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3 Days in the Namaqua West Coast

Though the Namaqua West Coast is dry and somewhat desolate it is spacious and free. Nine months of the year it may be a desert, but come August, a miracle happens: a multi-coloured flower tapestry slowly starts covering the earth. 

Day 1: Waterfalls and Desert Dreams

AM Waking up to the sound of birds and the sight of green mountains feels strange as you drive through such a flat, desert-like area to get here. Waterval Resort is located 35km from Vanrhynsdorp in the Maskam mountain region and offers camping facilities, a mountain hut and open-plan chalets. An easy 600m walk along the mountain pathway leads you to a natural rock pool that gets topped up by a majestic waterfall in the rainy season. A refreshing dip is all you need to refuel for the day’s driving.

Approaching the Nieuwoudtville Pass roughly 24km outside of Vanrhynsdorp, something on the side of the road will catch your eye: colourful flags, life-size stuffed dolls, a sign that lists reasons why they might be closed: It’s Monday; road too quiet; cricket; laziness; made enough money yesterday. Inspired by a 1980s movie, Bagdad Cafe is unconventional and fascinating. One can easily lose track of time by chatting to the owners or by browsing old books while sipping on a Coke and humming along to The Rolling Stones record playing on the stoep.

Bagdad Cafè is situated between Vanrhynsdorp and Nieuwoudtville

PM From here, it’s not far to Nieuwoudtville. The old Gert Boom rock cottage at Papkuilsfontein Guest Farm feels like heaven. There is neither signal nor electrical plugs, however, the cottage is equipped with a gas oven and stove, a gas fridge and solar powered lights (and candles and oil lamps for backup).

Spend the afternoon lazing in the swimming pool (built to resemble a farm dam) behind the cottage with only the odd “baa” coming from the sheep grazing nearby.

Gertboom swimming pool at Papkuilsfontein Guest Farm

Gertboom swimming pool at Papkuilsfontein Guest Farm

Day 2: Vini, Vidi, Vino

AM The early morning breeze makes the old eucalyptus trees applaud you out of bed. Owners Jaco and Alrie van Wyk explain how to get to Papkuilsfontein’s gorge. Their working farm (of which they are the sixth-generation owners) with sheep, rooibos tea and olives borders the Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve where a war ensued in 1739 between the indigenous Khoi and local farmers. Its collection of gorges, rivers, caves and plateaus make for proper hiking and mountain biking challenges, should you feel up for it.

Don’t let the humility with which they say the word “gorge” fool you. In the rainy season (usually between May and August), the waterfall smashes down into the rock pool 180m below.

Breakfast at the Waenhuis Restaurant is worth every calorie. You’ll hang on Alrie’s lips as she passionately tells the Papkuilsfontein story: “Though it looks like a desert for nine months of the year, sjoe, come August, we witness this place turning into a gigantic, colourful flower carpet. It’s a miracle!”

Papkuilsfontein Gorge

Papkuilsfontein Gorge

PM Take a drive through the Quiver Tree Forest, the second largest in the world, which lies 25km north of Nieuwoudtville. It’s now time for wine so head south towards Klawer for an unusual wine-and-rooibos pairing after which you can take the scenic R363 towards Vredendal for your next stops: Teubes Family Wines and Maskam Brewing Company for a beer tasting and woodfired pizzas.

Day 3: Beach Time

AM Head for the coast. It’s not far, so you can sleep in. Pack a picnic and take the R362 to Papendorp where the Olifants river meets the ocean. Though Lutzville is about 30km away, at high tide it’s possible to navigate there on a flat-bottomed boat. Keep an eye out for flamingoes, sandpipers and many other migratory and resident waders (183 species have been recorded).

Strandfontein Beach

Strandfontein Beach

PMFryer’s Cove in Doringbaai is a winery located in an old crayfish factory. Enjoy a fresh seafood lunch and some local wine. If you’re lucky, there might even be a live band. End the day with a beach walk in Strandfontein.

Getting There

Fly to Cape Town daily with SAA. From there take the N7 North (the Cape to Namibia Route). Visit Flysaa.com 

Words by Ilse van den Berg

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