The Spring flowers of Namaqualand, the sparsely populated northwestern corner of South Africa, tucked up hard against the Namibia border, are truly one of nature's most miraculous sights. A semi-desert, Namaqualand is parched and barren for most of the year, albeit with some stark desert mountain beauty. But when the last of winter's brief rains meets the first of the hot subtropical Spring sun, fields of wild flowers sprout from the desert as if conjured into being by some magician.
As the rains are unpredictable, Namaqualand's flowers have adapted to their environment by blooming in different places evey year. As you drive up the N7 from Cape Town, one's first reaction can be disappointment; sure, the flowers are all very pretty, but unspectacular; was it really worth driving all this way for.
But then you realise that this display has just been a tease; the real glories will be tucked away somewhere. Local tourism offices and other tourists can help direct you to where to go; and then you will find yourself coming around a bend on an unmade Northern Cape rural road and having your breath, quite literally, taken away.
In any particular spot, the flowers will be at their best for anything from a few days to a few weeks. And then they will be gone until next Spring, when they will sprout up somewhere slightly different.
As always when I come back from a photography trip, I end up frustrated with what went wrong rather than happy with what went right; I suppose that's the only way one learns anything. Still, I did get some nice shots - hard not to in that stunning countryside - and a few of them have ended up on the offical Namaqualand tourism blog
Farm on the east side of Grootvlei Pass, on the Kamieskroon-Hondeklipbai road.
The Okeip-Concordia road.
Farm off the Okiep-Concordia road.
On the N14 road 15km east of Springbok.