Friday, March 27, 2015

The Owl House

After our run of poor weather, yesterday afternoon, evening and in fact the whole night was just perfect so after a good nights sleep we woke up to this view from the deck.

Packing up had a few surprises in store for us; there had been so much rain that all the ant's nests were flooded and they were looking for alternative accommodation.  Unfortunately they picked to move their nest to under our bed and Caron did not take kindly to this.  A little known fact, peaceful sleep is quite effective on ants who may not regard its use as very peaceful and more akin to annihilation.  Having rid our bed and tent of them, we found another nest of them in one of the ammo boxes but we only found this out when we got home so we may have some immigrants from the karoo getting acquainted with the local ant populations.

We left quite early so that we would have time to visit the Owl House in Nieu Bethesda which is a tiny town tucked away in the Sneeuberg, it is hard to believe that they actually have snow here but apparently they do.

The Owl House was something of an experience and I didn't take any photographs on purpose, one actually needs to see it with one's own eyes and heart.  In keeping with artistic tradition the story of Helen Martins is not a pretty one with rejection, ostracism and ending in suicide but what she has to tell us bears repeating.  Apparently one day while sick she was pondering the lack of colour in her life and resolved to change that by literally adding colour to everything around her and once she got started then sort of didn't stop.  It struck me that as we get older we lose our 'colour'; that excitement and anticipation of things new and depending on our life's experiences this gets replaced with 'character' which, while it may be colour to others, is a poor consolation to the one having it.  So the question becomes one of how to rediscover the colour of one's youth and her case she literally added it with crushed coloured glass.  I found the whole experience more uplifting than some of my visits to rather famous repositories of art; not that I didn't enjoy them but the experience was very different.

Continuing from the Owl house on our way to De Oude Kraal, there was this rattle which I had though was just from the basin on top of the car but I happened to have put the basin into the back of the car which eliminated it as the source of rattling.  Stopping to investigate I found that the front left hand 'leg' of the roof rack had sheared completely off.  I have no idea how this could have happened but it did and we had to put up with the rattle from then on as the remaining stump of the leg slowly ate its way into the aluminium of the rack itself.

Our final night was to be spent at De Oude Kraal, the only place that we had actually pre-booked, and a complete change of pace from camping.

This is my kind of place, check out the entrance to the wine cellar which they dug under the house to create and we spent the afternoon having a massage followed by some time in a jacuzzi with a view over a small duckpond.  Apparently I was snoring during the massage but, like Caron when asleep in the car, I don't believe it.

Our last night's supper was what De Oude Kraal is famous for and after the five course meal we were well beyond full but it was so delicious that we couldn't stop eating it although eventually we just couldn't any more.

So that is it, the end of another journey and only four or so hours back from Bloemfontein back to the big smoke of Johannesburg.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Camdeboo .. hoo

We did not have a very comfortable night last night!  It started out fine with only light rain, this was after the downpour which drowned yet another of my fires, so we went to bed feeling reasonably confident.  At about 02:00 the wind really started picking up but, as luck would have it, directly from the west which was the only direction that we had any protection by way of thorn brush.  So while it howled and moaned, the tent barely moved but this was then followed by quite heavy rain for about and hour or two but it eventually finished and we weren't floating so we went back to sleep but woke up at 07:00 a little sleep deprived.

We didn't have much planned this morning other than a trip up to see the valley of desolation which was a bit smaller, actually a lot smaller, than I had in my mind but pretty stunning none the less.

On the way back down we stopped at a lookout point where we could see the whole of downtown Graaf-Reneirt in the bow of the Sundays river.  There was also a black eagle nesting on the cliffs below and we saw her go our hunting a couple of times and return with food to the nest where she must have some chicks.

Also on the way down, we drove past, then stopped and reversed to chat to the couple below who are from switzerland and have pedalled 26000 kilometres so far through europe, central and east asia as well as africa.  Pretty impressive in my book.  They were on a travelling tandem which has a recumbent up front and then a normal bike at the back.  Thought Paul would like to see this so I took a couple of photographs to send to him when I get home.

