After leaving the stunning Kalagadi National Park, we headed due south to Upington where we stocked up on a few essentials, and then drove west to Augrabies Falls National Park. We had zero expectations of this place, as we knew we were visiting in the dry season, and so the falls were obviously going to be low. We had also heard that the campsite in the park was a bit crappy, but hey we had driven “past the park” twice before without visiting so thought “lets give it a go”.
Despite the Orange River indeed being low, we were pleasantly surprised at the flow through the narrow canyon, it was impressive.
The river flows all the way from the Drakensberg Mountains in the east of South Africa, and it really is the life blood of this part of the world.
We thought we were going to hate this place, but the camping area was largely empty, and really wasn’t as bad as we were led to believe. Maybe we will stay for a couple of days……… That was until we realised how much of a pain in the arse the Vervet Monkeys were going to be!!!!! To give you an example, we were sat outside the truck having lunch eating some fruit, I was peeling an orange and had an apple next to me on the table, when a large Vervet spotted the apple and started “his run”. In the time it took me to reach down for my catapult and stone, he had leapt onto the table snatched his prize and was gone, I didn’t even manage to get a shot off!! You had to be on your guard 100% of the time. Guess what? We only stayed one night.
After leaving Augrabies, we decided we needed a little culture, so we found a winery at Keimoes that allowed you to camp, a dangerous cocktail…..
It was a short walk through the vineyards from the camp area to the wine tasting room. Die Mas don’t only produce wine they also make Gin and Brandy, oh dear……
The wine from the Northern Cape perhaps doesn’t have such a good reputation than that the wines from the more southerly wineries have, such as Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, but these wines from Die Mas were indeed very good. We ended up having a fantastic afternoon/evening here tasting not only the wines but also the Gin and Brandy and although we were the only customers, our friendly host kept the tasting bar open a little longer that usual (binge drinking Brits?)
And in true Brit style we got a takeaway……..
From Keimoes, we had a long boring drive across the Northern Cape Karoo (arid semi desert area), and after a brief overnight stop in the small town of Springbok, we joined the N7 tarmac road that runs from Capetown to Namibia. The first campsite that we tried was not suitable, so promptly drove back out, but there are lots of camping options along this route so tried another just north of Clanwilliam, called Highlanders, this wasn’t on any of our usual “apps” that we use, so weren’t sure what to expect. It turned out to be yet another gem, that also produced its own wine….. here we go again.
This Southern region of the Cape is experiencing some severe drought conditions and you can see from the photo below the areas of vines that the wine producers have literally let die so that they can still water some of the remaining crop.
We ended up staying for a few days and really enjoyed our time here. They hold functions in the bar area, including one night the local athletics club, they weren’t consuming the levels of alcohol that we were lol.
We joined our “wine tasting experience” with an overland group, that had stopped here for their first night on a Capetown to Vic Falls tour, it was a strange group with a mix of Brazilians, Australians, and Swiss, oh and us (perhaps the strangest of all). Of course none of us knew bugger all about wine, but I think we all had a great time.
After a food shopping trip to Clanwilliam, we headed to the Cape Nature Park (sort of a Government off shoot of their National Parks agency) of Algeria, deep in the Cederberg Mountains. This really is a stunning place, and is known for its hiking trails, so we were looking forward to getting our walking boots out again and getting some lung busting exercise.
The issue here was the heat, it was unbelievably hot here and if you are going to go hiking in the mountains you have got to start early, by 10.00am the sun is starting to get dangerously hot, and by midday you just want to be hunkered down in the shade somewhere or cooling off in the river.
The most popular trail here is up to a waterfall, a climb of over 1,300ft (vertical), now if your reading this from the UK, I know that this isn’t a huge climb but it is steep, and the heat even first thing in the morning makes it seem like 3 times this amount. Once up there its a beautiful spot, and although there was barely a trickle of water cascading down the falls, it was lovely.
We did another hike that followed the river upstream then crossed the river and returned on the other bank. In some ways this was an even tougher walk as it was undulating constantly, and it was very over grown in places, which meant the constant looking out for snakes (especially Puff Adders that prefer to hide rather than move away from you). It was also very very hot the morning we did this walk, getting to 40c by 11.00am. On one such walk we found a “leopard cam”, like I’ve said before on lorrywaydown, in Africa you really never know whats around the corner.
