Blog: March 17, 2016
….. From my roadtrip, that is!
So we are back home after a wonderful 3 week roadtrip to the Cape. Since we got home it has been raining constantly, and our piles of dirty laundry from our holiday will have to wait for sunshine till next week, according to the weather forecast. We have also been catching up on news from the political front, which is just mindboggling! What is going on???? What is “Guptagate”? When travelling around like we do, we do have our iPads and smartphones and we are within range of the internet from time to time, but somehow we go into a different frame of mind where the only thing that is important is the here and now, and, of course, our families at home. If they are okay, everything is okay. So we are always surprised by everything that has happened when we emerge from our little bubble with no worries about the world. Everyone here in South Africa will know what I am talking about. Friends from overseas, if you are interested, just google politics in South Africa.
Our trip of about 4000 km was really wonderful and very interesting.
Our first stop was at Orania, a place that we have always wanted to see. Orania was started about 15 years ago by a man called Carl Boshoff, as a stronghold for Afrikaans and Afrikaners. It seems that no people of colour are allowed to work or live there. Somehow this state of affairs is accepted by our Government, which is weird in itself to say the least. Even Nelson Mandela, Julius Malema and Jacob Zuma has paid Orania a visit.
They even have a Koeksister monument!
We were expecting a big fenced-off area with gates and armed guards where we had to sign in, but nothing could be further from the truth. The little town is built on both sides of a national road. It is green and peaceful and very interesting. There are actually people strolling around on the streets, no fences, front doors open. There are small “arty” houses and big modern houses. It also has a world class hotel set on the banks of the Orange River, with rolling lawns and huge weeping willows. Just beautiful. The cleaning staff are all white with their mops and buckets, and look very friendly and quite happy! We had coffee and koek at a coffeeshop, and was only disappointed that they had no Melktert as we had heard it was excellent. We all agreed that we could easily live in a place like that, with no crime, no fences etc. but we could not live in a place where no people of colour are allowed. We are a rainbow nation for heaven’s sake! We go to great lengths to raise our kids to be non-racist. So don’t worry, friends, we will not be moving there.
The telescopes on the Astronomical site at Sutherland
So on we went to Sutherland, a small town in the middle of nowhere, probably the coldest place in South Africa with the cleanest air. It is the site where all the telescopes of the South African Astronomical Society are located. One of the 5 biggest telescopes in the world, SALT, is located here. We had booked a tour of this facility beforehand (you can only do it if you have a booking) and it was absolutely amazing. It was a bit like being on some planet somewhere in outer space. Millions and millions of dollars are spent on these telescopes and the running thereof, and when someone in our party asked what they are hoping to find out there, the simple answer was “Life”. That evening we attended a showing of the stars by our host, Jurg, who has 5 huge telescopes and spends every evening of his life looking at stars. We camped out in his camping grounds, overlooking a farm with grazing horses, ducks and geese in a pond and green fields. Just bliss!
At this point I want to tell you about our camping set-up. We have always loved going to the “bundu” away from the cities and crowds, to places where we could experience nature in its purest form, where we could be free to stay for another day or move on to the next place. We do not enjoy staying in crowded places, or in hotels or B&B’s. I would certainly not say no to staying in an exclusive lodge, especially a bush lodge, but the prices are so exorbitant, only the very rich can afford it. So we needed to set ourselves up with a camping system that would give us shelter and all the facilities, something that would be easy to put up and take down so we could leave again at dawn the next day. We travel huge distances to get to our destinations, and we often stay at places for one night only. We also travel on very rough tracks sometimes, so we cannot tow a trailer or off-road caravan and have to have a 4×4 vehicle. We did not want to do the normal tent thing as Dennis and I have to pitch it and take it down again the next morning, and when there are lion and elephant and hyenas around, it is just not safe. We also wanted something more user friendly than a rooftop tent, which is difficult to get into and out of, and you cannot stand up in those to get dressed. So, about 8 years ago, we found the perfect solution for us, a contraption designed by an engineer in Pretoria, called an Aha. Yes, ridiculous name. Apparently, when people see it for the first time, they say Ahaaaaaa!
Camping in our Aha on the shores of Lake Kariba
The first part of opening our Aha really takes only 45 seconds (just like the ad says) but then it takes another 10 minutes to open the front and back flaps, fold down the beds etc, and voila! Our little home away from home. It looks a bit like some spacecraft on Mars, but it works for us. We have a built-in kitchen, 2 fridges, 2 batteries, solar power, and a porta-potty for when the lions are circling around. We have fold out canopies for shelter when it rains or we need shade, and we can basically make camp anywhere we want or are allowed to. We normally use the provided ablution blocks but if they are too gross or we are bush camping, we are set up to do our own thing, we even have our own portable shower!
What do you call a plethora of Aha’s?
