Monday, 4 October 2010

1928km and still not even close

The dead straight roads of the empty Northern Cape. Pic by Simon Williamson.

Well it's been a bloody long trip, but we're finally in Johannesburg after leaving Cape Town on Tuesday afternoon. We broke the trip up into four parts, the first being from Cape Town all the way to Paternoster - all of 150 km. We drove around for a bit there looking for a decent place to stay and came across some spot called Paternoster Dunes, run by one of the most peculiar men of all time. He made it into our good books, though, as the look of severe disappointment on our faces once we'd heard the price earned us a fat discount.

The next day we shot up to Springbok - the idea being that we wanted to use it as the base for exploring Namaqualand - something my grandfather used to do and it always stuck in my mind to pursue one day. Well, because there was no rain this winter, there were no flowers. We also visited Augrabies which only had a tiny stream of water bustling over it, unlike the cascading sloshing I'd seen in pictures. Later in the trip we headed up to Mafikeng as well to see an Anglo-Boer war museum and it was closed. So from the outside it looked like an unspectacular trip, but for the two of us who'd never been through the top of the Northern Cape, it was pretty damn spectacular.

Our trip up the West Coast on a beltingly hot day - we drove about 530km - was our introduction to the Northern Cape as we watched the famed white sand turn Kalahari red. Springbok initially presented a craphole in the middle of nowhere until we found a smart little B&B right in town. We went out to dinner at Springbok's (only) best grillhouse that night and realised the charm this little nook carries. I ate a kilogram of steak and so my name goes up on the wall of the restaurant - Springbok will remember Simon forever - and we retired to the bar in the restaurant for a few whiskies to wash down our meal. It was to choruses from the other patrons in the bar of the k-word intermingled with laughter that reminded me - not that I needed it - that there is a lot of South Africa outside the places I live, and a lot more South Africans other than the ones I know. Pretty sad.

The two of us with Augrabies in the background. Pic by Mike McClelland.

Day three was an epic journey across almost the entire Northern Cape, from Springbok all the way to Kuruman which is near the Northern Cape-North West border. I have driven through the Karoo numerous times, but the Kalahari is a far better example of wide-open spaces. There is literally nothing in the way of your view. Perhaps a rocky outcrop here, the odd small tree there, and loads and loads of nothingness. In fact, there is such a shortage of trees that the weavers in the area build their nests on the telephone poles which stride along the highway. The other surprise was our trip through Upington which I thought was a decent-sized town - the actioned part of the Northern Cape. Well, while it is large enough to be notable, it's half the size of Pietermaritzburg and twice as sleepy. Kuruman is a complete dump (hosting the rudest population of anywhere I have ever) been with the only attraction in town being The Eye of Kuruman, a spring which allegedly pumps out 20-odd million litres of crystal clear water per day. We stopped to see it and watched a little trickle built to look like a waterfall - creating the effect of a tiny waterfall. 20-million litres my arse. If I'd pissed in the fountain it would have doubled the amount of water in it.

Our B&B in Kuruman was an inspired choice though and was everything that Kuruman wasn't - it contained FRIENDLY PEOPLE. We ended up drinking R180 worth of whiskey at the bar (doesn't sound like much, but it cost R9 a shot) and within hours we had new friends-for-life in Kuruman.

Our last day saw us set off for Joburg, but via Mafikeng which was only about 60km out of our way. We didn't stay long because the place we wanted to see was shut so we decided to go and see the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg instead. We got bored of that idea about 100km into the trip and just set the GPS to take us to Rivonia. This detoured us through Lichtenburg, with the GPS attempting to get us down a non-existent highway. Sometimes technology is a curse, and poor Sam (my GPS' name) dealt with a verbal rant from me, heavily decorated with words which shall not be repeated here. Eventually he sorted himself out and guided us into Joburg via the West Rand - or somewhere around there. I'm from the northern suburbs and therefore retain the right to not have to know anything outside the area demarcated by Dainfern, Monte Casino, Witkoppen Road and Rivonia Road, with occasional trips to visit the kugels in Sandton City.

The car held up, we held up, and bar Mike having to squeeze his bladder with an internal clamp by the end, the trip in was pretty plain sailing. It was grand to see parts of the country we hadn't seen before, to see the utter expanse of the Northern Cape after climbing the stunning West Coast. Great to feel proper heat again which sated my resentment of the weather in CT just before we left while the rest of the country was celebrating summer.

It's off to Hong Kong on Wednesday evening. We're pretty set, we think. It seems like just the other day I started preparing to leave Cape Town. The time has flown like a concorde on biofuel (this simile is relevant for our greenie Cape Town friends).

Thank you Cape Town for a great year. Thank you Joburg for sending us off.

Hello, Hong Kong!

Cheers folks,

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