Words Fiona McIntosh, pics Shaen Adey
The plains are a mass of purple, the hillsides ablaze with yellow, and tucked away in between the ubiquitous daisies are patches of brilliant pink, purple and orange vygies, delicate orchids and tiny oxalis. As we start the climb up to the koppie the vegetation changes becoming more bushy and green. The daisies are still eye-catching but they’re smaller and of a more varied hue.
The start of 16-mile beach.
We pause at the top of the hill to catch a breath. From this high vantage point we can really appreciate the grand vistas and dramatic Seychelles-like granite boulders. The flowers have turned their pretty heads to face the midday sun and for the umpteenth time, I reflect on what a privilege it is to live in the Western Cape.
Kraalbaai and its houseboats.
If you’ve never hiked the Postberg trail you haven’t lived. With its carpets of beautiful and diverse blooms the hilly Postberg section of the West Coast National Park is one of the best places in the country to enjoy the annual spring flower phenomenon. But this magnificent trail, that is only open for the months of August and September, has a lot more than flowers to offer visitors.
It's not all about the flowers. There are glorious beaches too.
The hike takes you to dramatic viewpoints overlooking the turquoise Langebaan Lagoon, to bizarre granite spires and lichen-covered boulders and along wild empty beaches. And although it’s not widely publicised – everyone comes for the flowers and forgets that it’s such a well-stocked park – the game viewing is incredible. The thickets abound with kudu while zebra, ostrich, wildebeest, steenbok and other buck graze languidly on the plains.
Postberg's famous 'Finger Rocks'.
When we walked it last weekend we had rare sightings too - gemsbok, eland and bat eared fox. In fact the only mammal on the park’s species list that we didn’t see was the Cape fox. And of course there were tortoises, tortoises everywhere. There were so many on the path that we had to be careful not to trip over them.
The flower studded plains of Postberg.
The experts are saying that this has been a bad year. In many areas the flowers are already over. Those in the Cederberg’s Biedouw valley – one of the ‘hotspots’ - were short lived and the verges of the N7 and the R27, good indicators of the abundance or lack thereof, are drab. But while it might be too late to catch some of the best-known spring flower displays in the Western Cape there are plenty of floral treats around.
The Postberg overnight trail and Steenbok day trail overlap for much of the way.
In fact, as any fundi will tell you, although the attention-grabbing, mass displays of Namaqualand steal the show when it comes to spring flowering splendour, these are often dominated by a few, rather common daisy species that are excellent colonisers of disturbed ground. The real floral gems of the Cape are the many rare and special plants that inhabit our mountains and coastlines.
These limestone pincushions, seen on the Stinkhoutbos trail, are one of floral treasures of our coastal mountains.
So, while I’d thoroughly recommend a quick trip up the West Coast to hike the overnight Postberg trail, the Steenbok day trail or to picnic in the reserve before ‘closing time’ at the end of the month, if you don’t make it this year don’t despair. Take a hike in the fynbos instead and seek out the less conspicuous treasures, the delicate orchids, lilies, irises and vygies, fragrant pelargoniums, magnificent proteas, pincushions, conebushes and the fields of brightly coloured ericas and restios. You won't be disappointed.
Go in the middle of the day when the flowers smile at the sun.
The 27.3km, Postberg Two-day Trail and the 13.9km Steenbok Day Trail (www.nightjartravel.com/hiking/steenbok-day-trail) are only open during August and September. Advance reservations are required. Contact the West Coast National Park, 022 707 9902, www.sanparks.org
There are various fully equipped self-catering options in the park including the gorgeous Jo-Anne’s Beach Cottage near Churchaven, Abrahamskraal Cottage near a water hole, the Duinepos Chalets near the Geelbek Restaurant and Visitors Centre as well as two houseboats. Accommodation in the park during the flower season is as scarce as hen’s teeth but there are plenty of cottages and guesthouses just outside the Langebaan entrance to the park. Baby Blue, www.gravity.co.za/accommodation/west-coast/baby-blue, is right on the beach at Sandbaai, just five minutes from the gate.
To really learn about our magnificent fynbos consider taking a guided hike with Dominic Chadbon aka The Fynbos Guy. www.thefynbosguy.com
Five great spots to hike in the fynbos this spring