Those pretty things we know as flowers may be the best reason to visit South Africa in the late summer months. Adventure seekers and nature lovers take hiking expeditions in the wildflower parks, kayak in the Orange River, and savor the selection of South African pastry treats on colorful roadside stands. Welcome to Northern Cape.
The Afrikaans-speaking Northern Cape makes up one-third of South Africa, and is home to the beautiful Khoisan people who are a mixture of the original San hunter-gatherers and the later-arriving KhoiKhoi. In August and September, the Northern Cape’s Namaqualand Daises Route (about 484 miles) boasts fields of rare and exotic wildflowers like yellow sparaxis, snow proteas and purple geraniums as the arid climate enters the rainy season. You can step into these brilliant fields and be encompassed by flowers set high on hills, surrounding you for miles.
Namaqualand is also host to strange-looking flora, such as the almost leafless Quiver tree whose branches were used by Bushmen to hold their arrows, as well as the mysterious Namaqua Half-mens.
As you cruise down the N14 highway, the bucolic sight of pastures, the odd cow and lone windmills will cause unconscious braking. Sample one of the popular local treats displayed on the roadside stands, such as a pannekoek, which is a sweet crepe-like roll or a roosterkoek, which is a warm piece of bread with fig jelly.
One of the Namaqualand towns, the sleepy Matjiestfontein, bears abandoned fields with postcard-perfect landscapes. In the 1840s, an enterprising Scotsman, Jimmy Logan, made profitable use of supplying the trains in Matjiestfontein with water and food during the long haul north to Pretoria, the national capital of South Africa.
Just past the town of Kakamas lies Augrabies Falls National Park, or “Aukoerbis,” which means the place of great noise by the Khoesaan people. The park is set in a rocky mosaic around an 11-mile ravine through where the Orange River flows. Excursions include a 25-mile hike on the Klipspringer Trail or the Gariep 3-in-1 Route, which is a combination of walking, canoeing and mountain biking. Alternatively, one can visit the Doorn River Falls, a waterfall situated a few miles north of Nieuwoudtville. One of its main falls resembles a faucet with water rushing out of it.
In the Hester Malan Wild Flower Garden, which forms part of the Goegap Nature Reserve, you can admire 600 varieties of flowers like aloe and succulents. The flowers can be seen during a hike, 4X4 drive, camping, or by mountain biking the 35 kilometer route. There are also 45 species of mammals in the park, including gemsbok, springbok, and mountain zebras.
Although much of Northern Cape is arid terrain, water activities can also be found in the region, like river rafting in the Orange River or exploring the Diamond Coast, where pristine beaches, archaeological sites from the Late Stone Age and shipwrecks are abundant.
The name “Springbok” may ring a bell as being the name of South Africa’s national rugby team, which won the 2007 World Cup and inspired the blockbuster “Invictus.” However, in Northern Cape, Springbok is the name of a town with a copper-mining history from 160 years ago.
Outside of flower season there is little to see or do. During flower season, the rocky hills explode into colorful layouts of yellow and orange carpets. The Springbok Lodge & Restaurant is a popular location for tourists to sample local fare, purchase souvenirs, and see dozens of pictures of the town over the last century. The owner, Jopie Kotze is a South African businessman who helped develop Springbok as a tourist destination by renovating local buildings into guest housing and museums.
Where to Stay: The Naries Namakwa Retreat which offers a beautiful hideaway on the edge of the Spektakelberg between Springbok and Kleinzee. The exotic, dome-shaped suites are made of South African thatch reeds built around an impressive granite boulder.
The inside may be just as stunning as the outside; like the soaking tubs large enough for two, plush, African accents, and a view of the 15 acres of desert surroundings. A fitting conclusion to your day would be signing up for the Naries scenic jeep ride at dusk, followed by a sundowner of wine and cheese.(www.naries.co.za)
(Adrienne Jordan is a travel writer who has posed on the edge of Victoria Falls in Zambia and walked with rhinos in South Africa. Based is in Los Angeles, she gets stir-crazy staying in one place for too long. She writes about travel adventures on her blog, AJtravelconfessions.com and posts travel photos on Instagram @ajeveryday.)