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2012 - Great Cape Road Trip III - Riding the in Between

And so it happens - it's time to depart on our third Great Cape Road Trip. The thinking this time was to revisit some favourites and to go and see some new places. New for us that is, some of these places have been there a long time!
The Cheese Platter at the Brewery that we had forced upon us! The salami is kudu from Cradock area!On the morning of the 17th of Dec, actually more like the middle of the night, we set off for Nieu-Bethesda with the trailer and Lola and her new friend, Frodo. The journey there goes well and we're very grateful that 'we' packed padkos. Having passed the Wimpy at the first 1-Stop we passed it had people queuing at 5.45 in the morning! We decided to turn into the metropolis of Trompsburg to refuel and to eat our padkos under a tree across from the high school. I'll eat home made padkos any day, still love it!
Zonnestrahl garden and fountainHaving left before sparrows we arrived in Nieu-Bethesda round about lunch time. What excellent planning - so we had to go to the Brewery for a beer and a Cheese Platter! Absolutely delicious - all of it.
We found our accommodation, an old Karoo house called Zonnenstrahl. It's situated next to Frans Boekkooi, the sculptor and some people 'vannie baai' in the same street as the Brewery. The front stoep is right on the street, so one can have conversations with the pedestrian traffic. In fact it's so 'rustig' that Ry and the kids played a game of good old fashioned marbles with some small quinces from the hedge, in the middle of the street.
At the back and one side is a magnificent garden, terraced with lots of icebergs and a little fountain complete with statue. Living here was fantastic, it immediately dictated the pace. Our first day we did as little as possible.
Deep shade on the Zonnestrahl stoepThe next day the one who must be followed (this I can mostly do, it's the obeying that is still a challenge after 23 years!) decided to grant me my wish for the day, so we set off on a very scenic route to go and see the Valley of Desolation. The view across the immense landscape really is spectacular and jaw dropping and quite gob smacking all at once - which would result in what, jaw smacking or gob dropping? Looking at the dolorite columns rising 120m from the valley floor far below, it is like looking at a photograph of the erosion process spanning, give or take a year or two,  200 million years!
Down below in Graaff- Reinet it was hot, a convincing 37 degrees. Luckily we were heading back to  Bethesda where it's roughly 7 degrees cooler (1 degree for every 100 metres climbed)
Friday morning the 22nd of Dec 2012 dawned clear and beautiful. As we anticipated the end of the world the previous day, as promised by so many interpretations of the Mayan calendar, we weren’t sure if we would be leaving Bethesda and cross the great divide so to speak.
However the day after broke just as beautifully as every other day in the Karoo and we were going to ride through the Valley of Desolation. Our next stay would be in Prince Albert at The Olive House.
So we packed up our stuff and left the car and the trailer in front of the church hall, thanks to Katrin and Ian of the Karoo Lamb and set off into the sunrise on the first day after the last day – haha man how’s that for complicating nothing?
I could not believe my eyes when we joined the N9. Although it was early, round about half past 6, there was 1 constant stream, like a taxi train from Graaff- Reinet's direction. This continued non -stop all the way to GR, about 38 kms.
Valley of DesolationGetting fuel in GR already proved a challenge so early in the morning. Taxis were queuing out the Petrol Station into the street at the first place and only a little better at the 2nd one we stopped. We calculated that we would need 5 litres of petrol per sidecar over and above the extra 10 litres carried in the jerry cans. Furthermore, we would be filling up in Aberdeen again, and by our calculations would then be able to ride through the vast Central Karoo all the way to Prince Albert - just.
Aberdeen was a smaller repeat of GR. So we joined the queue for petrol. Now picture this, there are 2 sides to the petrol pumps, so there are 2 queues. The line on the left wasn't really moving but on our side there was a gap in the middle so we pulled the 2 sidecars in there as we should. Ry was filling up to speed things up when this car with a very cross lady, her husband and son in the back pulled in behind us after crossing over from the unmoving line. She hadn't even stopped yet when she started screaming at us.
