Namaqualand is a kaleidoscope of colour waiting for you
Namaqualand, an area that for the majority of the year can be described as semi-arid and desert like, with little colour, and few tourist attractions, is transformed into a kaleidoscope of colour and tourist hype when spring arrives.
In the months of August and September (predominantly, but also sometimes into October), the usual wilderness of dirt and grass is hardly recognisable: flowers in their thousands, and in their varying colours and sizes, fill fields and mountainsides, often for as far as the eye can see. My grandfather described this phenomenon as the “best thing” he has ever seen in his life- from someone who has travelled the world over, I thought it was wise to heed his words and find out for myself what all the hype was about. My first mission into the area took place last year on the 25th of August 20000. The day is forever etched in my mind for it surpassed my wildest expectations.
The wild flowers of Namaqualand are without a doubt one of the greatest and most spectacular natural phenomena that one will ever witness.
Although the official Namaqualand Flower Route lies approximately five hours’ drive north of Cape Town, those in search of a ‘kaleidoscope flower adventure’ closer to the city can head off to Postberg – a small section of the West Coast National Park found close to Langebaan (Read a blog about spring flower spotting in the West Coast National Park). A day trip here gives a small taste of the extreme beauty and rarity of these Namaqualand Wild Flowers – it is certainly a good start.
For those who have the time and desire to adventure further north, the real flowers can be found far up the N7 on a series of drives around the towns of Garies, Kamieskroon, Springbok, and Port Nolloth in the Northern Cape. However, the following towns themselves, and areas surrounding them also promise to offer good flower-viewing opportunities: Citrusdal, Clanwilliam, Lamberts Bay, Niewoudtville and Vredendal.
The Cape West Coast stretches from Cape Town as far as the border with the Northern Cape at Touws River, including within its parameters the indescribably beautiful Cederberg Mountains, famous for centuries-old rock art. All along this stretch of coastline is a series of quaint historic towns and fishing villages with names like Lambert’s Bay, Paternoster, Saldanha and Langebaan that today roll with ease off the tongue, but until fairly recently were left to languor in relative obscurity.
Salt of the earth residents make the area from Ganzekraal to Strandfontein their home, where snoek, mussels and crayfish are a way of life and ‘bokkoms’ (salted mullet strung up in bunches and left to dry) is the local delicacy. Route 27 on the Cape West Coast is a seafood mecca and a number of open-air beach restaurants offer unsurpassed seafood fresh from the sea, cooked on open fires whilst you watch the sun sink slowly over the sea.
Just outside of Cape Town, the little town of Darling deserves a stop, especially in September for its Wild Flower and Orchid show and for its locally produced wines. A little further up the coast, the West Coast National Park is the closest spot outside of Cape Town where one can sample the spring flower season. The Fossil Park, which lies just next door to the park, has uncovered 200 different kinds of animals, many of them new to science.
Parallel to the R27, the N7 passes through the Swartland to the equally beautiful towns of Citrusdal and Clanwilliam. Take a detour to Ceres and travel from here to Citrusdal along the Gydo Pass. Just after you pass over the Koue Bokkeveld Mountains you reach the Koue Bokkeveld, a valley famous for its red apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots and unpretentious hospitality.
The Cederberg Wilderness, 71 000 hectares of mountainous terrain that runs almost north to south from Clanwilliam to Citrusdal, is renowned for its stark, rugged beauty, whilst gentle walks in the Cederberg when spring transforms the landscape into a carpet of yellow, orange and purple, will not fail to bring you closer to the natural rhythms of a world where fynbos, succulents and wide open skies couldn’t be more remote from city living.
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