Travels with Dick and Karen

South Africa

Part 2
Namaqua: flowers and shores of the west coast

South Africa-namaqua route
We finally headed out of Cape Town. People descending upon cars at insections to hawk their wares was common. But we only found one case during the whole trip (in the Drakensbergs) where a simple "no, thank you" was not sufficient to move them on. South Africa part 2

We were skirting the coast as paved roads allowed. Although there were few tarred roads, there were lots of flower reserves. Here we come!

South Africa part 2
Looking back across Table Bay to Cape Town, Table Mountain and spiky Lion's Head. South Africa part 2

and looking north, with flowers.

I'd better add a note about the flower photos: we had over 6,000 images when we got home. In selecting which ones to include for this essay we tried to leave in enough to give you a flavor of the trip and the magic of being so constantly surrounded by masses of blooms without boring you. Feel free to scroll past when you've reached saturation. If you want more you only have to ask...

Our first campground in Ou Skip, with the sound of surf faintly in the background. South Africa part 2
Inside our "home" Karen lingers before getting up.

A note about our VW: Lekker Campers had built their own interior. This shot is looking towards the van's rear window. The doors on the left wall are a short closet (with rod and hangers). The pillows are located above the rear engine compartment, which gave us pre-warmed bedding at the end of a cold day... or the end of a hot day, too.
If desired, the bed could be erected into a full bench seat, but we left it in "bed" mode for the duration of the trip.

Although the van was scheduled to include down pillows and comforters, Lekker took our allergies into account and provided non-allergenic bedding and an extra blanket. We also took the precaution of buying a third blanket (green, of course!).

South Africa part 2
The microwave and fridge in our breakfast setup. The microwave was not standard Lekker equipment, so we did as planned and purchased one during our first day's drive. Each campsite had power available, and that allowed us to run the fridge overnight without draining the van's battery.

This also shows more of the cabinetry: the amount of out-of-sight space Lekker's conversion provided was amazing. Our two emptied suitcases (but refilled with extra towels and sundries) disappeared into drawers and under-seat spaces. Their from-Seattle contents were distributed throughout the van's nooks and crannies.

South Africa part 2

The portable toilet Karen found essential (she did not want to deal with beasties by venturing out at night)(and, like everything else, there was even a custom out-of-sight cabinet recess to hide it during the day). Sitting on top of it is the little electric heater which we both felt was the height of decadent camping but it really helped us get out from under the covers on a few below-freezing mornings.

South Africa part 2
Here's our daily shared bowl of morning oatmeal ("porridge")... the primary reason for the microwave oven (along with Karen's morning cup of heated orange juice and Dick's coffee).
We never used the propane stove but it is really well set up for those who like to cook over a flame. The whole stove pivots out through the side door so you can cook outside. There's even a table that hooks on, an awning and two folding chairs. Lekker Camper did a great job on the conversion.
South Africa part 2
A little further up the road (and after a detour to the seaside town of Yzerfontein) we stopped at the "West Coast Farm Stall" for lunch. A nursery with an attached resaurant, bird exhibit and some advertised lions in the back. We didn't pay to go stare at the caged cats, but we did admire the walls painted in the theme of "winery". Karen was charmed by the massive thatched roof. South Africa part 2
But we did stare at the parrots South Africa part 2
And they stared back. South Africa part 2
30 miles up the R27 highway, we again turned west to get back to the shore at the town of Langebaan. The south edge of Langebaan is the northern boundary and entrance to the West Coast National Park. This park surrounds a narrow bay and includes the long peninsula in the distance. South Africa part 2
Different flowers this time, South Africa part 2
... fighting for a hold on the wind-swept shore. South Africa part 2
Our Langebaan campsite. Right next to our own patch of flowers. South Africa part 2
OK -- the gulls thought it was their patch of flowers. South Africa part 2
Down into the West Coast Park: more flowers.
On this flower-bedecked hill we encountered a crew filming a model running through the flowers.
South Africa part 2
Karen hadn't expected flamingos. This pose always reminds her of the croquet game played by Alice and the Red Queen. South Africa part 2
And down to one of the bird blinds incorporated in the park. South Africa part 2
Where we see even more flamingos. South Africa part 2
And coming back we find a tortise. South Africa part 2
Several small birds were flitting among the kraal thorn bushes. South Africa part 2
And we meet our first Springboks! South Africa part 2
Still in the West Coast Park, we rounded the base of the bay and headed up the peninsula separating it from the Atlantic. This area of the bay is called Langebaan Lagoon, and averages only 3 feet deep. The tip of the peninsula holds Postberg Nature Reserve, which is open for casual visitors only 2 months of the year at flower bloom time. South Africa part 2
We met Egrets swooping in (or being swooped by) the wind. South Africa part 2
More antelope (they look a little pale to be eland, but that's the closest match in the guidebook). South Africa part 2
The ever-present ostrich in the (not very busy) park road. South Africa part 2
And down to the shore again with amazing surf at the Tsaarsbank picnic area. South Africa part 2


