At the start of February I swapped the cold and damp winter weather of North Devon for the far hotter and drier climate of South Africa’s late summer. I spent 17 days adventuring around some of the furthest reaches of South Africa’s Eastern Cape, covering some 2273 kilometres; travelling from the coast at Port Elizabeth to the high Drakensburg Mountains overlooking the Eastern Cape and bordering on to Lesotho. I took the opportunity to climb the highest mountain in the Eastern Cape some 3001 metres above sea level, then ventured back to the coast at Kei Mouth to explore the coastal plants of South Africa; whilst visiting everywhere, it seemed in between. This included venturing over South Africa’s highest road at Naude’s Nek at 2500 metres above sea level on dirt roads that seemed to have been scratched into the mountain side with shear drops on every corner. To give you an idea of height, Ben Nevis is only 1344 metres above sea level.
South Africa is well known for its never ending array of plants, one that has strongly interested me for years as a horticulturalist, South Africa seems to produce a never ending list of genus, that we all enjoy seeing grown in gardens all over the world and botanist continue to find new species on a regular basis even today. Yet very few horticulturalists and gardeners get to view them growing in their natural environment, often tucked away in minute plant populations in some extremely remote areas with the ever present risk of extinction caused by humans over grazing areas with animals or developing areas of land for roads and buildings; so the opportunity to fulfil the ambition of visiting South Africa was one not to be missed.