Text Elaine Coaton Eksteen Production Sven Alberding Photographs Micky Hoyle, Peter Chadwick/ Art Directors Agency, Getty Images Depending on the winter rainfall, but usually from late July through to the end of September, the fields, verges, mountain slopes and hillsides round Clanwilliam and Nieuwoudtville burst into full colour as iridescent vygies, African daisies and pretty asters lift their petalled faces to the Namaqualand sun. It’s one of those South African wonders you must experience first hand. We did the legwork to make planning your trip easier.
Clanwilliam is one of the oldest towns in South Africa. And because it is situated where the dry Karoo joins the marshlands at the foothills of the Cederberg and Pakhuis mountains, it boasts an enormous variety of wild flowers. The gregarious springtime display is truly something to behold. Each year Clanwilliam holds its Wild Flower Show (027-482-2024, clanwilliam.info) in the town’s neogothic Dutch Reformed church, now nicknamed the Flower Church. This year it takes place from 27 August to 2 September. Ramskop Nature Reserve (027-482-8000), set on the edge of the Clanwilliam dam, is another great place for flower spotting. While You're There
Just 34 kilometres from Clanwilliam, over the Pakhuis Pass, you’ll find the Sevilla Rock Art Trail (027-482-1824, travellersrest.co.za), a four-kilometre self-guided walking route that takes in 10 sites. Your kids will love the moustache teacup and the Nommer Asseblief-era switchboard (in use until 1995!) in Clanwilliam’s museum, the Old Gaol (corner Park and Main streets, 072-889- 9940), one of the oldest buildings in town. The agile can try their hand at bouldering – a sport in which climbers traverse and hang from boulders by their chalky fingers… no ropes in sight, and just a crash pad (foam mattress) between them and a painful landing! Rocklands (a farm 20 kilometres outside of Clanwilliam) is considered one of the top five bouldering sites in the world. Amy Varga and her team (079-412-5734, rocklandsboulders.com) are happy to teach the basics to anyone wanting to learn. Drop in at the Yellow Aloe coffee shop and guesthouse (1 Park Street, 027-482-2018), where you can drink a latte on the sunny veranda or under the wild pepper tree. Reinholds (Main Street, 027-482-2163) is a good dinner option – try the Karoo lamb chops followed by the tipsy tart. Sleep
Our favourite places to stay are a little out of town. If you love luxury there’s only one place to unpack your bag, and that’s Bushmans Kloof (021-481-1860, bushmanskloof.co.za). Set in the foothills of the northern Cederberg, this wilderness reserve is the sort of place you go to recharge your soul. Here you can have a massage in the outdoor spa gazebo, take a walking tour of some of the many rock-art sites or dine under the stars amongst the red sandstone cliffs. Sightings of Cape fox and African wild cat are not uncommon. Honeymooners should book the Riverside Supreme Suite (from R3 100pp including meals), while the exclusive-use villa Koro Lodge (from R13 000 per night for the villa with meals, it sleeps eight) is perfect for families or a group of friends. Just 20 minutes out of town, Karukareb (027-482-1675, karukareb.co.za) has five permanent tents with views across the Krakadouw Mountains. Your kids will love looking for clawless otter prints along the riverbank. Book Tent One for a romantic weekend. If it’s too hot to hike, they’ll drop you and your picnic at the natural swimming hole so you can loll about in the water. From R500pp dbb.
At just a couple of streets wide and a few blocks long, Nieuwoudtville’s claim to be ‘the bulb capital of the world’ might seem a little overstated, but it’s not an undue title. In addition to the amazing springtime display of daisies and flowering succulents, this Namaqualand beauty also has an enormous array of bulbs, which bloom between March and October. You’d be missing something special if you didn’t pay this tiny Northern Cape dorp a visit – it is only four hours from Cape Town. Our favourite flower-spotting route is the circular Rondekop one. Stop to admire the awe-inspiring Quiver Tree Forest at its start. Here thousands of these sculptural aloe trees line the slopes of koppies some 27 kilometres to the north of town. Continue through the farmlands where the bands of white, red, orange and yellow daisies are nothing short of miraculous. Allow about two hours. Hantam National Botanical Garden (027-218-1200, sanbi.org/frames/hantamfram.htm) was set up in 2007 on what was formerly Neil MacGregor’s farm Glenlyon. There are large areas of natural Succulent Karoo and renosterveld fynbos vegetation plus a world- renowned variety of bulbs. Guided tours are available between August and October. While You're There
Make sure you stop to admire the architecture of the beautiful caramel- coloured sandstone church in the centre of town. Visit the lush vantage point of the Nieuwoudtville waterfall. In flower season don’t leave without trying Mary Beukes’ roosterkoek served with Hantam sausage or apricot jam, or local speciality skuinskoek (small oval-shaped, aniseed-flavoured doughnuts). Paul Dogon (082-823-7384) offers star-gazing evenings through telescopes that he builds. Join him for an entertaining tour through planets, globular clusters and supernovas. R400 per evening. During the flower season (and otherwise by appointment) you can visit the beautiful rooibos, olive and sheep farm Papkuilsfontein (027- 218-1246, papkuilsfontein.com) for lunch or tea, which is served in the Waenhuis. The menu includes soup (the pear and sweet potato one is to die for), lamb pie and Alrie van Wyk’s specially made cakes. In town, try The 1897 Nedersetting Farm Kitchen (corner Voortrekker and Nassau streets, 027-218-1897) for oxtail bredie or a toasted sarmie. Or the Smidswinkel (Neethling Street, 027-218-1535) for lamb knuckles and malva pud. Stock up with Marius Spaggenberg’s delicious dried sausage and biltong at the Nieuwoudtville Slaghuis (Voortrekker Street, 027-218- 1007) before you leave. Sleep
Be warned: if you stay at Papkuilsfontein, you’ll be planning your next visit before your tyres have reached the tar road in town! With its own 180-metre-deep canyon, a 12-kilometre hiking route, rock pools, rich bird life, and unsurpassed hospitality it’s a destination in itself. There are three lovely sandstone cottages for rent on the farm. Accommodation can be self-catering (from R250pp) or on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis, or anything in between. Hint: Alrie’s delicious slow food is not to be missed! Alrie’s mother-in-law, Mariëtte, runs a beautifully decorated suite (R550pp dbb, open only in August and September) on the neighbouring farm Matjiesfontein and the charming Jan Voorman’s Cottage at De Lande (R410pp dbb) (027-218- 1246, papkuilsfontein.com). When we visited Nakkie van Wyk (027-218-1249) near the Quiver Tree Forest she was adding the finishing touches to her Kokerboom guesthouse that she’s just given a chic makeover. The pantry cupboard is stocked with green fig preserve, and she promises to deliver freshly baked bread every morning! (R600 for two; thereafter R100pp). This article was originally featured in the September 2009 issue of House and Leisure.