South Africa part 2
And back to the campground for sunset. South Africa part 2
South Africa is embracing wind energy. We saw many trucks hauling parts... such as this 100-foot-plus windmill blade. South Africa part 2
The beaches, parks and scenic spots had comprehensive explanatory signage. South Africa part 2
A single group of flowers at a time is exquisite South Africa part 2
  South Africa part 2
Small groups are very cheerful South Africa part 2
And the fields asounding! South Africa part 2
...these are taken at a small reserve surrounding the Tietiesbaai lighthouse just south of Paternoster. South Africa part 2
  South Africa part 2
Flowers and surf.  South Africa part 2
This reserve included a shore-side campground, but we decided to make a little more progress north (since it wasn't even lunchtime yet). South Africa part 2
Lunch was in Paternoster, a quaint village of white buildings with a boat fishing just offshore. South Africa part 2
We eventually came a bit inland to the N7 highway. Although built for 75 mph traffic, progress was slower than expected due to frequent "stop and go's", chunks of the highway reduced to one-way-at-a-time traffic by construction.
The "hedge" is a citrus orchard, appropriate for the nearby town of Citrusdal.
South Africa part 2
Reaching the town of Clanwilliam fairly close to sunset, we turned off and sought out the campground that was located on the shores of a lake created by a dam. Here we are, snug as bugs and plugged into the power kiosk for the night. Like the majority of our campgrounds, it was extremely pleasant, and not at all crowded... South Africa part 2
...if we ignored the flock of tree-dwelling cats. South Africa part 2
Early evening, looking back over the campground.  South Africa part 2
Clanwilliam's principal industry is the processing of rooibos (red bush) tea. Part of the dam's property has been developed as a botanical garden just north of the campground. We spent a pleasant hour or so touring its extensive winding pathways. South Africa part 2
Well marked paths, lots of plants in a more "natural" planting rather then the typical "plant zoo" presentation. South Africa part 2
Quiver trees or "kocherboom" (aloe dichotoma) South Africa part 2
Proteas. In the wild the plant keeps its old seed heads like this until the next fire. In many gardens they are trimed off. South Africa part 2
Lots of little flowers South Africa part 2
more Proteas South Africa part 2
The flat leaves of an amaryllis relative that blooms in March (Autumn in South Africa). South Africa part 2
Flowers, shrubs and scenery...  South Africa part 2
...and tourists (with citrus orchards in the distance).  South Africa part 2
We stopped in town to see their "Wildflower Festival". The local botanical society had transformed a church into a flower display. South Africa part 2
All of these flowers were collected from the surrounding region within a week of the display being set up. I think it was up for about 2 weeks. South Africa part 2
  South Africa part 2
The room behind the altar was filled with labeled examples of the flowers in the main display.
Over half of the flowers were Proteas like these.
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and these South Africa part 2
My second favorite protea -- I never saw it in the wild. South Africa part 2
And then they went all out and covered parts of the architecture.
The sharp-eyed among you may notice the red button in the center of the display. Despite the power cords on the floor, nothing happened when it was pushed.
South Africa part 2
50 miles further north lay the town of Vanrhynsdorp. They have a famous nursery, named for the Kocherboom tree. South Africa part 2
...of which they had many. South Africa part 2
Out into the Flower-bedecked wilds again. South Africa part 2
And more stop and go's South Africa part 2
Rest stops like this are found along all the major roads. Depending on where you are the sign has a tent like this or a tree. There is always a table, seats and some sort of shade. Most of the people on the road seem to be male and they probably don't see anything missing. South Africa part 2
On into the town of Kamiskroon, named for its nearby signature mountain formation South Africa part 2
Our next campground. With "invasive aliens" from the American southwest (the Agave, not the contents of the VW). South Africa part 2
As a converted lot behind the only hotel in a very small and dusty town, this appeared to be a fairly frill-free campground (with power).  South Africa part 2
