​[M] The Welcome Mat spreads out at the entrance to Matjiesfontein‘s memories

Just as the toothbrushes thought they would have a rest from being buried at the bottom of a suitcase for another weekend, we quickly packed them in again and it was with no hesitation that we eagerly pounced back into the car for another road trip.

The reason for our trek up the N1 was to deliver our Garden route traveler back to its rightful owner. Considering we had such good fun and made some memories in this modern day horse and carriage it was only appropriate to honor it with a decent adventure back to its owner. The number plate, dusted off, reads Freestate. Meeting the owner at Beaufort West on the Saturday evening, meant we had 24hours to make our last memories with this carriage.

We made our first stop before sunset in De Doorns, which is situated in the Hex valley on the N1. This town is mostly popular to us for our grape season at the beginning of the year. The rain has done this area some green justice and it is looking so much prettier than it did the last time we came through here on the GS, which was just a few weeks ago. ‘’ Let it rain ‘’ is the types of prayer meetings the churches in this town are having. Desperate and hopeful the community prays for rain, as the rivers have finally started flowing and the last few snowflakes start glimmering off the mountain tops of this town.

We were welcomed by an amazing couple, longtime friends of Carel’s, that have been living in this town for a while. Their hospitality made us feel at home instantly and we spent the evening sharing stories and getting to know each other. The next morning, as any other weekend, in a bed that isn’t mine, I stretch my lazy legs into my trainers. It was time to see a piece of this town on foot as well.

Carel on the bicycle and me on my feet we headed into town and out the other end. We were so busy talking I hadn’t realized we were through already. Stretching down the main road, the shops and local spaza’s are replaced with vineyards. It’s a prettiness you don’t appreciate when you have it every day. Being spoilt for choice over the last few weeks, this has become my canvas to look at.

We joined our friends for a breakfast at the Veldskoen Padstal. This is a very plain looking building from the outside, but inside…. So pretty. The décor lures you in, and you find yourself not being able to not look a bit deeper, around, left, right, and up at the arty type chandeliers. The menu leaves you thinking that it may be breakfast on the clock, but definitely not on the tummy. Endless choices and really colorful, beautifully presented dishes.

Saying our good byes, we shared hugs, knowing that we will visit soon again.

Matjiesfontein, yes please… it was time to get to know you better.

I have been here a few times before, I have visited the beautiful Lord Milner Hotel, and I have sung with the pianist and host at the bar, ‘’ Ou ryperd’’ a few times already. But I have never given this one-street town my time.

We had a brief and amusing tour through the hotel with the gentleman wearing the top hat leading the way. If you have been here before, you have definitely met him before, he jams it out on the piano and amuses visitors with stories of the ghosts of the Lord’s Milner’s hotel and his many mistresses or was it wive’s ?  With a naughty glint in his eye, you can’t help being drawn into his story.  

Walking to the end of the main road where the tar ends and the dirt road starts you are able to enter the motor museum. The honesty box at the door, gives the sense of safety and peacefulness. We popped the money in the box and let the cars and old trains take us on a journey through the past instantaneously. This is heaven for men who enjoy the old fashioned motor mechanics of our time. The old trains are open for viewing. What an eerie sensation walking through the corridors. I was wearing jeans, a jersey and a pair of pumps. I couldn’t help but think to myself that a few decades ago, if this was me, I would have been ambling through these narrow passages in a big dress, a corset and too much hair. Grateful for liberation of women and freedom of speech, I tap my jeans and say a silent thank you to change.

We headed onto the station platform and walked the walk which most visitors do when stopping in this town and then headed down to the Marie Rawdon Museum which is tucked safely beneath the train station platform.

This museum is by far my most favourite museum ever visited, I think it is because the building itself has been left in its almost original state. Walking through this museum, you are taken away to a time before ours. The furniture and utensils almost come to life. The smells, the lights and atmosphere is from another time.

