The desert in bloom

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October 12th 2011
Published: November 11th 2011
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Driving north through ever changing scenery: from dramatically rising mountainscape through lush rolling countryside with orchards and vineyards; and finally the desert – endless stretches of red earth streaked with luminous yellow grass, bordered by the ethereal purple bluish hue of distant mountains. I am racing against the clock because I know they are closing around three and this is the only day I have up here. At one o’clock still nothing. I stop at a little tourist information place in a one-horse-town; there they direct me off the main road. Another 50km or so. It’s a dirt track, dusty and slow. And then, just as I’m starting to wonder why I’m doing this, I see it, one of the great spectacles of nature: flowers, carpets of them, covering the desert floor, flooding it with an array of colours - the desert in bloom.

The seeds of around four thousand different species of flowers lie dormant underneath the red soil of the Northern Cape, waiting for the spring rain in order to transform the desert into one of the most spectacular flower displays on earth. I was lucky – last year little rain meant few flowers. And cloudy skies or cool wind prevent the flowers from opening. But on this warm, sunny afternoon, just in time before the daisies began to close again, I sat down in the middle of a sea of colour, breathing in the scent and listening to the sounds of the desert. And the long, arduous journey had definitely been worth it.

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