To be honest, we were rather pleased at leaving Addo. It was nothing the animals said, I promise. It was more the cloying, oppressive realisation that there were just too many people around.
It was with these thoughts that we bade farewell to Addo and made our way northwards towards the Karoo National Park. The day started off overcast lending a sombre mood to the trip.
However, we chose to travel through the Sundaysriver Valley, blithely unaware of impending problems (bet you can’t wait to see what happens).
The R336, with its tree-lined road passing through quaint, quiet little towns and innumerable citrus orchards, cheered us up no-end, and witty repartee bounced around the cab like an India Rubber ball – hands up all those who remember them.
“Are those Poplar trees?” I asked Mrs Chips, pointing to the tall, leafy, obelisk-shaped trees on the side of the road.
“Very.” She replied, wisely ducking out of the way of a feistily flung fruit pastille.
We pulled into Kirkwood and waded through a gargantuan lunch in an upstairs eatery, while watching the local farmers and residents doing their toing and froing
After lunch we journeyed on, turning onto the R75 through Glenconnor, Greystone, Jansenville towards Graaff-Reinet.
I was particularly looking forward to visiting the Merino Butchery in Graaff-Reinet as I have fond recollections of the most succulent and tender lamb chops, lip-smacking dried Russian sausages and brilliant biltong (it’s true, I’ve personally checked its IQ ).
However, what I’d failed to do, was to realise that I was a hundred or so kilometres out of our way.
“What an utter pillock!” I muttered under my breath. Mrs Chips, employing wisdom beyond her years (or ears), declined to agree, saying at least we’ll be able to get good meat. As consolations go, it was small but ever so tasty. Merino Butchery REALLY does know how to source excellent meat, and judging by the size of the customers we saw while we were there, they’ve developed a fine tradition going back a few decades.
Once back in the saddle – so to speak – we headed south west for Aberdeen on the N9 then turned right towards Beaufort West. The high farm fences along the road are in surprisingly good repair; an indication of a high level of stock theft and other crimes. The journey was highlighted by beckoning mirages showing shimmering stretches of water to the left and right. However, we old South Africans know a clever mirage when we see one (I refer you to the ANC’s promises and service delivery record) so we paid no heed to the seductive visions and drove on.
The road too, is in good condition but the journey is mind-bendingly dull. If you’re going to pick your nose and attend to personal grooming matters en route, you need to pace yourself. Give yourself a full twenty kilometres per nostril and a further ten to extract your underwear from any crevices otherwise you’ll be bored senseless by the time you have reached Beaufort West.
Thus it was, that with consciences and noses as clean as whistles, and everything south of the waistline completely devoid of constricting elastic, we arrived at the Karoo National Park.
What a wonderfully serene, picturesque oasis! The Karoo is known for the stupendous panoramas that await the traveller and the Karoo National Park has those in abundance. If you’re not into ‘roughing it’ in a tent or caravan, there are air conditioned chalets, a swimming pool and restaurant – all within walking distance.
After selecting our campsite, we (now expertly) flung up the tent and had the Merino Butchery meat on the braai before the sun set. One of life’s memorable moments was quietly braaing supper in the blue of evening with the gentle hiss and crackle of the fire keeping one company. As the night’s gentle cloak drew quietly closer, evening birdsong heralded the start of the crickets’ chorus and the nightjars’ unique and sometimes melancholy calls. Perfumes from the thorn trees and fresh-cut grass combined with the incense of the braai smoke and cooking meat to set heart and mind at peace. Soft voices from nearby campers said indistinguishable things as even they lost shape in the deepening dusk. It was easier to love my country then.
Sleep came quickly, despite the horrid, cheap stretcher; and next morning we awoke to a bright Sunday in the Karoo. While preparing breakfast, a large Leopard Tortoise walked by with a supervisory air. He introduced himself and we sat and chatted about this and that in that uniquely amiable way that animals talk to humans. He seemed pleased that all was in order and that we were enjoying ourselves. At length he took his slow leave and went on to the next site.
A little later squeals of delight from some of the children in the camp announced the arrival of a couple of ex-wild rabbits in search of their breakfast. They hopped hither and thither, from one offering to another, each time eliciting cries of innocent wonder from each child. This is what kids ought to be doing – learning about life and sharing with other creatures WITH ATTENTIVE parents, instead of being let loose to run amok by the simpering, spineless morons who masquerade as parents, quite clearly out of control – doting on the kids as though they were little demigods.
The rest of Sunday was spent relaxing and watching many of the weekend campers pack up and make their way homewards, and after a delicious supper of Pasta al Arrabiata, the stretchers were again inflicted with our frames.
Monday dawned and the mountains beckoned seductively; at least one did; I know, I heard it.
Downing a quick breakfast, we saddled up with the camera bag and made off for one of the Park’s morning hikes. Experience taught us to leave as early as possible so we could climb the hill in the coolest part of the day. And what a good thing we listened to that voice. Mental images of great lumps of fat falling from us as we toiled up the steep slopes kept us going when muscles shouted for us to stop.
Did we lose weight? Did Jassar Arafat wear a top hat? The only thing we lost was about 100 litres of perspiration and our tempers. Not really, I’m exaggerating again. Although it was quite tough, the view from the top caused one to be silent in awe for a few moments, as one’s eyes traversed the horizon in an attempt to take it all in.
After a few attempts to capture the vista on camera and a short rest, and we were ready for the descent.
By now it was approaching midmorning and the temperature was rising scarily. Arriving back at the campsite on shaky legs, we spied the grounds man watering the lawns. With the camera bag safely out of the way, we stood like misshaped gnomes under the sprays in our T-shirts and shorts, thankful that the paparazzi were off-duty that day.
Once again refreshed and a little cooler we decided to do a game drive, only to find that the vehicle’s battery had expired in the night – yup, gone to that big spares department in the sky. What to do? Mercifully, a kindly camper a few sites away indicated he’d be willing to jump start our bakkie. By dint of wise planning,y yours truly was carrying the necessary cables in the recovery kit and with effusive thanks to our neighbour, we made for Beaufort West and the nearest purveyor of batteries.
This proved to be a more difficult task than we’d thought. When selecting our vehicle, friends, enemies and websites encouraged us to select Toyota, “because spares will be readily available throughout Africa.” Spares maybe, but batteries, no dice. However, after some searching (leaving the motor running the whole time) we found a company in a side street, who phoned a friend, who had a battery to sell us. Unfortunately it was a smaller one than required, but it would get us home again.
A newly powered Hilux then drove us to the nearest shops where we could refuel the inner man. On our return to camp we decided against a game drive, in favour of a quiet afternoon’s preparation for our journey home.
Well, that’s the Karoo travels folks. Be sure to navigate around this site for other travel adventures.