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.

1 comment:

margaret said...

Wow - what amazing photos! Anyone reading this blog is going to want to pack up and follow in your footsteps.