On the way home we saw really dark thunderstorms heading our way and I thought that we were going to have to cower in the tent again but they missed us and we had the best afternoon of the trip just relaxing and reading with partial cloud and warm but not hot weather.

Now if it will only hold off so that I can have at least one fire that I can stare at deep into the night.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Out of the fire and into the rain ...

And so began the last of the long days driving, about 7 hours in all.  It took us about 30 minutes more to climb out of the Gamkaskloof valley than it took for us to drive in.  I don't really understand that but it is what it is and were were already two hours into the journey by the time that we even got back onto the Swartberg pass which is as fantastic on the back as it was up the face of it.  Looking back after we climbed out of Gamkaskloof proper this is what we saw.  I tried going in and out of having the central diff locked and it worked a cinch.

From the left turn onto Swartberg pass we drove a really good gravel road until we met the tar road and turned right towards Meiring Poort.  On the way down there is one particularly twisty section going down a steep  kloof until we found ourselves in the bottom of the ravine looking up at the jagged peaks above.

Meirings Poort is one of those serendipitous occurrences in a journey.  It turns out that the flood of water falling from the sky on our tent two nights ago created a real flood down Meirings Poort and we could see the debris piled up to the height of the roof of our car as we drove over the drifts.  I should have stopped for a photo but for some reason I didn't but it really is a fantastic drive criss crossing the river with numerous drifts with names like skelms drift, dubbel drifts se draai and perskeboom drift.  The workers were also out in force clearing the road of debri and marking various sections for later repair.

Arriving in Willowmore we stopped at cafe called "Wille'more Kofi" where we had a pretty decent coffie and roosterbrood for lunch.  The roosterbrood was, again, absolutely delicious.  So simple and yet tastes so amazing.

As we were about to leave we saw the "Willow Limo" which I took a snap of and about 30" later an aged gentleman ran up to us and spoke to me in machine gun afrikaans, of which I understood not a word.  Hauling out my best afrikaans I asked him to "praat so net 'n bietjie stadiger" which he kindly did and what he wanted was R5.00 for the photograph which we duly paid him.

The trip from Willowmore to Graaf-Reinert is quite short but we could see lots of thunderstorms like the one below which didn't bode well for the evening.

The campsite at Graaf-Reinert is a bit spartan and there was no real shade to be found so we opted for a site which would have afternoon shade but nothing in the morning.  Unfortunately, all the sites are pancake flat so if we have another serious thunderstorm we might end up in a water bed in which case we would have to take shelter in the car; not an appealing thought.

Met a couple from Durban with whom we had drinks on the platform overlooking the dam as the sun set while we kept an eye out on the ominous looking clouds and lightning to our north.

We prepared for the worst by taking everything that would be find that would handle sitting in 3" of water out of the car so that if worst comes to worst we can grab the bedding and gap it for the car.  I feel like we are rain magnets the regularity with which we are getting rained on when we are camping.

Made a fire and true to form the heavens opened and I had to stand out in the rain protecting the fire as best I could until the potatoes were done.  Another night when I won't be able to sit late into the night staring into the flames of the fire.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Out and about in Hell

We woke up late, again, this is turning into a habit I could get used to.  After a lazy breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast with a trio of Southern BouBou's in attendance, one brave enough to jump on the arm of Caron's chair, we headed up to the shop to pay for accommodation, firewood and some treats to take back with us.  Caron was quite taken with a litter of kittens and spent ages talking to Annetjie who is one of the few people that actually live in the valley.

The below is a "helpmytrap" which made me think of Caron's dad to restore it and Jason who just sort of needs some help.

It was about 11:30 before we took a drive to the other end of the valley where Bo Plaas is and went past many restored original cottages.  When the road was built in the sixties, within about 20 years most of the inhabitants had moved out and their land sold to cape nature except for the two remaining properties.

