1) A story about my Kruger trip has been published on travelgurus.co.za. Please check it out.
2) 2Summers turned one today! I wrote my first 2Summers post exactly a year ago, six weeks before moving to Jozi. If you want to know how it all started, click here.
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On to Part 2 of my hiking adventure in the Kruger Park: the vegetable installment.
I experienced some pretty incredible (and adrenaline-inducing) animal sightings on my four-day hike through the Pafuri Triangle (see Part 1). But as I sat on the flight home and thought about it, I decided my favorite sightings in Pafuri were plants, specifically trees.
The Pafuri Triangle covers 1% of the surface area of the Kruger Park, but comprises 70% of the biodiversity. Brian, our guide, pointed out loads of interesting plants as we walked, explaining why they grow there and what they can be used for. I’ve forgotten most of what he told us, but I do remember the way the plants smelled. There is a plant called a potato bush that smells just like its name. Another one smells like a cross between lavender and licorice. There is one versatile plant that you can use to brush your teeth and cure acid reflux. There seem to be countless plants used to treat infertility and erectile dysfunction.
Enormous, breathtaking trees are the defining feature in Pafuri.
The nyala berry, jackal berry, and baobab trees are spectacular.
Fellow hiker Juliane provides some scale next to the trunk of a nyala berry tree. See how the tree seems to be growing out of a small hill? Nyala and jackal berry trees often grow on termite mounds. The termites aerate the soil for the trees, and the trees in turn provide protection from termite-hungry animals.
Let me digress and tell you about camp. Each person (or couple) had their own tent, complete with a comfy cot and a cleverly designed “eco-loo” out back. The staff cooked around a portable fire pit and we ate at a communal table. The camp is moved to a new spot every two weeks to lessen its ecological impact.
The eco-loos — basically portable plastic toilets — are ingenious contraptions. I’m not sure how to accurately describe them though, and I didn’t think to take photos.
The staff awakened us each morning at 5:45 (it was cold and dark — thank god for Joe’s head torch) and we were out walking by 6:45. We would return to camp, exhausted, by about 12:30, have lunch, rest for a couple of hours, then go out for a less strenuous outing in the afternoon/early evening. Then a hearty dinner, coffee around the fire, and bed by 9:30, with a hot water bottle and the sounds of the bush to lull me to sleep.
Back to the trees. I’ve saved the best for last.
Baobabs are amazing. In preparation for this post, I had a chat with my friend Chris Green, a former wilderness trails guide who knows a lot about baobabs. Below are just a few of the things I learned. (Chris, please correct me if I’ve gotten any of this wrong.)
South African baobabs have served as navigational devices for Zimbabwean and Mozambican migrants. When crossing an area populated by baobabs, you must simply remember which tree is where and you can find your way across an inhospitable landscape in which you might otherwise become lost.
Baobab wood is spongy, which means it holds a lot of water. It’s hard to judge the actual size of baobabs because they shrink during times of drought. Elephants strip the bark off baobabs to get the moisture, and also to consume the fibre in the bark. People weave the bark fibre into cord to make rope and clothing.
Baobabs are often hollow. (Elephants eat the insides of the trees, and are sometimes killed when they eat too much and the trees fall over on them.) The hollows collect water. If you’re dying of thirst and come upon a hollowed baobab, the water inside can sustain you. There might be animals living inside that you can eat. Some baobabs also harbor huge bees’ nests. If know what you’re doing you can harvest the honey.
Baobab fruit doesn’t taste great, but it’s filled with nutrients and can be eaten. You can also eat the leaves, the tips of the roots, and the young branches. Chris says the roots taste like potatoes. You can roast the seeds to make coffee. You can burn the wood to make salt.
Baobabs are often sacred to the people around them. In some cultures, pregnant women give birth in baobabs. There have been villages in which every resident was born inside the same baobab.
Baobabs have served as pubs, post offices, jails, and toilets.
Baobabs can even cure erectile dysfunction! (Okay, Chris didn’t tell me that. But how could they not?)
Next up: the mineral installment.