Namaqualand is a wilderness strewn with mines and mission stations, diamonds and dust. However, for a few frivolous weeks in spring, the granite hills and lava lowlands erupt with flowers.
About 4 000 species of plant lie dormant amongst the sand and stone, their germination dependent upon weather conditions. Each year’s floral display is therefore unique, enticing flower-gazers from Cape Town northwards to the Namibian border.
In this semi-desert, it is the uncertain winter rainfall that determines the flowers. Then, Spring starts somewhere between August and September and timing is everything. The flowers emerge first in the Sandveld strip on the west coast and the area around Springbok and Steinkopf, further north.
As the weather becomes warmer the flowers flow eastward toward the mountains and on brightly-lit days between 11am and 4pm, with the sun at your back, the resulting full-frontal spectacle is positively psychedelic.
550 kilometres north of Cape Town and over a hundred kilometres from the west coast, the most popular flower routes cluster around Springbok, the only town worthy of the designation on the long march north to Namibia. 15 kilometres outside of Springbok is the 15 000 hectare Goegap Nature Reserve which encompasses the Hester Malan Wildflower Reserve.
Somewhat closer to Cape Town than the rest of the region’s flower routes, the so-called Garden Route of Namaqualand is cooler than the hinterland and you’re more likely to find flowers here late in the season. A dirt-road ramble through Kamieskroon, Leliefontein, and Garies via the Kamiesberg Pass offers history and scenery in equal measure.