South Africa Part I – From Pretoria to Tietiesbaai


We have finally left! All of us were wondering whether it was ever going to happen. Our family actually started to bet on when and/or whether we would leave and how far we would go on Day One. My bet was on Sandton, a mere 60 km from Pretoria.

The only problem is that they do not have any camping sites; only luxury hotels. Well, a problem for Hugo, but not for me… The budget, you know? He keeps reminding me that he is unemployed!

On Day One we made it to Allemanskraaldam near Winburg and set up our first camp at the old Aventura Resort, Aldam Estate. Nothing exciting to report here: only dry grass. We were very proud of ourselves, as we could set up camp in less than an hour. We haven’t really stocked up on groceries yet, so we ate at the restaurant. The food was nothing to write home about, but it hit the spot.

The next day it took us a while to get going. Our beds were really comfortable and we were a bit lazy. Once we finally left, Gustav welcomed everyone aboard and told us to “sit back, buckle up and enjoy the view”! We thought it was hilarious. But the drive was not much to enjoy. Our initial plans were to skip the highways and travel via the lesser known roads. So once we left the N1 to Cape Town, it took us just a few kilometres to dodge that plan. Just look at the road! Here we actually had to leave the road and drive next to it.

On the road between Winburg and Brandfort we saw two other vehicles and many potholes. The going was slow but peaceful. The most exciting thing we saw was a “tornado”; in South Africa, better known as a “warrelwind” or “whirlwind”. But my family decided it was a tornado. After all the potholes and extra-slow going, we decided to stay on the highway for the rest of the way. So, we got back on the boring highway and made it to Gariep Dam – not much further… We basically managed the same distance as the first day.

The Free State is a lot of flat land and cattle interspersed with maize and sunflowers. And it is dry! Although it still is the rainy season, it looks like the middle of the winter. I had poker straight hair for the first time in years, all thanks to the dry weather. We have to use body lotion – also a first after living in the tropics and other humid climates for seven years.

Gariep Dam wasn’t as quiet as Aldam. There were quite a few people around. Gustav decided to try out his “mountain” bike on a hill and almost lost some teeth and a limb. He still can’t understand why his bike couldn’t do the job. It is a mountain bike, after all!? We had to explain to him that it also depends on the driver.

From Gariep we turned towards Sutherland in the Roggeveld Mountains in the Karoo. This is where South Africa’s claim to fame in astronomy lies: SALT, or the Southern African Large Telescope. Sutherland’s arid climate and remote location 1 450 m above sea level make its night skies among the world’s clearest and darkest. And coldest! We had to scramble for warm clothes. Sutherland also has the dubious reputation as the coldest town in South Africa, with temperatures in winter plunging as low as -16.4 degrees Celsius.

Sutherland is a beautiful little town with the friendliest people. I want to go on a course where they teach you how to speak Afrikaans like them, with the exact accent. I could listen to them for hours. We stayed in a guesthouse run by a family who owns at least four guesthouses and a farm in the area. We had dinner on the farm, as well as a lesson in astronomy and some star-gazing, led by the father, Jurg. The children still remember more of the talk than I do! We were lucky to see Jupiter clearly, as well as four of its moons.

And what is a small South African town without a majestic, beautiful Church?

After two days with the lovely, friendly people of Sutherland, we got back on the road and headed for Cape Town yet again. I got instructions from “my editor” (I am not allowed to say that, nor her name, so I will pester her all the time…) to brush up on my WordPress skills. [WordPress skills? You just have to keep writing! Ed.] So I have to drink medicine for motion sickness and try to study. It is still (2 March 2015) a work in progress.

As Gustav instructed us, we obeyed: “Never turn left or right. Just keep going straight!” So that is what we did and we reached the Paarl.

We spent Night 5 at Bergrivier Resort, a massive place where we had the second of two occupied camping spots. Another chance to try out all our gear and make sure everything works. As a bonus we had a stunning view of the mountains and the Berg River.

Day 6 saw us visiting Lourens and Christa de Beer in Stellenbosch, another iconic town in South Africa. It is the second-oldest European settlement in the Western Cape Province, after Cape Town. The town became known as the City of Oaks, or Eikestad, due to the large number of oak trees that were planted by its founder, Simon van der Stel.

