Wednesday 10th August 2016 and the 15-seater coach left the Blauuwberg beachfront at 09h30. Thirteen excited people all headed to Springbok.
Our first morning’s drive was along the yellow canola fields around the N7 and by 12h30 we were all settled into Nancy’s Tea Room in Clanwilliam, waiting for lunch to be served. Excellent service, huge portions and very shortly we moved on to to Ramskop Flower Reserve to view the beauty of nature. The gardens are looking excellent!
Next stop was Netmar (Rooibos Tea Shoppe) – 2 sisters have established this very popular shop in Clanwilliam. They give a short talk on the Rooibos products and it is wonderful that you have a broad spectre of Rooibos to choose from.
Leaving Clanwilliam we had 80km to travel to our overnight stop in Vanrhynsdorp, at Letsatsi Lodge. Their unique accommodation has luxury rooms which with a full bathroom en suite. What makes it different is that they have an additional ‘outdoor’ room which has tented sides. Dinner was in house at the Red Ox Restaurant.
Sadly Ivan became ill and he and Linda chose to return to Cape Town with their son-in-law the following day. We were all very sad about this and can only imagine what they must have felt like, leaving a tour they had looked forward to!
After a hearty breakfast we headed into Vanrhynsdorp and visited the Old Jail – a prison established in 1895 which has been lovingly restored by Eduard and his wife, Monica into a General Dealer focusing on Succulents from the area. Monica told us the history of the building and everyone browsed and did some gathering.
We had an appointment with Christine from the Knersvlatke Spens (and Kokerboom Nursery) and we met her just 30km from Vanrhynsdorp and headed along a sand road to a private conservation area called Quaggaskop where we all enjoyed an hour discovering the world of succulents in the veld. What an amazing experience – the one that intrigued most was the ‘babies-bottom’ succulent. We were sad to leave this amazing area, where Christine and her husband have hosted many top class botanists and lovers of succulents – an unique experience for us all.
We then continued our journey to Springbok, stopping at Garies and to the Garies Toeristestal where Sonja Jordaan and her efficient team run an excellent restaurant (and a fabulous ‘gathering’ place) – amazing what one can find in these out-of-the-way places!
Next stop was Kamieskroon where we stopped to photograph the flowers in the town and met with Peet Kruger who has a wealth of information on the flowers! After this we drove the last 60km to Springbok along a road under re-construction (a few “stop-goes”). Wonderful that our roads are all being re-done! (But frustrating when one has time constraints on tour!)
We checked into Mountain View Guest House and Maggie, who is such a gracious hostess, showed everyone to their very comfortable rooms. Dinner was pre-arranged at the Tauren Streak House in Springbok. The food was delicious.
On Friday morning the decision was taken to head back to Kamieskroon and Skilpad Flower Reserve in the Namakwa National Park, as local sources said the Goegap Reserve in Springbok was currently a “dust bowl with no flowers”. Weather predictions showed that rain was coming on Saturday and we didn’t want to miss the flowers. En route we all enjoyed coffee at the unique ‘pop-up’ shop-Die Murasie– just before Skilpad where Serene and a friend cater so elegantly for all in flower season. A groaning cake table where you help yourself to a slice, and you are served coffee/tea with a view-to-die-for! For Brian and I it was equally wonderful to see, as we’d seen the “Before” and “After” of Die Murasie – what a conversion!!
Entrance into Skilpad was slow when we discovered our first patch of flowers! Everyone was so excited to see the orange patches dotted across the landscape. We drove their 5km flower route stopping all along the way for new discoveries of flowers / tortoises / and interesting views!
Lunch was a picnic purchased at the local Spar in Springbok and true-to-form weather patterns changed! Very soon a cold wind forced us all back into the vehicle and heading back to Springbok.
Dinner tonight was at the wonderful O’Kiep Hotel – what a fabulous buffet they prepare and their staff are so very well trained. A fabulous evening.
Saturday morning after breakfast we all headed back into O’Kiep – this time for a Mine Tour with Joseph who is the General Manager of the Hotel. We spent a fabulous hour with him and his enthusiasm for the history of the defunct copper mine is unbelievable! (Some of us came home with ‘green tainted’ stones and rocks – fabulous to bring something like this back to Cape Town)
Leaving O’Kiep, we travelled a short distance to Concordia and sought out Orbicule Hill, a national monument which lies west of Concordia. It is an exhibit of orbicular diorite. This very rare rock texture was formed as a result of granitoid magmas separating while in a fluid state which forms concentric internal banding! Fabulous to see including the very large Quiver trees – what a start to our Saturday. We continued our journey to Port Nolloth where over lunch at the Vespetti restaurant on their “waterfront” where we watched the mist roll in and out of this little seaside town.
Dinner tonight was at the newly opened Springbok Inn where they prepared a braai for our group.
Sunday morning – we all had an early breakfast at 09h00 and headed out of Springbok in the light rain. Another coffee stop at Garies where just about everyone enjoyed coffee & cake! Amazing how one can find space for cake even though you’ve just finished breakfast!
We arrived back at Letsatsi Lodge in Vanrhynsdorp just after 13h00 and put suitcases in rooms and headed into Vredendal to ‘flower-hunt’ – AMAZING finds again and the cameras rolled and rolled! Dinner in the Red Ox restaurant again, but this time a delicious set menu of 350gm rump steak or a chicken cordon bleau topped off with a Rooibos Strawberry cheesecake.
Monday morning and we all had an early breakfast and were on-the-road by 08h30, headed to The West Coast National Park. En route a stop to find rooibos plants for Monica ; pick up our padkos at the Piekenierskloof Lodge and just before 13h00 we headed into the glory of The West Coast Nation Park and the Postberg Flower Reserve– OMGoodness even more photos and ooh’s and aah’s. This stop was not on the Itinerary, however weather changes and lack of flowers in some areas necessitated this final viewing.
In summing up our experiences: