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Thursday, 9 March 2017

Long trips of restorative silence 2 - the Western Cape (Hondeklipbaai to Moorreesburg)

Sunset on Gifbergpas, outside Vanrhynsdorp

Our stay in Hondeklipbaai came to an end and it was time to pack up and move on. It was already afternoon when we finally got away, but we weren't too concerned, as this was not the end of the journey, and our next stop wasn't too far away. We would leave the lovely arid landscape of the Norhtern Cape behind us, and head for the lush green Western Cape for the next leg of our journey.

I love a long road, filled with promise, stretching out before me 

Janneman, enjoying his release from the cage he travels in, when we reached the guesthouse in Vanrhynsdorp 

Vanrhynsdorp, a town caught between the modern and the old

Our first stop was Vanrhynsdorp, although we had a very hard time finding it on the GPS. Who would have guessed the correct spelling? We tried Van Rhynsdorp, Van Ryns dorp, Van Rijnsdorp, etc. It never occurred to either of us that the whole name was written as one continuous word. Well, we finally consulted Google Maps and found the town with its peculiar spelling. This time the GPS had no problem finding the route and we happily set off to a town we both instantly fell in love with. First, however, we traveled passed towns with enchanting names, such as Garies, Bitterfontein, and Nuwerus. Once again, the scenery along the route was quite simply spectacular.

En route to Vanrhynsdorp 

The scenery along the way 

So, that's how you spell it!

Having booked into a lovely guesthouse, we set off to explore the town, find dinner, and explore the pass we saw on our way into town. The town is beautiful. We were once more struck by how clean the town was, something that we concluded was the case for all of the Western Cape towns we visited. Again, the roads were beautiful and in good condition. The houses were pretty and the old buildings were generously scattered throughout the town. It was clear that the people of VanRhynsdorp has an appreciation for the history of their town, a fact to which numerous shops and museums attested with their attempts to conserve it. We bought takeaway hamburgers and chips at a local cafe, as we wanted to be at the pass before it grew dark. The pass turned out to be Gifbergpas/ Gifberg Pass.

The guesthouse where we stayed 

 Approaching Gifberg

Do not be fooled by the distance indicated! This is not a quick trip. 

A farm at the foot of Gofberg

We had barely entered the pass before the sun started to go down and we realized we would have to turn around. There is little sense in proceeding through a pass if you won't be able to make out your surroundings. What little we did see, managed to whet our appetites for more. We would make a point of traversing the pass on leaving town, the next morning.

A waterfall visible from Gifberpas 

Reflections in the water 

Hills unfolding before our eyes

The next morning saw us up and ready to leave at a relatively early hour. Consider the fact that we were traveling with way too much luggage, and had no manly muscles to help with the loading and unloading, you will understand that leaving and arriving always required more time than either of us bargained for. Nonetheless, we were finally ready to go. There was only one problem. There was a slight drizzle that had made the dirt roads quite slippery, and most of the Gifbergpas was made up of dirt roads. We entered the pass and sat overlooking the beautiful valley below, discussing the wisdom of continuing on, when a friendly gentleman stopped to inquire if we had a problem. He had just come down from the pass, and he wasn't driving a 4x4, or even a 2x4, as we were.

Gifbergpas 

 Gifbergpas 

Gifbergpas 

We talked to him about the condition of the pass and asked if it afforded a route to Clanwilliam, which was our next destination. He had traveled only a short distance on the pass, but was very familiar with it, as his farm was in it. He was a little dubious at first, but having assessed the bakkie with its ample luggage and thick layer of mud, he must have gathered that we would not be daunted by a wee bit of wet dirt and we subsequently received the thumbs up from him. The pass did run through, he said, but if the rain got worse, he suggested we find shelter at the guesthouse on the pass, as it could become very treacherous in heavy rain.