Looking at all the old telephones, medicine bottles, I can understand why whatsapp would now confuse someone over 60 year old’s . Our parents and grandparents have grown up in a time where change was at the speed of light. They went from old gramophones and LP’s to MP3’s and USB sticks. I will refrain from using my patience quota now, and listen first.

Matjiesfontein was founded in 1884 by a Scottish railwayman, James Logan. His name is also mentioned in this museum. The Logan’s and the Rawdon’s . The town was preserved as a national heritage site in 1975. During the Anglo Boer War, Matjies became the headquarters for 12 000 troops and the popular Lord Milner Hotel was used as a hospital. This village was also the first in South Africa to have electric street lights and water-borne sewerage. Considering the village is so small. This must have been quite an occasion.

When we left the museum, in jeans and pumps. Placing my new millennium aviators back on my nose, I jumped back into the car that was comfortable, warm and full of disco lights on the touchscreen dashboard. I couldn’t help but think of a time before the one we know, and to think that back then, they were grateful for change too.

We piled back onto the tar as Beautiful Beaufort West waited for the return of our Freestate number plate vehicle.

Thank you for the welcoming mat at the memorable and almost nostalgic Matjiesfontein.

“It is curious, and to me very attractive this mixture of civilization & the most wild untamed freedom; the barren mountains & wild Karroo & the railway train.”- Olive Schreiner, March 25th, 1890



Where to next….



@backroadriderZA & @yellowclarity

A Timeless hour glass and the road map to the Garden Route(08-13/08/2017)[Buffelsjagsriver / Swellendam / Barrydale / Knysna / Tsitsikamma / Sedgefield]

When I lay with my head in the sand on the 31st December 2016 waiting for the clock to strike midnight on Kleinmond beach, I made an unwritten bucket list for my new year. On this list was the Garden route, and I wanted to be able to say I have left my foot prints on this beautiful coastline.

As life has its unpredictable meetings and encounters with chance and change, time is never really ours, and we finally pinned down a 5 day adventure.

We had 5 nights, 3 people and a list of plans and the only thing that was confirmed was the accommodation. We each took responsibility for different places to lay our heads and recharge our devices. Without fail the element of adventure and exploring remains high amongst us.

So we closed our eyes, filled in the leave forms and arranged for alternative transport as gravel and dirt was definitely going to be on our list somewhere. The number plate read Free State, and we were grateful for Aunty De Klerk for allowing us to travel in comfort on our adventure.

Packed and ready to go, straight after work on the Tuesday, we traded work attire for more comfortable hoodies and jeans and headed out towards DuToitsKloof pass, this remains one of my favourite passes to travel on. Knowing that just 2 days ago we had come over this pass in the opposite direction on the GS which was now having a well-deserved rest safely in the garage after carrying us over the most amazing passes and dirt roads over the last few weekends.

We stopped off quickly in Robertson and headed straight on towards Buffelsjagsriver where we would spend our first night at Chris-Elle. Here we stayed in caravans that have been revamped. This is a beautiful small holding that is a popular wedding venue. The décor is simple beauty, less is more and remains quaint and rustic. This venue will steal your heart. While sitting around the fire we spotted eyes looking back at us through the dark of the night. We were pleasantly surprised to know that we have friendly neighbors, Springbok came closer to introduce themselves as well as a black potbelly pig. Luckily there wasn’t springbok on the grid, and only some disguised bacon wrapped fillet. I may have felt even more guilty. Oopsie.

The rest was well received and we headed out for exploring on foot the next morning into the mist next to the Buffelsjags river. Though we didn’t see much along the river, it was a blessing to be able to breathe in the clean air.

Regretfully we had to pack up quickly and head out, we still lots of tar that needed chewing before we unpacked in Knysna.

