With wonderful memories of our Spring Flowers trip through parts of the Western Cape in September 2021 still fresh in our minds, we decided to do a similar, but different, trip in September 2022. Our planned route was to take us to Tulbagh for one night, then three nights each in Clanwilliam and Paternoster. To round off the trip we treated ourselves to a three night stay in Cape Town’s Vineyard Hotel, in celebration of our birthdays which “book-ended” the trip,
I would recommend clicking on the images where appropriate to view in larger scale and appreciate the beauty and perfection of the flowers.
After another substantial breakfast served on the stoep of the Yellow Aloe Guest House (fruit and yoghurt, full English breakfast), we set off to ‘find’ the Biedouw Valley which we had often read about since becoming interested in the annual Spring Flowers of Namaqualand and the West Coast. It seemed to be one of THE places to see the spring flowers in the area and we wanted to see for ourselves if that was indeed the case. (Spoiler alert – it was!)
The weather report was encouraging – 20 degrees C and sunny – almost perfect conditions for the flowers to be open during the core flower-viewing hours of 11 am to about 4 pm (just the opposite of ideal birding hours).
Heading out of Clanwilliam on the northern side, we crossed the Jan Dissels River and joined the R364 regional road which took us into the mountains. A signboard indicated “Pakhuiskloof Pass for next 21 kms”, heralding the start of a drive through fascinating mountain scenery unlike any we have seen before – so this is the Cedarberg that people rave about!
The mountains have the look of being ‘built’ rather than formed, with rows of gigantic, squarish blocks topped by rocks weathered into a myriad of shapes, many of them strange, some vaguely reminiscent of known forms – Gerda pointed one out that looked a bit like an old man sitting in a chair.
The road was exceptionally quiet, so we stopped regularly to take in the views and photograph some of the interesting roadside flowers.
Soon we reached a turn-off signposted “Biedouw Valley / Wupperthal” which immediately became a gravel road that twisted through hills, then started its descent into the valley which we caught glimpses of far below.
Halfway down we came across several vehicles that had stopped and we did likewise, joining the knots of fellow flower-spotters who were meandering about, admiring the multi-coloured rafts of flowers, pointing and photographing at every turn.
Further down, a track branched off to the left and took us past even more extensive patches of flowers in full bloom, stretching into the distance.
We were pleased that we could recognise some of the flowers, the names of which we had learnt over the last couple of days. Highly satisfied, we continued into the valley proper and found ourselves at a small Padstal (Roadside shop) which we discovered had opened that day!
The owner Joubert even came to greet us excitedly at the car as we parked outside the converted garage – both he and his wife worked in Clanwilliam and were trying their luck with this venture on the side – real ‘salt of the earth’ people who deserve to succeed, although the flower season is for a very limited time. Naturally, we left with a few packets of home-made goodies after greeting our new-found ‘friends’
That was also our turnaround point and, on the way back, while still enjoying the abundant flowers, we looked out for birds and other interesting creatures, a few of which posed nicely for me.
Heading back through the pass I stopped a few times to listen and look out for the Cape Rockjumper which favours this habitat, but without success.
The grave of C Louis Leipoldt – considered to be one of the great Afrikaner poets and writers – lies not far from the road through the Pakhuis Pass and we stopped to pay our respects briefly, then continued to Clanwilliam where we enjoyed a late lunch / early supper at Bella Louise restaurant to round off a perfect day of exploring.
And to end with ….. this flower looks almost as good from the back as it does from the front