Tag Archives: Spring Flowers of Namaqualand and the West Coast

Spring Flowers Trip 2022 – Tietiesbaai : Bay of Plenty….. Flowers

The Background

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.

Flowers in abundance

The full breakfast at Paternoster Dunes is a gourmet affair, presented with flair and with unusual flavours – just what we enjoy as a treat. Adding to the enjoyment is the view from the upper floor dining room with its panoramic windows looking over the wide expanse of beach below and across the waves to the distant headlands.

During brekkie we got chatting to a couple from Vryburg – well Gerda got chatting, I just nodded my head occasionally – and as often happens when you get chatting with strangers, we had a glimpse into each other’s lives, which is always interesting.

The sun was shining, holding the promise for a bountiful day’s flower viewing, so after breakfast we set off to visit Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, which has the well-known ‘alternate’ name of Tietiesbaai (literally ‘Boobs Bay’ for the international readers).

Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

The reserve gate lies just a few kms from the guesthouse and once we had paid the nominal fee and entered, we travelled very slowly, with plenty of birdlife and beautiful spreads of flowers demanding our attention all the way.

Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

The sea is almost always visible from the sandy road into the reserve and tracks leading off the main route took us closer to the rocky shoreline where we admired the rafts of flowers in shades of yellow, orange and white, with the odd contrasting colour here and there, all against the rugged backdrop of sea and rocks.

Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

I don’t know of any other spot along the West coast that provides the same spectacular combination of scenery, flowers and birdlife – we were spoilt for choice!

Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

Even without the flowers, Tietiesbaai is worth a visit, but in flower season the carpets of stunning flowers add another dimension to the reserve, making it a must-visit spot, in our opinion.

Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

Strangely, not that many people have cottoned onto this as, during our visits in September last year and again this year, we have found that we have the reserve mostly to ourselves, allowing us to stop at random along the narrow tracks without the worry of blocking the road for others.

Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

The birds we came across were many and varied, with a couple of special encounters which had us excited and fascinated – I will be featuring the birds in a follow-up post as they, and indeed the flowers, are both deserving of a separate post.

Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

Once we reached the campsite, right on the edge of the sea, we made use of the neat ablutions and turned back towards Paternoster, taking the ‘upper’ road past the lighthouse.

To end off let me share some of the images of individual flowers that particularly caught our eye

Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai
Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

And to absolutely end off, even the fungi look like attractive flowers (well, I think it’s fungi …..)

Cape Columbine NR – Tietiesbaai

Oh, and please do enjoy the Christmas weekend wherever you may find yourself!

Spring Flowers Trip 2022 – Clanwilliam to Paternoster

The Background

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.

Travelling to Paternoster

Today’s trip was less about flower viewing and more about getting from one place to another with the minimum of fuss, so we were not planning any specific stops – more of a ‘play it by ear’ approach was to be the order of the day. As it turned out, the day was interesting but probably doesn’t warrant a separate post, however I wanted to treat this series of posts as a daily report of the trip, so this one is just for completeness. (hey, I’m a QS – we are obsessive types)

After another full breakfast at Yellow Aloe Guest House, which took longer than usual as everyone came to breakfast at more or less the same time, we left Clanwilliam with many fond memories of our short stay.

Rather than heading down the N7 National Road, we took the coastal route, which would take us along quieter regional roads past a number of small towns – including Lamberts Bay, Leipoldtville, Elands Bay and Velddrif.

Near Elands Bay

Along the way there were small patches of flowers here and there and I slowed down as we passed, but did not stop as we had seen many glorious flowers the previous day in the Biedouw Valley

On the way to Elands Bay we noticed patches of red in the gravelly margin bordering the tar road and stopped to have a closer look as it did not look like anything we knew. Closer inspection didn’t enlighten us, but I took a few photos of this rather strange ‘growth’ in an environment which hardly looked as if it could support anything but weeds.

Near Elands Bay

We took a quick detour to Elands Bay just to see what it looks like – the town centre left us less than impressed but the beach provided a sweeping view of the wide sands, wind-whipped sea and distant headland which demanded a photo. Easier said than done, as the wind was so strong, I had to brace myself, legs spread wide and shielding my eyes from the sand, in order to get a couple of moody shots with my iphone.

Elands Bay

Feeling peckish we popped into Rooidak padstal just outside town and got a pie for lunch – which I couldn’t finish as it was rather stodgy, then carried on along mostly straight, very flat roads to Velddrif.

Just after we turned off towards Paternoster, the road passed some of the salt pans that Velddrif is known for and I slowed, then stopped at the roadside to do a quick scan – several interesting birds were making the most of this very specific habitat and I spent about twenty minutes getting a few shots from a distance.

Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta Bontelsie, Velddrif
Kittlitz’s Plover and Little Stint, Velddrif
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor Kleinflamink, Velddrif
Lesser Flamingo and Pied Avocet, Velddrif
Lesser Flamingoes taking off, watched by Caspian Terns, Velddrif

Paternoster

The last stretch to Paternoster was in light rain and we reached our booked accommodation – Paternoster Dunes Guest House – around 3 pm where we were welcomed and soon settled in. They serve coffee/tea and cake every afternoon at 4 pm so we climbed the single flight of stairs up to the dining area and lounge which has magnificent views across the beach and beyond.

During our previous stay we had not managed to fit the afternoon tea session into our busy days so it was a particular pleasure to do so this time around, while the rain came pelting down and the strong wind tested the beach-facing windows to the extreme.

Paternoster
Paternoster

Neither of us felt like going out for dinner so we cancelled the booking that we had and ‘ate in’ on what could best be described as ‘dehydrated steak and chips’ – actually beef biltong and crisps with provita and cheese on the side – surprisingly satisfying when washed down with a glass of decent wine.

The rain subsided a bit later, so I took a walk along the beach with a light drizzle in the air and the wind still gusting quite strongly – that helped to blow all the day’s driving-induced cobwebs clear away.

Paternoster

The combination of a low sun, cloudy skies and wheeling gulls made the scene especially photogenic, and I snapped happily away with my iphone before heading back to our cosy room to relax and plan the next day’s activities. Tietiesbaai, here we come, ready or not!

Paternoster
Paternoster
Paternoster
Paternoster
Mussel shell in the sand

Spring Flowers Trip 2022 – Biedouw Valley

The Background

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.

Biedouw Valley

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!

Pakhuiskloof Pass
Pakhuiskloof Pass

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.

Pakhuiskloof Pass

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.

Biedouw Valley

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.

Biedouw Valley
Biedouw Valley
Biedouw Valley
Biedouw Valley

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.

Biedouw Valley
Biedouw Valley
Biedouw Valley
Biedouw Valley
Biedouw Valley

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!

Biedouw Valley

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’

Biedouw Valley

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.

Grasshopper doing its best to look like the surrounding soil – and succeeding!
Biedouw Valley
Hamerkop Scopus umbretta Hamerkop, Biedouw Valley
Boland Brown butterfly, Melampias huebneri, Biedouw Valley
Biedouw Valley
Familiar Chat Cercomela familiaris Gewone spekvreter (race familiaris), Biedouw Valley

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.

Pakhuiskloof Pass

And to end with ….. this flower looks almost as good from the back as it does from the front

Biedouw Valley
Biedouw Valley