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Namaqua…a little bit of heaven

27 Aug

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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8 responses to “Namaqua…a little bit of heaven

  1. Kathryn McCullough

    August 28, 2013 at 1:49 am

    What a wonderful post, Gertie. This looks like an incredible trip. I’m stunned by fields of orange daisies. And the quiver tree is so sculptural, I love it! Amazing photos, as well!

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

     
    • Justcallmegertie

      August 28, 2013 at 5:59 am

      It was fantastic, Kathy! Flowers everywhere. I loved that you would slow down a bit on the highway, there would be flowers inbetween the shrubs next to the road. Very glad we did this trip!

       
  2. Eha

    August 28, 2013 at 5:20 am

    Thank you for allowing us too to travel a bit in that natural flower wonderland! Love the scenes to which I’ll go back. But, almost more than that it was lovely to see you relaxing with your daughters: those photos are so special🙂 ! Great you had a good time!

     
    • Justcallmegertie

      August 28, 2013 at 6:04 am

      It was very special! I must admit, I was a little worried they’d get bored looking at flowers for a week, but they loved it. I was amazed by the variety, and how the flowers changed in the different regions. I actually want to look up the WA flower region online and see how it compares!

       
      • Eha

        August 28, 2013 at 1:24 pm

        Please do when you have a moment . . . . Methinks you will find more kinds and more colours – the Namaqua pallette seems more into yellows and oranges [which however happen to be amongst my favourite shades🙂 !] I loved that West Coast photo . . .

         
      • Justcallmegertie

        August 28, 2013 at 2:12 pm

        The sunset photo? Also love it. Was playing with the ISO setting, and actually took this picture with quite a high ISO setting…loved the waves crashing, and struggled to get the timing right!
        Had a quick look on the Internet, and it does look quite different in WA, but also similar to some extent. It really is amazing how spring can transform a barren landscape!
        Although, I think the Cape Fynbos that you find from Cape Town up into namaqualand is beautiful throughout the year.

         
  3. Madoqua

    August 28, 2013 at 6:09 am

    What a fabulous trip – it looks and sounds as if the flowers were just incredible. The weather looked as if it did its bit too!

     
    • Justcallmegertie

      August 28, 2013 at 6:11 am

      It was fabulous, indeed! And yes,we were very lucky with the weather…only 2 days of rain, otherwise we had lovely sunshine straight through. Apparently the week before it was raining most of the time… Definitely a trip to add to your bucket list!

       

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