'Do you people not know how to queue?' - to be honest it was only after the second time she screamed this that I could hear what she was shouting. In fact she then got out of her car and repeated the same phrase again 2 more times at the top of her voice! Maybe it was because nobody answered that she got so angry?
Padkos in the Great KarooI'm still trying to figure out how to answer her accusation/question. There is no correct answer – either yes or no would be wrong? Anyway the phrase 'you people' didn't do much to endear her.
I wondered about her - maybe it was because her hair looked like a helmet, maybe she was grumpy because she's not the brightest tannie on the block, but I could not for the life of me figure out how she could get it so wrong and think it was our fault??
Luckily the tannie and Aberdeen were soon a vague memory and as we turned off onto our chosen route across the Karoo, it was time for our traditional padkos stop. We could see very far and wide. Cooked Karoo Padkos snake!A young farmer had waved us down to stop us as he wanted to look at the sidecars and wanted to know where we were going?
Where were we going – indeed! Crossing the Great Central Karoo via Rietbron and hoping for Prince Albert as the final destination.  Of course our Route Director had all this in his GPS and I could just follow blindly, like a good wife shood!
Turn off to Die HeSometimes it felt like we were riding on the ocean floor, without the water of course and sometimes it felt like we were riding in a void – from nowhere to nowhere. When we rode through pockets of flowering Mimosa trees it smelled a little like a dream. I promised myself I wouldn’t go on and on about the heat – not yet! Honestly it was to be expected, middle of December in a desert? So we rode and rode and rode a little more till we could see the great Swartberg Mountains ahead – perpendicular to us filling our field of vision. It’s quite a sight to behold – riding closer and closer. Six and a half hours after our departure we trundled into Prince Albert on the last of our petrol fumes. We found ourselves a little place to have lunch and lots of cold stuff to drink. Did I mention that I thought it was a little hot? The Olive House - our home in prince AlbertAfter lunch we got to shop for supplies and go in search of our accommodation. We would be staying in The Olive House, a little cottage on the Swartberg Pass side of the dorp. It turned out to be everything we love and hope for – spacious, comfortable and to the side enough to make us happy. Apparently it is not a sign of a healthy mind to seek isolation – what can I say? I had planned a sortie of sorts for us. We would leave the bulk of our belongings and head out Gamkaskloof way to sleep over one night in Die Hell. Thus we set out the next morning with our little overnight bags, cooler boxes and monkey paraphernalia to ride the majestic Swartberg Pass. My dearest Lola did this to me on the very first real pass her and I rode together and can you believe she still does it if she gets half a chance. She’ll run absolutely perfectly until you gear down and turn the throttle in anticipation of the first proper climbing to be done and then she splutters and carries on and complains etc etc etc. Air filter!!!! Teeberg photo op in the SwartbergIt was no different in the beginning stages of the Swartberg Pass. As always she was a real pleasure to ride once she had an air filter change and we sang up the beautifully buttressed pass to Teeberg. Here we stopped for a breather and to take pics. One can see the turn off into Gamkaskloof from Teeberg. At the turn off it reads 37kms – 2 hours. Initially the road in is not very taxing and it’s pretty easy going.  Spot the mule trail in the background!!At this stage I could see something ahead of me that resembled a road but could possibly be a lama or a mule trail as well? Surely we wouldn’t be driving there, there where the road snakes up and up and then it disappears in a very thin little line at the top? It would seem I have some perceptual problems – like the day I thought the people standing around the taxi next to the road were villagers who had come to say goodbye to someone – surely all those people could not have come OUT the taxi? My significant, much more pragmatic other, just looked at me like I came from another planet. Of course they all came out the taxi – it had broken down and they were waiting for it to be fixed. Well so with the trail – of course that was the road we would be riding along! Total control! Leaving GamkaskloofAfter having driven this increasingly winding climbing trail of a road – must say it makes for splendiferous riding – we came to a crest. As we had travelled 30kms I thought– piece of cake! How bad can the last 7kms be?  