Words and pictures by Gillian McAinsh
YOU won’t believe it until you’ve seen it. In the Namaqua National Park, it looks like someone has dropped gigantic cans of Fanta orange to fizz as far as the horizon.
The West Coast National Park’s pastures of bright flowers will transport you to Switzerland until you notice the gemsbok grazing and the ice-blue Atlantic shimmering around the corner.
Little West Coast towns have white drifts of snow pooled next to their roads.
Langebaan Country Club’s manicured gardens should hang their heads in shame next to their country cousins’ wild profusion bursting out on the golf course. As for wayward golfers, they can forget about retrieving their mis-hit ball. It would be like hunting for a needle in a haystack!
The flowers of Namaqualand and the West Coast are superb with tourism authorities saying they are the best in 10 years.
This year’s biting winter and lashing rain have brought misery to many, but an abundant floral crop.
Wherever you go, there is an impressionist painter’s palette on a far larger scale than the gardens of Giverny and it’s not yet over. Although Clanwilliam and Hopefield have already had their flower festivals, if you go next weekend you’ll be in time to catch the Darling Wild Flower Show in the Swartland.
So, if you can get as far as the Western Cape, fill your tank with fuel, travel slowly, stop often and follow these tips:
Like Scandinavian tourists, the flowers follow the sun, so drive with the sun behind you and the flowers facing you when planning your daily route.
This means you should start in the north, travel in a westerly direction in the morning, south during the day and east in the afternoon.
- The flowers are at their best between 11am and 4pm so don’t rush out early unless you have some distance to go before you get to the flowers.
- The flowers do not open in heavily overcast or rainy weather so have a “fallback” list of other sights when planning your trip. Nature doesn’t come with a remote control.
If you can, get out of your car and walk among the flowers – you will appreciate them so much more. After all, as the poet William Henry Davies said: “What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?”