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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Namaqua…a little bit of heaven

I love travelling to new and foreign countries, experiencing new foods, cultures, people. It is one of my passions. But, I also live in a wondrous and beautiful country.

South Africa is a treasure of beauty. And it is not all an African safari. From the vibrant city life, to the African bush, to the beauty of the coastal regions, this is a country of many facets.

And, I just experienced a very special pocket of beauty this last week. Of course I have driven through Namaqualand and the Groot Karoo previously, en route to one of my favourite spots, Cape town. But I have never been in the area during the ‘flower season’. And this time, this was exactly what I was going to go and see. We travelled almost 4 000 kms in total, but boy, did we see it!!

I don’t really know what I was expecting. I have seen so many pictures of fields of daisies over the years, but somehow I thought it would be like going on a bush drive in the Kruger Park and considering yourself very lucky indeed if you manage across the path of a lion.

We drove into Springbok, a small town in the Nothern Cape on a wintery, cold and wet Saturday afternoon. On the way, we could see that there were flowers in the fields, but the sun was hiding behind the clouds, and the flowers looked shy and unenthusiastic. But, we were hopeful, as the next day promised to be sunny.

On Sunday morning we ventured out to Goegap Nature Reserve, but it was still very cold, and although it was fascinating and we could certainly see some flowers (and Gemsbok, Springbok and some camera shy field mice), we really just enjoyed the beauty of the area.

Goegap Nature Reserve, with a typical quiver tree

Goegap Nature Reserve, with a typical quiver tree in foreground

Afterwards, we drove towards the Namaqua National Park, where the Skilpad section is renowned to have some beautiful flower spots. On the way, we stopped at a little local coffee shop in Kamieskroon, and devoured some Springbok jaffels (similar to snackwiches, traditionally made over a fire). About 27 kms outside Kamieskroon, we suddenly saw fields of orange in the distance, and we knew we were in for a treat!

The Skilpad section of the Namaqua National Park

The Skilpad section of the Namaqua National Park

Namaqua daisy heaven!

Namaqua daisy heaven!

With my special flower girls...

With my special flower girls…

I have to admit, going home that evening, I thought we had seen it all. What more could we experience? But we still had another week, and the next morning we started driving south, where we were staying on a guest farm in Klawer, just south of Vanrhynsdorp for two nights.

On our way, we took a little detour in Garies and drove through Nuwerus (actually looking for a public toilet, but with no success). Worth the detours though!

A little detour in Garies

A little detour in Garies

A townhouse surrounded by flowers (and a windmill) in Nuwerus

A townhouse surrounded by flowers (and a windmill) in Nuwerus

After a lovely lunch at Muis Huis Restaurant (literally Mouse House) in Vanrhynsdorp, and a quick visit to the old jail (built in 1895), we took the road towards Gifberg. There is a local farm, where they open a circle trail every Spring and where you can spot the Gazania Rigida or Rooigousblom.

A rare treat of Rooigousblomme

A rare treat of Rooigousblomme

Gifberg towering over the flowers in the background

Gifberg towering over the flowers in the background

The next morning we set off towards Nieuwoudtville. Nieuwoudtville is just on the other side of the Bokkeveld mountain range on a plateau, and if I had known in advance, I would have stayed here for a couple of days! What a spot of beauty. We would have loved to go back and visit the Quiver Tree Forest and Waterfalls, but time ran out. We did manage to visit the Hantam National Botanical Garden (stunning!) and the Matjiesfontein Padstal, where they have a circular route that you can drive through the most spectacular spots of flowers.

The Hantam National Botanical Park, Nieuwoudtville

The Hantam National Botanical Park, Nieuwoudtville

A feast for the eye!

A feast for the eye!

Geelkatstert (Bulbinella)

Geelkatstert (Bulbinella)

My fellow travellers...it was my mom's dream come true!

My fellow travellers…it was my mom’s dream come true!

Spectacular flowers at Matjiesfontein

Spectacular flowers at Matjiesfontein

Even the sky played along!

Even the sky played along!