The campsite at Bo Plaas looks very nice, compared with the eastern end of the valley, with green lawn but limited shade.  If you are the only person or one of only two, it would be great but any more and you would be cooking inside your tent.  Protection from wind is also much better on the eastern end of the valley.  Comparison of the ablutions I think the west end wins but the east is satisfactory but only just.

We had yet another gloriously lazy afternoon spent relaxing, reading and trying Caron's hammock out.  A very successful trial I must say, I think that she is going to be using it more often.  This afternoon was not interrupted by thundershowers which made for a pleasant change.

While we were relazing we were visited again by the Southern BouBou's and then by a trio of mongooses. Very cute but utterly unafraid of us and would walk right up to us within arms length and stand on their hind legs as if to say 'Please sir, can I have some more' but we were strong and didn't give them anything.  We could hear them going through the tent looking for anything edible and even saw them climbing up into the chassis of the car; I don't know what they expect to find there though.

The ablutions at our campsite were a little different because they are held together with mud and a bit of cement based plaster.  It looks like all the houses are build that way here but it doesn't give one a great feeling being inside a mud and rock construction.

I think I must be starting to relax at last because I am starting to have inane thoughts like whether or not there are mortality tables for insects during natural disasters like a thunderstorm.  Are they different for different species,  I can just imagine the conversation.  "So junior, what happened to uncle bob?", "Not sure dad, I think a raindrop got him but nobody saw it happen so maybe it was a bird"  and so on ...

Monday, March 23, 2015

Arriving in Hell

Today started with the traditional "Large Country breakfast", minus the bacon of course, just in case anyone was thinking that I am getting weak and I tried to upload yesterdays blog but today, the internet she worketh not which was very frustrating.  By 09:00 we were on our way; 30 minutes later than yesterday and yesterday we had to pack up a whole campsite, go figure.

Our route took us up Swartberg pass and then down into Die Hel.  Swartberg pass is amazing and highly recommended if anyone is ever in the area.  We kept on stopping to look at the views and, one time, to post what I was unable to do from De Oude Meul this morning.

From the Swartberg pass we turned left into the pass descending into Die Hel which is very pleasant and nothing to worry about until the last couple of kilometres which is a series of hairpin descending into the valley itself.  I'm sure it gets easier with exposure and it is possible to take a caravan down seeing as there are permanent caravans in the campsite but I, personally, would not do it.  The corners are so tight that it felt like we were only just making them and that was without having a caravan pushing you around from behind.  Caron was very relieved to get to the bottom.  I was quite relieved that we didn't have to squeeze past anyone coming up the pass because that would have been really interesting.

A bit of technical conundrum; it is recommended that when on dirt roads one engages the central diff lock which makes sense to me and even the odd bit of straight concrete path I don't have a problem with but some of the hairpin bends were concreted and switching between diff lock/no diff lock at that point is somewhat precarious given the angles.  But that introduces a new problem because when one is on concrete and the front and rear can't rotate at different speeds like they need to do around a corner and what effectively happens is that the front wheels tend to 'plough' i.e. you loose a bit of steering and around hair pin bends and that is exactly what one doesn't want to happen.  The solution I think is to stop or almost stop before these hairpin bends, get out of diff lock and then re-engage afterwards, a bit painful but better that than the sickening feeling of not having the steering working like one expects it to.

We set up camp in the eastern end of the valley mid afternoon and spent the remainder of the afternoon the way afternoons are meant to be spent; relaxing, having a glass of wine and reading.

It wasn't all plain sailing because we had a thunderstorm come over us and drop it's load of precipitation on our heads and because we are camping on sand we had the problem of the water starting to creep under the tent.  To solve this I had to get out in the rain with the shovel and score a trench to direct the water around the tent instead of under it.  This worked remarkably well and we could sit in the tent and watch the small stream running down the channel.  Although sitting in the tent while it rained wasn't great, the light and sunset afterwards was fantastic as the photographs show.

