In September, I took a drive on the N7 to Namibia’s diamond town, Oranjemund. It was a brilliant route and I’ve been meaning to share it, but a crazy travel schedule has complicated things. I left Cape Town on the 30th September and October saw me in Germany, Luxembourg, France and Greece, November saw me in England and Scotland, and now things have finally calmed down. Also it’s snowing outside, so today seemed like a good day for a cup of tea and a bit of a blog. On the 15th September, armed with a fresh flask of tea from my roommate, I got an early start and hit the N7 round about 6am. It was a gloomy day and the first 3 hours of the drive took place in complete fog. Clearly the weather hadn’t got my memo about the intended photo stops. However, as I climbed higher and higher up Piekeniers Kloof Pass, the fog finally lifted and I was greeted with the most spectacular view.
On through Citrusdal (stopping for pockets of oranges), past the orange farms and alongside the Olifantsrivier I drove. There were tons of stop and gos from Citrusdal onwards, so I got to truly appreciate that river. Roadworks aside, it’s a beautiful part of the country and with a naartjie in one hand and a camera in the other, there are worse places to be stuck. On through the roadworks and past the little citrus valleys I went, round the magnificent Clanwilliam dam to finally arrive in Vanrhynsdorp to meet up with my Dad.
If ever you need accommodation in Vanrhynsdorp, take a look at The Vanrhynsdorp Guesthouse. The hosts are lovely, the bath tubs are huge and it’s surrounded by poppies and desert daisies. Vanrhynsdorp is a great stayover point if you’re driving from Cape Town to Namibia. If you’re in Vanrhynsdorp for dinner, I’d recommend a bite to eat at the Zuid Afrikaanse Restaurant (ZAR) which you can find in the local caravan park (do not let this put you off).
Leaving Vanrhynsdorp and crossing the Northern Cape border, we started getting into flower territory. The Namakwa flowers are on show from July to September and August is the so-called best month to visit. Despite driving through on the very last day of Namakwa flower season (our timing is truly superb), we were able to catch some beautiful vistas. Violent purple, orange, yellow and red hues decorated the roadside and the surrounding desert landscape. It’s an incredibly dramatic contrast to see the bright desert flowers, against the dry, barren plains of the Northern Cape. I hope to one day go back and experience the flowers in full bloom.
There are a host of small towns dotted along the N7 and we chose to visit Garies, Kamieskroon and Springbok – as we drove upwards through the Northern Cape, so did the temperature gauge. There is something special about hot Karoo days. Those days where you climb out the car and immediately feel the heat dancing on your skin, hear the murmur of the beetles in a nearby tree and the smell of the desert lingers in the air.
The gift shop at Garies, an unexpected treasure trove of crazy cat paraphernalia and neon knitted cardies, offers up tasty toasted sandwiches and a newly-installed, coin-activated lock on the toilet that proves to be a lot harder to operate than one might think. Kamieskroon, easily the tiniest town in Southern Africa, consists of a street, a right turn, a petrol pump and a tourist office board that pointed towards the hills. These towns are tranquil gems tucked away from the noise of city living – they offer a taste of small town life and often a cellphone-reception free existence. Up through O’Kiep and then a right turn at Steinkopf onto the R382 and we left the flowers behind. There is a beautiful pass along this route that looks out over miles of desert, but apart from the pass, it’s one long stretch of straight road up to Port Nolloth. It’s a blur of telephone wires, crows nests, desertscapes and the odd windmill. Once you hit Port Nolloth, you catch your first glimpse of the sea and then it’s another long straight road and a haze of diamond mines, sandy coastline and exhausted sand mounds up to the Orange River – the natural border separating South Africa and Namibia.
The last hour can get a bit monotonous, but it’s a beautiful route through the Northern and Western Cape. Driving at night can be a bit tricky as there are no roadside lights, so be prepared for this. I’d recommend taking the trip over two days (if not more) and aim for flower season if you can.