Making a detour via Tradouw Pass to Barrydale. I was full of smiles as I knew a few weeks ago when I came through this pass, that I would want to visit it again. This piece of earth remains beautiful. I wonder if Thomas Bain envisioned this beauty every time he took on a project to build a new pass.  We salute this ancient Road Engineer and say thank you for providing us with this driving canvas.

Going through Barrydale, 2 inevitable stops had to be made. ‘Diesel and Crème’ & ‘Ronnie’s Sex Shop’. Traditionally you have to have the decadent milkshake at the one, and something alcoholic in tall glass at the other. So we ticked that off the list quickly and continued towards Riversdale where we would finally get back on the N2.

Our home for the next two nights was at Ocean View in Brenton-on-Sea. This was booked before the Knysna fires a few months ago. When we queried the state of our booking after the burn the owner said his lodge is still standing. Not being moved and in true fashion of being curious we still wanted to stay there. Before you hit Knysna, the side of the road already starts to change color with a Kaleidoscope oranges, browns and black as the fire took ownership of this stretch of land. Brenton was not spared. We had a quick get-to-know-you session with Henry, the owner of this well kept and comfortable lodge. Electricity had only be put back on last week, and the residents have been coping without a lot of the normal things that we take for granted daily. Telkom lines are still not in 100% working order. But there is progress as the town recovers from this natural disaster. Infront of one of the homes they have erected 51 white crosses, each marked with a surname and street name for family homes that have been lost.

We grabbed a bite to eat at a local pub in Knysna called Olde’s . A lovely atmosphere and good food ended off our day perfectly.

Early risers and lots of coffee as we headed to Tsitsikamma for ziplining escapades. I had never done this before and was excited and a little nervous, there I said it – ‘’NERVOUS’’.  We had a quick briefing and were dressed by the instructors in our helmets and harnasses. I just kept asking ‘’ how does the brake work?’’. After the first slide over the kloof and waterfalls to the other side, I was more like, ‘’stuff the brakes, FASTER – MAKE IT GO FASTER’’ .  Seems my panic for clean underwear was in vain, I survived to tell the tale, with an even stronger sense of adventure than before. So many mountains to conquer, whether by foot, motorbike, mountain bike, and now by a line.

All on quite a high, adrenalin still pumping we stopped at Storm’s River Bridge for snacks. We shared our experiences as we walked across the famous bridge. This bridge is also known as the Paul Sauer Bridge and was completed in 1956. The passenger walkway that runs next to the bridge shakes and tremors as trucks and cars hold no grudges while passing through.

We didn’t get to comfortable in our car seats as we climbed out soon enough for our hike at the Big Tree in Tsitsikamma. This tree is one of the oldest trees. It boasts with wrinkles of a 1000years. We hiked into the forest and followed the rich green path way. One of the Big Trees not too far away, known as the Forest Giant. This yellow wood was over 500 years old and made its last tumble to the ground on the 31 December 1994. If you are in this area. You will not regret paying a visit to this forest. If Peter Pan and Tinkerbell had to choose where to take up residence in South Africa, this would be home for them.

After another hop skip and jump we landed ourselves on the beaches of Nature’s Vallley. Another beautiful road, lots of water and this beautiful clean beach. One thing about the Garden Route that I noticed. The beaches are clean, and the water is sparkly blue.

Just before Knysna, Carel turned into a squatter informal settlement. I wondered if this was where he was planning to hide our bodies, being the only testosterone on the trip, I can imagine he was refraining from saying much often. This area was called Noetzie. We followed the dirt road through the informal settlement along a cliff, in the clearing it became beautiful in front of us. Another long stretch of beach. We climbed out again and headed down to the beach view the Noetzie castles. Noetzie originally known as Noetziekamma, a Khoisan phrase for ‘dark water’. The castles are built on the beach and tower above the trees into the cliffs. Breathtaking!

We ended off our very successful day with a charcoal barbeque as the people in Brenton are currently not braaing due to fire scares, so when in a foreign town, do as the foreigners do, adapt.

