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 Scenic Routes Northern Cape Province, South Africa

Scenic Routes

The Flower Route in the Namakwa Region

First there was sand and dry land and then there was a burst of color. From July to September the Namaqualand Spring Flowerstransformation is magical -- the dry landscape is carpeted with wild flowers in every shade imaginable. Seeds that were shed at the onset of winter lay dormant until the first rains of spring stir them from their slumber and they come out in all their magnificence. Visitors please note that much of the ‘show’ will depend on the amount of rain that falls in any particular year.

Other plants that are maybe not as flamboyant but are as wonderful are the succulents. They survive because their roots are able to dig deep for water. The Euphorbia Virosa succulent was especially important to the San people who used the latex from the plant for their poison arrows.

Quote from Northern Cape Tourism:
“Namakwa, as part of the Succulent Karoo, is a biodiversity hotspot and as such is the only arid hotspot in the world. It contains more than 6 000 plant species, 250 species of birds, 78 species of mammals, 132 species of reptiles and amphibians and an unknown number of insects, making it the world’s most diverse, arid environment. More than 40% of these species are found nowhere else on Earth.”

 

Namaqualand Flowers (Floral Hotspot)

Namaqualand Spring Flowers, South Africa's Northern Cape Province

For Wildflower Seasonal Reports and more scenic routes, visit: http://www.south-north.co.za

The trunk, branches and bark of large forests of Kokerbome (Quiver Trees), part of the Aloe family and also found in this region, were used by the San people to make their quivers. The trees grow to 4m in height and store water in their trunks and can live to 400 years old.

Quiver Trees in South Africa's Northern Cape

Kokerbome (Quiver Trees), member of the Aloe plant family

The Namaqua National Park north of Kamieskroon is open to the public for a self drive or tour. Expect to pay a conservation fee during flower season though. Also open is the Goegap Nature Reserve southeast of Springbok. This reserve has a more rocky geography but is home to 600 indigenous flower species. The Richtersveld mountain desert is another spectacular region to visit for a myriad of unique and rare plant species.

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Orange River Wine Route in the Green Kalahari Region

The Orange River winds its way through the dry Kalahari and not only offers water to the region but it provides ideal conditions for growing grapes. For miles a tapestry of vineyards lie next to the life giving water of the mighty Orange River. The Orange River Valley is the largest wine producing area in South Africa. Dry temperatures, almost disease free environment, sunshine and cooling effects of the river add to the rich soil that has been deposited along the river for millennia.

Vineyards along the Orange River, Uppington

Vineyards in the Orange River Valley, Uppington, Northern Cape
[Photo: Orange River Cellars]

There are five wineries in the region, Upington, Kakamas, Keimoes, Grootdrink and Groblershoop and grape juice cellars are found in Kanoneiland, Kakamas and Grootdrink. The area is also known for producing sultanas, colombard, chenin and hanepoort grapes which are perfect additions to desert wines and some semi sweet wines.  

Orange River Cellars

The Orange River Wine Cellar is the largest distillery in the lower Orange River valley and produces a number of different wines from dry white, natural sweet, sparkling wines, rosé, dry red and some desert wines. The Cellar’s wine grapes are produced by 930 different vineyards along the river covering an area of 300km (186 miles) between Groblershoop and Blouputs.

Vineyards - Orange River Cellars

Vineyards in the Orange River Valley, Uppington, Northern Cape
[Photo: Orange River Cellars]

Only about 3% of the vineyards produce red wine grapes but winemakers are working to increase this number to produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Ruby Cabernet, Pinotage, and Petit Verdot grapes.

Visitors should plan on a minimum of 2 days to visit all the cellars but if time permits 3 days will be more comfortable. Visiting Keimoes, Kakamas and Upington is possible on one day with Groblershoop and Grootdrink on the second day.

Wine tasting hours:
Monday through Friday
8am to 4:30pm
Saturday
9am to 11:30am

Cellar Tours: During the harvest season only (January through March)
9am, 11am and 3pm

A small fee is payable for wine tasting and cellar tours but children are free.
Please remember that the legal age for consumption of alcoholic drinks in South Africa is 18yrs.

How to get there:
By air:
Visitors can fly to Upington from Johannesburg and Cape Town, hire a car to explore the region.
By road:
From Johannesburg take the N14 highway to Upington, this is about a 9 hour drive
From Cape Town take the N7 to Springbok, then the N14 to Upington.

Best time to go:
The vineyards are beautiful during spring which is about the same time as the flower season, from July to September but a lot depends on rainfall.

