Sunday, 21 September 2014

An Impromptu Trip to the Cape

 our destination the Fair Cape

Recently I drove down to the Western Cape for a brief visit to my family. My destination was Paarl, where I was born and grew up. I have travelled this long journey on a number of occasions but each time, the journey is different.

Isi and Kerstin

Joy was my co-driver (always so pleasant to share driving duties particularly on those long Karoo stretches of road!) and we had two extra passengers who needed a ‘lift’. Our passengers were two young ladies from Germany, who had almost circumnavigated the world on their travels, Isi and Kerstin (Kate). They had spent three days on the farm with my son, Kevin at Doornhoek.  


We arranged to meet at the Smitskraal turnoff just after 05h00.  It was chilly and dark and after almost missing the turnoff we sat and watched the lights of Kevin’s bakkie approaching in the dark.  A quick introduction to the two ladies, and their backpacks were loaded.  Kevin’s dogs, Zorro, Angie and Buksie were very excited to meet us yet were also so grateful to be allowed to climb into the bakkie (on specific instructions from Isi) for their ride back home to avoid getting cold on the back of the bakkie. As we progressed through the very frustrating stop-and-go controls on the road to Tarkastad we got to ask all the questions – how many countries had they visited, did they enjoy their time on the farm, what are their professions, their families and many more.

The mountains of Wapadsberg
the view of the Karoo from Wapadsberg pass

At the top of the Wapadsberg pass we stopped to stretch our legs and to show the girls the view of Compassberg (2502m). It is the highest peak in the Sneeuberg range and second highest in the Eastern Cape. 
They found it hard to believe that a week prior to this, the pass had been closed due to heavy snowfalls. 

We drove on through Graaff Reinet onto Aberdeen where Joy took over the wheel for that long flat stretch through to Beaufort West. We refuelled in Beaufort West and then joined the N1 highway heading for the Cape.This is normally a very busy highway,yet since the inception of average speed cameras installed at regular intervals, the long haul trucks and other vehicles remain well within the speed regulations.

As one travels south through the Karoo basin towards Laingsburg, one climbs to meet the emergence of the Cape Folded range of mountains.  Closer to Laingsburg the ‘pink’ mountain range on the left appears to separate the Karoo with the Little Karoo. We told Isi and Kate about the ‘great flood’ of 1981 as we drive through the town of Laingsburg. Now the folded mountains are quite close and one can clearly see the ‘folds’ in the rock structure.

the folded mountains behind Matjiesfontein

After Matjiesfontein turnoff the roadside starts showing the effects of the good rains that have fallen in the Cape with the truly magnificent shades of orange, yellow, pink and white flowers in the road reserves as well as the veldt.

the flowers next to the N1 highway



After Touwsriver one heads for the Hex River Pass and as we approach the pass we can see the mountains are still snow capped with the previous week’s snow.  The pass is spectacular and much safer than in the earlier days and we descend into the Hex River valley.  The girls respond by taking pictures of the mountains close by.  ‘It is a lot like home’ – is their comment and one can understand this as we wind through the poort towards Worcester. 

snow capped mountains of the Hex

the du Toit's kloof pass

Our last stretch is the du Toit’s kloof mountains and through the Huguenot tunnel.  As we appear out of the tunnel,we can see the Paarl valley, our destination, below us.

Kate and Isi stayed with my sister, Beverley for a couple of nights before going through to Cape Town to stay with my other sister, Andrea for a few nights.  They have a couple of items still on their bucket list to do. Kate desperately wanted to see penguins and whales.  This she managed to do, however they did not get to the top of Table Mountain, but did go paragliding with Mary, Joy’s cousin!  


Our bucket list for the Cape included a visit to the Border Collie Rescue centre at Kalbaskraal with a donation of dog food for the dogs as well as a visit to Equanimity Equestrian Centre at Mooiplaas to visit Spirit, a horse that had been born on Rookwood and now is a resident there. 

Joy and Spirit at Equanimity Equestrian Centre on Mooiplaas Wine Estate


The rest of our time was spent with family.  On the evening of Joy’s birthday we all (including Isi and Kate) went out to the Cattle Baron for a wonderful meal.


the rising sun before Laingsburg
Early Monday morning with the moon still shining above Paarl Rock, we packed our vehicle and left just before 05h00 heading back for the Eastern Cape.  It was still dark as we left the valleys of Worcester and Hex River and met the rising sun as we headed towards Laingsburg.  One so wished you could ‘drag’ the lovely green countryside inland with you.  A stop at Leeu Gamka to stretch legs and a quick cup of coffee to keep us awake, allowed us to head towards the open plains of the Karoo.

Just before Aberdeen, I noticed a small little animal with ear tufts disappear down off the edge of the road.  We stopped as I realized this was an injured Spotted Eagle owl.  We caught her with a jersey and converted a Typex machine box into a temporary travelling box until Graaff Reinet. She did not have a broken wing but seemed to battle to fly.  

the rescued Spotted Eagle owl

We reached Graaff Reinet just after 11h30 and went in search of wool that a team of ladies had spun. This was from the natural black, grey and brown merino wool from sheep on Rookwood itself. We then popped in to visit the Hobson’s very briefly, transferred the owl into a bigger box and headed on for the last stretch home. More about this Spotted Eagle owl in another blog!

As we sat at the stop-and-go controls on the very last stretch before Queenstown, I wondered how Kate and Isi had been doing, and could only admire these young girls for spending more than six months together in eight different countries. Sunday night a week and half after they arrived in the Cape, they climbed on the bus and headed back to Johannesburg – their final destination Germany and back home!  I can still remember Isi’s words to me – Kevin lives on a very nice farm and she WILL be back to visit again!!!!


one of the many splendid scenes of the Eastern Cape countryside

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