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Deserts and Daisies 2019


MeezersUK

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MeezersUK

Deserts and daisies  days 14 - 16

We leave Clanwilliam  today. After one last yummy breakfast in the gorgeous garden and a little souvenir shopping in the B&Bs gift shop ,we pack up and head off on the R364. No mongoose in this area, but we have encountered  several tortoise trundling across the roads. Luckily the roads are so empty and straight it's  easy to spot them in the distance.

 

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 On our flight from Johannesburg to Upington  I read an article  in the inflight  magazine  on Bokkomlaan which seemed to be a road fronting the water in  a town called Velddrif . I had found Velddrif  in our road atlas and it was on our way to our final stop, Langebaan.  This seemed serendipitous  so I decided  we would stop there for lunch. Velddrif  was easy enough to find but we stumbled upon  Bokkomlaan by accident after driving along the waterfront  admiring the flocks of flamingos . 

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 Bokkomlaan  used to be the heart of the Velddrif  fishing industry,  basically  a dirt road alongside  the Great Berg river. There are restaurants,  a few gift shops and a couple of boat trip operators but it is decidedly  un touristy. We had a very good, reasonably  priced lunch of fish and chips, (my small portion was huge) while watching kingfishers,  ibis and herons, just feet away at the waters edge.

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 We then wandered down the track, past the fish strung up to dry under netting, to a jetty where the next boat trip was advertised  for 2pm. It was 2.09 but a boat was just pulling in with 2 people on board, when they had disembarked  we asked if this was the 2pm boat trip?  Yes, it was,we were the only passengers, R100 each for a 1hour private boat trip :) . Loads of birds to see out on the river but flamingoes  were everywhere . A few fishermen bobbing about in row boats and we saw the longest train in South Africa (?)on it's  way to the nearby port of Saldanha. I gave up trying to count the wagons but it took several minutes  to pass. It was a thoroughly  enjoyable  stop on our way to Langebaan,  so pleased I picked up that magazine. 

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 We arrived in Langebaan  at 4pm exactly.  We were renting an apartment  on the seafront  and the owner was supposedly meeting us outside.  We'd told her we would  arrive between  4 and 5pm , no sign of her so we went to sit on the beach and wait. We could see the apartment  from the beach , literally  about 50ft away, at 5pm we were still waiting.  I sent emails and texts  but had no call time left to phone her. Was getting rather fed up as we had been bang on time. Decided to beg the use of a phone at a nearby guesthouse,  as we were crossing  the road the apartment  owner appeared, she only lived  next door! No apology for keeping us waiting  and as with so many houses in South Africa  we couldn't get to the front door to knock or ask without a code to get through the alarmed security gates. Anyway. The apartment was lovely.  It had a little courtyard area with outdoor  shower and seating surrounded  by high walls and an alarmed gate, alarm on the door and 2 panic buttons I could take into the bedroom at night if I wished. I'm  sure the latter were supposed  to  be reassuring  but they actually  made me feel anxious when I  hadn't  before. The panic buttons stayed in the kitchen. :) I can't  imagine living your day to day life  feeling the need for such measures . :(
Dinner was at a restaurant  a few minutes  walk down the road ( and yes, we felt perfectly  safe walking in the dark ) our most expensive  meal so far, but we were probably  paying for the view of the sunset over the water :)
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  • 2 weeks later...
Dave Williams

Thanks for posting this report, looking forward to the final chapters! You certainly had your share of misfortunes, has it put you off a return visit?

 

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MeezersUK

Deserts and daisies  Days 14 - 16

We are visiting  the West Coast  National  park  today , and I'm  anticipating  a flower fix. But first, a breakfast of leftovers.  David has coco pops with custard ( we have no milk left ) and I have dry granola and flapjacks . 
 It's  a  10 minute  drive to the Langebaan  gate at the Northern end of the park. There are only a couple of cars in the queue , we don't  have  to  wait long.
 The park forms a  rough horse shoe shape around the Langebaan lagoon ,  we are at the top right, the Postberg section of the park where we expect  to  see  flowers, is top left . It only opens to the public  in  August  and  September and can get very busy with people wanting  to view the flowers.
 We have  plenty of time , so stop at all the viewpoints on the way. First is Seeberg viewpoint . It's  very windy , we have to hold on to our hats.  We have a good view across the bay and using the binoculars  I spot some Eland at the bottom of the hill. Closer to us is a large, prehistoric  looking black lizard. There is a  trail  to a bird hide we plan to walk on the way back.

