|Subject: Widdowsons' Trip to South Africa - Part !V - Langebaan, Kamieskroon and Springbok|
Lambertsbaii to Kamieskroon
Lambertsbaai is a tight little fishing harbour, with clean water indicated by plenty of the kelp Eckloniopsis in it. The harbour is formed by a causeway which enables one to walk out to the appropriately named Bird Island, which has one of the world's great gannet colonies, 8500 pairs. There is a large hide with picture windows, which enable you to get up close and personal with the gannets, which have looong beaks and don't look exactly friendly. There are a number of cormorants and seagulls nesting on rocks in the harbour. The colony of jackass penguins has declined drastically, and we saw no more than one or two.
>From Lambertsbaai we took R324 inland to join the N7 at Clanwilliam. We went into Clanwilliam looking for refreshment, but could not find any. This does not seem to be a tourist town, just a service centre for the rich surrounding farmland in the Oliphants Valley (the elephants are long gone). Then we saw a parade heading our way, complete with brass band, so we beat a hasty retreat out to N7, and headed north. There were fields of yellow flowers, again, in this area. We noted some fields of mauve composites between Nuwerus and Bitterfontein, for study on the way back if we did not see any better. The Kamieskroon Hotel is the only game in town both for food and accommodation, and was full because this was the height of the flower season. Fortunately, Don had reserved in advance. Kamieskroon consists of a church, gas station/machine shop, and town hall; most of the signs were in Afrikaans only. In the evening we drove 28.2 km west to Grootvlei, for a nice view down to the west, but the sea was not visible.
The morning of the 23rd, we drove down the N7 to Garies, gassed up, and took a back road NE to Studers Pass, the site of a wollastonite mine. The road to Karas was recommended for flowers, but it was closed by a gate. The plateau around the junction of the Studers Pass, Karas, Leliefontein, and Platbakkies roads has solid fields of orange flowers (Gazania spp.) and some mixed. Towards Leliefontein we found a draw filled with the yellow candelabra (Bulbinella latifolia). Near here we saw a couple of Khoi native huts: yurt-like domes covered with rectangular straw mats. When the Dutch came to the Cape, they found three native communities: the Khoi, who herded cattle; the San, who were hunter-gatherers; and the Strandlopers, who were marginalized on the beach. The first two are sometimes called the Khoisan, the San who kept out of the way in deserts were called Bushmen. Conflict between Khoi and Boers, who also herded cattle, was inevitable. After a desperate resistance I never heard about in school (where the first scrap mentioned was between the Voortrekkers and the Bantu at Blood River; the same text books in the United States talked about the 'massacre' at Little Big Horn and the 'battle' at Sand Creek), the Khoi were exterminated or detribalized North American style. The process slowed when the whites ran into the Ciskei Xhosa around the Great Fish River. Detribalized Khoi were contemptuously called Hottentots. Anyway, these huts were the first (and last) we saw of them. There were signs of recent rain and small washouts everywhere, but not enough to hinder our passage back to Kamieskroon.
In the afternoon, we headed north on the N7 to Springbok and the Goegap Nature Reserve. The N7 (one of the National Routes) is a fine, two-lane road, with little and fast traffic. The area around Springbok is close to the Namibia border and verging on desert. For the first time we wandered around lost, as the Nature Reserve was poorly sign-posted. Take the second Springbok exit, turn right at the T (away from Springbok) over the N7, and right again, continue for about 15 km. The headquarters has a garden with a fine display of succulents. One or two quivertrees (Aloe dichotoma; stragglers south from Namibia) recalled the Joshua Trees we saw in southern California. In a circular drive we saw fields of a mauve composite (Felicia spp. ?) but no animals except for some small termite mounds. The impact of Homo sapiens was represented by a huge raised tailings pond from a copper mine, with vapours rising from it, which looked toxic but perhaps were only steam. Back at Kamieskroon, we had venison for dinner, followed by a slide show by the leader of a photography workshop. She started with many shots of the Atlantic, of clouds, and waterfalls before concluding with flowers. Don and Tom both exclaimed, Oh! For a polarizing filter!
Up betimes to pack, check out (the Kamieskroon Hotel charged us 45 rand for two 14.50 bottles of wine!!), and head for Skilpad Nature Reserve, the 'Roof of Namaqualand'. This is an old farm, and there is still some cultivation going on in the interests of science. One school of thought has it that the spectacular displays of wild flowers occur only on land which has been cultivated in the past, so the park management is designing experiments to test this. Here getting up early was not rewarded, as the fields of Gazania were not very impressive until about ten o'clock, when the flowers opened to the warmth of the sun. They make a pleasing combination with the deep blue Anchusa, one of the numerous flowers we know in cultivation, but which grow wild in South Africa. We had some trouble finding the self-guided trail, and then we had problems because we were following the blue trail while the guide (without saying so) was to the red trail. Strange to say, the guide worked quite well for a time. We then took a circular drive around the 'roof'. On top of the highest kopje were two small depressions filled with rainwater, while all around Namaqualand was spread out below us. On a neighbouring kopje there was a mama dassie with her babies scampering around, and further down, a hare. Apart from these, the only animal we saw was an ostrich running the fence.