For those of us who weren’t lucky enough to visit the gorgeous display of West Coast wild flowers this year, there have been other interesting nearby plant-related activities on the go.
The Calitzdorp Vetplant Fees (Succulent Festival) in late September seemed a good excuse for a short trip over the Outeniquas into the dry and dusty Klein Karoo. There were splashes of purple and yellow mesembryanthums alongside the road on the way through the spectacular Red Stone Hills – a photographer’s paradise – and if you wandered into the veld there were all manner of plants, big and small, either in bloom or covered in buds.
The quaint little town of Calitzdorp, at the confluence of the Nels and Gamka Rivers, dates back to 1845 when local farmers pleaded for the establishment of a separate congregation as the Oudtshoorn church was so far away. The small simple rectangular houses, called tuishuisies, which still line the five narrow lanes in the block opposite the church, were built to house congregants from the outlying farms when they came to attend the church services, particularly the quarterly Nagmaal or celebration of Holy Communion.
On the Saturday morning of the Fees the town was abuzz with visitors, some from as far away as Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The guest houses and b and b’s were full as were the local restaurants. Clearly the possibility of acquiring rare or unusual succulents was irresistible to hard-core collectors and a wonderful way for novices to discover more about these quaint plants. Many stalls lined the streets round the museum, botanical art was on display and there were talks from experts, not to mention pannekoek and coffee. Of course the local wine farms were all open for tasting, buying or just relaxing with a glass or wine or cup of coffee while listening to live music, with the prospect of a lunchtime braai. A great way to enjoy Karoo hospitality!
Text and Photos: Leonie Twentyman-Jones