Be ruthless, be furious, do not let anyone exit the front door with anything more than one bag, a very small bag, a bag the size of a shoe box!
This is my Bridget Jones note-to-self for future trips as I ram my feet into the smallest of nooks, a triangle of car mat between the ‘padkos’ (food for the road), a bag of jumpers and blankets, ‘soft car blankets for snuggling’ says Amma (grandma). The trailer is full to capacity. My 7-year old is rammed right at the back, boxed in by bags, coats and more blankets, six new ones which hubby has had specially made for the trip. Next is big sis and his big brother flanking my youngest, leaving me in front with my knees pushed up into my chin sitting on a bunch of maps. But we’re all in and everyone is being remarkably pleasant to each other given the hour, so all is good.
It’s 4h10am as we pull out of the driveway, ten minutes off-schedule and I’m seriously impressed by the teamwork (Amma and my godfather’s help notwithstanding!). My fleeting moment of smugness disappears swiftly as a flask-cup of coffee lands neatly and oh-so-hotly between my thighs. “Darling I told you I put your coffee on the dashboard” doesn’t quite cut it but I let it go in the spirit of the great departure. With a wet patch perfectly positioned across the groin, we turn onto the R44 to Paarl and are officially on our way.
Strangely within twenty minutes the R45 to Malmesbury has simply vanished in the pre-dawn winelands fog and I am thrown into full-scale panic (you know the duck, or is it a swan, gliding on the surface with the feet paddling below kind of deal) as the responsibility of undesignated navigatrix smacks down onto my shoulders.
Luckily I have a ‘go-to guy’, the kind of man you go to in a fix and somehow no matter what the problem is he sorts it out, an uncle with a big heart. Now on the right road, I watch the clock til I can be sure he is awake and getting ready for work. I want to check our planned route, before we end up in Namibia and it’s all my fault, not an unlikely scenario by any means. He answers as we wait at the third roadworks stop and I feel totally together after we speak.
In the silky grey of dawn, the mist folds and falls gently into the crevices of the Cederberg. As the sun rises and we continue to curve around the mountain, the horizon turns tangerine pink and I remember why this is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Hubby decides on a shortcut between Clanwilliam and Calvinia which turns out to be a forty-minute mudslush slip ‘n slide, through the very aptly called ‘Botterkloof’ Pass (butter valley). We survive, trailer intact albeit coated in thick sludge…so much for turning up at The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park with a clean camp kitchen.
We pass places with names like Moedverloor (losing hope), Granaatboskolk (pomegranate bush pond) and Breekbeenkolk (breaking bone pond) and I can’t help wondering what misfortunes people must have suffered to have named their homes thus.
After Brandvlei, about eight hours into the journey, the terrain changes to scrub bush, salt pans and dolomite. The rocks glisten as if oiled by the sun, the road stretches ahead, straight and straighter still til it sews itself to the horizon. Giant sociable weaver nests hang from the telephone poles like Dougals flung up from the Magic Roundabout. We stop at a particularly big one to watch the birds flutter in and out of their metropolis for a while.
A few hours later and after about fifty (seriously, I was counting!) “are-we-there–yets”, we arrive in Kenhardt for fuel and sustenance. On a road as wide as a river, the boys spot a baby blue classic Chevy pick-up parked opposite the Shell garage and drool. Across the road, Oma Miemie’s Farmstall is just perfect. Pizza for the kids, my all-time favourite toasted chicken mayo sandwich, great coffee, koeksisters and milk tart. The boys play in the dust and I see my five-year-old self in my little one’s hunched concentration over roads in the dirt. It makes me unbelievably happy.
One last push to Keimoes where we have checked in to Die Ou Skool guesthouse. It’s like coming home and the holiday has truly begun. More soon, as we move on to Twee Rivieren tomorrow after a hearty Northern Cape breakfast, I hope! Keep an eye out for Tripadvisor links if I can figure out how to connect them to my blog.