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 Post subject: Dinkybird Much more than flowers ... Aug 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 21, 2011 6:21 pm 
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THE flowers.

I have often heard that phrase relating to a reason many people visit somewhere to the west of South Africa. And always, but always, during "flower season".

'We are going to see "the flowers"'. 'This is the best year.' 'There was rain, go see "the flowers."'

Great ... but living in the Eastern Cape made a trip to see "the flowers" a rather long journey ... for just flowers.

Now we live in the Western Cape. And when the bug bit for a little road trip to unexplored lands , where better than to go and see exactly what "the flowers" are all about.

"The flowers" has always given me a mental pic of fields of orange flowers, somewhere in Namaqualand ... an area in SA that I knew to be somewhere up there near Namibia. So I asked a few people, and gathered that along the west coast of SA during August and September, one could see lovely flowers.

So, off we set ... with little expectation other than to see some fields of orange flowers ...

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 Post subject: Re: Much more than flowers ...
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 21, 2011 6:29 pm 
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As always, on trips such as this, one learns. And at the outset of this little tale, I'd like to share what I learnt about going to see "the flowers".

Spending time in nature means that what one experiences is the result of nature's call. Nature will determine if you see that lion, or tick that bird ... nature will choose the weather of the day, the route of the lion, the flight path of the bird. If they cross our path at the right time, we will be blessed with a special sighting and experience.

The same with "the flowers"!

I learnt that to fully appreciate the flowers, the sun needs to have been up for a good while - so between 11am and sunset is best time.

If it is not warm enough, yet still sunny, the flowers will not open. If it is cloudy, they definitely will not open.

Rain encourages the flowers ... winds hurt them. (But to grow where they do, they are pretty tough little customers.)

So when one sets off to the far west coast of SA to see the flowers ... just as when one goes to Kruger to catch a glimpse of a leopard, nature will actually determine what you finally get to see.

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 Post subject: Re: Much more than flowers ...
Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 21, 2011 7:30 pm 
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So ... off we set early on a dark late winter's morning, stopping overnight along the way and heading to Namaqualand the next day.

As I have said, this is new area to us ... and in my experience a SANPark is always well sign posted along the way and easy to find.

:|

I did see a sign with a Kudu Kop indicating that we need to turn off the N7 to the right ... the map showed the park on the left of the N7.... so I was sure some other reserve was using the Kudu Kop illegally :evil: :redface: Drive on, I told SO :doh:

Adventure part no. 1 ... entering the park via the 'back' over Wilderperdehoek Pass took some time, but was worth the effort. So we got to the Skilpad reserve area via the back door ...

If you come via the front door this is what you see:

Quite a way after the first 'Kudu Kop' turn off ... a sign!!!!
Image
One of the few signs by dinkybird, on Flickr

Perhaps a hint of what was about to come?
Image
Entrance road by dinkybird, on Flickr

The real deal (sign wise)!
Image
Here we are! by dinkybird, on Flickr

Reception area
Image
A hint of what was about to come by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Reception by dinkybird, on Flickr

A tea room amongst the flowers
Image
A tea room by dinkybird, on Flickr

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 Post subject: Re: Much more than flowers ...
Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 1:06 pm 
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In 1998 SANParks took over the management of the Skilpad Wildflower Reserve. Skilpad was originally a farm, and it is on these disturbed fields that the carpets of orange flowers grow. This area is 900ha in size and has a 6km circular route accessible to sedans.

Image
Namaqualand flowers by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Namaqualand flowers by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Namaqualand flowers by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Namaqualand flowers by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Namaqualand flowers by dinkybird, on Flickr

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 Post subject: Re: Much more than flowers ...
Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 1:15 pm 
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The entire park comprises 150000ha, and is still expanding.

To reach the rest of the park (besides Skilpad) one needs a 4x4.
Image
Sign by dinkybird, on Flickr

This area covers a wide range of habitats, from ocean, estuaries, wetlands, rivers, through to dunes, grasslands and mountains.

The flowers found all over the rest of the park are just as lovely as in the Skilpad area. However, they do not grow in vast fields but are interspersed within the Succulent Karoo flora. Something really pretty and special to see.

