Spring Flowers in the West Coast National park
Cape Town’s rainy winters are interspersed by lovely sunny and warm days which delight our European visitors during the so-called ”secret season” of Cape Town, as they are better than the best European summer’s day. Exploring Cape Town and the environs on such days can be truly rewarding as the city is not busy and one can travel anywhere without traffic or crowds. This year’s winter has been characterised by early, heavy rains with many warm days, and which has led to early blossoming of the wildflowers in many of the reserves.
Within an hour’s drive from Cape Town can be found the West Coast National Park, at which the Postberg section is open only during the spring flower season months of August to October. Having been alerted by a press release from SAN parks of the amazing carpets of wildflowers to be seen in the reserve, we took a drive in the middle of the week intending to arrive quite early. Many others must have been similarly
watching the weather forecast because there was quite a long line of cars waiting to enter the Park. Although one can see a variety of wildflowers as you drive through the reserve , once you enter the gate at the Postberg section it is as if you have entered a magical kingdom. The veld is carpeted with the most magnificent display of multicoloured wild flowers, stretching almost as far as the eye can see in every direction. Flowers in yellow, red, orange and white colours dominate the landscape while some areas covered in white Namaqualand daisies look almost like snow-covered fields. Like all visitors, we wanted to try and record some of these spectacular vistas, and stopped the car occasionally to walk to a strategic photographic viewpoint. It is then that one may see the many jewels that are hidden amongst the masses of flowers that make up the carpet; beautiful single blooms and bulbs that can easily be missed amongst the masses. At one spot we stopped to enjoy the sight of a small herd of Bontebok grazing. Although we saw several tortoises crossing the road we were not lucky enough to see any of the other game in the Park which includes Zebra, Gemsbok, Red Hartebeest and Kudu.
The shores of the peaceful Langebaan lagoon skirt the eastern side of the reserve, where one can rent a houseboat, or a cottage at Kraalbaai. There not only beautiful views and lovely clean white sand beach but a number of dedicated braai (bbq) pits and ablution facilities. The sheltered islands and beautiful beaches of the lagoon are home to a myriad of seabirds and migrant waders including flamingos. We noticed that once we had entered the West Coast National Park there was an almost constant variety of chirps and calls audible from the many birds that have made their home here. Twitchers are catered for in the Park with a number of hides, the first of which is located near the Geelbek restaurant and visitors centre, and others which are detailed on the complimentary map of the Park that will be given to you at the entrance. Plankiesbaai on the Atlantic side also has dedicated braai areas and a lovely beach for enjoyable family outings.
For those who want to take it easy, the Geelbek restaurant presents a more relaxing dining option. The restaurant is situated in a beautifully restored Cape Dutch homestead that dates back to 1740. One can dine on the terrace enjoying the sun or sit in the dining room of the house and marvel at the beautiful old wooden beams floors and amazingly thick architraves. The menu is not extensive but presents a number of local specialities beautifully prepared and presented. We enjoyed probably the best fried fish and chips that we have had anywhere; in a light crispy batter which had ben tantalisingly spiced. Also good was the sweet/spicy Cape Malay bobotie served with saffron rice, roast vegetables and a fiery sambal. . Apart from thirst quenching beers, on offer is a range of affordable wines available either as a whole bottle by the glass, focussing on the wines of the nearby Darling region which are certainly worth trying. Given the monopoly situation that the restaurant enjoys in the Park, we were pleasantly surprised at the affordable prices of the really enjoyable food.
The best route to follow from Cape Town to the West Coast National Park is to take the R27 exit from the N1, through Milnerton, and along the coast in the direction of Langebaan; the road is excellent . Entry fees are R44 for South Africans; R64 for SADC visitors and R88 for international visitors, while children up to the age of 12 pay half price. Since the flowers have bloomed early this year (2012)they may not last until end of September so go early.
On the way back we were attracted by the thatched roof West Coast Farm stall which may be found at the junction of the R27 and the Yzerfontein roads, but found it to be dingy and the goods on offer not very tempting. Insider tip : a little further towards Cape Town will be found the less attractive but rustic Vygevalley Farm stall. We left loaded with freshly baked bread, homemade jams and preserves and tasty pies. Here is also a wine shop where the wines of the region, particularly Darling wines, are available at prices easy on the pocket. Best of all, we found some gems; reds from famous estates, older than 6 years, and still labelled with prices of some years ago. It might be worth driving from Cape Town just to buy wine here. Try the Groote Post “Old Man’s Blend” Red wine; an enjoyable robust red at a bargain price or head off to the Groote Post wine estate itself a little further on, instead of going home.
By : Horizon Cottages