Despite the barrenness of the actual campground there were still flowers. South Africa part 2
Karen finally got a photo of the local "pied crow". They all seem to be wearing evening dress. She wonders if they got the idea from the penguins? South Africa part 2
On our way out to the next flower reserve we passed another campsite. This is the sort of vehicle used to make "cross Africa" or "London to Capetown" expeditions. South Africa part 2
A gravel road led westward from Kamiskroon into the hills.  South Africa part 2
We eventually crested a mild ridge and saw flowers for miles.
This was the beginning of the Namaqualand National Park.
South Africa part 2
"Padstahls" (farm stalls in Africaans, the birth language of most of the people in this area), found year-round along the tarred roads, also open along the dirt roads in the flower season to feed the tourists. "Kos" is Africaans for "food", "Lekkergoed" is candy. South Africa part 2
The park had acres of flowers, similar to the desert blooms of the American southwest but more profuse than what I've seen there. South Africa part 2
Many of the flowers follow the sun. This is taken with our back to the sun (into the face of the flowers). The color is much more vibrant than the photo above which is at about right angle to the sun (sideways to the flower heads). South Africa part 2
Many flower reserves are farms purchased and returned to a more "natural" state. Often this includes leaving windmills and repurposing the buildings. South Africa part 2
Close up the variety becomes apparent. South Africa part 2
Even closer you see the size variation. I'm going to try this as a glass table top. South Africa part 2
  South Africa part 2
  South Africa part 2
  South Africa part 2
Yes, a wild geranium! Many species of geranium (or more properly pelargonium) come from South Africa. South Africa part 2
The park had a circular road for touring the most floral area, and walking paths criss-crossing the area for those of us wishing a closer look.
The pale lumps behind Dick are not rocks...
South Africa part 2
...but termite mounds. South Africa part 2
We didn't see the termites but we did see lizards which we presume eat the termites or other insects in the flower fields South Africa part 2
And another South Africa part 2
Springbok watching us. South Africa part 2
Karen having lunch and watching the flowers.
Shortly after taking this shot, we spotted Springboks in the distant field of flowers.
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They really don't want you going that way! South Africa part 2
Lacking a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, we couldn't take the road that ran through the park to the sea.
Even so, turning back towards camp, there are still flowers.
South Africa part 2
And another padstahl (listed in some of our guidebooks as a restaurant). South Africa part 2
It doesn't look it, but the building on the right had roadside advertising as a restaurant. South Africa part 2
We're still in the very early spring. Recent rainfall has raised several streams to fill the fords crossing the road. Some had paving, most were simply wet. South Africa part 2
Back to Kamiskroon for the night South Africa part 2
Almost every small town has a church in the center of town, this is Kamiskroon's. Most are photogenic. All are very different. South Africa part 2
The next morning we set off back south before the fog had lifted. South Africa part 2
After stopping in Vanrhynsdorp (again) for lunch and fuel, we turned inland on a new road. As we climbed up onto the Bokkeveld Plateau, we could see the rivers headed west to the sea. South Africa part 2
Atop the plateau, we visited the small town of Nieuwoudtville. Although the town was small, the church was impressive behind its lawn of lavender-colored flowers and with its walls of Tafelberg sandstone. South Africa part 2
Just south of Nieuwoudtville is the Hantam National Botanical Garden ... another returned-to-nature ex-farm. Acres of flowers with miles of walking paths ... and blue cranes. South Africa part 2
The paths led through areas of ever-so-slightly differing elevation, moisture and soil types, each with characteristically different vegetation. Renosterveld (primarily Renosterbos, Elytropappus rhinocerotis) seems to be the same niche as the dry western sagebrush flats back home (except Karen isn't allergic to the renoster). South Africa part 2

