September is spring time in South Africa and one of the not-to-miss things to see is the flower explosion in Namaqualand. We had been in Namaqualand some 35 years ago (remember nothing much about that) and some 5 years ago. We saw indeed flowers then but were a bit disappointed as nothing but a mountainside in Elands Bay compared to photos we had seen on facebook and internet.
So we hoped (and followed some facebook pages to find out on a daily basis where the flowers were most abundant) to reach Namaqualand at the right time.
We left the quiver forest of Kenhardt and returned to Kakamas. We had an “obligatory” stop at the Orange River Cellars to stock up on wine and continued to Pofadder. We wouldn’t reach Springbok that day so we pulled over and wild camped in Aggeneys.
Next morning we continued to Springbok through a still semi desert landscape with red rocky expanses and a few horses grazing on some sparse tufts of grass, camouflaged in the reddish brown expanse of the landscape. We saw some serious industry (a zinc mine and a big solar installation), and a change in bird life with single twig-nests instead of the grassy colony nest of the social weavers. We couldn’t resist a photo with “big brother”.
Our excitement grew when we came closer to Springbok and from about 20 odd km before town we were jumping up and down in our seats and stopping every five minutes to take a million photos of these first bursts of flowers along the roadside, on the rocky out crops and on the fields we could see in the Goegap Nature Reserve. The closer we got to Springbok the more special we felt. It was as if Mother Nature had pulled out a Guard of Colour along the verge of the road for our arrival.
When we got into town we could see every square meter of land between roads and buildings filled with the bright orange daisies. Obviously this flower spectacle is contagious because we saw several groups of people taking family photos in the fields.
We cruised through Springbok, filled up with diesel and continued to Kamieskroon and Skilpad (in Namaqualand National Park). Getting closer to Kamieskroon with (possibly) Namaqualand National Park on our right, we spotted a springbuck family with an albino springbuck.
We continued to Kamieskroon (following info of one of the facebook reports) and were amazed. This little hamlet was covered in flowers: the gardens, the roadside, the fields… a rainbow of flowers EVERYWHERE! Simply beautiful.
We had lunch at the quaint Kliphuis restaurant and then headed out to the Skilpad (Turtle) entrance of the Namaqua National Park: a corrugated gravel road again, so that takes time. We still don’t have time management with gravel roads down so we arrived at the gate too late in the day and had only time to do the 4,5 km loop. But that was worth it! Bright orange and yellow fields spread over the mountain slopes. Beautiful!
Namaqua National Park is still a park in development so there were no camping facilities. On the staff’s advice we left that side of the park and drove to Garies, where we camped at a petrol station.
Looking at the Namaqua National Park map we figured that Garies was actually the gateway to the Groenrivier entrance which in turn allows access to the coastal drives and camping spots. As we predominantly wanted to focus on the flowers this time around, we decided to skip the coastal area and turn south to Niewoudtville (another facebook information item).
The morning in Garies dawned with heavy mist and the clouds hung low over the mountains and the road. We drove through the stark white and yellow Knersvlakte dotted with dull bushes and shrubs and the Sout River carving out a little canyon in this sparse landscape.
At Vanrhynsdorp we had a bobotie and rice breakfast at the petrol station. (When retired you can eat whatever you want whenever… typical breakfast, lunch and supper don’t count no more… :))
From Vanrhynsdorp to Nieuwoudtville you cross over the Van Rhyns Pass: a winding and treacherous road over the Tierberg and the Bokkeveld. Treacherous indeed because we saw the odd unhappy truck wreck on the slopes and we passed a serious truck/mountain collision on our way up. On the lookout point we got ourselves a good cup of ‘boeretroos’ (coffee) and enjoyed the massive view over the Knersvlakte. Over the top of the mountain we went and before we knew we got to Nieuwoudtville.
When we arrived in Nieuwoudtville… WOW, WOW, WOW!
This is what we had seen in photos on the internet and what we had hoped to see this time around and it exceeded our expectations 100%! The entry into the village was lined on both sides with cars and people milling around to take photographs. So we parked Trokkie and did exactly the same.
Although we have gazillions of photos and share the best, no photo (or series of) can translate the continuous stimulation of colours around every corner. Simply A-MA-ZING!
We followed the main street through the village to the Hantam Botanical Garden just a few km’s down the road. On the off chance of being boring and repeating myself all the time: just beautiful and amazing! The photos speak for themselves.
Late afternoon we got us a spot along the roadside and wild camped, overlooked by a wind pump in a flowery field.
We needed a “work” day so that’s what we did the next day. Stefaan got to work on the truck, while I tried to catch up with website and social media (you get behind so quickly). We had some interesting (animal) passersby (herd of sheep) and some other (human) like minded travelling passersby: Johan and Annemarie (http://verlorenstoer.co.za/) who have been travelling for a few years now in a landcruiser and Alan Hunt who is building a truck like ours and hopes to be on the road soon.
Later in the afternoon we were joined by our best friends Gavin and Lee and after we found a camping spot for the night, we got stuck into a braai (barbecue), a bottle of wine and a game of catan (our addiction).
After a leisurely bacon and eggs breakfast the next morning (courtesy of the men), we left our camp site in the direction to the botanical garden, but stopped every 5m for another photo stop, because the gardens in town were just so unbelievable beautiful and colourful, with the yellow and orange daisies, big purple vygies and even a colourful peacock strutting his stuff to attract the female on the stoep!
We eventually arrived at the botanical garden (a second time for us was definitely NOT a punishment!) and were amazed again at the abundance and variety of the garden, surrounded by the brilliant fields of purple, yellow and orange on the mountain slopes surrounding the botanical garden. After the man made botanical garden (to show the great variety of species) we took a walk in the more natural habitat of the gentle mountain slopes.
Our “flower” visit was amazing but early afternoon we left Nieuwoudtville towards the waterfall and quiver tree forest. (in next post)
(Bottom image courtesy of best friend Lee Shaw)