Bestie road trip, last day

swartberg

After our revitalising breakfast, and with our backpacker experience a thing of the past, we  said goodbye to the camels and headed down the R328,  the back road between Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp that winds its way through beautiful farmlands and private reserves at the foot of the Swartberg Mountains. It’s a much more interesting road than the other less-travelled road, Route 62.

We saw very few people or other cars except for the occasional farmworker waiting for a ride and one kind man who stopped to ask if we needed help – we were messing around trying to take a selfie so we told him we were fine, thank you. Given the quality of our selfies, we did need help, but I doubt a farmer could help.

This was another case of a road that should take no more than an hour or 2 but of course it took us half the day. Many stops, one over-dramatised fall, many clicks, a picnic lunch, a good long snoop around a boutique winery while the owners are away … the road is long when you indulge yourself.

Finally we reached Calitzdorp and rejoined the main artery back to Cape Town. Time was getting on and Cape Town was still a good 3,5 hours away so we reluctantly put foot on the accelerator and started sending text messages to children to advise our ETA.

All roadtrips must end and this one was much much too short.  We’re having a reunion on Sunday at a wine estate just outside Cape Town … I’ll drive this time and I’m going to plan at least one mystery stop.

Read about the previous days here and here and here.

DSCF1852

We stopped to take a gawp at a beautiful farm and farmhouse and were thrilled to see that there is no Mrs Botha. I suggested we leave our phone numbers but we forgot.

carolines cliff

This is the so-called cliff down which Caroline fell.

20140617_120531

The wind was blowing, the angle was wrong, but this is one of our selfie attempts.

another gravel road into the mountains

Another dirt road with Swartberg not too far away.

aloes

Aloes wherever you looked.

mountains and farm

Pastoral tranquility as seen from a very small pass.

 

Caroline

We stopped for lunch at a caravan/camp park next to the Calitzdorp Dam. The park has potential with such a lovely location and the cute idea of having caravans permanently positioned next to shady wooden decks. Sadly, it’s in a deplorable condition.

round lunch

Today’s picnic lunch was round.

DSCF1912

Not lunch.

snooping

We discovered a small boutique winery and we told by the gatekeeper that it was closed but the owners are away so we can have a look around. We did just that. A thorough snoop resulted in a massive fit of envy for people who live in such beautiful surroundings in such a very very pretty house. There was baboon poo in the garden so it’s not heaven, but close.

 

mountain

Sunset light on the mountains

no more stopping

Back on tarred roads – direction: home!

One night in Oudtshoorn

20140616_174327

Let the record show that it was Caroline’s idea to stay over in Oudtshoorn and her second idea to save money by booking into a backpacker’s lodge where we could get a room, not a dorm. As much as I like guesthouses where you get fluffly towels and nice bathrooms and breakfast with real coffee, I agreed because our budget was limited and I know some backpackers have very nice private accommodation. After all, we were only going to be there for a very quick sleep-over.

The internet is sometimes a big fat liar. And so is the camera that took the pics of this place.

As we followed the directions from the email I had received, Caroline’s first words were “This can’t be right, this area looks dodgy.” But it was right so we continued and soon arrived at our lodging for the night. My besties stayed put in the car and sent me to check-in.

Long story short, it was clean and safe but we’ve decided we’re too old for this. We like basic comforts like at least one other piece of furniture in the room besides beds. We like toilets that are not 3 inches away from the bed. We need bedside lights. And lots of plugs for the electronics.

We didn’t like the braai areas we were shown because it was very cold and almost decided to eat out but then we found one they were hiding from us and which was sheltered and much nicer, with artwork on the walls, so we made ourselves at home and prepared our braai (bbq).

After watching a bit of TV in the glacial lounge, we went to bed giggling and complaining and hoping the blasted dog barking nearby would soon stop. We promised ourselves we’d be up at the crack of dawn and have breakfast somewhere on the road.

We overslept. We didn’t shower. We packed and left after a quick cup of coffee.