This descent can be described with WTF and ‘o my bliksem’ – HECTIC! I had to do some talking in my helmet to keep my hands moving and my fingers doing what I told them. This section is known as Elands Pass and one descends 579m in 7 kilometres – so that would be a 8:1 ratio on average roughly?! The view is incredible but I had to make sure I didn’t hyperventilate every time I saw an SUV approaching from the bottom – so in all honesty the view was a little like strawberries to pigs in my case! Wasted. Jan Eentand se Huisie - Gamkaskloof luxuryFinally we rolled to a stand still at the restaurant/shop. We had a bite to eat and then rode on deeper into the ‘kloof’ to where we would be staying overnight. I had gotten accommodation on Boplaas – Jan Eentand se Huisie to be precise and what awaited us turned out to be the perfect reward for the last 7kms into Gamkaskloof. Monkey with Platanna in GamkaskloofOur accommodation was magnificent – what a treat and this at the end of one of the more isolated ‘klowe’ in the country. We even had a plunge pool literally on the doorstep. It was filled with water from the river nearby and my monkey spent the greater part of the afternoon chasing a platanna! Specially for me, I know this – it started raining very softly late afternoon and this weather continued for the next 2 days. It was like my own personal Christmas gift. Greatest Christmas gift ever - rain in Prince AlberThe next morning was overcast and cool. Perfect! I didn’t sleep too well in anticipation of riding out the first 7 kms, but hey all good things come to an end? My little monkey told me she thought we could do it easily so who am I to disagree? We did ride out without any hitches and were back on the Swartberg Pass proper, merrily driving back to town for a splendid breakfast. We had no sooner finished breakfast in Prince Albert  when the heavens opened and we had a good proper rain storm - I was so happy I could have gone and rolled in the water running down the road! I mentioned that it was a little hot the day we rode in – well I only found out later it was actually smack bang in the middle of a heat wave that we had decided to cross the Central Karoo and ride to Prince Albert from Graaff- Reinet. That particular day we rode in on a wave of 47 degrees!!! And there I was thinking I’m being a sissy as I was feeling a little faint unpacking the groceries? Monkey switching on Karoo aircon!Christmas Eve was wonderful and cool and we entertained ourselves with the monkeys and each other’s company! Christmas morning dawned fresh and very beautiful and we took a stroll (sans monkeys) to the local cemetery. For me that, along with a cool day constituted the near perfect Christmas at this point in our lives. We ate and lazed and ate some more. Boxing Day was packing up and moving on day for us. Today we were riding to a farm outside Ladismith called Wolverfontein and our cottage on it, named Zara’s Cottage. a quilt called the Klein KarooUp and over Swartberg Pass we went. It was no less spectacular – in fact in some ways I enjoyed it more. Stopping at the top we took in the quilt below that constitutes the Klein Karoo and then we rode down to have our breakfast picnic next to the road at the bottom of the pass. After our padkospiekniek we  turned and followed the little meandering road all along the Kruis River in the Kruis River Valley. This part of the world really is incredibly beautiful with one spectacular vista following another. The grand mountains being the centre piece all along. When I am grown up with more money than I know what to do I’ll buy myself a piece of the Swartberg Private Wildlife Estate! It has to be seen to be appreciated! Just as we were about to head into Calitzdorp we came across the Calitzdorp Dam. It was a real cooker of a day (not surprising being summer in the Karoo - I’ve mentioned that the days were generally quite hot hey?!) and Ryno and the monkeys could not get into the water fast enough. Not being able to get over my pathetic little fear of deep water means that I’m all sulky and sweaty when they return fresh as what – platannas? Calitzdorp dam refresher!Nice thing about a sidecar is you get to ride the crankiness away so when we stop to refuel in Calitzdorp I’m only sweaty and not sulky anymore. That was soon to change again! I’ve previously admitted the difficulty in obeying the spouse and sometimes following also becomes a real challenge. We had discussed this – we would approach Ladismith from Vanwyksdorp, riding the Rooiberg Pass along the way. I may not have a GPS but I can SEE the sign that says Vanwyksdorp to the right. The husband turns almost exactly the opposite way and heads along the R62 in the direction of the Huisrivier Pass. This is not a problem I think. Once I’ve established in my head that we really are on the wrong road, I’ll just pull off and wait. Rules of riding dictates that he’ll see no lights in his rear view mirror and should turn around – well, NOT. My little monkey and I wait at the side of the road for 20 minutes, baking like Karoo muffins (as I’ve mentioned a million times - it was a little hot and there ain’t that many trees out there?)Being almost delirious from the heat now I give in and off we go. Almost at the end of the pass we find them hurtling back in our direction, so around we turn and ride the 12 kms back to Calitzdorp seriously irritated. 