IT'S FLOWER SEASON!
What at first glance appears to be a wilderness of semi-desert - arid, dusty plains that stretch before one, dramatic mountains in the background, with little by way of colour or animation - is suddenly transformed, as if by a painter with a manic palette, into a pageant of flowers.
The Namaqualand Flower Route lies roughly 5 hours north of Cape Town. You can already see evidence of flowers even in Cape Town, and Postberg, a small section of the West Coast National Park close to Langebaan, gets the juices flowing, but the real flower show belongs to a series of drives that centre on the towns of Garies, Springbok, Kamieskroon and Port Nolloth, way up the N7.
Included in the wild flower route are the Richtersveld National Park, Goegap Nature Reserve, and Skilpad Wild Flower Reserve.
Try and include Alexander Bay and the Orange River mouth and estuary in your itinerary. (You can arguably see wild flowers all over the Namaqualand, West Coast and Olifants River Valley, and towns such as Citrusdal, Clanwilliam, Lamberts Bay, Nieuwoudtville and Vredendal will not disappoint either).
The riot of flowers is a highly volatile exhibition. Almost 4,000 different species of plant seeds lie awaiting germination that depends entirely on what the weather is doing. Thus every year between July and October brings a different formula, and a different selection of flowers. A requisite stop is at the local tourist information bureau to find out where that year's best flower displays are.
It is hardly surprising that the spectacle is such a draw card to the Namaqualand, where you will need at least two to three days to take in the torrent of colour and the extent of the floral display, if the desert is experiencing a good year.
And the flowers do not have to be approached by car alone. There are hiking and cycling routes that allow close scrutiny of the flower route's indigenous flora, such as those in the Goegap Nature Reserve that also provide picnic spots and overnight facilities.