We have been looking forward to this tour for so long! We already booked in October 2016. First we counted the months, then the weeks and then the days. Month after month we checked the weather reports for rain. Will it rain? Are we going to see flowers? Will there be any wind? But God kept his hand closed. The rain stayed away. Well, then your expectations change. We are not going to see flowers in abundance, but we are going to experience Namaqualand.
Although I have always been surrounded by children, staff and parents, I need my own space. How am I going to survive with eighteen strangers in a small tour bus for thousands of kilometres? Well, apples, bananas, pawpaw and oranges together make a wonderful fruit salad. I will see to it that all these strangers, who will be in my space for the next couple of days, and me, become a wonderful fruit salad. Maybe there will even be some ice cream added!
Early Monday morning we all sit in our own cars, full of expectations, waiting for the bus. A lady starts to unload containers, and more containers. We wonder if she is taking so much food for the road, not knowing that these containers are filled with the most delicious biscuits and rusks that we are going to enjoy.
The bus arrives and both our tour guide and bus driver jump off – full of energy. Immediately a few men appoint themselves as baggage masters for the duration of the tour. All packed, and the group of strangers depart quietly to Upington. First stop and out come the flasks and rusks. The talking starts, the laughter begins and slowly it grows to a joyful chatter. Often our tour guide shares interesting facts and information. All tired, we arrived at our first stopover, the most wonderful oasis along the Orange River. We experience the most beautiful sunset, just as warm as the sincere staff who work there. We receive the most interesting information and learn about plants like Bababoudjies (Baby bums), Bokspoortjies (Goat spoor), and Kapokbos (Cape Snowbush) – and I am immediately interested.
The second day we travel to Klein Pella, via Augrabies. Once again we experience the wonder of creation – Augrabies, the “place of great noise”. Unfortunately one tourist loses one of his crutches. It was taken by the water. I was not aware of this and a few days later congratulated him, because he is so much better that he uses only one crutch. Although I was quite embarrassed, we had a good laugh.
Die tweede dag reis ons na Klein-Pella via Augrabies. Weer ervaar ons die grootsheid van die skepping – die Augrabiese waterval – die groot geraas. Een van ons toerlede verloor ongelukkig een van sy krukke by Augrabies. Dit is saam met die water weg. Ek was nie bewus daarvan nie en prys hom ’n paar dae later dat hy so mooi verbeter het dat hy nou slegs een kruk nodig het. Gelukkig kon ons lekker lag daaroor, maar ek was vreeslik verleë.
A highlight was the hectares and hectares of date palms at Klein Pella. This was like an oasis in the semi-desert. And those dates!!! Delicious.
We continue our journey past Pofadder towards Springbok. The drought is severe; it is arid, hot and sad. You almost do not see any life. I see the heaps of black rocks next to the road and suddenly an image comes to my mind. When God created Namaqualand He was tired and a bit disheartened. He dropped the rocks just to get finished. After He had done so, He stood back and looked at the landscape. No, He said, I cannot leave it like this, and then He added the flowers.
Suddenly everyone is excited – we see the first flowers – not many, but still. We stop and everyone jumps out. All you can see are cameras and people bending over to take pictures. There were only a few flowers, but because there were no large patches, we saw the most unique types: Katnaels (Cat nails), Gousblomme (Gazania), Beatle Daisies, Koppie-en-Pierings (Cups and saucers), Sambreeltjies (Small umbrellas – a type of daisy), etc. Ah, the names are so precious and so descriptive.
Bird Island at Lamberts Bay was special, but lunch at Bosduifklip was a highlight. The owners are warm, sincere and down-to-earth – the kind you only find in Namaqualand, and nowhere else on earth.
Another precious moment was when we as a group could experience some quiet moments on Van Rhyns Pass. The serenity while you gaze over the Knersvlakte – the splendour, the silence, the rocks, and nothingness that stretches as far as you can see.
I will never forget Calvinia and the Hantam with its riel * dancers. This is such a wonderful project, initiated by the ATKV. To see those kids kicking up dust was such an experience. Our whole group suddenly had itchy feet and spontaneously joined in and danced up a storm.
Now it was time to turn around. Away from Namaqualand, away from Bushmanland, away from the Hantam – back home.
By now the group were no longer apples, pears and bananas, but a good, delicious fruit salad – friends within ten days, with lots of added ice cream.
What a brilliantly organised tour with an excellent tour guide and very competent bus driver.
I can recommend any ATKV Namaqualand tour. Flowers are a bonus, not a requirement!
*A type of dance, unique to Namaqualand