Aloe in the cold

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Aloe out in the cold. We have been admiring the snow covered mountains from afar for many years but we never saw the  need to drive to the bottom of the mountain just to see the snow above.

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This year the snow caught our attention when it was announced that the roads to Sutherland were cut off as a result of heavy snow and rain.  Sutherland is known world-wide for the new observatory  which is the largest telescope in the Southern Hemisphere namely SALT (Southern African Largest Telescope).  It is situated on a plateau in the dry Karoo where the air is clear with little distortion.   Fine for the stargazers but the dry air cools off very quickly making Sutherland the coldest town on the TV weather map.   In short, we decided to go and see some snow from up close.

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Purple mesembs and small bright yellow lilies were amongst the first wild flowers to bloom.

The road winds up to the plateau through two mountain passes but it is a nice drive, no steep climbs.

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What a surprise to find Aloe microstigma so close to Sutherland.  This may be good news for the aloe growers in cold climates, but again the trick is that the climate is not only cold but also dry.  Many aloes can withstand cold freezing temperatures in a dry climate.  These aloes were growing on west facing slopes only.  The aloes grow and bloom happily here because the snow will melt quickly and rocks warmed by the afternoon sun will keep the plants through the night. 

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Aloe microstigma in our garden.  It is a neat attractive plant with a short stem.

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Aha... snow at last.  The snow melted quickly in the heavy rain with not much left over for us,  but it is real enough to touch. 

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Snow!  Now what can I do with that snow !?   No,  I will rethink that, it is a far walk home.

The round trip was 700 km and we did it in one day. I can imagine that readers in the cold countries must have a good laugh at what we do to touch some snow.

It was worth it, but for one flop ........ I forgot to take photos of Sutherland the peaceful small town in the shadow of  a very important observatory.  aghh. 700 km. to go back?  It will have to wait a few years.

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