45 minutes in the midday heat wasn’t fun and it ended up making the day just that little bit too long. Rooiberg PassReleaving (surely if you can revisit you can releave as opposed to relieve – haha) Calitzdorp correctly we head out towards the Rooiberg Pass. The landscape has changed significantly since this morning. It’s easy to see why it’s called the Rooiberg Pass – it really is red! We ride through some very beautiful fynbos and then descend into what can only be described as the back of beyond. Zara's Cottage - front doorWe were supposed to arrive at Zara’s Cottage between 2 and 3 and finally roll in at quarter past 4. Zara’s Cottage is on the farm Wolverfontein, 10km outside Ladismith. Ashleigh, our very hospitable host, confirms that it is indeed still very hot, it isn’t just my mood and offers the following advice: ‘My dear ‘, he says to me,’ the only way to survive the days are in a bath filled with cold water drinking even colder  wine’. What was that about only mad dogs and Englishman go out at midday – try crazy sidecar riders? Ashleigh sends us to their swimming hole in the Touws River not too far from our cottage. As the sun sinks in the west it’s just the light that changes in the Karoo, the heat seems to stay almost exactly the same. Ronnies and breakfasBut now we’ve learnt, we even bought ourselves some cheap sheets in Prince Albert’s Pep Stores – you wet the sheet and get under that. Portable Karoo air-conditioning. It cools you enough to be able to fall asleep and by the time you wake up the night has cooled enough to be bearable. Healthier and cheaper than real air conditioning – haha! The heat starts when the sun rises and this is long before anyone is ready for either. Packed and ready to leave we bid our farewell to Ashleigh. Wolverfontein HomesteadOur next stop would be Aloe Ridge near Swellendam. But first we had to eat breakfast at Ronnie’s Sex Shop. Excellent straight forward as good food should be. Shortly after Ronnie’s Sex Shop we turned off the scenic Route 62 onto the Brandvleipad. This road leads to the Gysmanshoek Pass – someone mentioned this pass somewhere and we had to go and see. Quoting Trailrider, a motorcycle enthusiast living in the Garden Route, Gysmanshoek Pass is part of the Ox Wagon Route. Also known as Plattekloof Pass, it had been used by Trek Boers since 1740. Refuelling somewhere in the wilderness on the Gysmanshoek PassInitially it’s not particularly pleasant – lots of loose gravel with quite a steep corrugated gradient. Being quite heavily laden doesn’t make for easy riding but once we had the steepest part of the climbing behind us, it got positively beautiful. The landscape is very beautiful and the vegetation is also a real treat. We were heading for Aloe Ridge on the Breede River outside Swellendam. I wasn’t too sure what to expect but I do know it was the most expensive accommodation of the trip so had real high hopes. The monkeys were under the impression though that this would be The Thatches of this trip. A year ago we had spent 4 nights (including Christmas) in a dump in Kei Mouth called The Thatches – it has become the euphemism and benchmark for ‘super dodgy!’for our  spoilt little monkeys. Refuelling somewhere in the wilderness on the Gysmanshoek PassHowever we still had to get there. We were heading in the direction of Heidelberg where we would join the N2 and trundle along to Swellendam. While filling up at the petrol station in Heidelberg we both decided this just wasn’t going to work. The traffic on the N2 was like that morning on the N9 – taxi trains with trucks in between for a little variation. Also of course the ever present SUVs with their trailers and semi-conscious drivers. As these drivers are not used to towing anything for the rest of the year they are often the most dangerous. They just love overtaking and then bring the car back into the left lane while forgetting about the trailer. Being on a sidecar behind these SOBs in their SUVs (a lot of Ss hey!) can become quite stressful when their trailer becomes your problem. I usually have a lot to say in my helmet – none of it starting with ‘s’. By the time we rode through Suurbraak it felt