Announcements:

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.

♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦   ♦

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.

I don’t know what kind of tree this is. But I know it’s really beautiful. The trees dotting the plain below are mostly acacias.

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.

This plant may look mundane but it has the coolest name ever: the northern fluffy-flowered jackal coffee. 

Enormous, breathtaking trees are the defining feature in Pafuri.

The sun shines through a grove of sycamore fig trees.

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.

Besides showing the canopy of jackal berry trees that we slept under, this photo also shows what our camp was like.

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.

This was the view from the eco-loo behind my tent: the coolest jackal berry tree in Kruger. Not a bad place to do your business.

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.

A baobab gateway. I’m not sure how old these particular trees are, but baobabs can live for a couple of millennia. There’s a baobab in Pafuri that is believed to be about 2,500 years old.

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.)

Locals refer to baobabs as “upside-down trees” because their branches look like roots. The baobab is also called “the tree of life” — a baobab can save your life in several dozen ways.

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.

This baobab looks like it’s dancing. The bark has been stripped from the trunk, to just about elephant height. The stripping is no problem — baobabs can heal and regenerate their bark.

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.

One of the largest baobabs we encountered on our hike. It’s hollow and a pair of wood owls live inside. We saw one of them fly out as we approached.

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?)

Baobab sunset.

Next up: the mineral installment.

%d bloggers like this: