Today we left for a 2 week and 2 day road trip from Cape Town heading North and into Namibia and back again. We did one of these trips in 2008. It was one of our top 5 holidays and so it is only appropriate that 5 years later we are repeating it with a few slight differences. It was also the trip that I first started writing trip updates (in those dark days it was sent out via email). The first email went out to 9 people (and incredibly all 9 are still subscribers to the blog 5 years later). It was also the first time we started birding (and now we are over 400 lifers already).
We left at 1pm today as the children still had school. Our school has decided to have a full last day since some parents complained that the last day was a waste of time and ‘uneducational’. Yes .. isn’t that precisely the point of the last day of school? You pitch up, have some fun, mess around, have assembly and go home. I did that for 12 years (4 times a year) and it didn’t seem to affect my progress through life. Unfortunately it meant that we hit the traffic from people who finished school at 11am but at least we got away before 4pm which is what we would have had to do if we kept our kids in school the whole day. They missed interhouse drama and they were all devastated to have to skip that (they have their father’s strong dramatic talent).
The weather was deteriorating by the minute in Cape Town and we managed to get the car packed up (including our new Swedish roof box which can hold more than the our car’s boot) before the storm struck. About 30 minutes outside CT and Helen was hungry so we stopped for our first unhealthy meal of sausage rolls and we continued up North into the wheat & citrus farming areas of Malmesbury, Citrusdal & Clanwilliam. The traffic thinned considerably the further north we headed. And the passengers were falling like flies to. For about an hour it was just me, Lucy (the lady stuck in the Satnav) and the Beast (our Toyota Landcruiser – which is nothing other than a Beast especially when fully laden like it is now).
Stephen came back to life first followed shortly afterwards by Michael. We then got engrossed in a discussion about airlines that probably killed another hour of the journey. It is amazing how much you can discover in a few seconds about airlines from the internet even while you are driving through places you didn’t know existed. If you would like to know the biggest airline in the world by passengers carried, miles flown, number of aircraft – ask us or Google it yourself. By this stage we were in need of another pitstop. Toliets were the main destination but I went for the biltong shop next door. The young man behind the counter could clearly not speak English and so despite me trying to converse in English with him I switched into my Afrikaans (which I only bring out for road trips to Namibia). I managed to get my kg of biltong though (and there sign saying the best biltong in SA was probably correct).
We hit Van Rhyn’s Pass just as the sun began to set and got some great views and photos. Down the other side we hit numerous sections of road works with only one way traffic in operation. It afforded Helen to take a whole sheath of photos some of which I am sure are already on Instagram, Facebook and other social media sites. We arrived in Calvinia in the Northern Cape at just before 6pm. We are staying at the Blou Nartjie Guest House. Basic but very comfortable. I am reliably told that it is the best accommodation in Calvinia. Dinner was a relaxed (read slow) affair involving large portions of meat and chips. They kindly brought a finger bowl with the 4 lamb chops Stephen and I had both ordered so I knew we were encouraged to eat with our hands and get all the meat off the bone. I obliged.
We did go past some interesting places today like Nieuwoudville. At the point we passed that place Michael said “Why would anyone be born here?” And then followed that with “I am glad other people want to farm because I don’t”. He made at least one further comment which I had to censor out of the blog. Politically correct he may not be, funny he may be.
While today was not really a birding day (hard to see birds at 120 km/h), we did start the list and have knocked off 4 so far including the country’s national bird – the blue crane. Not a bad start but I am hoping for at least 150 different species by the end of the trip and secretly are hoping for closer to 200. Also hoping to add at least 20 lifers. Just under 500 kms done. Many more to come.