The leaves of the Maartblom (an Amaryllis relative which blooms in the fall, March down here).

South Africa part 2
The soccerball sized flower heads dry and roll around like tumble weeds. South Africa part 2
Communal spiders are not something we'd heard of before. South Africa part 2
So they made sure we became better educated on the species.  South Africa part 2
We are familiar with slugs but didn't expect to find them here! South Africa part 2
The Nieuwoudtville upper falls on the Doom River. South Africa part 2
... and the lower falls for a total drop of 90 meters (295 feet). South Africa part 2
A wild jade tree. South Africa part 2
and not-wild ostriches amongst the sheep. South Africa part 2
The plateau's landscape was flat, with flowers. South Africa part 2
Retracing our route, we dropped (hmmm...bad choice of word) back down off the plateau. The little symbol under the 70 kph sign indicates that Speed Cameras are in use on this section of the road. South Africa part 2
After a night in Vanrhynsdorp, we continued south on the N7 past other "tables" South Africa part 2
some shrouded by fog South Africa part 2
This land of orchards requires irrigation South Africa part 2
But it is hard to photograph from the road. South Africa part 2
Despite the crazy drivers this was the only active accident we saw: the bus snagged the truck's bumper while trying to park. Lots of folks out in the road giving advice as we pulled out of our parking spot, immediately behind the "bakkie" (pick-up truck). That could'a been our front bumper. South Africa part 2
We bounced back through Clanwilliam to buy groceries. But not quite at this volume. Lots of meat in this culture where everyone "braais" (what we call barbeque) South Africa part 2
The Clanwilliam Dam at the top of the lake, interrupting the Olifantsrivier. South Africa part 2
... and its lake, where we'd stayed the night 4 days ealier.
The Cedarberg Mountain range looms to the east of it.
South Africa part 2
Flowers were rampant along the roadside. South Africa part 2
Lunch at a charming place in Citrusdal ... South Africa part 2
... called Die Citrus. We loved the sign and the food was good too. South Africa part 2
Fortified by lunch we again turned east off the main road, and headed into the wilds... South Africa part 2 cross the mountains via Middelberg Pass on a relatively short, but tortuous, stretch of gravel road that was a segment of the otherwise-paved R303. South Africa part 2
We had hoped to pass between parallel ranges of the Cedarbergs by taking a rough road a bit further north ... it was listed as even more scenic. But it was flooded at both ends, and our VW rental contract specifically forbade playing in the water. South Africa part 2
But this road was quite scenic. It eventually led to oranges in a rugged valley South Africa part 2
with guineafowl South Africa part 2
and down into the more settled area one mountain range inland from Cape Town. South Africa part 2
We camped in the town of Ceres at the "Ceres Resort". South Africa part 2
It was a very different campground: much of the property was given over to trailers attached to cabins. The power drops were to boxes to plug in cords from the trailers so we assume the trailer was the kitchen. South Africa part 2
Some were even more built in. Most were privately owned. South Africa part 2
Peacocks patrolled the grounds. South Africa part 2
Another Amaryllis with flat-to-the-ground leaves (but not the same flower as pictured in my flower book for the Maartblom we had seen so much). This is the only such flower I saw so I wonder if it was out of season. South Africa part 2
A small pond in the resort was covered with these flowers, waterblommetjie. They were featured in a mutton dish we had as typical Afrikaans cooking. South Africa part 2
At dusk, the silence was shattered by loud squawking birds in the trees. They turned out to be Egyptian geese. We had seen them in several other places -- we just now discovered that they become very loud at twilight. South Africa part 2
