Showcasing a symbol of wild Africa

2010-06-23 00:00

IT was just one of those routine encounters. An everyday transaction. A young man’s outstretched hand. Money exchanged for posters printed at Postnet. Then his eyes and a wide grin transformed the encounter. Not just for me, but for the entire store. He was pointing at the picture on the poster. A magnificent Aloe ferox, its shimmering outstretched orange arms led the eye into an azure sky. “That reminds me of home,” he said with excitement. A transition had occurred on that ordinary Monday afternoon. “Where did you grow up?” I asked. “Eastern Cape,” he said. “We had aloes like that”

“We have aloes like that here too. Just outside the city. You should come and see,” I said. I told him about our annual Aloe Festival, our efforts to protect the eastern gateway of Pietermaritzburg, its fauna and flora, and our desire to share its beauty with others.

As I left, I heard his lighthearted banter with his supervisor over getting the day off work to visit our little piece of “wild Africa”. It made me think about people and places. But what struck me, above all, was the sense of reverence that was evident, for the place that he called home. And how, for that moment, that majestic aloe had symbolised a rich and deep common heritage, home to those who choose to recognise our unique African sense of place.

The Lower Mpushini Valley Conservancy will be holding its annual Aloe Festival over the weekend of June 26 and June 27. In its fifth year, this event showcases the flowering Aloe Ferox in their natural valley bushveld environment.

Visitors can enjoy the homely atmosphere at four venues, including Rocky Wonder Aloe Nursery, which will have over 200 species of aloes from all over Africa on display. A large number of aloe species will be on sale and Winston and Angela Carr will be on hand to give you expert advice. Guest speaker, renowned KwaZulu-Natal botanist Elsa Pooley will speak on the topic “Indigenous trees and flowers” at 10.30 am on Saturday. Pooley’s books will be on sale. On Sunday at 10.30 am, aloe specialist Ben Botha will talk about “Aloes, hybrids, pests and diseases”. Colin and Hillary Hex will be available to demonstrate farming with red earthworms. Worms will be on sale.

At Nyala Place visitors can enjoy tea and cake, and join a guided walk at 10.30 am and 2.30 pm on both days. This 60 to 90-minute trail will be marked for those who would like to walk on their own. Indigenous plant fundi Grantin Law of Val-lea Vista Nursery will have a stall at this venue with a large selection of indigenous species on sale and help and advice on indigenous gardening.

Impala Bend will host the lunch venue and a small craft market where visitors can purchase a variety of local art and craft. The Pietermaritzburg Ezemvelo-KZN Wildlife Honorary Officers will have a display of their invaluable work at this venue. Birders can enjoy a self-guided walk in Spencer’s Place, open from 6 am each day, to view the birds of the valley.

A R20 admission ticket allows admission to all four venues and can be purchased at any one of the venues. Children under 14 years are free. Tea and cake can be purchased from the tea garden at R10. Cooldrinks will be on sale.

• Inquiries: Darlene Bond at 082 933 5036 or Merrywyn Pieterse at 072 147 8247 or e-mail Darlene at darlene@icon.co.za

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