The state of our vehicle at this leg of the journey 

 Gifbergpas 

 Gifbergpas 

Gifbergpas 

This was good enough for the two of us, and further up the pass we went! Going up was a cinch. It was the downhill bits that had us worried at times. Yet, we persisted and proceeded on our alternating uphill and downhill journey. We encountered huge boulders that impressed with their statuesque beauty. Lush valleys surprised us around bends and turns in the road, affording us aerial views of a land that was lush and green below us. At times there was no opportunity to adore the scenery as it took both of us to navigate the twists in the road and trying to make sense of where we were going. Eventually, after having to apply the overdrive in a number of places, we concluded that the pass was really limited to 4x4 vehicles only in wet weather. Did I mention that the rain did pick up, but that we stubbornly refused to find shelter, and insisted on continuing on? Not long after deciding that the road should be limited to 4x4's only, we actually came across a sign stating just that. Only 4x4 vehicles should continue from that point on. This time, we agreed with the sign. We would have to turn back. We did.

Urgent coffee in Vanrhynsdorp after Gifbergpas 

Leaving the road less traveled for the familiar tarmac of the open road

This meant that we had to go back over the same pass again, but this time the roads would be even more slippery and wet than before. We made it back safely to Vanrhynsdorp and had a lovely cup of coffee, before taking the N7 to Clanwilliam, past Klawer and Trawal. I could not help but to think about the correlation that the pass had with life. As long as we are engaged in an uphill struggle, where we seem to be progressing, the climb seems easy. It is those downhill bits that sees us running the risk of loosing our footing. These are the slippery bits. Yet, we find that we are also equipped with an overdrive function, and in these times we discover a strength withing ourselves that we often did not know we possessed. We find that we are tougher than we believed and that we can stick it out, just like the bakkie managed to stick to the road. And so what, if life throws an obstacle in your way, and you find yourself going back the way you had come? In the end, you will prevail. A setback is not a full stop.

En route to Clanwilliam 

 En route to Clanwilliam 

En route to Clanwilliam 

We are resilient creatures. We may  have to take a few steps back, but in the end, we will find a way of reaching our destinations. L and I talked about whether it was a waste of time and fuel to attempt the Gifbergpas. We both concluded that we would not have done it any other way. We saw a beautiful part of the area that we would not have seen if we had played it safe. But more than that, we both enjoyed the challenge and the thrill of the wet pass, and we enjoyed learning this about ourselves. Once you have learned how to traverse life's slippery dirt roads, and you found the wisdom to be able to differentiate when to proceed, and when to turn back, you will find that proceeding along a new road, will seem so much easier and quicker. Kind of like getting on the highway to Clanwilliam, was quicker and easier for us.

Janneman had this habit of sticking his hand through the bars of his cage, and tugging at my hair, when he wanted to attract our attention. As the journeys wore on, he would become increasingly restless, and the tugging would increase accordingly. Ouch! but sweet at the same time. 

 En route to Clanwilliam 

En route to Clanwilliam 

We finally reached Clanwilliam, much later than we should have, but took our time exploring the town and its surroundings, regardless. What a beautiful region this is! We drove out on some of the dirt roads surrounding the town, where we got out to take photos, on more than one occasion. Treat yourself to a leisurely exploration of the area when you get there. You will carry those visual memories with you for the rest of your days, and they will be good ones.

Exploring the region of Clanwilliam 

 Exploring the region of Clanwilliam

 Exploring the region of Clanwilliam

 Exploring the region of Clanwilliam

 Exploring the region of Clanwilliam

 Exploring the region of Clanwilliam

Exploring the region of Clanwilliam

Then it was time to move on again, as we intended to stay over in Lambertsbaai that evening. When we arrived in Lambertsbaai, late in the afternoon, it had started raining. Though soft, the rain was soaking and we had to find a place to stay in a hurry. We never made any bookings on this trip. Instead we headed in a direction, hoping to reach a certain destination in time, and made the bookings on the road, as we were approaching the various towns. Warning: not everyone is keen on taking visitors in on last minute arrangements, so there is some risk involved. That said, we managed to find lodgings for every day of our trip, so it isn't impossible.

Picture perfect Lambertsbaai 

Picture perfect Lambertsbaai 

 Picture perfect Lambertsbaai

 Picture perfect Lambertsbaai

 Picture perfect Lambertsbaai

Picture perfect Lambertsbaai 

Picture perfect Lambertsbaai

Sunrise over Lambertsbaai, as seen from our balcony

Lambertsbaai turned out to be one of those places where it was a trifle difficult to find a place to stay. And we were in a hurry to get the luggage out of the rain! We finally managed to book ourselves into a self-catering unit that is normally rented to fishermen! The flat was beautifully situated right on the main beach and we could not have hoped for a better location. The place was clean, with all the necessary amenities, but it was much too large and the evening turned out to be very cold. With no heater, and all that space, we ended up using ALL of the bedding in the flat, but we slept quite snug in the end.

Elandsbaai 

Elandsbaai 

Elandsbaai 

Elandsbaai 

Elandsbaai

Loving the idea of walking in the rain, I set off on one of my strolls, as soon as we were settled in. I took some lovely photos of Lambertsbaai in the rain, but by the time I returned I was wet through to the skin and as cold as one can imagine being from a winter rainfall. That night we went out for dinner simply to get warm. The restaurant was on the waterfront and we treated ourselves to a seafood platter, which we shared, all the while allowing the wine, the food and the company to warm us up. Don't you find that traveling is more fun with someone who doesn't mind sharing a glass or a plate with you? When someone doesn't mind sharing a meal with you, you both get to relax and nobody feels the need to put on airs. Then you can move past the stuff that doesn't matter and concentrate on the things that do.

From Elandsbaai to Piketberg 

 From Elandsbaai to Piketberg

From Elandsbaai to Piketberg 

From Elandsbaai to Piketberg

The next morning, we were eager to get on the road again, although Janneman, the Capuchin monkey travelling with us, seemed loathe to leave the huge flat where he was able to run free for a night. We intended to drive down the coast to Elandsbaai/Elands Bay, but having gone only a couple of hundred meters, we decided to turn back. The road was simply too slippery from the rain and the conditions became more like sailing than driving. So, we sailed back to Lambertsbaai, after making a very careful u-turn.  We then drove to Elandsbaai via Leipoldtville.

From Elandsbaai to Piketberg 

 From Elandsbaai to Piketberg

 From Elandsbaai to Piketberg

From Elandsbaai to Piketberg

Elandsbaai took our breaths away. For both of us, this was the first time to visit the bay and we were astounded by the large lake we encountered. I have since learned that this is a popular destination for migratory birds to land after their trek across the oceans. I can fully understand, as the lake is phenomenal. We then made our way to the picturesque little town of Elandsbaai, and all the way down to the beach. On the one side, you have the ocean stretching into oblivion, and on the other, you find a mountain ready to topple into the waters below, forming a bastion against the onslaught of the unending waves. Just this short visit has left me with the impression that this hidden little town is a well kept secret among its inhabitants, like a treasure that you keep all to yourself.

Coffee stop in Piketberg ahead

A lovely guesthouse on a farm at Moorreesburg

The guesthouse farm at Moorreesburg offered many great photo ops

The guesthouse farm at Moorreesburg offered many great photo ops

The guesthouse farm at Moorreesburg offered many great photo ops

The guesthouse farm at Moorreesburg offered many great photo ops

From Elandsbaai we drove past Eendekuil, past Piketberg and ended up in Moorreesburg. This was another town that had us puzzled over the spelling of its name. Is there any other name that uses three double letter in succession? In Moorreesburg, we booked into a beautiful guesthouse with very friendly service. The guesthouse was right on the border of the town, but was actually situated on a farm, as it turned out. This gave me the opportunity to take even more fabulous photos and I made good use of it! We had a fabulous meal in the guesthouse's own restaurant that evening, and the next morning's breakfast was just as brilliant. In the next blog, I'll tell you about the last legs of our journey.

 The guesthouse farm at Moorreesburg offered many great photo ops

 The guesthouse farm at Moorreesburg offered many great photo ops

Leaving Moorreesburg behind us

Marietjie Uys (Miekie) is a published author. You can buy my books here:
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