The Cactus Patch
Volume 7       March 2004      Number 3

A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On the 25th of January we drove 400 km (250 miles) east to Pretoria where we stayed with Isaac Lusunzi (former student in Lesotho), his wife Maureen and 1 year old son John. The last 100 km (63 mi.) stretch from Rustenburg onward was new to us. The road parallels the Magaliesberg, running just North of the hills. At the Pretoria end there was a lovely dense stand of huge Euphorbia ingens. (Incidentally, ingens means huge.) They do have a cereus problem - several cacti were poking up between Euphorbias.

On the 26th I had my eyes re-examined and on the 27th they removed the cataract in my right eye with ultra-sound and put in a new lens. We went shopping and I had a check-up on the 28th and then went back to Botswana.

We repeated the process the next week when they did my left eye which was not so bad (but they no longer insist on waiting for cataracts to develop fully). They also laser-cleaned the capsule on the right eye for good measure.

I now need reading glasses and may have to have prismatic correction, but my vision over all is better than ever. (Incidentally, I could have had the operation in Botswana where itís a little cheaper, but although the surgeon is good, she doesn't have the best equipment.)

We had to change a lot of our Pula into Rand, but we did rather well as the Pula was devalued just after we returned. You never can predict with money.

The end of February has been a bit sad as the Thrift Shop where Polly has been working as a volunteer was forced out by the American Embassy as it is a "security risk". We have boxes of used books in storage at our house and plans are afoot to reopen, but it may take awhile. It would be a shame to lose such a useful charity unnecessarily.

Speaking of books, we ran into several book sales both in Botswana and in Pretoria. Not being one to turn down a bargain, I now have enough books to keep me reading for the next year. We also found a bookstore in Pretoria which has old (beginning of the 1900s) books at give-away prices. I bought a few of those too.

Most of the books have little to do with succulents, but are none-the-less interesting. Botanical Illustration by William Wheller (L'Aventurine, Paris, 2003) was only P95 ($20). Most of the drawings are of European non-succulents, but there is one plate of Massonia (an African bulb) and another of a Sansevieria. Life Etched in Stone by Colin MacRae (Geological Soc. of South Africa, Johannesburg, 1999) has quite few plants (including some from Orapa in Botswana) but they are all fossils. It is well illustrated and is the best summary of South African Fossils I've seen.) It was only P144 ($30) and I've convinced our Geology head to buy one.

We just spent the morning (19th Feb.) at a breakfast at Mokolodi Nature Reserve. They have just opened a conference center on top of a hill which has a magnificent view with Gaborone Dam in the distance. The place was perfect for the topic which was tourism. Botswana was ranked third in the world for this by the Washington Post, behind Greece and the Bahamas. The offer is still open if anyone wants to drop in (with a little notice so we can clean out the spare room.) The elephants were only throwing dirt this time. (We have never seen them mate as they did for "Dubya".) The cheetah barely looked up at us and the rhinos were nowhere to be seen. So be warned. Nothing is guaranteed.

The picture is of the elephants below the World View Conference Center.
They wouldn't let Polly get out & pet them which would have made a better picture

We've had quite a bit of rain recently, and everything is very green; hardly the "desert" which the Kgalagadi is often said to be.

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