Winter is cooler since summer can become unbearably hot.

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Red Dune Route in the Green Kalahari Region

The Red Dune Route is essentially a pathway in the northern region of the province on the way to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, dotted with guest houses, farms and smaller game reserves that are members of the Route. They offer local hospitality, traditional cuisine such as melktert (custard pie), Nabbas (seasonal Kalahari Truffles), roosterkoek (bread cooked on an open grill) -- and stories that will introduce the traveler to more than just the fauna, flora and scenery, allowing the visitor to get to know the people as well.

The Roaring Kalahari Route in the Green Kalahari, Kalahari and Karoo Region

The main attraction along this Route is the roaring sand dunes of the Witsand Nature Reserve. The dunes lie about 1200m (3,937 feet) above sea level and are between 20 and 30 m (65 to 98 feet) high. They collectively run some 9km (5.5 miles) in a NE – SW direction. Some dunes can be up to 5km (3 miles) wide.

The sound that the dunes emit is somewhere between a roar and hum depending on the conditions. The sand needs to be dry, warm and clean to create the effect. The fine granules of sand rub together causing friction to build up which allows air trapped between them to escape, emitting the sound. The disturbance in the sand is caused by varying weather conditions, mostly the wind.

Another amazing feature of the dunes is the ocurrence of fulgurites. These are tubes of hard, glassy materials or fused shafts of silica in various shapes and sizes that form when lightning strikes the sand. Since the dunes are located so high above the sea level in comparison to the surrounding area, they are struck fairly often, especially during the afternoon summer thunderstorms.

Visitors please be aware of this phenomenon and stay away from the dunes
during thunderstorms.

The Route travels from its starting point in Kuruman through Kathu, north towards Diben and onward to the mining towns of Hotazel and Black Rock. From here it travels towards McCarthy’s Rest on the Botswana border then down towards Van Zylsrus and west towards Askham. A recommended stop over is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, before traveling further south to Upington and back east to Groblersdal and Boegoeberg Dam. Consider stopping over too of course at the Witsand Nature Reserve to view the dunes before continuing on to Griquatown and Danielskuil.

Dutch Reformed Chrp, Uppington, Northern Cape

Dutch Reformed Church, Uppington, Northern Cape

Distances are long but there are many comfortable guest houses, guest farms, resorts, parks and reserves to stay in. Plan this trip well and allocate a few days to it, to avoid too much driving.

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The Anglo Boer Route in the Diamond Fields Region

Understandably the Northern Cape is better known for its diamond and copper mining, many historic churches, National Parks and the wild flowers of Namaqualand. However, for the 3 years between 1899 and 1902, this area was a battlefield during the Anglo-Boer war. This war was fought between the Afrikaners of the Transvaal and Orange Free State Boer Republic and British forces.

Many battles were fought within 120km (74 miles) of Kimberley and the town itself was under attack by Boer forces for four long months, which caused terrible hardships. A number of towns in the region have stories to tell about battles and have memorials and cemeteries for the fallen -- but much of the history of the war is told in Kimberley.

Information about the battles around Kimberley and the siege of Kimberley is on display at the Alexander McGregor Museum in Kimberley while the Magersfontein Field Museum offers visitors the opportunity to view period uniforms, equipment, weapons and photographs. The Honored Dead Memorial is also found in Kimberley and remembers the brave heroes who died while defending the town during the siege that started in October 1899 and only ended in February 1900.

The Rockery Route in the Green Kalahari Region near Kakamas

A scenic drive on a gravel road travels from Neilersdrift to the town of Kakamas via the Neus Wier. The attraction of this drive is the variation in scenery from rocky outcrops to oddly twisted Kokerbome (Quiver trees) and Camelthorn trees, probably a result of the wind over time. The drive continues past row upon row of green vineyards that lie along the Orange River.

The Vaalharts Valley near Kimberley

A very exciting new Agri-Tourism Route is being developed in the Vaalharts Valley, just an hour’s drive from Kimberley. Here the Vaal and Harts rivers feed 1,250 farms through a complex irrigation network. The lush farms stand in contrast to the yellows and browns of the sand dunes and desert landscape that surround it. Soon visitors will be able to experience activities such as harvesting of the many crops that grow in the valley -- olives, pecan nuts, peanuts, citrus fruits, wheat, lucerne, corn, wine cotton and stone fruit.

Along with visits to working farms and farm stays, guests to the area will also be able to enjoy leisure and adventure activities such as swimming or riding the canals, 4x4 trips, micro light flights, horse riding, golf and water bird watching on the lake or fishing on the Harts River.

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