Image
Namaqualand flowers by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Namaqualand flowers by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Namaqualand flowers by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Namaqualand flowers by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Namaqualand flowers by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Namaqualand flowers by dinkybird, on Flickr

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Dalene


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 Post subject: Re: Much more than flowers ...
Unread postPosted: Mon Aug 22, 2011 3:13 pm 
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With only four cottages in the park, if one leaves the decision to visit the park during the flower season to the last minute as we did, one has to find accommodation elsewhere. So we spent the night in Nababeep.

During our initial exploration of the park, we had passed a sign ...
Image
NNP by dinkybird, on Flickr

:dance:

Interesting!

So when we were in Reception, we asked if we could do the trail. Sure, was the reply - you do need a 4x4 though. No prob, we were travelling in one. Asking more about the trail we were told it went all the way down along the coast.

Cool! We'd love to see the coastal area too.

You do need to set aside a day to complete the entire trail, we were told. Ok, we would do it on our second day there.

There is a bit of sand along the coast otherwise the trail is not too difficult, we were told. Ok, we were fine with that. We had loads of faith in our LC (and me in the driver).

So when the next morning dawned nice and clear and sunny, we packed a picnic basket and set off bright and early - to do the eco trail :dance:

Arriving at the park just after 8am, we were welcomed and admitted by an HR at the gate. Lovely day for flowers, she said.

Two minutes later, we saw a cold front approaching and moving over the entire park ... within a short space of time we were surrounded by mist and cloud. Not a good day for flowers after all ... but certainly a day to explore the eco trail!

On the way to the start of the Eco Trail ...

Image
Cold front approaches NNP by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Cold front approaches NNP by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Cold front approaches NNP by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Cold front approaches NNP by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
NNP by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Farm ruins by dinkybird, on Flickr

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Dalene


It's not too late at all. You just don't yet know what you are capable of. Mahatma Gandhi


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 Post subject: Re: Much more than flowers ...
Unread postPosted: Thu Aug 25, 2011 7:56 pm 
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By the time we reached the turn onto the Caracal Eco Trail, Namaqua NP was covered in low cloud. All the flowers had their petals tightly shut against the cold and light rain. The mountain tops were hidden in the cloud; but still we were able to enjoy the beauty of the park.

Image
Start of Caracal Eco Trail by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Caracal Eco Trail by dinkybird, on Flickr

The trail passes Kookfontein, which is an abandoned settlement based around a permanent fountain. There are some shady palm trees here and basic ablutions with are only available for campers.

Image
Caracal Eco Trail by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Caracal Eco Trail by dinkybird, on Flickr

At about this point, I think the navigator got us a bit lost ....

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Dalene


It's not too late at all. You just don't yet know what you are capable of. Mahatma Gandhi


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 Post subject: Re: Much more than flowers ...
Unread postPosted: Thu Aug 25, 2011 8:23 pm 
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... not that we were aware we were lost. Keeping an eye on the gps, we were going in the right direction, and the roads looked like they were where the map said they were. Until we met up with the only two vehicles we saw on the entire trail. You are lost, the gent told us. We are? :shock: You are not on the Caracal Trail, he said with authority. Ok ...

Where does this road go to, we asked, seeing they had just come along it. He replied they were on their way from Port Nolloth. Anyway, he said, you will be fine ... just follow my tracks. :shock: :doh: To Port Nolloth?? :shock: Off they went ... and off we went. Well the gps was showing we were going in the direction we needed to be ... so we just continued along enjoying the drive.

After a while we came across one of the trail markers ... no. 6. What had happened to 3, 4 and 5 :| Well, at least we knew exactly where we were again :dance:

The trail takes one over the Wildeperdehoek pass. It passes through one of the few grassy areas in Namaqua. It passes through the heartland of the 'Riethuis quartz', an area of unique and rare succulent plants associated with quartz fields. Abandoned farmsteads remind one of the life some lived in what must have been pretty harsh conditions with the low rainfall. And one passes hints that the Kalahari dessert is not far off ....

Image
Caracal Eco Trail by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Caracal Eco Trail by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Caracal Eco Trail by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Caracal Eco Trail by dinkybird, on Flickr

Image
Caracal Eco Trail by dinkybird, on Flickr

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Dalene


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