The west coast of South Africa is a dry semi-desert region with an average rainfall of 280 mm (12″). For most of the years the vegetation is low scrub and thorn bushes with patches of dry dusty ground. In August after the winter rains things change dramatically. The flower come out in raging colours. This display lasts three months and by the end of October the flowers are gone and the dry dusty veld is left. We drove up to Langebaan in mid August after good winter rains and enjoyed the glory of the flowers
The flowers spread across all the open ground and wild profusion. If you drive through quickly you only see the carpet of flowers. If however you stop and look, there is a wealth of beautiful flowers hidden within the showy flash of white, yellow and orange.
A visit to the Invasion Beaches and my tribute to the men and women who landed on those beaches. Many did not make it.
In 2019 we traveled to Europe. Included in the itinerary was a visit to the Normandy Landing beaches. Guided by a very competent guide, we saw and walked on Juno, Sword and Gold beaches. What I saw there stunned me and for the first time I understood the shear horror of those landings. I understood the blind courage required to leap out of the landing craft into the ice cold sea and wade ashore into a hail of bullets. Come with me on a personal trip to those beaches.
Phoenix Bridge: Allied Commandos were instructed to take this bridge at all costs. Three gliders landed nearby and then according to the tour guide three soldiers stormed across the bridge to silence a machine gun nest at the other end.
You can get an idea of just how long that bridge is. I asked the guide if the bridge was wider in those days but he said, “Narrower.” I cannot imagine storming a machine gun down a narrow alley of steel and hard road surface. I have no idea how they survived that crazy run.
The landing craft were mainly wood with the front door being steel and the soldiers packed together shoulder to shoulder inside. On an aside note, this is the landing craft that was used during the filming of “Saving Private Ryan”.
The tide was out when I was there so the run was longer than during the invasion but as you can see that there is no cover whatsoever.
The guns were positioned to fire directly along the beaches, not down them. There was thus no way of a soldier further down the beach from evading or stopping the the fire.
Once in about a decade the March Flowers or Maartblomme rise out of the harsh Tankwa Karoo soil and bring colour and life to the dry and harsh landscape. We were fortunate to make the 5 hour trip from Cape Town to Nieuwoudtville to see them.
The flowers seem to congregate in patches as you can see from this picture.
Some 30 km outside of Calitzdorp in the Western Cape is the Gammkaberg Nature Reserve, run by Cape Nature. There are a number of trails in the park, the longest (two days) is the Tierkloof Trail that runs up the Tierkloof canyon stops at Oudkraal, an over night camp and then returns to the base camp the next day. Both days distance is about 14 km. The scenery is magnificent and the going moderately hard. The first day ends with a climb of about 450 m over 3 km. The second day is easier with a sharp down hill and then fairly flat all the way home. I recently hiked this trail and it is, as claimed one of the more beautiful hikes in the Western Cape.
The base camp.
The trail is built on and around the river that carved the klook (canyon). The river does not run often so this is not a problem. It could get tense though….
Elements of the Cape Fold Mountains can be seen.
Thorn trees growing in the riverbed.
Trail markings are very good, this is an informal one that took my fancy