“I’m chilling in the tent…..in both senses”. Camping on Namaqualand’s Bokkeveld Plateau in August is not for the faint hearted or those lacking in strong constitution as we were soon to discover! At that time of year it is COLD! Snow on the nearby Hantamsberg is not uncommon in winter and spring and known locally as ‘kapok’ meaning cotton in Afrikaans.
So what do a tuna tin, a paint scraper and several thousand sosatie sticks have in common? Confused? The answer is elementary my dear Watson: all are important tools of the trade in undertaking research into Biological Soil Crusts. Last year I spent two months in Namaqualand assisting a German colleague with her research work and discovering that there is far more than meets the eye to these tiny members of the Succulent Karoo plant community.
Instructions were clear and to the point. “The first rule is not to leave the door open otherwise the mice will come in. The second rule is not to leave the door open otherwise the snakes will follow the mice in”. We’d just arrived at Tandskoonmaak, translated literally from Afrikaans meaning the place to keep your teeth clean. Clean teeth or otherwise, we were feeling as though we’d arrived in a different world, one that was only three hours drive from the bustling city of Cape Town.