Yes, ladies, I know this is not everyone’s cup of tea. Most women especially would absolutely hate this! But we love it! We keep reminding our husbands how lucky they are to have wives who actually like this type of thing. But this has made it possible for us to visit countries like Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Not even to mention all the beautiful places in Southern Africa like Swaziland and Lesotho and, of course, all our beautiful national parks. Not only has our Aha given us the opportunity to travel far and wide, it has also become a bit of a hobby for Dennis and myself and all other owners of Aha’s. We are constantly making changes and improvements to it to make things more comfortable and practical while we travel. It is also a very good bonding thing for one’s marriage (or not, it could also be the cause of a divorce) as you have to be a team. It is a serious business, people, it is survival out there! Dennis and I are members of the local Aha club. We get together about once every 2 months for a weekend, and it is great fun.
Aha Club Weekend
When travelling to foreign places, it is not advisable to go on your own, as it can be real dangerous! We normally travel with my brother and sister-in-law, Philip and Rene, who have the same set-up as us. We get along very well, which is important for a successful trip.
So, back to our recent trip. After Sutherland, we spent 4 days with our family on their olive and grape farm in Paarl. It is always such a treat. They are wonderful people and make us feel very welcome. We get to sleep in proper beds, sit at proper tables to eat, and when we left our cars were filled with grapes, olive oil and, believe it or not, pumpkins. Paul grows pumpkins on any unutilized space, and has mountains of butternuts and royal blue (?) pumpkins lying about that we were invited to help ourselves to. So for the next 2 weeks we cooked them, roasted them and braaied them, delicious!
Now this blog is getting very long, so we will move a little faster! At Wilderness our friends Deon and Susan joined us for a day, and it was lovely catching up with them again. Susan (or Sue Chef, as she is known) makes the most beautiful rusks, jams and relishes in Calitzdorp, and we added quite a few of her products to our collection.
Keurbooms Lagoon at high tide
We stopped over at De Hoop Nature Reserve, and then at Keurbooms Lagoon for 3 days, right on the edge of the water. We would watch the tides go out and come back in to batter the sandbank 2 meters away from us. There were beautiful sunsets and small boats and we just chilled. It rained a bit at times, but we put up all our canopies, and we were snug and mostly dry. . Then we moved on to Stormsriver Mouth, where we had an excellent camping spot inside a little grove of trees, so we were completely private and overlooking the waves crashing onto the rocks just below us. We felt so privileged to have this beautiful view all to ourselves (or so it felt).
From here we travelled through Baviaanskloof, a route that was high on Dennis and myself’s bucket list. It is about 200 km (I’m just guessing here) of rough roads through mountains, valleys, lush forests with Spanish moss hanging from the trees, and open savannahs and fynbos with the most beautiful proteas.
Lots of rivers and streams in Baviaanskloof
I would love to go back but Dennis says he has been there and done that now. It was very tough 4×4 driving at times, narrow little tracks up steep mountain passes, and if a vehicle came from the front, it was a problem to find a place where they could pass.
Many narrow mountain passes
We even saw two elusive Cape buffalo, different kinds of antelope, and I was convinced I saw two rhino at one time, but thought it was impossible, only to be told later that there is in fact rhino there. We stayed at 2 beautiful campsites, Doornkraal and Uitspan. I can really recommend them as the facilities were excellent and the views spectacular.
Mountain Zebra National Park
On then to the Mountain Zebra Park near Cradock. What a beautiful area. It had rained recently and the mountains and rolling hills were green and lush. There were eland, black wildebeest, blesbuck, rooi hartbees, sable antelope, kudu and springbok everywhere. The Mountain Zebras that are plentiful here was saved from the verge of extinction when they were introduced here. They are different to the plains zebras found everywhere else in SA, their stripes seemed to be more pronounced, their ears are bigger and they are smaller. (I googled it)
Mountain Zebra with foal
We even came across 4 lions, one male had clearly been in a fight with the other male, who was busy mating every 10 minutes with the female that had caused the problem. It was such a treat to be able to spend about half hour with them with no other vehicles in sight.
The poor defeated male lion
On our way home we slept over at the Amanzi Resort near Brandfort, a beautiful last evening to our wonderful trip. But let us not kid ourselves, we travelled through many areas where the drought has ravaged the earth and the crops have died on the fields. Many small towns are in a terrible state and have virtually disappeared. The people are very poor and it is difficult to tell how they still survive there. The forecasts say that there will be no relief from the drought for a long time, so one shudders to think how this will end. It is very hard to see, but it is the harsh reality of life in the rural areas here in South Africa.
So it seems this blog has evolved into more of a travelogue than about my jewellery, but I decided to let it take me where it wants to go, so I hope you enjoy my travels as much as I do. Next time I will tell you about the parcel of ammonites I received from India and what I did with them, my new tools that arrived from Cape Town, and my new stones I bought on this trip. And then, in May, another long trip to Botswana and Namibia!!
On a very happy note, my friends, I just have to share with you the pride Dennis and I feel towards our son, Philip, who recently achieved his PhD in Electronic Engineering at the University of Johannesburg at the tender age of 31! I will henceforth please be known as Mother of Doctor Phil! I have always said that he got my brains, that is why I have got none!
So long till next time, and be kind to one another ………. and if you enjoyed this blog, please don’t forget to subscribe at the top so that you can receive my blogs every month……….