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SSome little towns in the mountains appear out of thick mist, other long-forgotten seaports give up their shipwrecks, while in the flower season everything takes on bright colours – that’s the essence of this Namaqua back-roads route, with a surprise and a local delight around every corner.
Just getting to the village of Leliefontein to begin your Shipwrecks and Daisies Route, which ends in Kleinzee, is an adventurous road trip in itself.
This is the lesser-travelled part of Northern Cape’s Namaqualand, and you are in for a route full of surprises and delights. To discover all the attractions and accommodation options available for your tour, you should call Northern Cape Tourism or explore their website before you set out.
Leliefontein is a historic Methodist mission village set among the rocky hills and outcrops not far from the central ‘flower town’ of Kamieskroon on the N7. There are no franchise burger joints here, no strip malls or shopping centres within hundreds of kilometres. It’s back-roads travel at its finest, and like we did, you should kick off your tour with an overnight stop in one of the region’s hotels or B&Bs, pausing to explore quaint Leliefontein and its Namaqualand cultural attractions.
We could have headed straight for Kamieskroon the next day, but we’re spinning out this trip and going south to Garies. We visit the famous Letterklip (letter stone) bearing the inscriptions of old-time Namaqualand travellers, before setting our sights on the coast and the little seaside town of Hondeklip (dog stone) Bay.
Our hosts for tonight are the Hough family, who run the famous Honnehok (dog kennel) chalets and serve wickedly delicious meals at their nearby restaurant/bar. One of the delights of visiting Hondeklip Bay is a walk along its beaches to admire the beached boats and occasional shipwreck looming out of the mist.
This village was once the shipping centre of copper ore from Namaqualand to the United Kingdom. It resurfaced as a crayfish town in the 1920s until the mid-1990s. Nowadays, Hondeklip Bay is best known for the alluvial diamonds that lie on the sea floor just off the coast.
The next day we drive up to Kleinzee. We have organised overnight permits well in advance, because this is officially still a diamond-restricted area. But we’re not here to hunt down diamonds. We’re going to look for shipwrecks and dune flowers.
We start off with a visit to the Kleinzee Museum, where you can see how the old-timers mined for diamonds out here. More importantly, you learn about their lifestyles and the harsh conditions they endured in this unforgiving part of the country.
Right next to the museum are the offices of Kleinzee Tourism, where we book for a day out on a shipwreck tour, on which we see the remains of a vessel sunk by German torpedoes in World War II, a Cypriot freighter that ran aground in foul weather, and a British motor coaster that also came to grief here in the late 1940s.
At the end of this trip, we have seen the ‘backstage’ of Namaqualand and learnt a lot of her secrets...
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Northern Cape Tourism
053 832 2657
Die Honnehok chalets
Tel: +27 (0)27 692 3041
Tel +27 (0)27 877 0028
How to get here
Drive north on the N7 from Cape Town for approx. 450km, and then turn east at Garies for approx. 40km on the Leliefontein road.
Best time to visit
The area looks best in spring, when the Namaqualand flowers are in bloom: late August or early September generally has the best display.
Things to do in the area
Ask the locals at Kleinzee about their secret seaside places – and go visit them.
Tours to do
Kleinzee Tourism runs shipwreck and 4X4 (SUV) dune tours in the area. You'll need a permit to enter Kleinzee. Contact Kleinzee Tourism five days in advance of your planned trip.
This is an easy voyage of discovery, so hire a car in Cape Town and take to the road.
What will it cost?
Accommodation costs along the way are relatively inexpensive. Expect to pay a few hundred rands per person per night.
Length of stay
Set aside three nights for this trip if possible.
What to pack
Pack for the outdoors and pack informally. Don’t forget your camera and extra memory cards.
Where to stay
Recommended are the Honnehok chalets in Hondeklip Bay and Die Houthoop just outside Kleinzee.
What to eat
Meals are provided at all listed accommodation options, but this is a great time to stage impromptu picnics along the way. Shop in one of major N7 centres en route.
Check the listed Northern Cape Tourism website for information about the area during your visit.