West Coast’s rugged beauty

Multi-hued hills and moun­tains add a spec­tac­u­lar back­drop to Nieu­woudtville’s trees, flow­ers travel2011

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL 2011 - MYR­TLE RYAN

IF THE sun does not shine, and the flow­ers close their heads and doze, na­ture has sev­eral other cards in her suit for those vis­it­ing the Nieu­woudtville area of the West Coast.

While Nieu­woudtville prides it­self on be­ing the “bulb cap­i­tal” of the world, it also of­fers won­der­ful scenic drives. So, when we woke to a misty driz­zle, all was not lost.

We had been told to take a look at the wa­ter­fall about 5km out­side the town.

It was prob­a­bly an op­ti­cal il­lu­sion, but the river seemed to dis­ap­pear un­der­ground, be­fore burst­ing forth, like a bro­ken water main, from the rocky out­crop sev­eral me­tres be­low. Its plunge into the gorge is spec­tac­u­lar. To get to the look­out point, vis­i­tors wan­der along a path­way be­tween fyn­bos and flow­ers in full bloom. A walk back along the river brings you to the pretty smaller fall, which does its best not to be up­staged by its big­ger coun­ter­part.

At the en­trance to this wa­tery re­serve, the lo­cals had set up tiny tents from which em­anated all sorts of de­li­cious smells. Tourists were tuck­ing into worsrol­letjies and roost­erkoek (a tra­di­tional grilled cake, which goes down a treat with cheese and jam).

Head­ing off along the road to Lo­eries­fontein, we turned off to visit the mag­nif­i­cent koker­boom (quiver tree) for­est. It was early in the day, so we were the only peo­ple there, and were able to wan­der hap­pily up and down the moun­tain­side, study­ing these trees up close, with­out tourists blun­der­ing into the pho­tographs.

Many of the quiver trees had fallen pet­ti­coats of bril­liant flow­ers at their feet. The con­trast be­tween the deep pur­ple blos­soms and the pat­terned sil­ver-grey-cream bark of the trees was ex­cep­tion­ally at­trac­tive.

Multi-hued hills and moun­tains added a spec­tac­u­lar back­drop, and it is pos­si­ble to take a cir­cu­lar drive through these back to Nieu­woudtville.

Back in the town, it was per­fect pan­cake weather. They were lit­er­ally fly­ing off the pans in a church hall as hun­gry tourists tucked in.

The large sand­stone Dutch Re­formed Church, a national mon­u­ment, was also putting its best foot for­ward.

It was sur­rounded by fields of pale pur­ple flow­ers. Build­ing of the church com­menced just af­ter the An­glo-boer War, and prob­a­bly its most out­stand­ing fea­ture is the pul­pit, which is built out of pris­tine white sand­stone.

From a flo­ral per­spec­tive, the visit was stun­ning, as there were days when the sun beamed forth its largesse, en­cour­ag­ing a mul­ti­tude of varied flow­ers to daz­zle and dis­play.

On pri­vate farms we drove among the flow­ers, hopping out to study them close up.

Par­tic­u­larly mem­o­rable was a drive along a gravel road to con­nect with the Calvinia-ceres road, sup­pos­edly the long­est piece of un­tarred road in the coun­try. Here the un­sul­lied plain formed a vast empty bowl, sur­rounded by moun­tains and vivid with flow­ers.

Our ac­com­mo­da­tion in Nieu­woudtville was peace­ful and pas­toral.

As we sat in our gar­den at a cot­tage named Nieverder­rie, we watched fat sheep graz­ing in the meadow along­side. When last did you stay in a town, and feel as though you were on a farm?

Con­tacts: Nieverder­rie 027 218 1144. Rooidakhuis 027 146 9080 ( if the ho­tel scene ap­peals more than pri­vate ac­com­mo­da­tion). The town’s tourist in­for­ma­tion of­fice pro­vides de­tails on ac­com­mo­da­tion.

PIC­TURES: MYR­TLE RYAN

BEAUTY ON TAP: The main wa­ter­fall out­side Nieu­woudtville.

GREAT SHAKES: The quiver tree for­est near Nieu­woudtville.

Pic­tures: Myr­tle Ryan

NA­TURE’S BOUNTY: Splashes of vi­brant colour can be seen ev­ery­where in Nieu­woudtville.

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