Monday, 27 February 2017

The world's oldest plant: Welwitschia Mirabilis

PHIL: Day 11/25 Feb

Desert drive to find the rare and ancient Welwitschia plant, which persists only here and in Angola. Triffid-looking , it is (erroneously) reported to be man-eating, which would be easy to believe.

Allie persuaded me to take a dip in the Atlantic, but at 16 deg or so it was a very quick event. There were seals and dolphins around, however, which added to the sense of the unusual.

Evening drink with the local balloonist, Lowe Potgeiter, who I hadn’t heard of before. Turned out he was born in Kenya and ran a dive school in Malindi about the same time as Pops and I were there (late ‘60s) before moving to Zimbabwe where he fell foul of ‘Uncle Bob’(Mugabe) like so many other Europeans. Now flies an ancient Sky 160 (7-pax) balloon supported by his Welsh wife from Llandudno.

ALLIE: DAY 11: Sunday, 25th of February

In search of rare Welwitschia Mirabilis and a swim in the Namibian sea

The probably longest drive just to see a plant! It’s only 60 or so km outside of Swakopmund but the roads take its time. We want to see one of the rarest and oldest plants in the world, the great Welwitschia Mirabilis. This plant is only to be found here in the desert near the coastline where the morning fog provides some little moisture to the ground so that this plant can absorb it with its fine roots underneath the sand. The scenic drive takes us first through the “Moon Valley”, a deep gorge with rock formations that could indeed be straight from or at the moon.

Welwitschia Mirabilis
Then finally we see our first Welwitschia. A quite ugly looking green thing spread out on the ground with a few green and half rotten leaves sprawling out from its centre like a octopus. Really not the prettiest plant in the world. Its rather funny sounding name come for the botanist Friedrich Welwitsch, an Austrian who first discovered and described the plant in 1860.
Finally we stand in front of the oldest Welwitschia in the world: a tall heap of leaves, about 1,5 m high, surrounded by a fence to protect it. This plant has witnessed 1500 years of history and by God who knows how many wars and battles.
A bit exhausted from our botanical excursion we make just “a little detour” to see what is there at the airfield of Swakopmund. Swaping airfields for walks is on of our little games. I had my walk up the dunes yesterday, so my dear husband should get a visit to an airfield! All is equal in our wonderful marriage!
And later I finally get to enjoy a real good refreshing swim in the sea. Not too cold (just for Phil!), only around 19 degrees. I am surrounded by dolphins and seals that sunbathe on the rocks.
For sun downer (what actually never seems to happen here, because the clouds always come in by 5pm) we meet the local balloonist and his wife, Lowe and Marian Potgieter. They are born Kenians, lived in Rhodesia and had to flee under the regime of Mugabe now setting up their new home with a ballooning operation. He describes the flying as very challenging because of strong winds and changeable conditions but the actual flying sounds fantastic.
Later Phil and I enjoy the “Tug”, nice restaurant directly set along the coast. The food isn’t as great as expected but the bar makes up for it!

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