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