like we were riding in a gale force wind – being pushed from behind mostly so this wasn’t too bad. I even stopped to take a photo of Lola’s odometer – her and I had ridden 26 000kms together! Eventually we had to ride a while on the N2 – we had run out of back roads. Picture this – riding as hard as you possibly can in the emergency lane and still having to change down a gear going downhill because of the monstrous head wind. Our house's name - spot the visitors!Being born and bred Gautengers the wind had kind of gotten to us. So instead of having a leisurely lunch in Swellendam we hit the Spar real hard for supplies, shopped and stocked up and went back to battle with the wind. Luckily Aloe Ridge isn’t too far out so we were soon installed in our very beautiful brand new 2 bedroom 2 bathroom luxury house. The monkeys were actually speechless for a while – or shall I say all monkey chatter ceased. We had our own splash pool – of the infinity variety nogal – on the wooden deck and a beautiful view across and up the Breede River. Wow – it looked like those pictures in the Rich and Famous and it felt like we were starring in our very own reality show! For 2 nights we slept in utter luxury and lived like Kardashians – haha! No not really, none of us wore high heels.Bliss - clearly NOT the The Thatches Having recharged we were ready to set out early on the morning of the 29th Dec. Although it would physically be the shortest distance between Aloe Ridge and our next stay , the  De Hoop Nature Reserve, we had planned a longer route. First a stop in Bredasdorp - my grandmother on my father’s side came from this part of the world and I have never been there. I was eager to get going and see the next chapter in our journey. To say that I was not disappointed would be a lie. All along I had this niggling realisation that seeing certain parts of the Cape in December really doesn’t do it justice. A bit like seeing some people just after they’ve woken up?  If you ever wondered where the name came from!The visual disappointment was at least tempered by the incredible number of birds of prey we saw on the telephone poles. Initially I would get very excited about spotting a huge eagle perched on the telephone pole. By the time we were leaving the Overberg I was expecting huge eagles everywhere. Dry dry - the OverbergFrom Bredasdorp we aimed at Cape L’Agulhas. Cannot remember ever being here either so thought it all very exciting. Struisbaai looked stunning if you didn’t have to contend with the wind and the other people! The colour of the sea spectacular and unbelievable. Can you believe we had to queue along with all the other tourists to take pics of ourselves at the Southern most tip? The queue business works like a bomb though because you always have people behind you who’ll take a photograph of you and on and on…. Most southern photo of us!We went and had a look at the light house in Cape L’Agulhas . Jostling our way through the crowds we took our leave of Struisbaai and rode in the direction of Aniston. Just had to go and see what the whole world is on about. Art farty picture of us and the sidecars at the light houseQuick aside before we get to Aniston. I always feel like this huge traitor when I admit that braaivleis is not my favourite meal, I hate eating pap and the point of Rugby eludes me. So in the same way I feel a sense of guilt when I don’t get ecstatic about camping in close proximity to my tribe with the wind howling for about 16 of the 24 hours every day of December? I looked at the Struisbaai camping grounds and all I could think is how unbelievably awful it must be to be in there? But clearly I am deviant in my thinking because it was packed, not a bit. No! Like sardines in a tin – real tight. Where were we? Aniston! That’s right. So I guess you know what’s coming? Aniston was pretty and okay and all the wonderful things I suppose people think and say of it but I was real happy when we started the sidecars and rode out. Couldn’t quite get lyrical about it. Finally we were en-route to our destination and base for the next few days.  