The Western Cape is still experiencing a drought and while there are still water restrictions, we’re no longer obsessing about buckets and rushing outside to catch the last drop for use later. Now when it rains, we lazily peek out the window and remark, “oh lovely.” Heavy storms have been minimal even in the last rainy season. Of course, on the day I decide to spend the night in a tent, the clouds would burst and the worst storm in the are would happen. Yep, that’s me.
Late last year, we welcomed the warm seasons with a road trip and glamping experience at the Wild Flower Camp near Hopefield. The weekend focused on birds, flowers and nature on the banks of the Berg River. I’ve spoken about my “love” for camping on the blog before and possibly ranted at other places. This time though we would be glamping and I thought, “surely I could manage that. As it turns out, I could… well, mostly.
The inaugural wild flower camp described itself as “an unforgettable luxury glamping experience amidst the plethora of wildflowers and iconic vlei birds of the West Coast.” I don’t think that I had been glamping before this. I had been in tented accommodation before, which I’m told is not camping, but it’s also not particularly glam. I always say that if the walls are canvas – then we are camping. I guess, like all things glamorous, there are levels and I think attention to detail will push canvas to glamorous very quickly.
A 4×4 drive or horse ride took us to the camp. We chose to drive up because of my allergies. Just before the camp, we stopped at the top of the hills to take in the colourful fields and incredible surrounding landscape – with a gin and tonic.
When I walked into the tent, I was stunned by the attention to detail inside. There was a double bed, luxurious throws and cushions, tea lights, and beautiful carpets. I was surprised by how much they had packed into that space. The veld kitchen and communal lounge area were a beautiful addition for dinner and gatherings under the open sky.
Our host showed us the tent and also the amenities. The bathroom was in a sweet looking out house with a shower, lights and clear roof which meant you could even shower under the stars. Then they showed us the loo and explained that you first “pump the lever so summon up the water” and then eeekk. I had a break in experience and silently wondered if I would need to loo over the next couple of days. Not because it was dodgy (it wasn’t really – those were the standard loos in these experiences) but because my brain in that moment suddenly reminded me “you do not like camping.”
And then the rain came. A. Lot. Of. Rain. More rain than the area had had in many years. (Of course).
When the forecast said rain, I had put on a brave face. Each tent had hot water bottles and warm blankets. The wind was howling outside and rain pounding but inside the tent it was quite cosy and calm. The additional layer of canvas over the tent did its thing, deflecting a lot of the drama. There were a few casualties in the main tent but the team had contingencies in place, so you didn’t feel like too much of the difference. We woke up unscathed and continued our adventure – a little muddier that we had hoped but well worth the trip.
Before arriving at the flower camp, we spent a night in Nieuwoudtville – a small town that is said to be the bulb capital of the world. While there, the owner of the guest house told us about the history of the area. Over a really tasty lamb shank, he lamented about people coming through just to see the pretty blankets of flowers and not really stopping to really experience the nature. “All those flowers are different, individual species,” he said. “Don’t just look at the colour get on your knees and see each different petal, the greenery, the fruits and even the bugs.”
After that chat we decided that we would do that at the camp. With the help of a local botanical specialist Helene Preston, we spent two days reminding ourselves that nature is more than just pretty colours. It’s the aroma of the buchu plant as you brush past it, holding remedies and healing properties used over centuries. It’s nature’s landing platform on the tips of flower petals to help the bees balance as they gather pollen.
Helene drove us through the veld and took up on a botanical guided walk. We on on out knees and inspected many individual flowers – not just noting the colours. I remember some of the flowers but not all of them, but I enjoyed doing what Hendrick had recommended and got a greater appreciation for the flowers.