In August 2012 I went to Nieuwoudtville, on a Spring Flower Tour.
Nieuwoudtville is remote, an outpost in the vastness of the Northern Cape famed for its annual Spring Flowers. It’s isolated, although it does have small towns like Vanrhynsdorp within a 100km radius, little dots of humanity dotted on the arid landscape. The Northern Cape is the largest of the Provinces, it might appear to be a vast semi-desert but in fact it has 5 regions ranging from coast to desert to plains – see links.
We drove into the last town in the Western Cape: Vanrhynsdorp My first impression wasn’t a good one. The sky was a lowering grey, a nippy wind swirled round the Caltex filling station where we stopped to refuel, only to discover the garage wouldn’t accept a fuel card – consternation all round. While our driver argued with the petrol attendant, we all drifted around the forecourt, saw a drunk lurching unsteadily towards us, ignored a woman sitting on the pavement huddled against the wind and puffing on a cigarette – how is it that poor people always seem to find enough money to buy cigarettes? And booze. From my comfortable middle-class life, it seems incongruous, but as the saying goes walk a mile in the other person’s shoes before you criticise. My overall impression was of an ugly, impoverished small town but on the return journey, when the sun was shining, I noticed some trim and tidy buildings, no social derelicts, and the town looked altogether different. Amazing what a bit of sunshine can do!
Leaving Vanrhynsdorp we crawl up the van Rhyns Pass 950m+ giving us aerial views over the veld and vlaktes almost to the ocean – it’s like flying! How that road was constructed over the mountain in the early 1900’s beats me – what an engineering feat.
Once we reached the top of the Koue Bokkeveld Mountain we passed into the Northern Cape Province. It’s vast, mostly arid and empty. For instance, our guide at the Hantam Botannical Gardens told us that research shows there are 8 porcupines per square kilometre in the Northern Cape, outnumbering the number of humans per square kilometre! The reason for the proliferation of porcupines is the abundance of bulbs that grow in the area. Porcupines love to eat tubers, and the veld in the bulb areas was pitted with small holes dug out by hungry porcupines in search of dinner. They’re nocturnal beasts, seldom seen during daytime, and famed for their strong, sharp black and white quills which now appear in curio stores, decorating lampshades etc. etc.
On the topic of sharp & prickly: we visited the Quiver Tree Forest, and as the pic shows, it’s an arid area, with endless vistas.