The De Hoop Nature Reserve – now this I could wax lyrical about! We ate supper in The Fig Tree Restaurant and it was splendid. Next morning we were going to visit Nikki and Rob who had bought the BMW GS and Heeler sidecar combo. They now live mostly in Witsand and when they heard we’d be at the De Hoop Reserve for a few days they invited us to their home for pizzas. When you’ve never visited someone and they invite you for pizza you don’t think about it too much. Pizza is pizza. Wow was I wrong! Anyway before we get to the pizza bit. We were all very excited because we would be crossing the same said Breede River with the pont at Malgas. This pont is drawn by 2 men and has been operating for many years. Loved crossing the river like this. Also liked the pace at which all of this happens – very human. Now back to the pizzas in Witsand at Rob and Niki’s house. When Niki tells you how long it took them to perfect the pizza making and that it almost led to divorce one starts understanding – this is serious business. These pizzas were the best pizzas I have eaten in my entire life. Up till now the only pizza that comes close is Dirk van Tonder’s at the Irish Ale House in Broederstroom. Niki and Rob’s pizzas haunt my dreams. Why is it that something is made more fantastic because you cannot get hold of it readily? We ate Fig and Stinky Cheese pizza, we ate Anchovy and Olive pizza, we ate Ham and Pineapple pizza, you name it we ploughed our way through it. I actually could not believe that I could eat that much pizza and still be thinking about it when I went to sleep that night. Eating too much pizza leads to memory failure – I was so full that I could not think and left my camera at Rob & Niki’s house. They were so kind they brought it through to us at De Hoop the next day. We spent a fabulous day on the beach with them(my idea of perfect weather – wind still and overcast). Gouna Forest and VelbroekdraaiFinally we had to wave goodbye and we went back to our cottage and New Year’s eve. We made a bonfire outside which freaked me out no end as the wind was now back to its old Cape ways. I could not see the end of 2012 fast enough. The next morning dawned perfect and we were back on the road again. The plan was to ride from De Hoop to the N2 - real early and there is no long weekend ahead so we should be safe – and then ride back to Heidelberg for petrol and then on to George where we would start The Seven Passes. All went according to our plan and we loved the Seven Passes. The Seven Passes consist of a collection of crossings of ‘driwwe’ between George and Knysna. Not all cross rivers but the climbing and descending down to the river and crossing the river is hectic in places. I could not keep the descriptions I had read while doing research and planning for this Road Trip out of my mind. There were some vivid descriptions of getting heavily laden ox wagons  through the deep dark rivers and up and down the steep embankments. Our ancestors really had steel in their pipes, not to say anything of those poor oxen. Once heard a joke by Nathaniel where he said he believed the Voortrekkers crossed the Drakensberg by spanning in the oxen, and then they would pick up their concertinas and start playing some Boeremusiek  - any ox would run to get away!   Lola going to church in UniondaleWe stopped just in time for lunch at the Knysna Hollow where we’d be spending the night. We were forced to have a little afternoon nap as a soft drizzling rain came down just after lunch. What perfect timing. Our stay at The Knysna Hollow was good and the food was generally excellent. I was eager to go though as we would be riding through the Gouna Forest on our way to the Prince Alfred Pass. Riding in the forest is just one of the best things in the world for me. Personally it is like having my soul dry cleaned/washed – restored would probably sound more poetic? All that filtered golden sunlight and huge living energy is a powerful combination. I could have gone on riding through there for hours. I’ve always believed that cathedrals were inspired by forests. At Velbroekdraai we took a little break. The monkeys went to pay their respects to the BIG tree and we drank our cold drinks in peace, listening to the birds and the forest sounds. How hard can life be....Three years ago on our very first Great Cape Road Trip with sidecars and monkeys (as opposed to oxen and wagons!) we rode this pass down, i.e. from Avontuur down to Knysna. This time we riding it oyher way round – or up if you like. The road really isn’t too bad, a bit of corrugation here and there but nothing serious. Ry and Klara dance the ‘skerpklipvastrap’ when we stop and they go swimming in one of the pools along the way. Some of us only wet feet, shirts, buffs everything we basically can and start the next part of our journey through the Prince Alfred pass. Can you believe the only live snake I see for this entire Great Trip is on this pass? I saw one other riding from Bredasdorp to Struisbaai but it was dead, it had been run over. Willowmore Guest House - what a find!!!!Dusty and fairly hot we arrive in Uniondale to fill up and eat and check out the locals and hope to see a ghost! One of those strange experiences where they have little of what is one the menu – not even Coca Cola! Anyway as there is little other choice we grin and bear it and go about it the different route – asking the waitress what they could or would offer. Not long and everyone was happy.