We thought that we were done for the day with rain so I drained the firepit of water and made a fire and started cooking and I was about 30 minutes from finished when there was a flash of lightning and one just knows what is coming next.  We moved everything under shelter before it bucketed down again.  How is that when we visit the driest of places like the Richtersveld or here, we get rained on.  Anyway, it was a race between finishing the braaing of the food and the death of the fire from drowning; we just made it, in fact we could have done with 5 more minutes on the fire before it sizzled out altogether.

Saw an SMS on my phone to phone the office urgently but there is absolutely no reception in this valley, not even from the top of the hills so it is going to have to wait a couple of days.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Gamtoos to Oudtshoorn

Today doesn't look so far on the map but looks, as we have found out, can be very deceiving.  We joined the N2 west of PE and drove the N2 all the way to George which is no longer a small town by the way and then headed inland to Oudtshoorn.

We woke up late and by that I mean 07:05 and then it took us almost exactly 90 minutes to pack up, shower, have breakfast so we didn't really have an early start but not too bad.

The N2 is exceedingly picturesque driving through Tsitsikamma and over Storms River bridge where we stopped for some coffee and to have a bit of a look.  There are an amazing number of motorbikes on the road around here, it seems to be a very popular route.  We had just started again when we saw the sign to the 'big tree' which we had to stop at to compare it with the 'big tree' at Hogsback.  Tsitsikamma wins ... but not by a long way.

Caron is getting much better at standing still in photographs, I no longer have to have a high shutter speed and pan while taking a photograph with her in it.  Just near here was another huge yellowwood that they had just left as a practical demonstration of decomposition which was very interesting.

The restaurant is built in the old mill and still has the actual mill in it as a feature.  Note Caron is still in focus and I was using a slow shutter speed and natural light.

Just before supper I, without thinking about it, had some oysters on biscuits while I had some wine and read my book.  It was only afterwards that I thought that maybe that wasn't such a good idea but what is down the hatch is down so I waited ... and nothing.  How odd, now I'm not sure what it was.

After a great meal where Caron had a Kudu Fillet and I had, gasp, Ostrich.  It's just chicken and I maintain that chicken is a vegetable;  I too can have beliefs in spite of a mountain of evidence that chicken is not a vegetable.

This is the view from the patio of our room, not too shabby hey!

I wonder if, in future, it might not be a really good way to get to know the country side to set objectives in terms of time rather than destination or distance.  So instead of driving for 500km, choose to drive for 4 hours and wherever you are after 4 hours, just stop at the next accommodation.  When we have done it on this trip it has worked a treat.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Baviaans Kloof

Today we definitely bit of more that I had bargained for.  The plan was to drive to Vera's, two, maybe three hours and then drive back to be back just after lunch and then to spend the rest of the day much like yesterday.  This was not to happen.

The pass turned out to be more technical that expected and a lot slower, it also didn't help being caught behind a convoy of 4 vehicles that were unbelievably slow and there simply isn't anywhere to overtake them.  One has to wait for them to realise that you are behind them and then for them to find a place to pull over.

For large sections of the pass, it is strictly a single lane road and if you meet any oncoming traffic, like we did then you both have to stop and work out on whose side the closest area is where the other would be able to squeeze past.  In our case we had to reverse which I don't like doing up a steep mountain pass with limited rearward visibility but there really was no other option.

A near miss, yesterday or the day before because the gouge marks in the road hadn't yet been damaged by the rain.  Now that is what I call a hostile native!  Another near miss was when a Kudo jumped out of the bush not two metres in front of us and we had to brake hard so and not to run her down.  What a graceful animal!

