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Monday, 6 March 2017

The beauty that is remote Hondeklipbaai

Hondeklipbaai main beach front

If you are looking for a place to escape to, with only the beauty of nature to keep you company, then Hondeklipbaai/Hondeklip Bay, is the place to visit. Tucked into the remote Northern Coastline of South Africa, a stone's throw away from the Namibian border, the town of Hondeklip is spread out over a vast distance, with people seemingly more interested in putting even more space between themselves and others, than they are in keeping each other company. At least, this is the case when you visit out of season, as I have been fortunate enough to do.

An unforgiving climate

There is ample evidence that this is not the case all year round, though. There seems to be a guesthouse of some sort around every corner, testifying to the fact that there are times when this quaint little town gets flooded with people. I have only the testimony of the buildings, though, and can't guarantee the validity of their word. The reason the town is so popular during season, is because it is situated in the heart of the Namakwa wildflower area and right next to the Namaqua National Park. Small wonder then that tourists flock in huge numbers to the town when the flowers are in bloom. But Hondeklipbaai has a lot more to offer than the spectacular seasonal flowers. (If you would like to add details of guesthouses, or B&B's, etc. to stay in Hondeklipbaai, in the comments, please feel free to do so. You may even add contact numbers for other readers, for convenience sake. We stayed at Die Papierhuise, a quaint, eccentric, beautiful, and very comfortable guesthouse, conveniently close to everything. But nothing is distant in Hondeklip - the town is simply too small for it to be so).

A town that owes its existence to the ocean and diamonds

The harbor where the fishing boats come in

To me the most spectacular aspect of Hondeklip, must be the completely underrated Moordenaarsbaai, as the locals call it. This is a small cove, tightly squeezed in between the rocks hovering over it on both sides, where the beach is made up of blood red crushed garnets. I have googled the phenomena, and from what I understand, the garnets are crushed somewhere in the ocean, and then deposited on this small beach by a current that brings them to this sole spot. The same article laid claim to the fact that the author had discovered two diamonds among the garnets. Whether this is true, or not, I do not know. I did find a stone that may very well be an extremely flawed diamond tucked into the 'sand' I carried away from there. Whether this is truly a diamond, or not, I can not tell. I like the idea of it being one, but the likelihood is slim. Not having it tested, seems to be the best way to preserve the illusion.

Moordenaarsbaai

Searching for diamonds on the ocean floor

Not that it is altogether unlikely to find diamonds around Hondeklipbaai! After all this is the diamond coast we are talking about and most of the property in the area belong to the diamond mines. You will even spot the diamond boats adrift on the main beach front, vacuuming the ocean bottom to sift through it for diamonds. And all along the coastline, hidden in the myriads of little coves, you will find sieves of 'illegal' miners tucked into the crevices of the rock face.

A discarded wreck, crumpled up by the waves

The wreck of a diamond boat

So, I did not get to see the town and its surrounding areas during the flower season. Were the plants still impressive? I think so. I could not stop taking pictures of all the interesting shapes, sizes and colours. I am no botanist and can barely give you any information worth repeating, but the artist in me was in awe of the variety I was confronted with. At last, I decided that I was glad that my first visit to the town was out of season. I think I may have been blinded to this almost imperceptible treasure of beauty, if my first impressions had been formed by the lavish display the flowers put on every year.

Sunrise

Yet, this is still not all that nature has to offer. I have already hinted at the myriads of little bays hidden up and down the coastline of Hondeklipbaai. Each of these seem to have their own character. One has a crushed garnet beach, the next will have perfectly rounded stones where you would have expected a beach. You move on and come across a little hideaway where the rugged rocks are carefully arranged into sedimentary layers that try to outshine each other for sheer beauty. Walk around another bend, and you come upon a beach so packed with shells whitening in the sun, that you can dig down as far is you can, without reaching the bottom. And then, just as suddenly the coastline opens up and affords you a view that stretches far into the distance, where you can see your history fleeing from you, and your future racing towards you. Words can not describe the diversity with which nature has spoiled this forgotten little town. You will have to go there yourself to take a couple of visual gulps of its beauty, to truly understand what I am trying to communicate.

Beauty in strange places

More beauty in strange places

Now, as if this were not enough, there are still the wrecks. You will find the rather recent wreck of a diamond boat in the ocean on the main beach front, where a storm casually discarded it in a playful mood. The waves crashing against this boat, makes for beautiful photos from any angle, but especially when you get it against the backdrop of the lighthouse on the bank behind it. By the way, this lighthouse runs on solar energy and is a marvel of technology in itself.

Snoek!

Still, this is not the most spectacular wreck the area has to offer. If you travel down the coast, a little ways out of town, you will come across a wreck that is much older and must have been much larger. This huge ship was simply lifted onto the rocks and tossed out of the ocean, as if the waves had had enough of its hindering their rush to the shore. There is barely more than a skeleton left these days, but the warm tones of the rust, set off against the neutral rock and the cool blue ocean in the background, makes for extremely interesting photos, especially if you take note of the play of light and shadow as well. I took so many photos here that I actually needed to change the battery in my camera afterwards. Every shot was worth taking though, and how often can you say that of a photo shoot?

Just some of the caves in the Namaqua National Park. I call this Darth Vader

There is so much more to tell about the town itself, but I will leave it for another blog. Let me continue on the topic of the natural beauty that makes the place worth visiting. I will now invite you to take a drive with me to the Namaqua National Park. If it is at all possible, I recommend that you visit the park in a 4x4 vehicle. There are some areas of the park you will find very difficult to traverse without the powerful overdrive of an off-road vehicle. Sadly, these are spots that are really worth seeing and missing out will be a tragedy. There are the caves, which I consider the highlight of the park. The plants are of course spectacular, and can only get better in season. The coastline will have you holding your breath. But the thing that impressed me most, was that when we set foot on a stark white beach, late in the afternoon, ours were the first foot prints to break the sand that day. The utter silence and remoteness will have me returning to Hondeklip out of season time after time. You can truly get away from it all in this spectacularly beautiful, yet rugged, natural gem of a destination.

Endless beaches on which no one has set foot today

Making the most of a picnic on the coast of the Namaqua National Park

I want to address one more topic before leaving off. This time the beauty comes from deep within the belly of the ocean. I am talking about the snoek that the fishermen bring out with them every afternoon. Those beautiful streamlined silver fish, and the industry behind it, adds another layer of beauty to Hondeklipbaai. The artists and photographers among my readers can not afford to miss out on stopping by this area when the boats return. Strike up a conversation with the fishermen and ask their permission to take photos. You will see the opportunities for yourselves; the fish, the fishermen, the boats, the process of gutting the fish, the dilapidated buildings in the background. All of these will afford you shot, after shot, after shot with your camera. Then you should return on the following day, under different lighting conditions and take even more photos. The rewards will speak for themselves.

Sea shells as far as the eye can see

I have not even talked about the sunrises and sunsets yet. Let me assure you, the sunrises are worth getting up for in the early morning hours, and the sunsets are in competition with each to see which can be the most impressive. Remote and quaint little Hondeklipbaai is not a place you want to rush by. Stay a week, or even two. You will be surprised by what it has on offer to the visitor who is patient enough to allow the town to introduce itself.

Breathtaking sunsets

Even more spectacular sunsets

Marietjie Uys (Miekie) is a published author. You can buy my books here:
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Breaking waves