Before the pandemic I used to write travel stories about fabulous places, cosy couches, exotic safari lodges and sexy sunsets. I am still writing these stories but now there is a pandemic and I have to include pandemic stories too.
A few weeks ago, at lockdown level two, I traveled with friends from Cape Town, via the West Coast National Park, on to the Cederberg Mountains. Our trip was timed to see the daisies, yellow, pink, red, blue and orange. They’re smart, these daisies, flowering every August and September, after the Cape winter rains.
Some seasons are better than others. This season was pretty perfect.
The sun shone, and the national park, with its endless fields of flowers, desolate beaches, beautiful birds and FLAMINGOS, was astonishing. We frolicked, pulled our masks up, sanitised, photographed, pulled our masks down, drove over scary and magnificent mountain passes and in the evening, arrived in The Cederberg.
Clanwilliam is the main town in the Cederberg. It’s small, with a couple of cutesy guesthouses, coffee shops, a church, a bottle store (all small South African towns have a church and a bottle store) and several craft shops. We’d chosen not to stay in town but in the mountains.
A good choice.
As we turned off the main road and on to a narrow dusty one, the sun was setting. It felt like we were in a Pierneef painting, the mountains majestic, dark blue, purple, then gold.
We rang our guesthouse door.
And rang and rang. When the owner eventually came, with her two huge dogs that were pretty terrifying, I noticed she was tipsy.
I also noticed her lipstick.
Revlon Stay All Day, Ruby Red.
What the actual. Nobody wears lipstick anymore. Mask up, baby. Especially if you are in the hospitality industry.
I whispered to her, from a distance, about the pandemic. It went right over her floral head. Maybe it was the scent of the orange trees that got to her – the Cederberg is home to citrus farms and the air was indeed heady – or maybe it was the wine.
There are a lot of good vineyards in the area.
We checked in. Kept our distance. Used our own sanitiser. And made our way to our little self catering cottage. We had a beautiful night around a fire and under a million stars, and in the morning we plucked oranges off the trees and went to explore the area.
A neighbour had told us we HAD TO GO TO NIEWOUDTVILLE.
‘It’s where the best flowers are,’ he gasped through his buff, which had the South African flag emblazoned on it.
You can never see too many flowers and so we took a day trip to Niewoudtville. We thought the flowers in the Cederberg were amazing, and they were, but here we found thousands upon thousands of blooms, together with the odd windmill, tea-rooms with freshly made scones and a lot of tourists because it was peak flower season and everyone had been locked up for months.
Some places are more pandemic friendly than others. It’s not a bad idea for one person to jump out the car and check the place before making a decision to go inside.
I did a lot of jumping.
Flowers, coffee, flowers, pancakes, flowers, view, flowers, loo.
We found some beautiful places. And avoided a couple that felt too busy.
When travelling in these times, do your research in advance. Make sure your guesthouse is following the Covid-19 protocols. Maybe know which restaurants are recommended. Hope you have a neighbour like ours who tells you where to go, use a good Tour Operator (me, the new flower expert) or check online.
We had just three nights in the area. A few more would’ve been fabulous. There’s incredible hiking, the mountains are amazing, and you can walk and find crystal clear streams for swimming.
Unmasked, and wearing only lipstick.
There’s also stargazing, wine tasting, tea tasting, shopping, snoozing in the orchards and if you cannot stay away – MANY MORE BLOSSOMS TO EXPLORE.
It’s easy to do a day trip to the West Coast National Park from Cape Town. Spring is the best time to travel and it’s just an hour away.
And visit the Cederberg any time, an easy and beautiful three hour drive from Cape Town.
Mail me. I know where you should and shouldn’t stay.