One thing that fieldwork in South Africa has taught me: The skyscape can beat even the most fantastic landscape. Timo and I were hiking up a river valley in the gorgeous Cederbergs, looking for a wee smelly orchid. Rocks and cliffs of all sizes and shapes littered the landscape, sometimes leaning towards each other like old friends. The sun was setting, throwing spectacular shadows everywhere and putting the spotlight on a faraway massif. But it was the sky that literally stole the picture.
A week ago, I got an sms (that’ll be a ‘text’ for linguistically challenged Brits) from Ida, a very good old friend of mine from my uni-days in Aarhus in Denmark. “Hello, we are on a trip through South Africa, and will be in Pietermaritzburg soon; want to meet & do nerdy things?”. So, on Thursday she arrived with her husband, Jakob, and their two-year old son, Noah. I had grand plans to use them as field assistants in a project on a potentially bird-pollinated Satyrium orchid on a nearby farm. But alas, the weather said no, and cold & rain forced us to retreat to a butterfly-park nearby. “Butterflies for Africa”, it is called. We were wondering why it wasn’t “Butterflies of Africa” -but once inside, we understood. Imported Asian and South American butterflies made up the vast majority of the impressive numbers in the small hall, with a few African species thrown in for good measure. Still, it wasn’t too bad a place, and Jakob and I had great fun with our cameras for some hours (even though his camera is a Nikon, and thus by definition less fun).
The two days with Ida, Jakob and Noah once again confirmed to me that the world is a very small place. I may miss all of my old friends in Denmark (and elsewhere), but I keep bumping into them around the world these years. Even more weird, just before coming to Pietermaritzburg, they were in the Kruger National Park – where they bumped into one of our old professors from Aarhus. Small indeed. The lucky trio is now on their way to the Drakensberg, where I hope they will find lots of grand views and better weather than here!
Three months of fieldwork. Thousands of memories and similar numbers of photos. These two are obviously tightly linked in my world. When I flip through the digital album, I sometimes feel overwhelmed. How do I begin to share even a fraction of them with you? In short, I feel like the chameleon on this photo – not sure where to look first! Our two weeks in Stellenbosch with the world’s foremost Oxalis expert, Leanne, were absolutely wonderful. But the chameleons everywhere in her garden were pure magic.