The gateway to Namaqualand is Vanrhynsdorp. Here too, is the path to the Hantam Karoo and the Cederberg. This is famous as flower-land, but there’s so much more to see.

Vanrhynsdorp is situated on the Troe-Troe River and was once an outspan for travellers. The settlement became known as Troe-Troe, and was renamed Vanrhynsdorp in 1881 in honour of local dignitary Petrus Benjamin van Rhyn. The town is a commercial centre for the region and services a large sheep farming district.

Places worth a visit include the town’s first church, called Het Gesticht; Trutro House that was built in 1751; the old gaol, which incorporates a succulent nursery; and, a former horse-powered mill.

The Victor Smith Memorial outside the town is an important marker in South Africa’s aviation history. Smith (1913-2001) played a pioneering role in developing African air routes. In 1932 when he was only 19-years-old, Smith attempted to break the Cape Town-to-London flying record of 8½ days. The following year he tackled the London-to-Cape Town record, but crash-landed some 27km from Vanrhynsdorp, on the farm Quaggakop. He still made history - his was the first successful forced landing on South African soil.

The Knersvlakte is one of the richest and most diverse succulent regions in the world. Its miniature succulents come in all shapes and sizes, and are known colloquially by names like baba-boudjies, krapogies and vingers-en-duimpies. It is home to a third of the world’s dwarf succulents. It also has one of the largest concentrations of endangered plant species in the world. Namaqualand has some 35 different lichens and possibly even more, with more than half being endemic to the region.

Vanrhynsdorp lies 300 km north of Cape Town on the N7 highway to Namibia.