Friday we packed up and due to some rain we traded our outdoor plans for some indoor ones. We visited the museum, Millwood House where we all got a little nostalgic to see that Carel’s family’s history and story lays in this beautiful stretch of land. Something about doing these kinds of things always make you wonder about your own family and where your story began. Who’s eyes do you have? Is your nose long because your grandmother was generally nosy? Who’s hands do you look at when you look down at your own? Who will tell your story one day?

After that we headed to Thesan’s Island to walk through the Motorcycle Room. If this is your choice of poison, please do not overlook this stop. O my word, 2 wheels have never looked this hot before, over and over again. Custom made and rebuilt legends. Stunning. Accompanied by the friendly owner who has labour and grease investment in more than half of them.

The slow town of Sedgefield was our last stop. Spoilt with an apartment, we felt under dressed for this one. On our morning run, we stopped at the Classic Car collection on the main road and once again, a little old American muscle is always something worth Ooooh-about.

Trip advisor recommended SwartVlei ‘’Gericke’s“ as the hike in town. Without hesitation or a shower we headed out. This hike can only be done at low tide, as you may be stranded if you attempt it any other time. Beautiful cliffs that have become almost sand. Star fish and amazing birdlife here. Something different to what I am used to and it worked for my eyes. We fed well here.

Keeping it local and low key after our busy morning, we did Putt-Putt, 9 holes and no Tiger Woods, we rewarded ourselves with lunch at the local restaurant.  

In true Slow Town fashion we thought it appropriate to spend our last evening of our adventure at the local pub. Pool cues were chalked and the drinks were opened and cold. As long as the juke box was playing, the stripes and solids continued to roll.

Heading back on Sunday, the car was quiet. As usual it is always bittersweet coming home after such an amazing adventure.

I think the jury is out on this one, I am addicted to this life. I am grateful that all my senses work and I want to just inhale it all. Inhale life, exhale the negative and mundane.

Why do we choose a ‘’washing-machine clean-sock’’ life that is set on spin, when we can rather have a ‘’washing-line odd-sock’’ life of blowing in the wind, been taken from wind to sun and then back to feet that are well travelled and not afraid to live.


Where to next


X

[S] Suited up for a Star lit Sutherland

[BMW Winter ride to Sutherland – 05 & 06 August 2017]

We have had such beautiful winter days the last few weeks, that we were prepared for a no snow weekend in Sutherland, I had never visited this town before, so with or without the presence of white beauty I was in the clouds already. Although August is a popular snow month for Sutherland, nothing with regards to the change in weather patterns shock us anymore. We embrace it as we go along and once again, I am grateful my prayers were answered for a sunnier time on the back of the bike.

We met the group we chose to ride with at the garage in Klapmuts, as usual I hardly knew anyone, and within a few minutes I had learnt a few names and shared some common interest considering we were all there for the same reason, to have some fun. No matter your age, if you give any human being something with two wheels be it a bicycle or a motor bike, you immediately waken a child again, a sense of adventure and the naughty glint in the eyes spark. We had a quick introduction and briefing as we were all itchy feet to get going . The group we rode with, would take us to the Sutherland via gravel and dust, I was ready to be wow ‘ed again. The roadies really don’t know what they are missing. To each their own, but getting home after a weekend of adventure without a bike that needs some cleaning is almost a shame.

Reaching for the wet gravel roads, it was a quick stretch and then it started. From the Hoopenberg road we amble towards Eenzaamheid and then it was fun in the winter sun all the way through to Gouda. When we took our helmets off at Oasis restaurant and nursery in Ceres for breakfast, everyone’s faces were wrap around smiles from the ride and the beautiful roads we just took. It still blows my little city brain that within an hour from the cement jungle you reach such beauty. I however think that the bikes unsettled a few cows, they must of heard our engines droning miles away already and rolled their eyes thinking too themselves, ‘here they come again’ as they made their way to the fence for viewing of steel invaders.