 

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 We continue on round the 'horse shoe '. We see our first bontebok with their white faces. And an Eland,grazing in the scrub  right beside the road. I wouldn't  have  spent so much time peering through binoculars  if I'd known they were going to pose for a close up . :)

 

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 We stop to buy drinks at a refreshment  hut. It's  hot , 38 Celsius  according to the car . So many people are expecting to pay by card,  but there is no signal for a card reader, it's  cash only. I feel sorry for them but also rather smug that I'd remembered the advice on TripAdvisor to bring  cash. ;)
 It's  1pm by the time we get to the Postberg section , and what a disappointment.  It's  obvious  that we've  missed the flowers  by at least a week. At every picnic stop and viewpoint people are asking ' where are the flowers?'  ' have you seen any flowers?' We take all the turn offs just to be sure. There is a light scattering of pink and yellow across a hillside , but  the best we find is one patch of daisies about 10ft across. People are pulling over to have  their photos taken with them. I'm  so pleased we saw flowers  at the Skilpad reserve in Namaqualand.With no flowers  there's  not much reason to stay in the Postberg  section  , we head back the way we came stopping to paddle at one of the beaches, a few people are swimming but the water is freezing.

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 Around 3.30pm we reach the Geelbek restaurant , the one and only restaurant in the park. We sit in the shade and order iced water AND slushies,  it's  so hot it's  impossible  to have too much ice :)  I have snoek balls and David has a chicken mayo toastie, both are delicious.  Beside us weaver birds are drinking and bathing in the water pooled at the base of the downpipes. It hasn't  rained recently  and I wonder if the staff are kind enough to top up the puddles for them.
It's  5pm when we leave the park. We have decided  against walking the bird hide trail , instead  we get back to the apartment in time to go to the beach for a quick dip  before the sun goes down. The sea is considerably  warmer here  than earlier  in the park. 
 Dinner tonight is more leftovers for me , I  have the tuna pasta meal Air France gave us when we were delayed ( must be the most well travelled airplane meal ), with a tin of bean salad , David  wants chicken strips, which we find at a bar down the road, I  have a gorgeous  'artisan' gin while he eats . 
 Back at the apartment  I  make a start on the packing while finishing the amarula, one of the better leftovers :)

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MeezersUK

@Dave William's.  Certainly not put us off returning, our travels rarely go according to plan :) I have booked accommodation  for Kruger for this November, I'm  hoping we'll  be able to get there, I needed something on the calendar other than bin days.:)

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MeezersUK

Deserts and Daisies days 14 - 16

I didn't  sleep too well last night. Probably  a combination  of gin, amarula  and anxiety  about the drive to Cape town  airport . I can drive around country lanes and rural roads no problem, but hate driving around cities,  especially  ones I'm  not familiar  with. 
We are packed up and ready to hand the keys back by 10am. I had to nip to an atm to get cash to pay our balance, the machine inside the supermarket wasn't working, so I used one in the carpark,  I parked as close as I could but was still paranoid  about  getting  mugged in the 10 seconds it took me to walk back to the car . That's  what  security gates and panic buttons do to you ;)
 Our flight is not until late evening, so we have a whole day to fill. I had originally  planned to go back  to  west coast  National park,  but lack of flowers has scuppered that. My new plan is to head to a  place called Yzerfontein  , as the online flower guide says the flowers bloom later there. Then we'll  go on to Darling, their annual  flower show is next week, so surely  they will have flowers .
  At the turn off to Yzerfontein  there is Weskus Padstall (West coast  farm stall) with an 'info' sign at the entrance, so we pull in . The information  kiosk is closed, but the farm stall, which is actually  a restaurant  , is very busy. They are doing a roaring trade in 'weigh your plate' breakfasts. I had hoped to ask someone about  flowers in the area, but the staff look rushed off their feet. Out behind  the restaurant  they have a large aviary with all sorts of colourful  birds and parrots. We buy coffee and cola so we don't  feel guilty about walking around the aviary and using the loo, then back in the car it's only a few more kms to Yzarfontein .  We fill up at a petrol station on the outskirts of town, right beside another closed information  centre ( why are they all closed ? )  As usual, the town has no identifiable  centre. We take random turns until we end up in a residential  area of  very nice, modern houses overlooking the sea. There are flowers blooming in the vacant lots and on the sand dunes. We park and wander a little way , it's  deserted and the view is lovely , but I'm  mindful that our luggage is in the car, so we don't  go too far.