The next morning, climbing westward out of Ceres on the R46, we stopped at a pull-off overlook. The Dwarsrivier with falls roared through the craggy valley below us. South Africa part 2
We got a great view ... of where the road was leading towards Mitchell's Pass... South Africa part 2
And spent half an hour trying to get good photos of the multitude of "dassies" (rock hyraxes) filling the viewpoint's picnic area. South Africa part 2
Along the route we met more windmill parts marshalling their forces. This time there were all three blades waiting to get moving. Dick became quite charmed by the use of the word "Abnormal" instead of our less-fanciful "oversized". South Africa part 2
Above the town of Worcester (yes, pronounced like the one in Massachusetts) we next stopped at the Karoo Desert Botanical Garden, even though we were not in the desert nor the Karoo.
Through careful planning, hard work and soil conditions, they created biomes and grouping of plants found throughout the drier areas of South Africa north and east of here.
South Africa part 2
More kocherboom South Africa part 2
and blooming aloe South Africa part 2
plus lots more South Africa part 2
even some Welwitschia growing outside! South Africa part 2
And a huge euphorbia. Euphobias fill the cactus niche on this side of the world. South Africa part 2
Weaverbird nests South Africa part 2
And interesting rock paths. They even had a braille pathway with different foothing where the braille signs were and plants to touch. South Africa part 2
A lovely plant display with lots of labels and variety. South Africa part 2
  South Africa part 2
Why does the phrase "hog heaven" come to mind?  South Africa part 2
  South Africa part 2
Dropping into Worcester, we stopped at the Kleinplasie Living Open Air Museum which promised an restaurant serving foods reflecting Afrikaans heritage. Remember the wasserbloom from the Ceres Resort? This is where they were brought to the table. South Africa part 2
The restaurant had a beautiful quilt on the wall. South Africa part 2
And a marvelous set of fig roots in the parking lot. (Karen is always looking for complexes of roots to serve as design inspiration) South Africa part 2
Now we're on the N1, heading west towards Cape Town through lots of sedimentary layers South Africa part 2
We're approaching the Hawequas Mountains, pierced by the Huguenot tunnel.   South Africa part 2
We decided to forgo the tunnel and go up and over the mountains via the old road. South Africa part 2
It was a good choice: very little traffic and a great view of the Nederburg area just west of Paarl, only an hour's drive from Cape Town. South Africa part 2
But we turned left on the outskirts of Paarl and headed south. As the population (and winery) density increased, the number of campgrounds diminished. Even so, we found sylvan settings at the Mountain Breeze campground just south of Stellenbosch. Yes, it was windy. This is a Yellowwood forest, with the usual off-season lack of crowding we'd come to expect.
Herein hangs two tales: one of our front turn signals had died. We'd tried replacing the bulb, but to no avail. LekkerCamper arranged to drive to our campsite and replaced the entire lamp assembly as we were finishing breakfast. Very good service.
The second tale was found in the adjacent farm's dried fruit and nuts store. Hearing our accents, the woman behind the counter asked where we were from. It turned out that she had lived in the Seattle area for a few years, but had returned to South Africa.
South Africa part 2
In the morning we stopped by the in-city gardens at the University of Stellenbosch.
A thriving, compact tour of the plants of the world crammed into half of a city block.
With proteas
And tree ferns, which we know Karen has to take photos of.

Next Stop: Tree Tops and Surf

Cape Town
(Flowers and shores of the west coast)
Tree Tops and Surf
(east of Cape Town to Port Elizabeth)

Animals and Mountains
(Addo to Kruger and the Drakensbergs)


all text and images copyright Karen and Dick Seymour 2013,
and may not be reproduced without written permission

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