Namaqualand must be one of the harshest of regions in South Africa, yet once a year it becomes a canvas wildly splashed with magnificent colours that leaves visitors dumbstruck at its beauty.
My first introduction to this area on the west Coast, roughly between Namibia and Cape Town, was when I was four years old. My family and I drove all the way from Pretoria crammed in an old Dutsun to go and view the flowers. We passed through the dusty town of Springbok driving along the N7 and visiting Nieuwoudtville, Calvinia, Vanrhynsdorp and Lambertsbaai and going all the way down the Cedarberg Valley.More recently I drove the route again and it was wonderful to experience the flowers that were even prettier than I remembered. The time around we decided to go on a day trip driving up from Cape Town. Going on a hunch we decided to go to the Biedouw Valley,close to Clanwilliam and allegedly the closest place to Cape Town where a tourist will find the prettiest flowers in the Namaqualand.We set out on the N7 again, this time from the south and in a bigger car than a Datsun. We drove through Malmesbury where we were met by yellow Canola fields in full bloom as far as the eye could see. But we weren’t driving to see the Canolas, we were looking for their more colourful sisters.
We drove past Moorreesburg, Piketberg and Citrusdal till we saw the small sign telling us to turn left for Clanwilliam. The town alone was a special find as many tourists clearly know. In the shadow of the Cedarberg, this little town transforms into an ants nest of activity during this gorgeous flower blooming season of the year.
The biggest attraction in Clanwilliam is definitely the Wild Flower Show, held in the historic Flower church in town. This year the show will be held from 23-29 Aug. This year, 2012, is a special year for the show since they will be celebrating its 40thbirthday . Showing the flowers in beautifully designed natural landscape replicas, it is a treat and really worth taking your time for.
Right next to the church is the fleamarket with its tables laden with fantastic handmade products and snacks mostly from the surrounds. Fresh coffee and a good lunch can be had here in the sunlight. It was hard to tear ourselves away from the friendly and sociable town, but we were there after all to see flowers in their natural habitat, so we turned our car back onto a dirt road.
This road leads to the Pakhuis pass, Biedouw Valley and Wupperthal. So far we’ve seen patches of flowers along the way as we drive but now we are truly bedazzled by the sheer volumes of bright wild flowers every couple of meters.
It gets better the further we drive. There’s actually not a specific spot where you need to stop. You are the artist or photographer in your own studio and nature is your stage. We finally stopped at a spot that we thought was the prettiest to take the typical cliché photographs of laying on our tummies in the middle of the abundance of colourful flowers…next to other tourists doing the exact same thing.
After taking our fair share of photos we had to start heading back with heavy hearts. We hadn’t been expecting what we had seen today.
According to the inhabitants of this extraordinary coastline and who come out of hibernation once a year when the flowers start blooming the 2012 season will be a good year for the flowers. Not only did the region get a lot of rain but it even had the rather unfamiliar experience of having knee-deep snow during winter in places like Wupperthal.
This year I will do my trip up the coastline again and I hope to see you there.
Just remember when you drive through Namaqualand, always make sure you keep your window open. To breathe in the sheer beauty and fresh air you will only find here.