West Coast Blooms

West Coast Blooms

“Shoot, shoot, shoot” James Gradwell, my photography guide instructed. I was trying to get a shot of the tide coming in with Table Mountain looming in the background, but I only managed to get one photo because as I crouched in the sand the tide soaked through my pants. A few minutes later, the tides obliged  and I captured the desired effect. This was the last stop on a day long photographic tour to shoot the wildflowers which bloom up the West coast from August to September. Being fickle flowers, they don’t open on cloudy days, the wind can make them shutter, and they are only around for a limited time. Some years are better than others and this year was not a banner year, but I didn’t know any better and was looking forward to visiting the Western Cape National Park outside of Langebaan. During peak season, the park can be bumper to bumper traffic, but a rugby match between the Springboks and All Blacks kept the masses away. After stopping to pick up nourishment at a roadside winkle (I love the Afrikaans/Dutch word for shop), our first stop was a field in a part of the park that didn’t appear to be on the main flower circuit. With the lagoon in the background, I took some spectacularly horrible photos. The advantage of having a professional photographer taking you around is that he tells you to try different angles to capture better images and I can attest that my images vastly improved.

Then we moved on to a section of the park that is privately owned and only open in August and September. Mountain zebra, bonteboks, ostriches, elands and one lone wildebeest posed in a field of purple – the bloom color du jour. James encouraged me to experiment with different aperture, shutter speeds, and lens to try and get different effects. The tips were especially helpful as I had never photographed flowers and my landscape photography tends to rely on boring angles and poor composition.

The day ended at Tableview beach where I got some of my favorite images of the day –  the tide coming in and a lone surfer.

I highly recommend Photography Tours if you are in Cape Town. It was education and, as a former ranger, James is a virtual encyclopedia of Southern Africa safari lodges.

That evening I dined at the Greenhouse Restaurant at the Cellars – Hohenhort in Constancia. I had been wanting to try the restaurant for some time, but it seemed apropos that my first visit was during my floral tour of the West Coast. You have to be in the right mood to sit through a three hour meal solo, especially if you are going to leave your cell phone and book in your bag, but after a long week a three hour taste overload was just what I wanted. The meal started with a shona style steamed bread accompanied by butter, including a nut butter from Mozambique (cashew based) and four bites comprised of cape ingredients. I opted for the four course meal staring with brassica curds and ham, progressing on to a nyala carrot dish, then on to duck and cabbage, a sublime palate cleanser, and finally, for desert an unbelievable Table mont blanc constructed to resemble the famed mountain itself.  In addition to being an architectural marvel, the dish was incredible.

Keeping with the floral theme of the weekend, on Sunday morning I headed to Kirstenbosch Gardens to try out my new flower portrait skills and to enjoy the fine weather. Apparently, everyone in Cape Town had the same idea and the gardens were teeming with families enjoying picnics and friends celebrating birthdays. I spent several hours wandering the gardens, and being an American who wishes proteas grew in abundance in the US, I enjoyed the protea and fynbos gardens best. The main attraction seemed to be the new tree canopy walk that swayed in the breeze causing small children to burst into tears and terrified people to grip the handrail as they inched along.

And, like that my blooming weekend in Cape Town came to an end.

I stayed a Derwnet House, my go to spot in Cape Town. Check it out. Despite the tiny bathrooms, you won’t be disappointed.