We allowed Oudtshoorn to redeem itself on our way out of town by driving through the prettier roads and gawping at lovely old Victorian houses, feather palaces and expensive-looking guesthouses. Then we had breakfast with real coffee at a charming children’s animal farm at the foot of the Swartberg, with pheasants and camels.

20140616_174238

Just in case we didn’t know where we were, this map was mildly useful.

20140616_174302

Chess players will know this board is not right.

20140616_174317

Our braai porch was the only section of the large house with any adornment – this door and the art painted directly on the walls.

20140616_174348

Caroline doing what she does so well – braai!

20140617_103833

Our breakfast companions the next morning. Very grumpy looking but we were not fazed.

view with breakfast 2

Our breakfast view, not too shabby.

 

 

Bestie roadtrip, day 3: Knysna, Montagu Pass, Oudtshoorn

Keurboom Beach 2 After a quick visit to the beach to see what the previous night’s high-tide had left behind, we hit the road again. Direction: Oudtshoorn, via Montagu Pass, highlight number 2 of this trip.

We stopped at Keurboomstrand (pic above) and Keurboomsriver for a quick look-see, then in Knysna we drove around Leisure Isle drooling at the houses, the lagoon, the gardens, and finally the small nature reserve … how lucky are the people who live here and have this as their backyard. We forgot to do a selfie for Facebook.

lagoon with boat

Knysna lagoon

aloes

The nature reserve on Leisure Isle is so lovely and we were spoilt with aloes wherever we went on this trip since they’re in full bloom at the moment.

We needed some rolls for our picnic lunch so I suggested we go to a bakery on Thesen’s Island that I’ve heard so much about but has been closed every time I’ve been there. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it was closed today. I’m doomed to never get a crumb from this place, that’s for sure, this is my 3rd attempt. Everyone raves about it but I’m starting to have my doubts it is ever open. So we bought rolls at a garage shop and laughed ourselves silly at an old lady who almost missed her bus because her husband was walking very slowly. You had to be there. Yes, we’re like that.

As we approached George I began acting like a guide/navigator and out came the printed spiel from Google and my precious copy of Passes & Poorts published by Getaway. Within minutes we saw the sign and zipped off down the gravel road, much to Heather’s delight whose car doesn’t see enough gravel roads. Again, we forgot to take a selfie.

After a few hours of exploring every inch of this pass we finally arrived at our destination for the night – Oudtshoorn, world capital of the ostrich industry, home to South Africa’s oldest tourist attraction, the magnificent Cango Caves, and the location of the one mistake we made on this roadtrip. More on that tomorrow.

Click here for more photos.

DSCF1816

This pass is an off-road bikers’ delight.

pass to pass

This is some hike – between Montagu Pass and Outeniqua Pass.

long lunch

Long lunch at the side of the road.

DSCF1818

Caroline standing on the railway line distracting drivers.

DSCF1841

This was tempting when we reached the small village of Heroldt at the bottom of the pass but they were closed.

Bestie roadtrip, day 2: the forest

Tree beard

We called this ‘tree beard’. Caroline draped some over her head for a selfie.

This is what prompted the roadtrip – exploring the forests of Nature’s Valley (not selfies). Every time I go there I look down into the forest from the road and wonder what it’s like. I drive in and out of the valley with clients so I asked Heather and Caroline to come and explore with me.

But, before the forest, we went to look at the beach. Empty and spotlessly clean but the sky was grey so the photos look very moody. Caroline fell in love with a huge piece of driftwood which even she realised would not be coming home with her. We climbed the razorsharp rocks, watched oyster-catchers and gulls hurry along the shore, and even a few surfers catching some excellent waves.

Back to our cottage for a big breakfast and then we were off to the forest. First we did a little walk on a boardwalk and then we entered the semi-darkness of a natural, thick and very old forest. We had a map, of sorts, but it didn’t indicate how long the walk was or how steep it would get. We walked, slowly, click click click all the time. Every now and then I consulted the map which had so little info I was unlikely to glean anything new but at some point I started wondering why we were not walking around towards a ‘view point’ as marked on the map. We began to suspect that some steep climbing might soon be required and this was not an option. After a snack, some swinging on monkey-ropes, and a discussion, we decided to play it safe and just go back the way we came.

