Namaqualand spring: 20 Aug 2015
Continued from Going west through Bushmanland
Thursday 20 August 2015
We set out to explore some of the countryside around Kamieskroon and to look at the spring flowers. We drive about 20 km down the N7 towards Garies, and then turned off to the west towards Spoegrivier, one of the places C.J Andersson had mentioned stopping at on his cattle drive to the Cape in 1862, and as Frank Stewardson (Val\s great great great grandfather) was just ahead of him, he too must have passed through there. Actually Andersson referred to it as Spookrivier, which may have been a mishearing of the name, or perhaps the name has changed. The first part of the road was over amazingly green rounded hills, all over bushes. I could not imagine driving several thousand head of cattle over them, and so assumed that the Spoegrivier valley must have provided a more passable route.
At 9:30, after driving about 20 km from the main road, we came to the valley with a little town in it.
The river was dry, like Namibian ones, though perhaps there was water underground for the cattle. There was a crude handpainted sign at the entrance to the dorp, saying “Welkom in Spoegrivier”, and an Aids ribbon underneath, so we wondered if Aids was a problem there.
It seemed to be quite an isolated community and we wondered what people did there, and whether there was a settlement there when Stewardson & Co passed through. Perhaps in their day it was all Nama huts covered with skins, but there didn’t seem to be any trees to make the huts, just bushes.
We passed through and then followed a farm track, which the bloke at Kamieskroon had told us would eventually lead to Walleskraal. It was much roughter and narrower, and so we drove slowly up, and on the other side of the hill where we arrived about 10:05 were spectacular scenes of spring flowers such as one sees in pictures, stretching across to the horizon, mainly orange Namaqualand daisies, looking almost fluorescent, interspersed with tiny yellow ones that looked little more than small pollen balls.
There were also rounded bushes, covered with yellow flowers, and several other varieties.
We passed through several farm gates, and farms as well. and one there were several people in a farmyard, and we asked if we were on the right road to Hondeklip Bay, and they said we must go straight, and that if we had GPS, which we didn’t, we should ignore it, because it lied. There were tracks leading off in various directions, presumably to the farms, so it was quite confusing, We joined the road between Walleskraal and Soebatfontein, where a grader was going down a hill, and the road had recently been graded for most of the way to Walleskraal, which we reached at 11:15. It hardly seemed to be a settlement at all, just a couple of buildings, and no shops that we could see.
There were also plenty of flowers there, lots of white ones interspersed with orange ones, and the white ones looked like snowdrifts, and in a river bed they looked like rivers of blood through the snow. Some of the white ones were vygies, but I think most were daisies. There seemed to be relatively few of the magenta vygies.
From there we went over more gently undulating country, with fewer flowers, for about half an hour, until we saw hills that looked like mine dumps, and it seemed that that is what they were, and there were signs saying that there was a rehabilitation project to try to regrow vegetation on them. It seemed that they were diamond mines, and I was rather surprised, as I thought that most of the diamond mines were further north, between Port Nolloth and Alexander Bay. We reached Hondeklip Bay at 11:47, and it was as unprepossessing as I had expected it would be, a kind of Henties Bay south of the border. a resort for weekend fishermen, with the coastal fog visible from some way inland.
We looked for a shop where we could buy biscuits and cold drinks, but there was only a drankwinkel, and Sam’s Restaurant. Val got a couple of Coke light, the only diet drinks they sold. The harbour was grey and looked dirty, with a dredger and a small boat, perhaps a fishing boat, bobbing in the swell. A little further out was what looked like a wreck.
We left and drove north along the road to Koiingnaas, but before we reached it turned off to the north-east along a road that led to Springbok, which had boneshaking corrugations like those on the road to Odibo. Along the way there were several more strips of white flowers that looked like snowdrifts, but most of them were on the other side of the valley of the Swartlintjies river we were travelling up, and quite far away. The coastal plain was about 20-30 km wide, and then it became apparent why the cattle drivers from Damaraland must have followed the route along the coastal plain, perhaps quite close to the mountains. There was more vegetation, and probably water, there, and more grazing.
At 1:15 pm we reached a crossroads, with the road from Koiingnaas to Springbok crossing one from Komaggas to Soebatsfontein. We had travelled 147.7 km from Kamieskroon. Andersson had been camped at Kommagas when he rode to Hondeklip Bay to fetch his letters, and it had taken him two days. It must have been heavy going riding a horse through the bushes. We turned south towards Soebatsfontein, and about 10 km down the road stopped for lunch, amid fields of white flowers, near Wildeperdehoek.
Val had made us egg rolls for lunch, and we drank the Cokes we had bought in Hondeklip Bay. We drove on from there, towards Soebatsfontein, and we stopped to take photos of gazanias growing at the side of the road, with dark orange-brown flowers, like the ones we had had in our garden a few years ago.
We didn’t see any shops in Soebatsfontein, apart from the inevitable drankwinkel, so just stopped to take a couple of photos and drove on.
We took photos of what we thought may have been the Grootberg, also mentioned in Andersson’s diary, and turned back along the road to Kamieskroon.
which crossed a couple of steep passes, and more fields of orange daisies on a farm, and got back to Kamieskroon at 4:00 pm, having covered 215 km on our round trip.
We bought a newspaper at the shop on our return to Kamieskroon, mainly to use as kindling for the fire, as the previous night had been quite cold. It was the previous day’s Die Burger, and had an article on the spring flowers of Namaqualand, and mentioned many of the places we had visited — Walleskraal, Soebatsfontein and Wildeperdehoek, and the author said the flowers were the best he had ever seen them.
Continued at Namaqualand Spring: Lily Fountain and more flowers