When we finally arrived at Vera's five hours later and we had to make a call to either drive back for five hours or take five hours to go around on the tar road.  We chose the tar road option partly because the track back is quite rough and partly because Caron would have been on the outside edge going back and she doesn't cope with heights anymore.  Even for me there is something very disconcerting not being about to see any edge when looking out the drivers window; it makes you feel like you have already driven off the edge which, by the way doesn't have a nice armco barrier and most often not even a rock or dirt railing, it just falls away down into the valley hundreds of metres below.  To make things even more interesting, the road isn't flat or cambered towards the mountain side and often is cambered quite steeply towards the outside edge, there is no real danger of sliding off but it is a bit unsettling.

Getting to Vera's was a pleasant surprise because it turns out that Vera is one of the locals whom the Eastern Cape Tourism board has set up with a very small restaurant and curio shop.  Her menu is very basic and consist only of tea, coffe and rooster brood with a variety of fillings.  I had cheese and tomato rooster brood which I have to say was absolutely delicious and if you are ever this way, you really should stop and have a bite.

The trip back in a parallel valley (going from Uniondale to PE) couldn't be more different whereas Baviaans Kloof is really rugged and close and relatively untouched, the other valley was broad with lots of farms and orchards and really quite beautiful.  Baviaans Kloof is also beautiful but in a more untamed manner.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Kouga Dam and Patensie

We haven't planned on doing much today so we didn't have an early start and only rolled out of camp at about 09:00 after having breakfast with the view below to keep us engaged.  Caron, as you can see was more interested in watching birds than in breakfast.

First stop was to have a look at the Kouga dam but on the way there we drove past the "Rooinek Boerdery" which I found somewhat amusing but the farm itself was very picturesque so I took some time snapping away at all the rooineks hard at work in the morning sun.

I had to take a shot of our trusty steed on the top of Kouga Dam wall which is a particularly well positioned dam because the wall itself is actually quite small but holds back a large amount of dam.  I don't think that they would be expecting it to break anytime soon but there were stainless steel measuing bars embedded in the concrete to enable the measurement of any movement.  Strange as it seems, given the size and weight of concrete involved, dams are certainly not permanent fixtures in the landscape give thousands or millions of years.

 Heading back from Kouga Dam we dropped in on the Tolbos cafe in Patensie and had the most fantastic cheese cake I have ever tasted and to provide entertainment, there was a protest going on next door because some teachers at the local school hadn't been appointed so the kids weren't being taught.  At last a protest which I can wholeheartedly get behind.

One of the farmhouses that we thought were particularly nice in the Gamtoos valley just west of Patensie.

Getting back to camp at about midday we spent the rest of the day chasing the shade because even in the shade it was 37 deg.  I put the thermometer in the sun just for fun but got tired of waiting for the temperature to settle and we stopped measuring at 46 deg.  It was 40 deg inside the bell of the tent.  In short, it was bliksemse warm but I did get to finally finish "Guns, germs and steel" by Jared Diamond which I found fascinating and rather enlightening.  It is not an easy book to read but well worth the effort.

After the sun had disappeared behind the mountain we went for a walk down by the river which was pleasant enough but hardly spectacular.

For supper we had a braaied yellow tail which was very tasty but about 30 minutes later I was feeling a bit odd and noticed that I looked like I had spent the entire day in the sun.  It appears that I have developed an allergic reaction to fish which is a bit distressing and I can't think of anything else that could possibly have caused the reaction.  Went to bed in a sombre mood, I have had enough of this body letting me down now.  At least I didn't pass out because that would have been a real problem so I took some disprin, some desalex and had my adrenalin at the ready should I have taken a turn for the worse.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hogsback to Baviaans Kloof via Baviaans River

When we were planning this trip one of the places that I wanted to visit was Baviaans Kloof under the mistaken impression that the Baviaans River flowed through it and the Baviaans River has a special place in our families history because that is where they were deposited by the British government in 1820.  They (the immigrants) weren't informed before they set out that they were to form a sort of buffer between the Boers and the Xhosa to remedy the friction between the two groups, quite how that would ever have worked I am not sure but that is what it was for.