But despite the heat we enjoyed our time here, until one day disaster struck…
The camp area at Algeria was virtually empty, and we managed to park in a lovely shady spot right at the far end of the campsite overlooking the walking trail that zig zagged up to the waterfall. This meant that we usually saw who set off up this climb and many people stopped on their way back down to have a chat with us. One day, late morning at about 11.30 a couple of people (father and daughter) set off in the intense heat up the hill, Jac and I both commented that not only was this a stupid time to set off but we also noticed that neither were wearing hats.
About 3 hours later, Jac spotted them coming back down the path and said to me that she thought the guy had sat down on a rock to rest, he then got up and promptly went back down. Strangely the daughter carried on for a bit before running back up. At this point we thought something wasn’t right and I grabbed the binoculars out of the truck (they were so far away up the hill all you could make out was their light clothing without the binoculars). Then I saw the guy fall and fall quite heavily and his daughter looked to be panicking, so I grabbed two water bottles out of the fridge, drank half a litre from the tap, grabbed two hats, some hydration sachets and ran off up the hill, leaving Jac to try to get help from the camp staff. It took me about 10 minutes to reach them (trying not to injure myself running on the very rocky and uneven route, the last thing they needed here was another incident), and just as I got closer to them, the woman was in a real panic, and the guy got up, staggered and fell from the path into the fynbos (scrubby bush), going down quite hard. At this point I shouted to Jac that he was in a seriously bad way and that he needed help.
I put one of my hats on him, tried to get some fluid in him, but he just spat it back out, at this point he was slightly delirious, and was not making sense to his daughter (they were German, and only she spoke English). I noticed that she had a small bag with her and asked what she had in there, she passed it to me, and found a towel and a large scarf and put them over him, pouring water on him to try to cool him down, all the time trying to reassure the daughter who was convinced that her dad was going to die. I’m not a doctor, but I did know a nurse, I was very pleased to see Jac appearing over the hill towards us. Jac had told a member of staff that someone was in trouble on the mountain, but wasn’t sure if they took it seriously, so I left Jac to attend the by now seriously ill guy and I ran back down the hill to ensure help was on its way (Jac is much better of being with the patient than me).
By the time I got back down (exhausted, and very hot but thankfully still in one piece), there was a group of staff with a Landcruiser and a doctor (who just happened to be camping), getting ready to drive as far up the mountain as possible, so I jumped in the back and explained the situation to the doctor. By the time we got back up there he was in a very bad way, and his poor daughter was distraught. He was unconsciousness and vomitting constantly. By the time the Landcruiser returned again with a stretcher (a piece of plywood with some holes cut into it), the guy was deteriorating badly. An ambulance was called and all that remained was to get him off the mountain side, both him and his daughter were very burnt from the sun, and they needed to get under cover.
They managed to get the Toyota incredibly close to us by shifting rocks etc and eventually he was loaded into the back and driven down to the air conditioned reception area. He was packed with ice in all the right places trying to reduce his body temperature,as it was assumed at this stage it was “heat stroke”. He remained unconscious all this time and we worked it out that it was almost 5 hours from when an ambulance was called for and when it arrived at Algeria. Maybe the NHS in Britain isn’t as bad as everyone thinks….(The drive from Clanwilliam to Algeria is about 40 minutes)
The next day we went to see the doctor and his wife (also a doctor) and they told us that although he was taken to Clanwilliam Hospital (a state run hospital) he was transferred to a private hospital in Capetown, we never did find out how this story ended, but hope it was a positive one. Heat stroke is a real risk here in Africa, and I do wonder if people on holiday (especially those from Europe) appreciate how fierce the sun can be even this far south of the Equator. At the very least it could ruin your holiday, at the worst you could experience what this poor couple went through…..( Hat, suncream & plenty of fluids!)