Christa is a second cousin of mine; her mother and my father are cousins on my grandmother’s side. They lived in England for 12 years and have recently returned to South Africa. It was lovely to catch up after at least 20 years of not seeing each other. Thanks goodness for facebook! Our children really enjoyed playing together, and my children now speak of their English cousins! Christa also kindly had a look at Sophia’s teeth to make sure the fillings she had received a few days earlier were still fine.

From the De Beers, we went to Johan and Arlene Deetlefs in Fish Hoek, a coastal suburb of Cape Town on the False Bay side of the Cape Peninsula. They were the most wonderful hosts, spoiling us with food and drink and taking us to two amazing places for meals: Cape Point Vineyard Market, where we got rained on (Arlene and I didn’t care, though; we were enjoying the fruits of the vineyards way too much!), and Seaforth Restaurant in Simon’s Town, where we also had a chance to watch
some penguins.

Staying with the Deetlefs family gave us the opportunity to sort out a few things that we couldn’t finalise in Pretoria. We picked up our Vital Protection, a spray or soak solution that repels all kinds of insects and bugs, but most importantly… mosquitoes. The people laughed at the ridiculous amount we bought – five litres! It has to last the whole year! You can get the product all over the country, but they sell it in bulk only in Cape Town, where they manufacture it.  We also got the children overalls and water boots, as suggested by my cousins Christa and Sarita. It’s for evenings in malaria areas – light-weight, cotton overalls that are easy to put on over clothes and cover the whole body.

Metalian (the trailer manufacturer) had to replace the axle on the trailer, as the original one they fitted was not wide enough and it caused the inside sidewall of the tires to touch the shock absorbers. They also fixed a few other things on the trailer and charged us nothing. Plus they sponsored us an AEE camera to help them market it in Africa. It is in competition with the GoPro, and seems to work quite well. We will upload videos in the near future. Thank you very much, Heinz and the team from Metalian.

We also had a chanceto see friends we made in Singapore: Paul, Annami and their three boys. We had a hard time leaving their place… Again, we enjoyed the fruits of the vineyards too much, and the five children had a ball catching up and showing us just who can dance!

We sadly had to leave Cape Town at last. It would have been easy to just stay with Johan and Arlene for the rest of the year and enjoy their hospitality and food.

The next stop was Tietiesbaai near Paternoster in the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve on the West Coast of South Africa. Who of you still remember the Afrikaans writer Pieter Pieterse and his Ingelsman and their caravan “Die Spookhuis”? When I hear the word “Tietiesbaai”, I can still hear Pieter tell his stories. I think while I have Wi-Fi I’m quickly going to download a book or two…

We had a camping spot right on the ocean. AND we tried out our own “ablution” – the shower tent, shower and porta potty. It passed! The ablutions in the camp were disgusting – basins were blocked and I didn’t even look at the toilets. Towards the weekend more campers turned up and the workers finally cleaned up the bathrooms. The hot water was still not really trustworthy; I only got hot water in my shower when someone accidentally opened a tap to brush her teeth!

Hugo tried to fit a new water filtration system on the trailer and after working the whole day, he realised the pump is not strong enough and he had to take everything out again. That’s how you learn, I guess. The kids told him mistakes are our friends…

We bought fresh “kreef” (crayfish) at the harbour and, for the first time ever, cooked it on the braai. Luckily I have a book with me with detailed instructions on how to butterfly and clean these things. It was delicious with a lemon-butter sauce with garlic, salt and black pepper. Mmmmm, now I want some!

On one of the days, we had lunch at a seafood restaurant, the Seekombuis (Sea/Ocean Kitchen), right on the beach.

The stickers on the Cruiser have been helping us make friends wherever we go. But there is this one story that is hilarious. A lady in Tietiesbaai saw the map and came up to me, asking whether we were tour operators. She explained that her son was a tour operator and she wanted to know whether we might know him. His name is Ferdinand Rabie. Now, you should know, Ferdinand was a winner or runner-up or something – I don’t know whether anyone remembers which – of the first Big Brother series in South Africa. But the whole of South Africa remembers him for the sole reason that he took a dump in the garden on national television. So yes ma’am, we know him, sort of, but no, haven’t met him…

Our time in Tietiesbaai started out with beautiful weather that turned into a horrible wind during the first night. We had to get up in the freezing cold to secure the tent. So it was with mixed feelings that we left on Day 15 to go to Lambertsbaai, also on the West Coast. More on that next time!

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