Anyway, we left Hogsback at 08:00 having packed up all our damp camping equipment and made our way to Baviaans River which is just north of Bedford and east of Cookhouse and nowhere near the Baviaans Kloof where I thought it was.  On our way there we passed through Fort Hare which is a small University Town and seems to have educated most of the African elite that went on to form the core of the governments in southern africa; the list of alumni is pretty amazing.

We were surprised to find a long line of wind turbines as below which was just a section of them but by the end of the day we got used to them because there were actually quite a lot of places that had wind turbines.

Looks can be deceiving, the farmhouse below may or may not be a Pringle farmhouse as it is difficult to tell which gate goes to which farm house but as idyllic as it looks it is completely at odds with the rest of the valley which is very harsh, semi karoo.  The only redeeming feature of the valley is the small stream that flows through the middle and enables at least something to grow.

The rest of the valley looks like the background in the picture below of the Glen Lyndon Presbyterian church which my forebears built in 1828.  Just remove all traces of green and you have some idea of what the valley actually looks like.  Aside from where they were deposited the valley is also the resting place of one of the Bezuidenhout brothers who instigated/lead the slagtersnek rebellion which was one of the incidents that motivated the great trek of the boers up to the Free State and Transvaal.

Obviously it is possible to farm the valley but I think our ancestors, at least some of them, were wise to abandon it and seek their fortunes elsewhere.

Just between Paterson and PE we noticed that the one cover for the spare wheel was missing and when we stopped at the next stop/go the car following up got out to tell us where it fell off.  We went back to try and find it but alas we couldn't see it.  The number of stop/go's that we have come across is amazing they are just everywhere and on many different roads; I suppose we should be happy that they are actually fixing at least some of our roads.  The drive through the Gamtoos valley was amazingly beautiful, it looks like it is to citrus farming what the Franschoek valley is to wine farming and aside from being scenically beautiful, seems quite  prosperous as well.

The above is the modifications that I had done to our gas cylinder because the on/off valve gets too hot to touch and is too coarse for fine control of the flame so I made a wooden plug which fits over the existing tap to make it easier to adjust the flame.  I also created the skirt to prevent wind blowing most of the heat generated away and this has proved to be amazingly successful.  Even if there is no wind the coffee pot seems to boil in 1/2 the time it used; of course that is just subjective but it really does seem to make a difference.

We arrived at Komdomo in the Baviaans Kloof nature reserve at 16:30 just as they were closing the office so we just squeaked in. The campsite in the Baviaans Kloof nature reserve is just fantastic, nice trees to hide from the sun under, good ablutions and quite close to the river with flat green lawns to camp on.  The only draw back is that the road is just behind it but there is so little traffic on it that it really isn't a problem, I don't think that there was a single car after about 20:00.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Out and about in Hogsback

Last night was a bad night, the wind howled the entire night and blew the tent so flat that we could feel the tent's wall on our faces.  As a result, neither of us slept very well and I think that I may have a broken tent pole to contend with.  This was in-spite of being in a fairly protected corner of the camp site with the car protecting the one flank.  I was very glad when the night was over and as a result I a little humourless today.

At least this morning dawned with sunny blue skies so we could at last see the views everyone was telling us about.  First up we took the road down to seymour which has numerous "4x4 ONLY" signs and they weren't kidding.  We negotiated several tricky parts on the road before we got to the axle twisters pictured below when we decided that discretion was the order to the day but in order to turn around I had to negotiate some a tricky section backwards with Caron indicating to me to go left or right because it is simply impossible to see where one is going in reverse out of the mirrors.

From there we went back towards the village and went to the eco-shrine which was really quite something.  The artist, Diana Graham, is using her art to promote the balance that we need to achieve with nature and it was at once novel in concept, location and theme.

The three mountains in the background above is the actual hogsback mountains and the paintings that she makes are shown outdoors in purpose made concrete frames.

