Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Road Trip 2.8

Friday 12th June

The temperature had obviously dropped overnight as we woke up to bright sunshine and a thick layer of fog on the valley floor, it was quite eerie to be above it and unable to see the road from the cottage.

We had time to pack the bakkie and head off for another swim in the hot pool before checking out and setting off on our last day travelling solo!

This evening we would be meeting up with Ninja & Stoffel, Mot & Marieke, Carl & Ursula and Heinrich in Sutherland ready for our booked visit to SALT (Southern Africa Large Telescope) the following day.

Looking at the map we decided to make the journey interesting and see if the dirt road through the Cederberg Wilderness Area was suitable for the bakkie. If not it wouldn't be a problem as we could go through via Citrusdal anyway and would have seen some of the sights on offer.

A short trip along the N7 brought us to the Algeria turning and the beginnings of the dirt road through the mountains. Initial road quality was good level and wide and not too dusty, that is until a large construction lorry thundered past leaving us in a cloud of road dust! After stopping and waiting for a while we followed at a good distance, constantly climbing. The views were absolutely stunning but it was sad to see the damage that had been done here by the wild fire earlier in the year.

As we neared Algeria it became apparent where the lorry had been heading. The road was being paved! Unbelievable, we were treated to some very high quality road surface near the top of a mountain! We drove on for a few kms until we reached the section that was being worked on. We waited for a few minutes before being flagged through alongside the worksite, greeting the workmen as we went. They smiled and waved and obviously took side bets with each other on how long it would be before we were heading back in the opposite direction!

After the end of the worksite things got very steep and rugged. The road became rutted and washed away but the bakkie was still very comfortable. Eventually we reached the summit and expected things to level out a bit!

Unfortunately they didn't and the road became more and more uneven and rutted due to erosion caused by running water. After another few kms we decided for the second time in a week to turn round and head back the way we had come. Another good effort for a Nissan 1400 bakkie but we didn't want to get stuck! The trip had served its purpose and we were happy to have spent a couple of hours travelling 40kms into some stunning wilderness. This is definitely a place we will visit in the future to stay and do some hiking.

We passed the workmen again and I'm sure I could see notes being exchanged in the rear view mirror! After rescuing a tortoise who was crossing the road very slowly we made it back to the tar of the N7 and headed back to Citrusdal stopping en route to buy some naartjies and dried pears at one of the many farmstalls.

The road from Citrusdal was a higher quality road with stretches of tarmac inbetween the dirt road. Progress was good and soon we were back on permanent tarmac heading through Prince Alfred's Hamlet and Ceres.

We were about to complete a circle that we had started over a week ago. We rejoined the N1 near to Touwsrivier and headed towards the junction for Sutherlandand Matjiesfontein. When we got there we decided to spend and hour visiting the famous Matjiesfontein before heading off to meet everyone else. Sometimes it helps to drive a distinctive car because as soon as we turned off the N1 Elaine's phone rang, it was Ninja telling us that they had all just left the bar in Matjiesfontein but were now turning round to come and join us! The weekend had started!

Matjiesfontein was fascinating and you can read some of the history for yourselves at the linked pages. We were greeted with Union Jacks and a London Routemaster bus (According to the LT museum this is RTL841 and was exported to Cape Town in 1966 - now don't say that I don't tell you anything)!

We spent a good few hours in the bar singing along to Carl's piano playing and being taken on a tour of the hotel by the local guide/entertainer. This place really does represent a byegone age with traditional buildings, staff in victorian uniforms and good clean fun! Even better Ninja's Grandfather used to be the local policeman here - bet that was a really cushy number!

The Trans Karoo stops here every day as do the luxury Blue Train and Rovos Rail services. When a train arrives half of the people go outside to watch, then return to their drinks afterwards!

It was just after 2100hrs when we eventually left the bar in a very 'happy' mood! Suffice it to say that it was necessary for Elaine to drive the last leg of the journey, the 100km to Sutherland! Just over a hour later we arrived at our lodgings, built a fire and slept!

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