After Algeria we had a few days at one of our old favourites from 2015 (the first time Colonel K hit South Africa) the organic farm of Jamaka. Last time we were here it was christmas and new year and it was packed with people, this time it was so quiet, especially at the end that we parked, that we wondered if we were the only ones here! It was a very relaxing few days, with lots of swimming in the river, a bit of maintenance on the Daf, and generally chilling and absorbing the amazing backdrop.
From here we drove across to the coast (Atlantic Ocean) at Lamberts Bay, for one reason and one reason only! To visit the incredible fish restaurant just south of the town….
We first went here in 2015, and really HAD to come back, only this time we managed to camp literally opposite the restaurant. The cooking of the fresh fish is done right in front of your eyes (including the gutting and filleting), with about 8 different varieties inc shell fish, round fish. flat fish, paella, and even steak for the South African males (they actually believe fish is a vegetable). The whole place is completely roof free, and the only “walls” are actually make from dead brushwood (about 5 foot deep). Muisbosskerm Restaurant (named after the type of bush the walls are made from) really is a special place, with a unique setting and atmosphere and a 250 Rand (£14.00) per head price for as much as you can eat, its got to be the bargain night out of 2017.
Next stop Stellenbosch…. But where to camp?, last time we were here we used a large campsite just outside town, but it wasn’t a great experience, so we thought we would try something a little smaller this time, and hopefully be able to walk to some the many wine tasting and eating venues that the place is famous for. Having the Daf really is a disadvantage in a place like this and especially at a time approaching the busy holiday season. The vast majority of wineries don’t have camping, and wine tasting when one of you is driving really isn’t a lot of fun (especially as it me that does the driving ha).
Orangeville Guesthouse proved the perfect location, access was extremely tight, and we had to drive across their nice lawns to get to the very small camp area. This was unlike any campsite that we had been on before, but it was no worse for that! With rose bushes (in full bloom) in front of us, and parked on an immaculate lawn, it was strange setting for a campsite. There was only one toilet and shower (enclosed together in a bamboo surround), but that was fine because it really isn’t for large groups.
The great thing about Orangeville is the location, it is at the bottom of a hill (about 15km from Stellenbosch), and from here there is a set route taking in the various local wine tasting places, ON FOOT if you want…..
We walked all the way to the very posh Tokara wine tasting room, this was about a 1.5 hours walk, in quite hot conditions, but we had a great experience in stunning surroundings.
Walking around this vast estate you come across some amazing sculptures that are completely out of place, but at the same in the perfect place.
We had lunch in the Tokara Delicatessen, which was a cheaper option than the main restaurant, had a fantastic meal for very little money, then had the much easier walk back down to Orangeville Guesthouse……, stopping only once at another winery for a quick drink.
We are nearing the end of our travels (after nearly 3 years in Africa), and it was here we met a German couple just setting out on their adventure in their converted Toyota Hilux. They were starting their trip in southern Africa, having shipped from Germany to Namibia, but Tim and Sarah’s trip has got a little twist, a certain little lady called Elizabeth. Yes they are travelling up the east side of Africa with a nine month old baby in a Hilux, now thats hard core.
But we got on so well with this couple from Germany that we decided to stay a few more days. We even used Uber for the first time, getting a car for all five of us and taking us into Stellenbosh for a Saturday market, here we sampled a few locally brewed beers, had a bite of lunch and got Tim a catapult.
Now obviously the catapult was purchased purely to keep the Baboons and Vervet Monkeys away later in their trip, and WAS NOT bought for horsing around and competing against the” hotshot” english guy camped next to him, oh no….
If truth be told we were both pretty crap at hitting the huge target set on the fence 20m away, but Tim’s catapult quickly became Elizabeths favourite toy, by the time she’s a year old I’m convinced she’ll be a better shot that both of us.
We had a great few days with this family, but sadly we had to leave,they were staying to help manage the German owned guesthouse over christmas and new year.We were booked into DeHoop Nature Reserve over Christmas,it was sad to say goodbye especially as we thought we would never see them again and I guess some people you just hit it off with, this was just such a situation.
Well we did meet them again, but I will write about that next time, sorry we are a little behind with lorrywaydown but I will write and post about our christmas and new year quite soon.
Thanks for reading and may we both wish you all the best for 2018, its going to be a strange one for us.