20 June 2011

Impressions of Eden: beginnings

Eden is where we began. Archaeologists have unearthed worked beads, engraved ochre and bone tools that place anatomically modern humans with a sense of self awareness, in the Eastern Cape about 160 000 years ago - long before the cave artists of Lascaux in France were painting their caves with horses 35 000 years ago. (Previously believed to be the first evidence for "modern" human behaviour.) The theory goes that prevailing ice-age conditions resulted in the disappearance of humans everywhere except on Eden's fertile and diverse coast where small bands of them were able to exploit marine and plant life and not only survive, but flourish and re-populate the world with their newly acquired, less specialised way of life.
Having read Shirley Pierce and Richard Cowling's wonderful book East of the Cape: Conserving Eden in which they mention the Kap River Nature Reserve (pages 10 and 144) near the Great Fish River, I was keen to visit it when we had a few days of timeshare holiday in Port Alfred - the heart of the Eastern Cape's unique thicket vegetation. Sadly, a flooding Kap River had ravaged the roads in the reserve in early June, and judging by the roads around, road repair is not the Ndlambe Municipality's strong point. The reserve is shut and is likely to remain so for a while yet. We paid a visit to the Great Fish Point Lighthouse (closed because it was a public holiday and we hadn't phoned ahead) and then drove down a little side road next to the Fort D'Acre Nature Reserve along the edge of the Great Fish River mouth - a strange place indeed with its rabbit warren of holiday shacks in the dunes.Back home in Port Alfred, we found lots of these large and impressive Green Wood Orchids (Bonatea speciosa) growing around our chalet in the coastal dunes.

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