Another windmill set against a drop of yellow daisies

Another windmill set against a drop of yellow daisies

That evening, we celebrated with a traditional South African braai, satisfied that we had seen the most spectacular sightings over a few days. The next day was predicted to be overcast with light rain, so we were planning to relax and take a leisurely drive towards Strandfontein, our stop for the next two nights.

Strandfontein is located on the West Coast and our house overlooked the ocean. We went for lunch in Doornbaai, and had a seafood feast. Afterwards, we visited Fryer’s Cove cellars, where they make wine from vines planted literally across the road from the cold Atlantic Ocean. Another gorgeous day (albeit little flowers…).

My budding photographer daughter took this picture at Fryer's Cove wine cellars

My budding photographer daughter took this picture at Fryer’s Cove wine cellars

My brother joined us the next day and we took a drive back towards Vanrhynsdorp to visit a quiver tree nursery.

Amazingly, Strandfontein and the area are littered with flowers (mainly vygies or ruschia). They grow everywhere, and even a walk on the beach will reward you.

The view greeting you, as you enter Strandfontein

The view greeting you, as you enter Strandfontein

In the afternoon, we braved the cold wind to watch the sunset from the rocky beach.

Sunset over Strandfontein, West Coast

Sunset over Strandfontein, West Coast

What a fantastic experience this has been. This area is truly a magical place, and it was with sadness that I finally realised that we have seen the end of the flowers along our route back, after Calvinia.

DJ Opperman, a famous Afrikaans poet, wrote the following about Namaqualand, and I find it very apt. I will try my best to translate….

With love xx

Op die groot saaidag van die heelal
het reeds ‘n entjie duskant Wupperthal
oor al die kaal Noordweste
‘n sakkie van die Heer se beste
saad per ongeluk gelek, gelek en uitgeval.
~ DJ Opperman

On the big sow day of the universe
just a little past Wupperthal
across the naked North Western landscape
by accident, a small bag of the Lord’s best seed
leaked, leaked and fell out.

 
8 Comments

Posted by on August 27, 2013 in Travel

 

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Gone fishing…for flowers

On Friday morning, bright and early, we are off to see a miracle. Okay, it is an annual miracle and the timing is quite predictable, so by definition maybe it is not a miracle, but it probably is as close as you can get!

Let me explain…

20130812-105137.jpgNamaqualand is a large area of arid land, extending along the west coast of South Africa. The area encompass two biome echo regions in South Africa, called the Nama Karoo and the Succulent Karoo. Basically, the entire area is semi desert and is bounded by the Namib desert to the north, and the Cape Floral Kingdom with it’s world famous Fynbos, to the south.

At first glance, the area does not look like anything spectacular, with some extreme temperatures in summer and winter, but it certainly has its own unique beauty. The Succulent Karoo boasts to house the world’s richest flora of succulent plants, and harbours about a third of the 10 000 species of succulents in the world. And to the east you find the Nama Karoo, with more summer rainfall.

However, this is not intended to be a geology lesson, but to set the background to the annual phenomenon that happens in this region in Spring. Overnight, this arid, semi dessert region transforms into a flower wonderland, with colorful flower carpets everywhere! A kaleidoscope of flowers.

Namaqualand daisies!

Namaqualand daisies!

The most common are the Namakwa daisies, yellow and orange flowers that hail from this region and springs up as if from barren ground during August and September every year. But, on top of this several other species of wild flowers colours the area, including vygies and gousblomme.

I have heard of this phenomenon many times in my life, and I have seen many pictures of this wonderland, but can you believe, I have never been!

For those who don’t know, South Africa is a huge country, and from where I stay, it is more than a 1000 kilometers’ drive to get there. So we are doing a bit of a road trip. We are all brushing up on our Afrikaans, as this is also the most common language in the area (95%). I grew up Afrikaans, but are living and working in an English denominated city, so my Afrikaans is littered with English words and phrases… My girls, both in English schools, are in for a surprise… And I am taking my mom along. It has been a life-long dream of hers to see the flowers.

