REPORT ON TOUR TO SPRINGBOK
17th – 22nd August 2017
You start a flower tour with high expectation and experience has it that flowers start in the Northern Cape before the Western Cape, generally! Generally, is the operative word – this year of 2017 was, unfortunately, the exception!
We headed off with a cloud free sky up the N7, to fields and fields of Canola – so this was promising – there was colour (yellow) in the air. After a coffee at the Desert Rose Farm stall we arrived in Clanwilliam at 12h30. The level of the Clanwilliam dam is quite depressing (only 31%) – much like those in the Western Cape and obviously, due to a lack of rain in the area.
A good lunch at Nancy’s Tea Room and we headed into Ramskop flower reserve, which definitely has some flowers – it is, sadly, showing some signs of neglect in the form of weeds – could the municipality not spruce the gardens up in view of the flower season. It is very sad to note that the annual Clanwilliam Flower show has been cancelled because of the lack of flowers in the area, which all need to be picked for the show. We also visited Strassberger’s who sad, have not changed the style or pattern of their shoes for years and years. The Rooibos Tea Shop is always a good stop and and some purchases made by those who enjoy Rooibos.
We returned to the N7 and headed up to Klawer where a short stop was made at the Klawer wine cellars for a wine tasting by 4 of our group! We checked into Letsatsi Lodge, near Vanrhynsdorp, where, by now, the wind had come up – an early night, and for some of us (a sleepless night) as we were in the tented accommodation and the wind flapped the tent sides the entire night!
We enjoyed breakfast and headed to Quaggaskop where we were booked for a succulent tour with Christine of the Vanrhynsdorp nursery who is so knowledgeable on succulents and their growing patterns. We were in luck as the LONG Sishen/Saldanha train (4km according to Christine) passed about 1km from us………What excitement to see a train stretching so far on a track! The coffee station was opened and we all enjoyed a cuppa!
We had a comfort break with much hilarity at the Nuwerus police station – no other facilities in town and Carol went tongue-in-cheek to ask their permission – what a clean police station and thank you to them for this!
Our arrival in Garies for lunch at the Garies Toeristestal showed 3 tour buses outside – and plenty of people inside! But, Sonya has trained her staff so well and in no time we had our light lunches prepared, leaving a few of the ladies plenty of time to do what they do best – shopping and gathering!
Settling into Mountain View Guest House in Springbok is such a happy time – Maggie comes out to the gate to welcome all – such wonderful hospitality with her staff available to take suitcases to rooms.
Dinner tonight was at Tauren Steakhouse– usually an excellent restaurant – but this time with a few flaws, with the staff quickly changing and making sure everyone was happy! A relatively early night after the long day!
Saturday morning dawned and Ricardo was very punctual in arriving to guide us on our tour. First stop he excitedly told us was at the local radio station – Radio NFm 98.1 – where some of us were interviewed on air about what we expected to see and experience in the Namaqualand area. They are trying to promote tourism in their area. Well done, Ricardo on your enthusiastic approach!
We enjoyed our time with you and Uncle Jo who has a small museum at his home. Uncle Jo goes into the veld around Concordia/ Nababeep and O’Kiep on a daily basis. Of course, this area has a wonderful history of glitz and glamour of the copper mines era – he has pieces of old china from the veld along with ammunition samples all graded in size – Charles suggested to this 76-year-old man that he started cataloguing his ‘valuable’ collection for future use! (Hopefully he will take heed of this!)
We spent some time at the local church (with a pending funeral and us in the car park) – a memorable visit. Then we realised 2 of our ladies – Jenna and Charlotte, had walked up the stairs to the church steeple before the funeral people had arrived and then had to wait it out whilst everyone entered the church. They could then politely leave!
Our Orbicle Hill visit was spoilt a bit by a howling wind but still beautiful to those who’ve never been here before! We then visited the community hall for a comfort break to find ourselves surrounded by men from the Apostolic church around the Western and Northern Cape who were having a church conference! A visit to the Nababeep museum followed by lunch with Gladys another tour guide – just a pity that a previous tour group had enjoyed lunch before us which resulted in our lunch being served cold, and not what we had ordered.
A definite highlight was the Nama dancers in the car park, along with a local DJ – introducing us to another side of Namaqualand. After the disappointing lunch, many wanted some good coffee and a nice slice of cake – which we found in Springbok at the Herb Garden! Thanks to the staff who willingly and happily served us.
Click on this link to view a video: NAMA DANCERS
Tonight, dinner was at the O’Kiep Hotel which was a wonderful meal – their beef soup followed by mains with the theme being Lamb, was superb – Lamb ribs / shanks / roast lamb my goodness what a choice, served with fresh vegetables. Dessert was delightful with some going for a second helping! A truly delicious meal with such friendly staff!
Sunday dawned warmer with NO wind and we were headed into Namaqua National Park where the local tourist office said, ‘some flowers were blooming’ – A quick stop at the Kamieskroon hotel put some perspective into what we were heading to when the owner came out and when asked by Carol “Are there flowers in the park” – his answer was “Is there a lion at the water hole at Mata Mata?” a stock answer to the same question he must hear a 1000 times a day!
The Namaqua National Park is dismal right now – no flowers at all – the patches that are growing are coming out of parched land – a very real worry for all in the area including all the accommodation establishments! Carol found it personally depressing after what she had experienced in 2016, a week earlier than our current date – field upon field of orange flowers!
On our road back to Springbok, we enjoyed the hospitality of Die Murasie and a bit of retail therapy – Serene is a very gracious hostess and together with her friend they open up a ‘pop up shop’ in an old dilapidated property on the way into the Namaqua Park.
Unfortunately, we experienced coach problems on our return to Springbok, which resulted in a new coach being sent overnight from Cape Town. Thanks to the team at Hylton Ross for their efficiency.
Monday morning and we left after breakfast saying goodbye to Maggie and her delightful staff heading along the same N7 route to Letsatsi – we arrived in Vanrhynsdorp to find out that the coffee shop which had been open last year, has now been closed! Changes happen my goodness – so here we were heading into Vredendal, on recommendation, to go to Thi Art Coffee shop in the Maskan Mall – a delightful coffee shop where apparently owner, Danie who previously had run a coffee shop in Montpellier, France decided to do the same in his home town! Well done, Danie.
After a light lunch, some of the group were keen to do wine tasting and to our delight we arrived at Namaqua Wines who do a Chocolate (with Lindt chocolate, nogal) and wine pairing – we had fun for an hour or more and then headed back to Letsatsi to check in again.
Dinner tonight was good and enjoyable. Sad that one of our party had the worry of high Blood Pressure, but fortunately, didn’t need to go to the local hospital and instead decided to return earlier to JHB, the following morning.
Tuesday morning and we’re heading back to Cape Town via Elands Bay where the promise of flowers was very evident all along the road. We headed into West Coast National Park at about 12h45 and were treated to flowers / flowers everywhere. On a clear day with no clouds there’s no finer place to be than in the National Park and particularly the Postberg Flower Reserve, which is only open in August & September each year.! My goodness the ooh’s and aah’s made up for the disappointment of Springbok!!
I personally believe the cherry-on-the-top was that as we came up a hill we saw 2 ostriches with 11 chicks! What a sight – we were SO fortunate that there was no oncoming traffic to chase them away as we could revel in this sight for at least 10 minutes. (See last photo in the gallery)
Perfect ending to our time with nature!
“Take a quiet walk with Nature – it will nurture your mind, body and soul”