West Coast National Park & Darling

22 Sep

PostbergPossibly one of the best things about a proper sopping wet Cape Winter is the Cape Spring that follows.  If you’re not already queuing outside the West Coast National Park this morning, I suggest you go get your picnic basket on and make a plan to “go see the flowers”.  Last weekend, in the name of not letting things pass us by (a frequently renewed resolution) we did just that, but decided that we might as well use the opportunity to see what all the fuss about Darling is as well, since it happens to be bang in the middle of the flower route, and the Wild Flower Festival was on there at the time (as we found out once there).  After a slightly belated Saturday morning start (the rugby didn’t go well…) we struck up the West Coast.

Our first stop was Groote Post Winery.  I’d heard that the restaurant was worth a visit and we thought we’d try our luck at getting a table there after some award winning wine tasting.  As it turns out we were very lucky indeed to nab one of the last two tables – booking is probably recommended, especially at the height of flower season!  Groote PostIt was worth the gamble though as lunch in the beautiful old farmhouse was scrumptious indeed – roast lemon & thyme chicken with roast veg for me and a lamb korma pie for H, well accompanied by some Groote Post The Old Man’s Blend Red.

Finally in Darling we chanced upon the Wild Flower Show which seemed to me to mainly be a flea market with a central exhibition hall.  It was a pretty and informative exhibition, but couldn’t beat nature’s exhibition up the coast if you ask me.  Stocked up with jam and a metal guinea fowl we went to see what else Darling had to offer.

Darling Brew Tasting Selection

Darling Brew Tasting Selection

The Darling Brew, situated in the “Slow Quarter” is what we found. Four artisan “slow beers” is what we tasted – presented to us in a neat little tasting tray, to be tried in order of potency.  It’s not surprising that I preferred the milder Darling Brew lager, but the alarmingly named “Bone Crusher” Darling Brew  turned out to be more spicy that strychnine, and definitely worth a go.  The menu scribbled over the walls was very tempting but we decided to see what other dinner options were out there.  Not much, as it turned out.  The two restaurants that were recommended to us were closed (on a Saturday evening in the middle of the flower weekend…  really Darling?) so we found what seemed to be the only other offering in the village, and that was Brigg’s Barn, where the extra large malva pudding with hot custard made up for everything.

The main event on anyone’s Darling’s todo list is surely a show at Evita se Perron.  This is the one thing I had thought of booking in advance thankfully and we were not disappointed by Pieter Dirk Uys and all his characters who’s dark humour makes you fear and hope for South African in the same breathe.  Make sure you get there early enough to have a good look at the museum and shop where the exhibition of famous masterpieces (Rubens, Klimt etc.) re-mastered to feature Evita tickled me sideways.

West Coast National ParkWe’d heard rumours of queues outside the West Coast National Park from a friend who’d been up the coast the previous weekend hunting surf, so we roused ourselves to leave Darling at the crack of dawn to get to the gate as it opened at 7am.  Despite discovering that the flowers themselves only rouse themselves at about 10am (once drenched in sunshine) we had a marvellous peaceful hour or two in the reserve before the crowds came in.  There are flowers absolutely everywhere, but the most impressive displays were in the Postberg area in the North of the park – an area which has restricted access the rest of the year and where quite a lot of game roam as well.  We saw eland, zebras, wilderbeest and springbok amongst the greenery and flowers.  At times like these I wish I had a proper camera to capture how beautiful it really was, but perhaps focussing on absorbing the swathes of purple, orange and yellow in real life is better than focusing on capturing the perfect shot. Plankiesbaai is where the world, his wife and 3 children picnic for lunch, but you can understand why with the contrast of the flowers right next to the sea making for a breathtaking braai spot.

The West Coast National Park is just over an hour from Cape Town and entrance is R44.00 per South African adult.  Add a cooler bag and some picnic rolls and you’re on your way to reminding yourself what an amazing country we live in.

One Response to “West Coast National Park & Darling”

  1. Anne September 30, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

    It never ceases to amaze me how such an array of beautiful flowers can spring up – with no thanks to anyone but the gift of rain. The Addo Elephant National Park was ablaze with flowers last September, bathing it in a glory undreamed of during the long period of dust-inducing drought. How we nurture our gardens … poor cousins to such beauty as you describe. It remains on my wish list!

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