After breakfast everybody was fueled – man & machine. Tankwa, ‘’ ons is nou daar !‘’

We went over Katbakkies, and headed to Tankwa pad stal, this place of nothingness and and no cell phone reception is what I would imagine a trip to the moon would look like, its simplicity is what makes it absolutely mind blowing. The roads are well kept and I would imagine that this kind of beauty never gets old for a wandering soul.

We stopped at the famous Tankwa Padstal for something cold to clear the throats after a dusty ride. I was grateful when I heard this was on the menu for us. I have heard endless stories and tales of this little gem in the desert. I wasn’t disappointed at all. If you are in a jam with your vehicle, be in a jam here. If not, you may walk outside and pierce your tyre accidently on purpose just to stay a little longer.

Disappearing back into the dust clouds, Sutherland waited for us and time wasn’t being kind to us.

One of our new friends had a tyre hiccup and we stayed back so that Carel and Wouter could play mechanic and handyman. Here this lovely couple took there piece of earth and memory of Tankwa.

We hit the tar a few kilometers outside Sutherland. Our temperature gauge was reading a warm 18.5 degrees. I stretched my right hand out so that Carel could see it and tapped it twice. By now he knows my best attempt at air traffic controller’s signals and what they mean, ‘’Gooi!’’

Within a few minutes, the temperature had dropped by at least half of what we had, as we entered Sutherland. As you ride into this town, it is like you have been teleported back in time. The year …. 1960, dresscode… homemade, Crime… None, Stress levels…. As low as the current dam levels.

This town is popular for its snow and star gazing. But what an understatement. The history in this place and it’s inhabitants is amazing. We stayed at Khoi Khoi on the main road which is owned by Tannie Elise, after sharing a cup of coffee with her, I felt at home.

She told me stories of the town and the people that have visited her over the years. She is an interesting woman who smiles with beautiful wrinkles and glowing eyes under her knitted hat.

The Church is across the road from her and is known for its rather off centre tower that had to be re- erected after the AngloBoer war, where it had been shot down.

With the full moon rising fast we got ready for dinner at Jupiter, 180 of us. It was a pleasant evening and stories of the ride were exchanged. We were served with a very deserving meal and bowed our heads to say grace, giving thanks for being able to do these amazing things and see forever beauty.

Sunday morning it was time to suit up again, with a quick breakfast at Blue Moon we hit the road again. Without disappointment, we were led off the tar very quickly. Another first for me, Komsberg Pass. This was my highlight of the day. We stopped at the top of the pass so that we could all just embrace this majestic stretch of land. Jackie said something that stuck with me that is very true and I am sure at some stage we all shared the sentiment. No one, no political unrest in our country can ever take away what you see in this moment. Its peaceful, and untouched and unharmed, this place… can never be captured fully on any photo.

A quick stop for some coffee and scones in Matjiesfontein and a necessary leg stretch was gratefully received. We all had a walk about as one does when visiting this historically popular town. Stretched out in the sun outside I was more than okay if we had stayed a little longer. Neels had one more beauty to show us.

Touws river, through the town we missioned and over the train tracks, it was dirt and dust again. A lovely stretch of land. My mouth hung open speechless again. How do locals not appreciate what is at their doorstep.  How do these beautiful places stay undiscovered and un-appreciated by a town’s community.

We said our goodbyes at Dedoorns, dusty hugs and kisses were dealt out and I was grateful for another adventure and meeting fantastic people who share our passion for life and loving the simple things.

Carel and I saddled up again, I tapped my right hand twice again and saw DuToit’s Kloof in the distance. I uttered in the intekom ‘’ over or through ‘’, and he mentioned back to me, ‘’ Over ‘’. I smiled in my helmet knowing the fast drop over the pass was the perfect way to end another epic adventure

As Neels said Saturday night : ‘’ Dankie Here, dat ons kan doen wat lekker is’’

… Grateful Heart

Where to next