 ... and this is the view from the shrine which is pretty amazing.  While she was giving us a guided tour around her works explaining each of them to us she said something which I thought profound.  "A bird isn't so much an animal in a forest but the part of the forest which flies".  Meaning that the birds of the forest are not independent of the forest and vice versa, each needs one another to exist.  An extension of this could be that humans aren't apart from nature as a part of nature with consciousness.

 Anyway, we both thought that the shrine was really excellent and well worth the visit.  Having finished up at the shrine we headed for "The Edge" where we had an excellent meal before heading back to the Arboretum.

An Arboretum, because it had to be explained to me, is a garden in which exotic plants are planted to determine if they take to the local conditions or not.  One of the plants thus planted was a giant redwood from california which clearly loved the conditions.  Also, this proves once and for all that Caron is a tree hugger.

 Last on our list of things-to-do in the hogsback was to visit the bath at the end of the world which we walked past yesterday but could see absolutely nothing.  Today was very different and it was rather unique sitting in the bath on the edge of a cliff with the view below.  If you stay at "Away with Fairies" you can get them to fill the bath with hot water and have a real soak while taking in the view.  That would be very cool!

Getting back to camp, it started to rain on and off again and I am now really tired so it is supper time and then to bed and I hope the wind stays still and we have a good nights sleep.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Much ado about nothing ...

Well today didn't turn out quite as planned.  We had planned to go for a couple of hours walk to see a large old yellow wood tree and take a meander through the rainforest.  Technically that is what we did but the weather closed in so we ended up walking in the light rain at about 14 deg. C for 4 hours on some rather slippery and treacherous paths before we managed to find our way back.  The paths weren't very well marked nor maintained so sometimes it just sort of disappears and one is left scrambling up steep muddy slopes holding on to vegetation as best one can.  Caron was not a happy camper but cheered up a lot once we were back at the camp and had had a piping hot shower.

As we finally climbed out of the gorge we walked past a house and was accosted by a black puppy who came walking/bounding along with us.  I was expecting the puppy to turn back of his own accord but after about a kilometer he was still following us so I left Caron under a tree looking like a furtive drug dealer in the shadows while I walked back with the dog in tow to leave him at his house.

A couple of funny things have happened to us while we have been away which I have forgotten to write up, the first was when we were going out with Patrick and Barbara.  We were driving into the mall parking and I saw the sign saying "only vehicles < 2200mm" which I thought would be fine since I have been into several underground parkings with the roofrack and they normally only have a clearance of 2100mm.  How wrong I was and the top of the gas bottle hit the boom with a resounding thunk and the parking attendents scattered like a shot had gone off.  It turned out that the very top of the plastic seal on the bottle had hit the boom and chipped a bit off.  I must remember this in future, 2200mm isn't enough.

The second happened last night when we had a braai and I got a bit over eager and put too much wood and charcoal on so it was taking too long to burn down.  I had previously seen a wheelbarrow next to another braai with the remains of previous fires in it so I thought that I would just extract a few logs and put them in the wheel barrow.  Having done this I was braai'ing away and I happened to see the glow of a fire in the wheelbarrow and then I could see the glow of a fire through the side of the wheelbarrow.  How wierd, there must have been a hole in the wheelbarrow; hang on it looks like the wheelbarrow itself is alight which is exactly what it was.  In the dark I hadn't seen that the wheelbarrow was a plastic one (who knew that plastic wheelbarrows existed!) and the logs had burnt a hole through the side and then set the plastic itself on fire so I had to run down and dowse the flames before the whole thing went up.  This morning I had to go up to the owner to mea culpa and it seems that this isn't the first time because his wife said that he always quotes firewood by the wheelbarrow and makes a point that this excludes the wheelbarrow itself.

We spent the rest of the day sleeping and reading because it was cold and still raining before going out for supper to the Hogsback Inn which is pretty basic but nice and warm with a roaring log fire.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Arrive at Hogsback

Today was a really easy day from a driving point of view because it was only a two hour drive and it was completely uneventful.

