May 2003. This was a pivotal trip for our family since it was indeed the first trip ever that we broke from the conventional routes and decided to drive something new. I finally lost my dirt road virginity.

We had to go down for the wedding of my wife’s youngest sister and it was a good time to make a trip of it. I planned the route and the obvious choice to miss the N1, was to go via the Northern Cape.

Our first nights stop was at a guest house in De Aar and the plan was to go from there via Williston and Calvinia, then over the Van Rhyns Pass and another stop in Saldanha to get a glimpse of the West Coast.

I made some of the bookings and Celeste the others which caused some interesting results.

 

Day 1

We left home early in the morning with the idea to make it a relaxed cruise. I took the road to Kimberley, turned off just after Petrusburg and we hit Luckhoff round about 10:00 in the morning. Now inexperienced as we were in travelling and as hard as we tried to take things slow, we basically went though the small place in a flash probably thinking “what on earth can one see in this place?”.

It was a Saturday and while driving though the short main road, it was clear that there was hardly any grocery stores. However, there were three Liquor stores, all of them well supported by poor people. This is the very first memory that stuck in my mind as a traveller and it opened my eyes to the fact that most does it so much different than me. I would compare it with having an empty colouring book in your head and then starting to fill it page page page as you go along.

From there we went through Petrusville and got to De Aar probably before lunch.

The next night we were supposed to sleep somewhere near Calvinia and me and SWAMBO cuddled up in bed to figure out where the place actually is. Plotting it on the map, we realised that the farm is halfway between Sutherland and Calvinia, which means 75km of distance. If we approached form Calvinia, it would mean that we had to drive 75km in and back the next day, which was in effect a 150 km detour. So we revised the plans and decided to go via Loxton and Fraserburg....

 

Day 2

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After a typical guest house breakfast, we hit the road. It was a lovely stretch to Victoria West and we soon passed on the way to Loxton. We thought Luckhoff was small, but Loxton was tiny. We tried to find a place where could get some snacks but it did not seems that there was even a grocery store and found a small little caffee which had less items on the shelf than what we had ion our pantry back home. I could comfortably buy everything there was and it would not get us through a week.

We ended up with two or three packets of chips and I am not even sure if we could get cold drinks. Whah! Lesson number two. And this is also where we saw the last stretch of tar for the next 450 km.

As we left Loxton, the cell phone signal dropped to zero within spitting distance and the old Camry started eating up the dirt. These are pretty barren stretches of the Karoo. After another 150 km we entered Fraserburg, a pretty little town and we needed lunch and fuel for the V6. We simply could not make it to the next stop. It soon became apparent that both would be a challenge and we drove through all the little streets with hope diminishing.

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Eventually, we found another tiny caffee and ended up with tin or two meal balls and spaghetti as there was simply nothing else we could buy but more importantly, the owner could tell us where to get fuel. I had to wake up a battered old coloured man sitting in the door of the locked fuel station and he managed to get things working, but it took some time and we probably lost half an hour at this exercise.

With the hunger sort of catered for, we proceeded to Sutherland – another 150 km away and by this time I think we have seen 2 vehicles at most, coming from the front.

We passed the telescope, noted the times they are open and thought it is a must see in another year. The town itself, was a treat with slogans like “Sutherland Hotel, your billion star hotel” and a little restaurant called “Halley-sê-kom-eet”. I think we were probably looking for something to eat, but left again as everything was closed.

We finally made it to the guest farm and we had a huge stone house with warm beds, for our selves. Since this place was quite a distance from the actual farm owners, they left us eggs and bacon with bread and some other things for a self catering breakfast but we had no other food for dinner and therefore had beacon and eggs for dinner with the plan to find breakfast in Calvinia.

We were spoilt by a bitterly cold night, typical for this area.

 

Day 3

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With no breakfast, we got out early and passed Middelpos with only breakfast in mind. Calvinia was a big place in comparison to anything we had seen and we managed to find a good restaurant with proper coffee and a choice of food. Our moods were happy again and we were eager to see what the rest of the road would offer.

The next town was Niewoudtville and apparently there is a nursery with a large collection of Lithops and other succulent plants, but it was as if Sunday never passed since the Monday was a public holiday. The place was very petty, but silent.

The road took us then to one of the highlights of my life – the Van Rhyns Pass. It is an absolute majestic pass with long angled straights and many hairpins with a super view from the top over the Knersvlakte – which is an awesome sight in flowering time. I just stood there imagining how it must look to see flowers up to the horison from this elevated point.

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But the clock was ticking and we still had a long way to go to Sadanha. We stopped in Clanwilliam for lunch and found a characterful place with great food.

And this is where things went a bit wrong. We hit the road again an travelled on a very busy N7 for almost an hour when SWAMBO discovered that she left her handbag with all the essentials in it, in the restaurant. Believe me, I was not very amused and we lost two hours right there. By the time that we turned off to Piketberg it was getting dark and we were beyond tired. I pushed the willing Camry hard down the narrow road and we booked into the guest house with no daylight left.

We had to get some Pizza for dinner which is not what we had in mind, but it was functional and we droped dead until sunrise.

 

Day 4

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Saldanha was not the romantic place that I imagined it would be. I found it way too industrial with the big harbour close by so we decided to look up Paternoster after breakfast. However, shortly after we started driving, the mist came from the sea and it was so thick that I could hardly see the tip of the bonnet. We crawled at a snails pace and managed to take a pic or two from the pretty town, but the visibility was so bad that there was little point in staying longer.

As quick as the mist came, as quick it clear up. We stopped in Langebaan, did not feel very intrigued by the busy streets and decided to drive through the Potberg Nature Reserve. This was a great drive and we enjoyed the tranquillity and beautiful surroundings immensely. I find it strange though that I seems not to have single a picture of this place.

 

The next few days was spend in Cape Town where we visited the Two Oceans Aquarium and helped with all the preparations for the wedding. Finally we had to head back home.

 

Going Home

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It was years since I visited “Kleinplase” in Worcester and we decided that it has to be on out list so we left Cape Town well before sunrise so that we could spend a reasonable two or three hours at this working museum.

If you like to go back in time, Kleinplasie is worth the visit all over and you can spend at least half a day there.

I cannot remember if we made another stop back home, but this trip lit the wanderlust and I knew that I had to get a 4x4 vehicle soon. As like many others, I was under the impression that these things are not within my financial capabilities. This all was changed when I got my first Nissan Safari Bakkie the next year...