 

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 Next stop is Darling. There is a flower reserve a few miles out of town, the cars parked on both sides of the road make sure we don't  miss it. We park and join the dozens of people in search of  flowers.  There are a few single blooms and a small carpet ( a rug ? :) )of yellow flowers , nothing fantastic. Back at the car there are ostriches  on the other side  of  the  fence. I spend ages trying to get a close up head shot.

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Darling is busier than Yzerfontein  and at least has a main street. We try a trip advisor recommended  cafe for lunch, but it seems they are serving a very limited  meat based buffet, so we follow signs to an info centre in a church, it's  actually  open. The guy manning it recommends an alternative place for lunch, then another reserve on the way out of town, but warns us 'you're a bit early for flowers '  Can't  win !
  We have  a rather boring lunch of cheese toasties then back in the car to find the reserve. At first it looks as though the entrance is locked,  but then I spot a couple of people inside and realise the chain and padlock aren't  fastened. We have a short wander , but there is little  to see except for a tortoise who trundles across our path and disappears into  the undergrowth  before  I can switch my camera on . Nothing left to do but head to the airport. Heading out of town there are many clumps of what look like Arum lillies growing in fields and by the roadside, look so odd growing wild.
 Google maps does a good job of getting us to the airport. I only go wrong once but the woman's voice doesn't  take on a snotty tone like I'm  sure our sat nav does when she tells me to turn around :) The traffic isn't  too bad and most people seem to be driving considerately. Driving past a township on the outskirts there are police, an ambulance  and  dozens  of people all milling about  on the dual carriageway.  No idea what is going on, but our doors are locked, windows up and the traffic keeps moving, and we are soon at the airport,  where I take my second  wrong turn. I didn't  believe the rental car return and exit were the same so did a couple  of  laps of the carpark :) . A woman from Avis checks the car over and tells me there will be a valet charge  as the interior  is dirty, fair enough, we have half  the Kalahari  on the floor, but I've  heard stories of excess charges being applied so we'll  see what the final cost is.
 I'm  so relieved  to  have got to the airport  without incident  that I relax my guard for a minute while we get ourselves and our belongings  together, big mistake.  A 'porter' appears with a luggage trolley  before I could  actually  go and get one myself,  he's  loading our bags onto it while telling me ' it's  a  long walk and he knows the quickest  way' . I  know it's  going to cost me , but I let him push the trolley and lead us across the road, instead of the pedestrian  walkway,  all the time he's  telling me a sob story of a sick child and hospital  bills and family  to feed etc etc. He mentions his fee and I try not to laugh. Needless to say when we reach the terminal and I give  him a  more than reasonable  R50 ( just over £2 )he gets shirty and demands R150  , I tell him ' R50 is more than fair, thank you and goodbye ' . We are so early our check in desk hasn't  opened. While we wait we try and drink all our remaining water and soda and eat the odd assortment  of snacks that are already opened.  Once checked  in we have another 3 hours to kill before  boarding.  We do a bit of souvenir  shopping and I try my best to use up my remaining mobile data. We have an uneventful  flight home, but KLM have no record  of my ordering  a vegetarian  meal, even though I phoned to confirm it , and they have no vege meals left. I'm wishing we hadn't eaten our leftover snacks when  the flight attendant presents  me with a tray from business class.  It's a bit of a strange meal   as she has collected anything vegetarian she can find, but at least I don't  go hungry , I do like KLM :)
 So, we've  been  home 11 months now,  and I want to go back. I'm  not sure what it is about  South Africa, there are so many other destinations on my list I've  yet to visit, but  I  think one more trip, next year, if the virus allows,  maybe to  Northern  Kruger and I might be satisfied.  

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Kalaharikind

We missed the wild flowers last year, so thanks for this thread!

 

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Kitsafari

My plans to see the wildflowers last year with my sister went nowhere due to you-know-what, so I"m glad you got to go. I tried to book that place you stayed in Clanwilliam because it looked so enticing. but the CPT-based TO was so slow, she missed the last remaining room. in the end, it was just as well.  

 

Thanks for sharing!

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Ritsgaai

Your TR reminded me again of how privileged we are to call South Africa home.

However, the topic of safety and security,  that you so accutely experieced, and all the measures that we as South Africans have to put in place in order to have a sense of security, but have the opposite effect, is an unfortunate reality. I am grateful that you had a safe journey!

Thank you for taking the time to tell your story. I hold thumbs with you that your dream will come true to visit again. 

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Treepol

@MeezersUKthanks for posting this TR, it makes interesting research for our 2023 trip which was supposed to be this year, but you know the best laid plans of mice and men and all that.

 

Your photos of the wildlife and coast have given us something to look forward and are a welcome taster through our non-Africa time.

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