THE second leg of my epic road trip took me onto Route 62 proper – the road that runs all the way from Montagu to Gqeberha, should you care to make that journey. It was not my destiny to follow that path; after Oudtshoorn I’d be making a sort-of left if you look at a map. But more about that next week.
The wide open space of the Karoo gave me immense joy, a mostly flat vista that was wider than my peripheral vision (which Web MD usefully describes as helping you to “sense motion and walk without crashing into things”) so I reminded myself to frequently look from side to side to try take it all in (impossible), and roads – well, just the one really – that stretched into infinity with very few other cars. There is such intense beauty in this landscape which for some can seem monotonous, but for me, I felt I could breathe.
I decided country music was the best thing for this leg of the journey, belting out Jolene along with Dolly. This is another tick for travelling solo: no one else will have their ears abused by my dreadful singing. It’s one of the saddest things in my life that I love it so much yet I do it so, so badly.
I had a couple of stops to make, at Boplaas in Calitzdorp for its award-winning whisky and Grundheim near Oudtshoorn where the first legal witblits was made, which are stories for another day on Daily Maverick, but after a bit of criss-crossing and ditching Google Maps in favour of good old-fashioned directions from a local, I eventually arrived at Celebratio Farm. Near Oudtshoorn is the best I can do.
It’s a pomegranate farm (also a Daily Maverick Story) which also has three self-catering houses; one for larger groups or families, and two tw0-bedroom cottages, with a swimming pool between them. Across the bougainvillea fence lie the orchards. The fruit is for export, but the arils are used to make the most exquisitely sweet and pure juice; a complimentary bottle was in the fridge.
Here I braaied. Lamb and ostrich, what else? I was the only person there, and I made myself dizzy looking up at the stars and the swathe of the Milky Way (I swear it wasn’t the wine). It’s times like this when you realise silence is not silent at all, that there is always a hum in the air. Or is it in my head?
If I had a bucket list, I would have ticked something off the next day: Cango Caves. It was both a happy and a slightly sad experience. For me, it was wonderful to be in a guided group of only three other humans (as opposed to the 100-150 before Covid), which gave us all time to ooh and aah, linger, ask questions, and hear stories about the caves where eyeless jelly scorpions reside (no thank you) and the ridiculously tight tunnels you have to wiggle through to get to these monstrosities; but it is so eerily quiet. I still recommend it though. The caves are breathtakingly beautiful, and it’s fascinating (but still no thank you) to consider the first people to discover them, without the benefit of much light.
That night was spent at Oude Meul self-catering lodge, about 10 minutes from the caves. It was a cute little room with just the basics, but they kindly arranged a braai for me outside my front door. My neighbours were two couples, the kind that the men braai and the women make the slaai. I had a head start on them with my fire, and when I started putting on my chops and wors, the Oom with the big boep asked me if I was on my own.
I politely told him not to judge me; this was supper, breakfast and padkos for the following day. Tsek!
Next episode: Oudtshoorn to Graaff-Reinett. Stay tuned.
PHOTO CREDIT: BIANCA COLEMAN ©