Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Nature Conservancy

    The last 24 hours: we drove about 300 km across the southern African coast, ending at a hostel and nature conservancy just outside Port Elizabeth. The nature conservancy was owned and run by Craig “Wayne” Doone, his wife and three children. It is a beautiful old home tucked away in the lesser slopes and trailing end of the folded mountains. Surrounded by mountain upon mountain, stream upon stream, and grassland upon grassland of untouched African wilderness, the place is somewhat of a school for conservancy students, somewhat of a farm for sustainability research, and somewhat of a playground for all those with a mind for adventure and four inch wide spiders in their beds. During diner, we watched a troop of baboons cross the savannah field, about 100 yards outside. Their calls, and the calls of hundreds of frogs, insects, birds and a pattering, persistent rain lulled us to sleep.
    Wayne is a terrific individual. He possesses almost every honor, every degree and every iota of knowledge one could possibly hope to learn about Botany. This professional background, for which he is world reknowned, is supplemented by an encyclopedic understanding of the African bush--truly, he is a man at home in the wild. He bought up the land several years ago in hopes of creating a conservatory and learning environment for what he sees as the future of human-environment interactions. His days consist of fighting back invasive plant species, monitoring the faunal life moving through his property, publishing his research, visiting the Koi San rock paintings and Acheulean rock shelters in the nearby hills and educating guests and students. A man of meaningful words, he has a wonderful sense of humor and an intense love of this land. Who could blame him--these places do hold a deep and mysterious power.
    We this morning at 5 am for a 5 km nature hike that covered only 1/3 of the entire property. We could hear the baboons calling early as we climbd the first scraggly face on one of an infinite number of unnamed cliffs. It was overcast and cloudy, with only brief interjections of the sun onto the grassland valley. We saw a number of antelope species, some the size of a large horse, others the size of a small dog. Bush pig, warthog, anteaters dikas, African crowned eagles, and of course, baboons had left their obvious tracks in the dirt, their holes in the ground, and their distinctive droppings pretty much everywhere. Fog poured over the mountains and into the valleys like a waterfall as a persistent misting kept us cool. This was a very different, but unbelievably beautiful side of Africa that I had not expected. We spent the day, discussing conservation, politics, bush medicine, botany, academia and why poop looks the way it does.
    We left this afternoon for our last stop before our final destination at the Haven. It’ll be nice to get off the road and settle down for the next 9 weeks, but this last week has been amazing. Tonight, its away with the vans and onto the Landrover Defenders that will be taking us the rest of the way into the untamed wilderness of the Eastern coast. Reputedly some of the most isolated and wild territory in South Africa, the Eastern Cape and specifically, the Dwessa-Cwbe reserve will be our home for the next 2 months. Balls to the wall.

peace and love from the bush,


  1. I guess everything in life comes down to poop! I hope you return to us and don't become a Bushman. Love Mom

  2. A man of meaningful words, he has a wonderful sense of humor and an intense love of this land. Who could blame him--these places do hold a deep and mysterious power.

    Mario, I read this to your Grandmother and both she and I said, that sounds exactly like your Grandpa May.