Our Burning Planet

WINTER PHOTO ESSAY

Fields of dreams pay homage to South Africa’s floral kingdom

The Biedouw Valley is a mecca for travellers wanting to see spring flowers. (Photo: Angus Begg)

Such is the varied topography of this beautiful and diverse country that winter means vastly different things to all who live here.

Although shorts and swimming hold sway along much of KwaZulu-Natal’s coastline, the Highveld begins to shiver (especially at night). The rain and relative cold of the Western Cape’s bleak winter holds the anticipated promise and beauty of spring and all it brings.

As the throne of the Cape Floristic Kingdom, the Cederberg flaunts this promise. It is a place where birdsong fills the gaps in otherworldly rock formations formed millennia ago. Endless fields of flowers and bulbs pay homage to creation, once a year, for a very short time.

A thick-billed lark calls from his spot on Cederberg sandstone. (Photo: Angus Begg)
The drosera, of the sundew family, is a tiny member of one of the largest genera of carnivorous plants. (Photo: Angus Begg)
Crassula, a genus of succulent that includes more than 350 species worldwide. (Photo: Angus Begg)
Moisture clings to a Lachenalia plant at the uber-luxurious Bushmanskloof. (Photo: Angus Begg)
A Cederberg resident, the malachite sunbird. (Photo: Angus Begg)
Fields of ursinia (African daisies) are found throughout the Biedouw Valley. (Photo: Angus Begg)
The Cape Rock Sengi is endemic to the western and southern parts of South Africa. (Photo: Angus Begg)
Gladiolus alatus (kalkoentjie) along a trail near the Oudrif Straw Bale Cottages. (Photo: Angus Begg)
Restios are an integral part of the fynbos family, along with ericas and proteas. (Photo: Angus Begg)
Conophytum is in demand among plant poachers. (Photo: Angus Begg)
An ostrich mom and her chicks. (Photo: Angus Begg)

How to get there

From Cape Town, take the N7, passing the towns of Malmesbury and Piketberg, over the Piekenierskloof Pass, down past Ceres to the Cederberg hub of Clanwilliam. It’s just over three hours. From Clanwilliam, it’s 40 minutes over the Pakhuis Pass to Bushmanskloof Wilderness Reserve, and a little over an hour to the Oudrif Straw Bale Cottages, on the Doring River.

En route

If you are the type to stop and smell the fynbos, Kardoesie padstal, almost at the top of the pass, is a good place to stop before Clanwilliam. If not for coffee and koeksister indulgence, then for self-catering essentials like chutney, roosterkoek and local honey.

The recommended CapeNature hikes leading off the Pakhuis Pass and going through the otherworldly formations are worthy of attention.

Travellers’ Rest is a restaurant and farm offering pioneer history and San paintings. The 5km easy walking trail from the farm stall follows the Brandewyn River and visits nine sites of rock art paintings. Springbok, hartebeest and eland, small game, dassies and baboons may be encountered on the walk.

A free pamphlet with information about the nine sites is available from the farm stall. For more information on the rock art and plants on the trail, Rock Art of the Western Cape – Book 1: The Sevilla Trail by Peter Slingsby is on sale at the farm stall (R95). DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.

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