We took leave of our cousins having thoroughly enjoyed the visit; hopefully they felt the same and will come and visit us in Johannesburg when they are passing through.

The road conditions thus far have ranged from excellent to attrocious and sometimes in the most unlikely places.  As South Africans we really can't be satisfied, if the road is terrible we complain about the government not doing their jobs.  If the road is being rebuilt, we complain that the fact that it is going to a small town must mean that there is some bigwig whose home town it is.  Not that I'm a fan of the government but even when they try to actually do something, their motives are suspected.

Arriving in hogsback we went to one campsite but it was a shade on the hippie side for us and tucked away in the forest where it was really damp so we moved on and found a really nice one which we had missed on the way in called "Swallowtail" which is where I am now typing from while I wait for the braai to burn down.

The mattress which was on the top of the roof in the hailstorm of yesterday came through it remarkably dry on the whole but there was still some edges which got a soaking and we hope that they have dried out sufficient that we don't have a  cold wet night tonight.  Time will tell.

Hogsback is unbelievably small and very misty and we were the only people in the campsite until about 14:00 when people started drifting in and by sunset there were about 10 campsites occupied.  I think that this would be the town in which it might be possible to actually die of boredom.  Nice for a few days but deadly long term.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A long day in the drivers seat

Today we departed Lady Grey and headed for Cintsa just outside East London to meet up with my cousin whom I last saw a very long time ago.  But first a goodbye view from Lady Grey, that didn't make it into yesterday's blog.

We finished up our traditional breakfast at the Inn and paid the bill, all R850 for two people B&B which was pretty reasonable.  It wasn't 5 or 4 and only just made 3 stars but it was clean, comfortable and warm and those are my most important criteria.  The hotel was decorated with some prints (they looked hand drawn) detailing the arrival of various families into S.A with the various waves of colonisation, dutch, huguenot and english and I was surprised to see that the Naude's emigrated from Berlin in spite of their obviously french name.

 We had decided to take the scenic route which turned out to be very much the road less travelled; I had to move a few boulders that had fallen on the jeep track out the way so that we could continue down the pass.  The pass is called the Bastervoetpad pass and is simply magnificent but definitely 4x4 territory.  I think going down in good weather a 4x2 with decent clearance might make it but if you are trying to ascend it, a 4x2 is just asking for trouble.  Even a 4x4 going up would be an exciting climb.

No, the curvature of the road is not a result of the lens, the road really does curve like that.  We didn't have any real problems going down but there were a couple of scrapes on the rock sliders and some sickening moves sideways on some of the muddy patches.  This pass is a strictly good weather pass unless you really like to make your life difficult ... and short.

Having negotiated the pass we were surprised that we were still 4 hours away from Cintsa and since we had already been driving for 5 hours, it was starting to look like a very long day.  Fortunately the driving was interesting up and down Satansnek pass (we thought the name sounded interesting so had to try it) and after last nights good sleep, I didn't struggle at all.

Just before we got to Cintsa we went through a pretty wild hailstorm at Kei Cuttings.  Although most of the hail was relatively small and we knew not to worry, it was incredibly loud and the occasional one made the actual car shudder.  I was very glad that we had a roof rack on which took most of the punishment; the charcoal bags on top looked like someone had taken a shotgun to them.

We met up with Patrick and Barbara who emigrated from Holland 8 years ago and who are trying their best to turn a farm into a going concern.  The good thing is that it is exceptionally beautiful and has good water and access to a reasonably sized town; the bad thing is that it is a farm.  Patrick certainly didn't choose an easy avenue to follow in life and hats off to him for having the goedspa to even attempt such an undertaking.

They are in the middle of renovations of their house so everything is a mess as is normal for renovations so we felt a bit bad about imposing ourselves and causing yet another complication but we had a great meal out at the local pizzeria; their gas stove being U.S due to the builders cutting the gas line.