Splashes of vibrant colour. Picture Myrtle Ryan
Splashes of vibrant colour. Picture Myrtle Ryan
A dead stump, a ragged bush, spectacular flowers. Picture Myrtle Ryan
A dead stump, a ragged bush, spectacular flowers. Picture Myrtle Ryan

Myrtle Ryan

If the sun does not shine, and the flowers close their heads and doze, nature has several other cards in her suit for those visiting the Nieuwoudtville area of the West Coast.

While Nieuwoudtville prides itself on being the “bulb capital” of the world, it also offers wonderful scenic drives. So, when we woke to a misty drizzle, all was not lost.

We had been told to take a look at the waterfall about 5km outside the town.

It was probably an optical illusion, but the river seemed to disappear underground, before bursting forth, like a broken water main, from the rocky outcrop several metres below.

Its plunge into the gorge is spectacular.

To get to the lookout point, visitors wander along a pathway between fynbos and flowers in full bloom. A walk back along the river brings you to the pretty smaller fall, which does its best not to be upstaged by its bigger counterpart.

At the entrance to this watery reserve, the locals had set up tiny tents from which emanated all sorts of delicious smells. Tourists were tucking into worsrolletjies and roosterkoek (a traditional grilled cake, which goes down a treat with cheese and jam).

Heading off along the road to Loeriesfontein, we turned off to visit the magnificent kokerboom (quiver tree) forest. It was early in the day, so we were the only people there, and were able to wander happily up and down the mountainside, studying these trees up close, without tourists blundering into the photographs.

Many of the quiver trees had fallen petticoats of brilliant flowers at their feet. The contrast between the deep purple blossoms and the patterned silver-grey-cream bark of the trees was exceptionally attractive.

Multi-hued hills and mountains added a spectacular backdrop, and it is possible to take a circular drive through these back to Nieuwoudtville.

Back in the town, it was perfect pancake weather. They were flying off the pans in a church hall as hungry tourists tucked in.

The large sandstone Dutch Reformed Church, a national monument, was also putting its best foot forward.

It was surrounded by fields of pale purple flowers. Building of the church commenced just after the Anglo-Boer War, and probably its most outstanding feature is the pulpit, which is built out of pristine white sandstone and still in perfect nick.

From a floral perspective, the visit was stunning, as there were days when the sun beamed forth its largesse, encouraging a multitude of varied flowers to dazzle and display.

On private farms we drove among the flowers, hopping out to study them close up.

Particularly memorable was a drive along a gravel road to connect with the Calvinia-Ceres road, supposedly the longest piece of untarred road in the country. Here, the unsullied plain formed a vast empty bowl, surrounded by mountains and vivid with flowers.

Our accommodation in Nieuwoudtville was peaceful and pastoral.

As we sat in our garden at a cottage named Nieverderrie, we watched fat sheep grazing in the meadow alongside.

When did you last stay in a town, and feel as though you were on a farm?

l Contacts: Nieverderrie 027 218 1144. Rooidakhuis 027 146 9080 (if the hotel scene appeals more than private accommodation).

The town’s tourist information office provides details on accommodation.