encephalartos woodii…
Stop 3 was at a Leucadendron argenteum or silver tree, endemic to the mountains of the Cape Peninsula, where after one is introduced to the Protea cynaroides, or King protea – SA’s national flower at stop 4. The last clue was at yet another species extinct in the wild – the Erica verticillata.
Having managed all the clues, the Chappies and the Suikerbossies quickly made their way to the final location near a massive, centenarian Quercus robur, or oak tree where we discovered a very cleverly hidden container!
Favourite point, for sure!
This was a quick scorcher in the midday sun at the upper rock garden. Our initial plan was to continue a short bit up into Skeleton Gorge, but we soon realised the sun was way to high for that, and rather took it as our cue to go grab our picnic stuff and retire to a shady spot for a cold one and some FOOD!
We ended up having quite a sitting with several visiting caterpillars, while Brunette Chappie needed to negotiate her way around a flirtatious guinea fowl, not to mention a near-hit by the misguided landing of an Egyptian goose, immediately christened Petrus, by Blonde Suikerbossie…
We found this nicely hidden Tree Series cache after a short hike through a part of Kirstenbosch below Rhodes Drive.
Our adventures will continue in Part 5 of this blog…