I will confess that I never actually got out of bed at sunrise as I had anticipated. My giant Namakwa Mountain Suite bed was far too comfortable and the sun rises at quite a daft hour in summer! But when I did eventually open my door to the outside world at 07h00, I was gobsmacked at what lay before me.
A tapestry of reds, yellows, greens and browns spread as far as the eye could see, while rocks, boulders and fynbos fought for space on the dessert sand. I sat on a handy “rock chair” on my deck and sipped a cuppa while taking it all in. The only sound was the whispering Kalahari breeze and the only movement was a few birds in the fynbos and the odd lizard searching for a sunny spot on a rock. I could’ve been the only person in the world. Except I wasn’t – I bumped into my neighbours who were staying in one of the other suites whilst tramping about between the rocks and taking photos in my pyjamas!
Bags and car packed, Trevor and I took the short drive down to the Manor House for breakfast, which was a full-house affair. The Manor House is bright and airy and filled with happy colourful paintings that would make anyone feel cheerful even if the sun wasn’t shining as bright as it was that day. I took a walk through the carefully laid out indigenous gardens and sat for a while in the shade near the swimming pool. After the brief respite from the heat (it gets hot quickly here) I took a drive to their lookout point. Again, with your comfort in mind there was a little thatched house where the two of us sat on a bench in the shade and marvelled in the view over the mountains and into the great beyond. There were signs for walking trails and I loved the way the one was marked with a paw-print – a leopard one?
Before leaving Springbok I stopped in at Springbok Lodge on a friend’s recommendation. The restaurant part is like an old-fashioned diner is quite a popular eating spot in the town. The restaurant and shop are filled with photographs of the area and Namibia. There’s also plenty of books, postcards and other memorabilia for people to buy. I ordered a strawberry milkshake (I had to, it’s a diner!) which was deliciously creamy and thick. I wondered if the double-thick ones come with a special straw! Then it was time for Trevor and I to leave the air-conditioned cool of the diner and hit the road for the last 600-odd kilometres to Cape Town along the N7.
I am always amazed at how the scenery in this country can change within a few hours. First we had a long straight road, then mountains with bends and before I knew it there was a sign saying “Welcome to the Western Cape” and after that it was green valleys, dams and yellow wheat fields. There were also fierce Karoo winds that kept threatening to sweep us off the road! We stopped at quite a few roadwork “stop and go’s” which can be irritating in the heat, but good to see that the roads are being worked on to keep them in shape for all of us. They were working on a Sunday too!
We made a stop at Vanrhynsdorp for fuel and decided to take a break at the Kokerboom Nursery and grab something to eat. With the option of buying another Quiver tree of course! Unfortunately it was closed (the perils of driving on a Sunday afternoon) so we carried on a bit further and stopped for a Wimpy burger instead. I generally stop at farm stalls (padstals are much more interesting), but today there was no other option. I wondered why everyone was carrying their take-aways to their cars when there was a lovely spot under the trees. I soon found out – as I unwrapped my burger and fries a swarm of flies descended. They weren’t interested in any tomato sauce and mayonnaise splotches left on the paper, they wanted what was about to go into your mouth! This made me think of an interesting article I had read by Don Pinnock on flies. Apparently they could save the planet. I left a small piece of burger behind in appreciation.
Afew hours later and there she was – “The Mountain”! We had made it! At around 20h00, after three weeks and having driven just over 7 800 kilometres, we landed safely in the loving arms of the Mother City. I walked through my front door and after a massive welcome from my pets, I sat on the couch and cried. Partly out of relief that I had made it back to Cape Town and partly out of relief that my menagerie were all healthy. But mostly it was tears borne out of an overwhelming feeling that I had achieved something that I never thought I would and an all-encompassing love of Africa. I had seen so many incredible things, stayed in magical places, met amazing people, seen old friends and made new ones, spent Christmas with my family and had re-awakened memories of the country I was born and raised in.
I don’t think I will ever leave Africa. There was a time I thought about it, but I am glad I never did. My mom always used to say to me, “Africa is in your blood”. She was right. It flows through my veins like the Zambezi River flows to the Indian Ocean and shines in my heart like the sun shines on the Kalahari. I love this incredible, dramatic and chaotic continent and I intend to explore every inch of it before I am too old to travel.
I strongly urge you to do the same. Give me a call if you need a travel partner, driver or map reader. My bag is already packed. If there’s space for a small bear, Trevor would like to come along too…
Follow me on Twitter, @Rachel_CapeTown (#ZimPilgrim), email me at email@example.com, or keep an eye on my blogs on the Getaway website.
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