BLOM­METJIE BUS

To Na­maqua­land in Hyundai’s new H1

Road Trip - - CONTENTS -

Isus­pected it would be the same when I got bogged down on the road shoul­der between Dwarskers­bos and Ver­loren­vlei in the 2.5-litre Hyundai H1 Bus on the West Coast a few days ago. The odd car semi-thun­dered past, flash­ing its lights and hoot­ing mer­rily, but that was about it. I am not look­ing for sym­pa­thy: stupid is as stupid does, and any­one work­ing on pub­lic re­la­tions for cars will tell you, there is an in­ner cir­cle of Hell re­served for pho­tog­ra­phers who seek ex­otic lo­ca­tions to il­lus­trate a Road­trip story.

Good rains have fallen in the West­ern Cape fol­low­ing years of se­vere drought and lo­cals pre­dict that the an­nual flower sea­son will be early and spec­tac­u­lar. Let us take the Hyundai bus, it was sug­gested, and pho­to­graph it among the wild blos­soms. This is a task that is eas­ier said than done. Yes, there were vast swathes of white, or­ange, yel­low, and cerise, but they were all on the other side of fences and sus­pi­cious farm­ers put hefty chains and pad­locks on their gates.

Sud­denly, the fences dis­ap­peared and there was a car­pet of pinky-pur­ply

It is a well-known fact of au­to­mo­tive ex­plo­ration that one rarely suf­fers mishaps on roads when there is a lot of traf­fic. I have had mul­ti­ple punc­tures while travers­ing the Tankwa Ka­roo on a road that sees just a few cars a day, and been stuck in re­ally deep sand in an equally de­serted Na­maqua­land in the height of Sum­mer. In both in­stances, help was a long time com­ing.

daisies not 25 m from the road. The ter­rain was nice and flat – ex­cept for a good num­ber of large mole-hills I should have noted. Yep, the ground was rid­dled like hon­ey­comb and I was up to the bus’ axles less than ten paces from the tar. No prob­lem, I thought, be­cause I carry things like spades and sand­bags on most of my road trips. Sadly though, the Hyundai just dug it­self deeper and deeper into the pow­dery muck. Clearly, it was not made for off-road driv­ing.

I even­tu­ally waved down some­one in a Hilux bakkie and we hooked up the steel towrope in my res­cue kit. The Hyundai was back on the road in a mo­ment. What is the moral of the story? Get out and look at the ground be­fore you leave the hard sur­face. It was, how­ever, a rel­a­tively mi­nor blip that added to the lus­tre of a de­light­ful four-day jaunt rather than de­tract­ing from it and I rec­om­mend that peo­ple make the ef­fort to get to the West Coast and Na­maqua Na­tional Parks when the flower sea­son kicks off in earnest in the third week of Au­gust. Those who want to jump the gun can head off now to places such

as Nieu­woudtville where, ac­cord­ing to re­ports, the sea­son is al­ready in full swing.

I was al­most sorry I was alone in the bus be­cause com­pany would have been nice. There were not any great dis­tances trav­elled and most of the time I put­tered along at a ter­ri­bly dig­ni­fied pace ... es­pe­cially in the parks. The diesel-pow­ered H1 was a lovely ve­hi­cle to drive and it can com­fort­ably ac­com­mo­date seven adults (though the Korean com­pany calls it a nine-seater) and there is loads of room for lug­gage and camp­ing gear. As with any Hyundai, you get plenty of ex­tras for your money, and the R630,000 bus comes with airbags, ABS, elec­tric front win­dows, cruise con­trol and – best of all as far as I was con­cerned – slid­ing doors on ei­ther side.

The ve­hi­cle is nice and high, which af­fords oc­cu­pants a good view of the veld. The 24,000 ha West Coast Na­tional Park (WCNP) out­side Lange­baan was the first stop. With the main en­trance just 140 km from Cape Town on the R27, it is ideal for a day trip. There are sev­eral sec­tions to the WCNP but the main area for view­ing flow­ers is Post­berg Na­ture Re­serve – a park within the park – that is only open to the pub­lic dur­ing Au­gust and Septem­ber. It costs R54 per adult per day (R27 per child) for South African cit­i­zens and res­i­dents out of sea­son and R76 per adult (R38 per child) dur­ing the spring. En­trance to the WCNP in­cludes Post­berg. There is a restau­rant serv­ing good tra­di­tional fare at the Geel­bek in­for­ma­tion cen­tre. Ex­pect to share your ta­ble with masked weavers, yel­low bish­ops, and spar­rows.

There are a num­ber of ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions within the park in­clud­ing cot­tages, chalets, and house­boats at Kraal­baai, but I pushed North to Pater­nos­ter and the peren­ni­ally de­light­ful Sugar Shack fish­er­man-styled cot­tage. It sleeps six and has been taste­fully dec­o­rated in what can only be de­scribed as Weskus-chic.

That night, I ven­tured forth for din­ner at Leeto, one of the new­est ad­di­tions to the Pater­nos­ter foodie scene. Chef Garth Al­mazan (ex-catha­rina’s at Steenberg) is jus­ti­fi­ably proud of his prawn and cala­mari risotto, which can be en­joyed as ei­ther a starter or a main. Also on the menu for my night were del­i­cately flavoured sea bream and a rich choco­late mousse dessert.

Much of the next morn­ing was spent laz­ing around Sugar Shack be­fore set­ting out for Sal­danha – noth­ing much there ex­cept the end­lessly long ore trains that ply between the town and Sishen – and then to Shel­ley Point at St He­lena Bay. A friend had rec­om­mended try­ing a self-cater­ing apart­ment at the mod­ern and lux­u­ri­ous Zeezicht on the edge of the ocean.

This was some­thing of a “bus­man’s hol­i­day” in that I had dead­lines to meet

and nowhere near enough time to ex­plore. I did, nonethe­less, push fairly hard to get up the coast to the Na­maqua Na­tional Park, which is re­garded as the acme des­ti­na­tion for wild­flower view­ing. The park is about 500 km from Cape Town and one en­ters (if you are go­ing to look at flow­ers) through the Sk­il­pad gate 21 km West of Kamieskroon. There are a few chalets at Sk­il­pad and San­parks op­er­ates a tented camp dur­ing the spring, but take note: you would not get ac­com­mo­da­tion at this late stage.

The Hyundai did not strug­gle with roads in this sec­tion of the park but it would have def­i­nitely been out of its depth in the south­ern­most part where the sand is deep and loose. There are some very rough-and-ready camp­ing sites along the sea and hardier trav­ellers will en­joy nights un­der the stars while the At­lantic pounds the rocks less than 100 m away. If you have got the time and in­cli­na­tion, head North along the N7 to Port Nol­loth just to have a squizz at the fish­ing and di­a­mond­dredg­ing fleets.

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