The Cactus Patch
April 2015

From Paradise to Hell and Back
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

On 5th March we heard Russell Wagner at the Fresno C&SS. He showed us the Knersvlakte of South Africa, an area at the south end of Namaqualand which has large fields of quartzite pebbles. There are many species of small mesembs and other succulents there. On 10th March we heard Woody again on the Karoo. It was a talk worth hearing twice. On the 14th we weeded out at the Cal 5tate garden. The aloes were stupendous.

And back to the cruise:

On 18th Nov. we arrived at Grand Cayman. We had to take a tender as the cruise ship could not get near the dock. Just as we found our tour bus it took off without us. It was stopped and we got on and it took off again. Halfway through town a radio message made the bus return and offload two other passengers who were on the wrong bus! Our driver, Dawson Ebanks, was quite nonplussed by all this. He looked like Morgan Freeman and had a delightful accent similar to Jamaicans.

Our first stop after that was at the Tortuga Rum Company. It began to rain so we all ducked into the souvenir shop where we sampled the rum. For a small island, they make a great drink. When the rain stopped we went outside and viewed the small menagerie. There was a blue iguana and a Cayman parrot, both of which are found only there. The plants were more international: a crown of thorns, a tropical “almond” (Terminalia catappa) which has an edible nut and a large Crinum.

Driving further north we passed breadfruit, Calotropis (both giant and regular), frangepani, Iguanas in trees and a strangler fig. Eventually we arrived in Hell, an area with heavily eroded limestone. We got our passports stamped and mailed some postcards to prove we had been there. I was surprised to find two species of cacti growing there. Opuntia dillenii grew at the edge of the limestone and Weberocereus tunilla sent long stems out across it.

We then continued north to a turtle farm where they had a great display of items woven from silver thatch palm leaves (including a pig and a fish). In the ponds we saw more sea turtles then we’d ever seen before. This is the animal that caused Columbus to name the island Tortuga. Later this was changed to Cayman after the crocodiles which are now extinct there! The turtle farm had one crocodile which had been imported from Cuba which lies just to the north. I also managed to photograph a green iguana which was roaming free.

Across the road from the turtles was a porpoise pool where you could swim with porpoises. We didn’t do so, but watched people being pushed and pulled by them. Returning south we stopped at Governor’s beach which is right next to the official mansion of the governor appointed from England. (The Caymans have their own Parliament.) The present governor is a woman. At the beach we saw a tree with sea grapes which Dawson told us could be fermented for a delightful drink.

As we reached the dock it dumped rain, but we could still see the “pirate” schooner parked next to our cruise ship. (Pirates in Paradise {the name of our ship}?) That evening the ship left for another day at sea.

Russell Wagner at the Fresno C&SS

Turtles and Iguana

Is this Hell?

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