I am looking forward, not only to the spectacular flowers, but also to mingling with the locals, eating some fantastic Karoo dishes, and soaking up the culture in an unique and remote part of this country. A bit of a pilgrimage. A chance to stop, and smell the flowers. Literally.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on August 12, 2013 in Family, Travel

 

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A zest for life…

I have been waiting in eager anticipation for some inspiration for a funny story…but the muse has been clouded by too many work hours, too little sleep hours and maybe too many glasses of wine to drown my sorrows… (actually I am lying, I am really not drinking much at the moment, as I am so tired that I fall asleep after a single glass. I should be dating, I would be a cheap date!)

Anyway, one of my little pleasures in life recently has been watching a little bit of television with my girls in the evenings. In particular, the second season of Masterchef South Africa is currently underway, and after much trepidation, we are now really getting into it. The previous season was very disappointing (for me) as I thought the quality of the contestants were very weak and I could not believe that someone who are unable to cook a steak properly can actually make it to the top 10. So, I was a bit negative about this season. But so far, I am pleasantly surprised, and the quality of the contestants has generally been a notch or two above the previous season. (At the risk of being stoned for treason, I still think the girl who won season one of Junior Masterchef Australia will give any of the top 10 contestants a run for their money).

So, the other night we were curling up under the blankets in the winter lounge to watch the latest episode of Masterchef, when my youngest, the 11-going-on-14 year old Anya, walks into the lounge, exclaiming: “After a hard day, there is nothing like watching a bit of Masterchef.” Her sister, Bianca retorted “You’re such an adult!” Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I was cracking myself up.

This got me thinking about the odd things my kids have said over the years and how it has given me many funny stories to share over the years. And I decided that my favourite Anya story ever will probably put a smile on a few people’s faces (and my own, of course!). She was about six years old at the time, and if you have known me for a while, chances are that I have told you the story…I think it is worth hearing it again!

So here goes…

It was one of THOSE Saturday mornings…we had lots to do and I was driving to and fro with the kids. Bianca had a friend’s birthday party in the afternoon and of course, I left the buying of the gift to the last minute. Buying gifts is something I do not generally like to do in a hurry, especially if it is for a special friend, so we have been debating what to buy (and where) all morning. When we eventually found something, we had to wrap it in a hurry, and I needed to drop Bianca at the friend’s house, as they were all leaving from there to go to the Ice Rink for the actual birthday celebration. Thank goodness, I didn’t need to go with.

By the time I finally dropped Bianca at her friend’s house, it was already past one o’clock and Anya and I were both starving. I decided to take her for a mother and daughter lunch and asked her where she would like to go. She said that she would like to go to Mugg and Bean, a local coffee shop that serves a pretty wide variety of meals, as well as delicious cakes, and not to mention the best Eggs Benedict. I was favourably impressed and we set off to the closest one, which opened shortly before in Woodmead.

When we were finally seated, she ordered a hot chocolate and started perusing the menu. She couldn’t actually read at the time, so I explained all the kiddies meals to her. She decided on the ‘Soccer balls and shoe laces’, which was essentially spaghetti and meatballs. We placed our orders and very soon she finished her hot chocolate and ordered another.

Anya, around the same time

Anya, around the same time

Well, when we finally got our food, she was a sight to behold. For a child who normally is quite a picky eater, she literally devoured the meal. She was making these “mmm” and “aah” and “yum” sounds while she was eating her spaghetti as if it was the last meal she would ever get to eat. I cannot for the life of me remember what I ordered, as I was fixated by this child eating to an actual sound track of enjoyment. During the meal, the manager walked over to our table and said that he personally had never seen a child enjoy their meal that much, which obviously only encouraged her further.

Finally, she slurped up the last piece of spaghetti and with a face that reminded me a bit of Winnie the Pooh after he finished a pot of honey, she sat back in her chair and sighed “Aah, life doesn’t get better than this!”

I choked on my cool drink and struggled to keep a straight face, as I was cracking myself up. Nope, there was no doubt this is a child of mine. And yes, she is definitely a bit of a drama queen, but I think she does it with flair!

At least there is one thing that you cannot say of my mothering abilities, and that is that I have not taught my kids appreciation for the good things in life!

A little reminder for all of us to start enjoying the little things in life, like a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs!

 
7 Comments

Posted by on August 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 
 
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