So far, I've pretty much focussed on the animal life and our adventures on holiday, but there were beautiful plants everywhere, from formal, well-tended rose gardens to roadside wildflowers to delicately-leafed acacia trees sporting vicious-looking 3-inch long thorns. And the skies! There is nothing to compare with the intensity of the blue of the South African sky, especially when dotted with a flotilla of surreal-looking clouds. The Karoo boasts the most spectacular skies I have ever had the privilege to observe.
A sudden Midlands thunderstorm, however, brings its own spectacular sky.
But Tamakwa Country Lodge in the Midlands (http://www.tamakwa.co.za/) had a lush, lovely rose garden at the entrance.
Each Sunday Tamakwa offers a decadent high tea and on an overcast early afternoon we stopped in to sample their offerings...lovely!
Fern Hill, our hotel in the Midlands, had a beautiful park-like setting. This was the view from the window of our room.
From the tea garden at Fern Hill we could watch the birds flit through this tranquil water feature.
In America we call this a Blue Gum Tree, but in South Africa it is known as a Jacaranda. Fern Hill had an abundance of these delicately-leaved lavender-blossomed beauties.
These papyrus guard the entrance to the Jacaranda Tea Garden at the Fern Hill Hotel. They are the tallest papyrus...more than 12 feet (4 metres) tall...I have ever seen!
In the Midlands town of Howick, at the end of a narrow walkway bordered by little craft shops, we found this sweet little oasis.
Big Bertha earned her stripes...and a new nickname, "Dirty Bertie,"...on roads like this one. In fact, this was one of the better ones. The greenery in the Midlands was lush and thick at every turn.
Flowers grow wild along the side of the roads, the tar roads as well as the dirt roads. Here is a heap of roses growing on a fence along a main road.
Sunflowers found growing beside a railway bridge abutment
Even calla (arum) lilies grow wild in little swales by the side of the road.
And there is the bouganvillea...
The grounds of the Dargle Valley Pottery were one of the greenest, lushest sites we visited...and it was down one of the darkest, narrowest, most poorly marked roads we encountered!
A field of yellow blooms at the Lion's River Trading Post.
We found a dense copse of blue hydrangea at Mill Cottage in the Midlands.
And an even thicker copse of hydrangea at the Fort Nottingham historical site,...which is way out in the countryside on a really rocky dirt road...outside a quaint little half-timbered building sporting an engraved brass plate identifying it as the consulate of Madagascar!
There are many marshy spots in the Midlands, and dams (ponds, to Americans) are in abundance. Here a little Red Bishop perches on a reed, guarding his nest.
Outside our room in St. Lucia there was this huge tree, a vlamboom (flame tree) thick with blazing red blooms.
Outside the little convenience store in Cape Vidal we discovered this pair of trees, one wrapped completely around the other via these tendrils. The host tree did not appear to be suffering from its partner's embrace.
I've seen a lot of acacia trees since I've been here...they are very common...but these blooms are the first of this kind I have ever seen.
South Africans are familiar with the thorny acacia trees, but I had never seen one like this until my first visit to South Africa. These thorns are long, vicious and really, really sharp.
Isn't this a stunningly beautiful country?