Just as we arrived at the car it began to rain so our timing was perfect. We ended our adventure with a drink at the pub. Someone ran in and shouted something along the lines of “Oh my god you should see the sea, it’s gone crazy!” We downed our drinks and shot off to the beach, just a few metres away.

Indeed, the ocean had gone mad. What we had strolled along that morning, tranquil and empty, was now high tide and very violent. We stood for a while on the path as the waves came crashing right to where we stood. Caroline’s log had been washed away more than 50 metres down the beach, the rocks were invisible, and the mood was not so calm!

The bloke who had given me the forest map was also there and I told him about our walk. Apparently it becomes very steep and is quite long and we did the very best thing in turning back!

Back to the cottage where we braaied, layered on clothing, drank wine, had a few good laughs and went to bed very early – tired and pleasantly satisfied with ourselves.

Natures Valley pristine beach

The beach in the morning, that’s Heather.

Natures Valley strandlopers delight

The strandlopers were in 7th heaven here.

Walking in the forest

The forest.

hiking boots

My favourite type of selfie.

Snake branch

The snake branch. I’d love to say we thought it was a snake and ran away screaming but we’re much tougher than that.

Tree named

I like how they’ve used the tree for a handy label holder.

 

20140616_092546

Caroline’s log.

S0091645

The churning sea

20140615_174306

No wonder the end of this wooden path is rotting.

20140615_174310

And it rushes out again ..

S0151654

Leaving behind bits of treasure for us to pick up the next morning.

Bestie Roadtrip – Day 1

Kaaimans River Bridge

The roadtrip with my besties was fabulous, only too short. In typical style, it took us a full day to reach our first night’s destination, Nature’s Valley. For those who don’t know, it’s a 6 hour drive if you stop once for a quick meal, it took us almost double that time. We stopped for many roadside snacks and coffees, a zillion photo stops and visits to various villages. Every other day on the road was the same – stop, stop again, click click, munch munch and lots of snooping around.

Heather and Caroline shared the driving, giving me a nice break. Caroline was in charge of the ‘coffee basket’ and Heather seems to have developed worms as she eats non-stop all day long, is always hungry, but remains as slim as ever.

We almost got lost in the forest one hour before sunset, we can’t decide where to buy a house when we win the lottery, we will never again stay in a backpackers’ lodge, we will use a larger vehicle next time so we can bring back every piece of driftwood and pretty stone we like, and Heather and I desperately need to improve our selfie-skills.

Look here for more photos and info. Next chapter: Day 2, The Forest.

 

Groot Brak River

Groot Brak – cute little seaside village near Mossel Bay.

Groot Brak River 1

Groot Brak

Wilderness graffitti Caroline

No roadtrip is complete without spending some time under a national road bridge posing next to graffiti.

Wilferness hurry up girls

Heather and Caroline

Beacon Island hotel

The horror that is the Beacon Island Hotel in Plett.

DSCF1315

Our self-catering accommodation for 2 nights in Nature’s Valley. It was well-equipped and clean and generally nice but it was freezing cold despite the heater.

The ugly market

the view

My friends call it the ugly market, possibly because of the horrible layout or maybe the people who go there or some of the rubbish for sale, but it does have the best view in town and it’s more commonly known as the Milnerton Market.

I’ve never been there because it’s a bit far away to see something my friends call ugly, but today I landed up there. Unfortunately, we arrived just as many stalls were packing up but we still got a good look and even a couple of purchases. I say ‘unfortunately’ because .. wait for it .. it’s a treasure trove !!

More of a garage or boot sale than a market, you can find anything and everything you want , except ‘artisanal’ or ‘organic’ new-age overpriced poncy veg or cheese. I don’t know why I ever throw anything away when I could just park my car there and turn old rubbish into cash.

