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Here Comes Treble: Rediscovering

...We ambled around, taking photographs of the old buildings and grounds, and then went to the main building, a converted barn, for dinner. Our host and hostess, Paul and Annelise, had set a table for two outside under the trees, where the last rays of the setting sun reflected off the high branches of a tall blue-gum tree...

Isabel Bradley paints a most enticing word picture of a holiday drive from Johannesburg down the long roads to the Cape.

It was January, midsummer. The school children were back in their classrooms, teachers at their desks and the holiday traffic had died down. Leon, his sister, Glo, and I packed our bags, climbed into the car and headed south towards Cape Town on a voyage of rediscovery.

It was about ten years since Leon and I had travelled to the Cape, and about thirty-five since Glo had last been there. It was a journey of 1475 kilometres, or 873 miles. We planned on breaking our journey twice; the first night at the mining city of Kimberley, the second at an historical village, Matjiesfontein.

The first day’s journey was through uninspiring countryside, on reasonable roads and took us about seven hours, as we broke for a visit with friends along the way.

Getting out of the air-conditioned car in Kimberley felt like climbing into an oven. Kimberley in January can be very warm indeed. Glo stayed in Kimberley with a friend, while Leon and I drove a little further to a guest farm on the Cape Town road the other side of Kimberley. We booked in and spend the night at Langberg, or ‘long mountain’ which is also a game farm.* Our accomodation was spacious, comfortably furnished and to our delight, we discovered that a small herd of Nyala antelope grazed on the hill behind our bedroom window.

We ambled around, taking photographs of the old buildings and grounds, and then went to the main building, a converted barn, for dinner. Our host and hostess, Paul and Annelise, had set a table for two outside under the trees, where the last rays of the setting sun reflected off the high branches of a tall blue-gum tree. Birds returned home to roost, twittering sweetly in the dusk, while swallows dove and swooped across the sky-arena above us. As the first stars pricked through the darkening blue, the birds gradually hushed and crickets began to chirrup.

Our meal was delicious and beautifully served, made to traditional family recipes. The peace, beauty and solitude of the setting created one of the most romantic evenings Leon and I had enjoyed in a long time.

Next morning we were up early, watched at our morning routine by a young Nyala rubbing his head on a tree-stump outside our room. His eyes were deep brown and beautiful. After enjoying a delicious breakfast we fetched Glo from her friend’s home and began our journey along the N12 highway. We were heading into the Karoo, a large semi-desert region. We stopped for refreshments at a small hotel in Britstown, where we discovered a fascinating shop selling gourmet delicacies.

At the mountain peaks known as Three Sisters, we turned right onto the N1 highway, and drove on, sheathed in a band of rain. The distant Swartberg, or ‘black mountain’, range was sprinkled with pale sunshine, etched in shadows, ethereal in the distance. Usually, the Karoo is a carpet of muted pink, mauve and olive shadows and shapes. Now it was all drab olive, the sand between the low bushes turned to red mud under dark clouds that pushed rainstorms, like brooms, sweeping all ahead of them, blotting out everything in their path. Visibility was poor and worsened when sunlit hail blinded us. The sun hid behind the clouds again and we fought to see through the mist thrown up by the truck ahead. Behemoths thundered past us in the north-bound lane, their headlights like evil eyes slashing the gloom. For one terrifying moment, we were headed straight for a huge bus that, travelling north, was in our south-bound lane, overtaking a slow-moving truck. Reacting rapidly, Leon pulled the car into the emergency lane on our left, which was well-paved and wide enough for us to avoid a collision.

We passed through the town of Laingsberg, where signs marking the levels of the devastating flood of 1981 showed higher than the roof of our car as we drove across the bridge spanning the river. During those floods, a hundred and four people died, the entire town was under water with only the roofs showing, and only twenty-one badly-damaged buildings remained standing. Now it is a sleepy, peaceful town, rebuilt on the same valley floor which flooded nearly thirty years ago.

We drove on for 29 kilometres, or 18 miles, until we reached sign-posts directing us left to Matjiesfontein, where a small guard-house had a Union Jack flapping in the stiff breeze. Why would the national flag of Britain fly in the middle of the Karoo desert?

We were about to spend the night in the historic Lord Milner Hotel and were anticipating an enjoyable step-back in time to when Victoria ruled her empire…

To be continued.

Until Next time…. Here comes Treble!

* for further information on Langberg Guest Farm, see http://www.langberg.co.za/

*

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