Monday, March 9, 2009

Out of Africa

I just got back from an amazing trip to South Africa! It was a great adventure and I got to see many sights. The mission of this journey was to see this magnificent aloe plant and how it is processed into various products.

The journey took place in Cape Town, SA after a nights rest we made a quick trip to Table Mountain. Unfortunately the top of the mountain was in fog so it the views were limited but it was still awesome, once we got off the mountain from this cool cable car trip, we headed to the port for a trip to Robben Island.

This is the Island that Nelson Mandela spent a good part of his adult life as a political prisoner. This was a valuable history lesson and I was amazed that our tour guide was actually held there for 10 years. The one message that he gave us was that this was the past and everyone should be working towards a new future where people understand each other and eliminate conflict and work toward the common good. This is a good message and I hope that we all try to follow this guys idea. I found this attitude repeating itself with many people in South Africa so I believe this is catching on.

The trip continued later in the day in a four hour car ride to Mossel Bay to stay with my hosts. I was amazed by the beautiful scenery and the towering mountains. And the Ostriches that seem to be everywhere! It seems that Ostrich farming is big business in South Africa. The rolling landscape was covered with various crops from corn to wheat or hosting grazing sheep or cattle before the fields are replanted in the spring.

We arrived after dark in Mossel Bay, and after meeting the family I headed off to bed, I had been flying for 21.5 hours and my wings were tired! After a good nights sleep and a fantastic breakfast we were on our way to meet the fine people who own Aloe Ferox Africa. A 30 minute ride west to Albertinia, and the Aloe Farm/factory through the rolling hills. After a short introduction we were back in the car and headed for the Aloe fields.

Aloe ferox is indigenous to South Africa and grows in the wild, since the farmers have cleared most of the land the plants live in the ravines which gives them an ideal habitat.
As you can see in this picture to the right a worker is harvesting the aloe leaves for processing. She will stack these in a ring and let the bitter sap drain from each leave, then the leaves go to the
factory to be processed into gels, skin care products, supplements and juices or teas.

About six to seven lower leaves of the plants are harvested only once in two years so this is very substainable growth and does not harm the plant. Since they grown in the wild and are free range harvested there are no chemicals or fertilizers or herbicides used in the growing of this plant.

This picture shows the stack of Aloe leaves draining their bitter sap. The collected sap is cooked down to a crystalline form that is added to some of the Aloe Ferox products.

In my next installment I will show you a bit more about this amazing Aloe and the rest of my South African adventure.

Have a Blessed day


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