We still had a little way to go to Willowmore and knowing that ghosts don’t really hang out in the day, we finished lunch and left. Arriving in Willowmore we went in search of our accommodation at The Willow Historical Guesthouse. It turned out to be fantastic. We had a whole little Karoo house called Flippie, beautifully renovated, all to ourselves. Next door was the Guesthouse in all its Victorian splendour. Who would have thought. The monkeys headed straight for the cool dark interior and Ry and I were left to go and see the cemetery and ‘kruithuis’ all by ourselves. Lola, Frodo and Ry in front of Flippie in WillowmoreWould probably have been better to do it a little later in the afternoon but nouja! After this excursion we head for the co-op – always a good idea! It’s like some subconscious genetic thing kicks in and all I want to do is farm!! You can take the Boertjie off the farm but you cannot get the farm off the Boertjie that easily it seems! Before supper we had drinks in the garden outside the Guesthouse and the youngest swam in the pool. Who could ever have foreseen that supper would be one of the all time best of the trip! Salmon in the Karoo – it made my tastebuds sing! Everyone had a splendid meal in the lamp and candle light with Victorian silver and white damask – a little like being in a movie. If you’re ever in that neck of the woods do not hesitate – The Willow Historical Guesthouse is some of the best value for money in the Karoo (and that’s a big place with some stiff competition you know!). Tucking in to the last breakfast of this Great Cape Road TripWe had a good night’s rest and after our very last breakfast for this Great Cape Road Trip, we get going in the direction of Aberdeen and hope we don’t run into Tannie Helmet Hair again! The first part of the road is very pretty and quite green and when I see a dam wall I get excited. Now picture this - one approaches this dam wall from below so you are riding along it at the bottom assuming this vast body of water once you have crested the long uphill section to the side. I don’t think I’ve done that scene justice but bear with me (pun intended as this is called the Beervleidam). Where one would be expecting a long flat stretch of water judging by the size of the dam wall, there is none! It’s quite beautiful though as it is filled with green grass - as far as the eye can see this dry dam surface is covered in green grass. According to rural (as opposed to urban) legend this dam has only held water once, briefly. It was some huge mistake by one of the national Party brothers in the old days – seems the more things change the more they stay the same. Nothing perks a monkey up faster than retail therapy in BethesdaSaw a monster of a tortoise crossing the road and luckily it survived the comatose BMW motorcar driver to walk another day! Just before Aberdeen Lola’s clock read 27 000kms – like I said, Kween of the Karoo! We are now being so battered by the wind that we decide to stop in Aberdeen for retail therapy – this always works for Gautengers. So us girls bought 3 pairs of fire engine red sneakers – it might be Jonson’s Workwear but nobody will know by just looking at them. These cost R123 per pair as opposed to R499+ for any of the fancy brand names. Heeha that is how one saves money by spending money - a bit of lochick (chick logic). Us girls had just saved over a thousand bucks collectively! And as always Nieu-Bethesda rewards us with one of its spectacular skies as the sun setsSo inspired are we that we ride the last leg of our journey to Nieu-Bethesda in a howling head wind without complaining (too much). Nieu-Bethesda felt like coming home. After a Sneeuberg beer at the Karoo Lamb and catching up a little with Katrin and Ian, we go and offload at Aandster, our house for the night. The little monkeys and I were still not shopped out and seeing as we had saved so much money in Aberdeen, we hit the town for some present shopping at Karoo Kaya and shooting the breeze with the people at Dustcovers, the bookshop where you can buy bread too! Aandster is where the love affair with Nieu-Bethesda started the previous year. Once again the sky did the magical Karoo thing it has been doing for eons and we were spellbound. The last beautiful sunset is a perfect image to remember and end this Great Cape Road Trip with. On so many levels this image has became the symbol for me of what had been and what we hope for, for our little family.

Written by:  Alpha Greeff