Words: André Troost | Photos: André & Carina Troost
Timeless Nieuwoudtville The golden lands lie ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you're alive to see.” Jack Kerouac Adapted from “On the Road”
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The pride and joy of the Namaqualand; the yellow Namaqualand daisy.
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The world is a massive place. It causes you to feel small, and the smaller you feel, the more significant things become around you.
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Nou’s ons in die wilde wêreld,” my dad said as we crossed the Gemsbok River bedding in the Knersvlakte, on our way to Nieuwoudtville. It’s September, and that calls for one thing, our annual flower-sighting trip. We bend through the turns of the Van Rhyns Pass to reach the escarpment, from where Nieuwoudtville lies 3 km inland. The crisp air from the West Coast rises up against the escarpment to meet the warm skies of the Warm Bokkeveld region. From here, the eyes can see the entire Knersvlakte, over the Gemsbok River bedding towards the West Coast. The last 3 km takes us through new landscape and it soon becomes evident that this area is a biodiversity hotspot. In fact, this is where the Cape Fynbos, Boesmanland, Namaqualand, Hantam, and Warm Bokkeveld regions meet and has one of the highest concentrations of bulb plant species to be found. From the main road, the sole tar road in Nieuwoudtville, we turn left into the all familiar Neethling Street, past the most beautiful church one will ever find, and onwards to my home away from home. My dad bought our farmhouse in the early 2000s as a stopover on the road to Upington, where he used to work. The practical reasons for having the house fell away after a few years, as he stopped working in Upington, but we, as a family, fell so much in love with the house and the town that, until this day, we still come every now and again to wind down for a few days.
Being in Nieuwoudtville is truly like stepping back in time. The town is exactly how it was years ago and will probably stay the same for generations to come, a comforting and somewhat relaxing thought. Sunny afternoons spent in the purple hammock, lazy braais under the pepper tree next to the olive orchard, waking up to finches chirping away in the backyard, and brandy and coke in Oom Lenn Kennedy’s bar at the hotel are nostalgic memories that consume my thoughts when city life gets the best of me. The town is unique in so many ways. The sandstone architecture, biodiversity, and especially the people are like nowhere else. When you bring an ex-surfer from Cape Town, an ex-French Foreign Legion soldier, and a proud Paarl Boys’ High old boy with an intimidating moustache (who is also pretty proud of his golf handicap) together, the result is a group of dead normal, ordinary Nieuwoudtville citizens. During late winter and spring, fields and fields of Namaqualand daisies explode to life from out of the dry and hostile Namaqualand soil. It’s truly spectacular seeing how life arrives in abundance for a few weeks after the winter rains, only for the unforgiving elements to return when the summer months arrive. Walking through these fields of daisies, I can only imagine how Van Gogh spilled his palette over these seemingly lifeless fields.
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1. A typical lazy scene in the olive orchard. 2. New life arrives after the winter rain. There's so much that we can learn from nature's selfsustaining habits. 3. Hiking through the beautiful, ever-changing landscapes of the Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve. 4. A succulent lamb potjie with locally sourced ingredients cooks slowly at the end of yet another blessed day. 5. The Warm Bokkeveld sun peeks through the entrance to a ruin. If these ruins could tell us what they've seen during all these years, would we look at them differently? 5. The roaring Doorn River Waterfall. After heavy rains, the waterfall is even more powerful.ď€´
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The beauty of the town itself is worth noting, however, it’s especially important for a visitor to see how the area lives up to its reputation as the ‘bulb capital’ of the world. It’s even proudly boasted on the welcoming board as one enters the town. These bulbs are dormant for most of the year, but between August and October they bloom in a way nothing short of spectacular. Together with the daisies, they convert the dry environment surrounding the town for most of the year into a picturesque setting. Even when driving in the town, you will find thousands of flowers around almost every corner. However, there are specific places where one should go to see the extraordinary. The Wildflower Reserve, on the road to Calvinia, and the Matjiesfontein Farm, just south of town, are prime locations to see nature in all its glory. Besides the appearance of flowers, rivers fill up and waterfalls come to life. A must see is the roaring Doorn River Waterfall, which is situated 7 km on the road to Loeriesfontein. The river plunges 90 m downwards into an enormous canyon. After visiting the waterfall, don’t turn around just yet because the quiver tree forest is just 20 km away on the same road. The raw and simple beauty of these desert trees is proof of the marvel of nature and adds to the diversity of the fauna and flora around Nieuwoudtville. Walking around these trees, I feel as if Terence Hill and Bud Spencer could race past with their horses at any given moment. Nieuwoudtville is all about hidden treasures and well-preserved heritage; a stigma that the Groenrivier Ruins on the outskirts of the town fills perfectly. These ruins are farmhouses of previous generations that were left to perish in the elements, but still stand proudly after all these years. Daisies and ‘katsterte’, a flower widely found in this area, pop up between the ruins to give rise to the insight that the ruins can, given the fact that they’ve been standing here for so long and in such peace, be seen as part of nature and not foreign to the environment.
If you have a few days to spend in the area, walk the hiking trails through the Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve. Whether you feel like a day hike or hike for a few days, Oorlogskloof is a great way to experience the Warm Bokkeveld from a different perspective. In general, when travelling by foot, motorcycle or bicycle, there are fewer hurdles that distort Mother Nature’s voice, which gives rise to a more accurate and detailed experience of a specific place, allowing the traveller to get closer to his or her surroundings.
The simplicity of Nieuwoudtville is contagious and truly inspirational . Whether you’d like to see the flowers or just wind down in the countryside when flowers are not present, the uniqueness of Nieuwoudtville will surely leave something special , something simple in your heart. For now, dear reader, I can’t tell you what that is. Come and find it. •
Saying farewell to the sun at the Groenriver Ruins.
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Published on Aug 27, 2013
DO IT NOW Magazine, Nature. The golden lands lie ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you g...