Phil and I spent a happy hour wandering from one stall to the next, chatting to the people and making comments in French about some of the more laughable stuff we saw. Phil was very tempted by some ‘My Little Pony’ items that he thinks he could resell for a fortune on e-bay but he put them back when I pointed out that he isn’t much of an expert in My Little Pony artifacts. I rather suspect he’s going to do some research and go back soon. There were some art-deco bowls and vases that we are convinced are worth far more than they were going for.

I bought a pair of extra-long socks and a pair of fingerless gloves. Both items are badly made in China and garishly striped with every colour of the rainbow – I can’t wait to wear them. It’s a good thing I live too far away to make it a regular thing, but I will be back.

Feast your eyes …

baking

These were a bargain and I’m going back to get some next time.

fruit

I wanted to turn the centre item to hide the scratches only to find the whole thing is one solid piece. Hideous but someone will love it.

kitchen drawer

Just pick up your entire drawer and sell it.

toiletries

Toiletries are big here.

zappa

Lots of vinyl here and I saw young people buying some which is cool to see, but Zappa would turn in his grave.

bathroom

All brand new bathroom stuff.

cameras

Some lovely old box cameras but sadly not in great shape so no fortune to be made on e-bay here.

postcards

These postcards are not even very old.

shells

Just pick up some shells on the beach, put them in a plain jar and add a price.

rope

An amazing assortment of ropes.

bone knives

Genuine bone handled knives.

suitcase

I liked this old ‘briefcase’. It’s deep enough to fit a laptop.

lamps

Lamps and shades, all in working order.

arms

Yup, even an arm or 2.

bottles

The ubiquitous blue bottles of yesteryear.

fax

20th century fax machine.

food truck

Every market must have a few food trucks.

plants

And some plants …

sheep

Poor little kitsch lambs.

french

No, we didn’t ask. Phil got excited at a book or 2 but resisted the urge.

market collage

A mish-mash of stuff …. check my fingerless gloves. I want a new beanie but even I draw the line at one that reads ‘Obey’.

 

New-age roadtrip

Packing 1

 

There was a time when packing and planning for a roadtrip meant only that you made sure the car had petrol, a spare tyre and a flask of coffee. You grabbed a bag, threw in some clothes according to the weather, added a map and a ham sandwich, and you were off.

Things have changed.

I’m off tomorrow morning for a few days researching roads less travelled in the Garden Route and the Klein Karoo. In the company of 2 intrepid friends, we’ll be investigating what lies hidden in the forests of Nature’s Valley, we’ll traverse the mountains between George and the Klein Karoo via Montagu Pass which I always look down at when I’m with clients on Outeniqua Pass but have never been on, and we’ll take the back-roads between Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp. I didn’t even know this road existed until recently and it sounds like a nice option to the usual road so it’s worth a look-see, especially as it lies at the foot of some of that region’s most beautiful mountains.

Given that it’s the middle of winter my bag is double the size of a summertime bag and will be bulging with warm clothing, rain gear, socks, scarves, beanies and wellington boots, as opposed to the usual t-shirts and sandals.

Ok, so there’s nothing new in that but, wait … the technology.

  • Cell phone, with charger, and 2 point plug, plus car charger
  • Camera, with charger, extra memory card, and universal adapter, as well as local plug
  • Second, back-up, camera, with spare batteries, and 2 point plug
  • Tablet, as back-up to the first back-up camera and to see what sort of pics it takes, with charger and universal adapter.
  • Add one big multi-plug thingie so they can all charge together, if need be.

They’ve all been on charge since yesterday, and that’s just my stuff, the others must sort themselves out.

For once, the laptop stays at home but I can’t shake off the feeling I’m forgetting something.

 

packing 2

Disclaimer

A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 83 other followers

leblogetlabouffe

my new life in france

The Best Ticher

EFL advice, tricks and tips for newbie teachers...

Morsels of Gratitude

Trying to find the positive in a world where negative has become too comfortable

Tales from the African Bush

Brian Connell - Author

WordPress.com News

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

Trekking Across Gondwanaland

My long journey to Australia and back

A pic a day from the Cape

Snippets of my life, my city, and beyond