‘en hoe gaan dit vanmore met jou?’ …. Hy antwoord stadig en trots, ‘opgestaan’
This is how the people in the Northern Cape greet eachother daily, instead of answering with the normal answer as we would give it, ‘fine’, ‘well’, ‘ok’… they always answer with ‘opgestaan’. In one word it all comes together, with a grateful smile, they give thanks to being able to wake up another day, to be able to see into the endless open spaces in front of them, to be able to hear the sound of the birds wings flapping together as they take flight into the morning sky, to be able to smell the fresh air of the Richtersveld, to be able to feel their surroundings, they are ‘’OPGESTAAN”. Grateful and humble…
When Carel and I decided to plot a quick escape for the border post, it started off as a two day trip, then within minutes it turned out into a six day trek up the coast to Vioolsdrift. If we were left with a longer time to linger, it could of easily become a month journey without hesitation.
We left early on Thursday morning, while most people were still sitting in traffic, we were already hot on the N7 in the direction of Lamberts Bay. We turned to dirt and headed coastal our first stop was Doringbaai for a leg stretch the day was going to be long and beautiful. One of the little boys bravely enquired about the bike and its capacity and I giggled on the inside as I could imagine Carel’s less child like reference of his GS to a ‘’scooter’’ as he asked, “Middag Uncle, hoe v’nig ry di scooter?”. This unlikely initiation to the West coast set the trend for our trip, one of humility, kindness and gratefulness. Back on the stof scooter, our next stop was the beautiful beach town of Strandfontein. This town is a popular holiday destination and has the prettiest restaurants on the beaches. Considering we had left so early we took a few minutes to sit on the deck overlooking the ocean, with red noses sipping on our drinks. It was here, our little piece of heaven on the open road had arrived, always on time, never late.
From here on our stretch to Lutzville was a quick one, we filled up and headed out to the town of Garies. The jokes about the folks from Garies is almost as popular as the jokes of the people from Brakpan, so we made sure we could tick this one off the list as well. We found a coffee shop hidden away at the back of a fuel station called ‘Die Koperketel’. The people in these towns are so friendly, and kindness seems to be part of their DNA, they don’t have much of the fancy, but they are rich in the things that matter. We had a well deserved lunch and exited the town onto the gravel roads to Hondeklipbaai.
Hondeklipbaai is a small town on the coast. This little town is so small, stop signs aren’t necessary and they really have more dogs than humans. We stayed at Skulpieskraal, a quaint little campsite. We unpacked the stof scooter and replaced our heavy gear with some casual clothes, grabbed the helmets again and went exploring. As you ride along the coast through the town, one thing is evident. This coastline has made victim of many a vessel as the scraps of metal and material lie rusted on the rocks.
Here we ran into a couple from Rustenberg that we ended up travelling with for 2 days as we shared a dinner in the ‘Die Rooispinnekop Restaurant’. We shared stories about where we came from and where the road takes us. The common ground was exploration. After a grateful rest, the sun rose nice and early and we put the trainers on and headed out for our morning hike. The dogs accompanied us and acted as Hondeklipbaai’s personal tourguides, waking up all the other residents in town at the same time.
Day one was complete and our expectations fulfilled of this little coastal gem. Heading out to Kleinzee we needed to travel via ‘The diamond route’ which is the coast line that has been associated with the De Beers. It is another highway of gravel and dirt that is like trifle at Christmas for any dirt road junkie.
As we slowed down to enter Klein Zee, it felt like we entered a ghost town. It was so quiet, the houses look mostly empty as you ride through the streets. People seem to be a luxury here. As usual my antenna for coffee peaks when we ride into any town. I pointed the red coffee sign out to Carel. The arrows took us to the home of Jack & Estelle. We ended up sharing a coffee with this couple on the stoep of their home. Aunty Estelle has made her own home a coffee shop and when you pop in for a coffee, they sit with you on the stoep of their retirement home. I once again am left speechless by the kindness of strangers. After an hour of sharing, I am reminded that adventure and a love for all that is beautiful in the simple things doesn’t have an age category. It is open season for an age. The choice is ours.
After a quick petrol and coffee stop in Port Nolloth, the wind literally blew us in the direction of Alexander Bay. After serious negotiation with wind and sand we made our tour through Alexander Bay with helmet on and fully kitted to prevent sand becoming the only thing we would eat for the day. We rode coastline along the river up to the mouth where the river enters the ocean. Through the sand storms the beauty of our earth’s natural beauty was appreciated.
Considering the next day we would be without the luxury of a fuel we ensured the stof scooter and fuel bladder was full. We exited the town and headed into the Richtersveld where we spent the evening with friends at Brandkaros on the Orange river. It was a beautiful night with a sky that was well lit with the perfectly rounded full moon. Brandkaros is a holiday resort on the river that is operational with solar electricity and fresh water. Our feet set to the river banks the next morning for our exploration hike along the river. With nothing but animal prints on the sand, you realise you are definitely in the minority in this area. Bird life is plentiful here and the silence became something I long for already.
We packed up our few human belongings and headed into the desert with the scooter again, stopping off at Kuboes and then Eksteensfontein. These 2 little lost towns in the middle of the desert leave jaw-dropped and speechless. There is nothing. No shops, no stop streets, no banks. Just a few houses, a church, and here and their Mary’s little lost lamb in the desert. Yet with all the nothingness, the residents smile broadly and wave as we ride through their piece of heaven on earth. They are ‘’opgestaan’’ with their lives. We tend to always want more in our busy lives, but long for a carefree smile that a local wears everyday in a town in the middle of a desert, who has no luxuries of an ATM to draw money, for a can of cola.
The pass that takes you from Kuboes to Eksteensfontein is a well travelled pass, that is soaked with beauty and loose rock and sand. It is a candy shop for riders of dirtbikes. With a fully loaded stof scooter and myself as pillion, this scooter earned his stripes over and over again.
We overtook about 6 4×4’s and trailers through this pass. Apparently it’s all about momentum. Every time I echoed swear words of panic over the intekom, Carel piped up, ‘’ dis net momentum Jani’’ ….
After Eksteensfontein we turned right onto the sand towards Steinkopf. We were about 40kms from Steinkopf when I was told to sit very still. ‘still, seriously, that’s what I had been doing all the time’ within 30metres the scooter wiggled its way into the sand. We had a blow out on the front wheel. Front wheel off, tools out – mechanics in the desert 101 had commenced. The 6 4×4’s that we passed stopped in convoy to help us. The company of humans was appreciated as Carel had to perform with an audience now as well.
I kept myself out of it all, what I know about snake-bite punctures and tyre blow outs is limited. I felt a hand on my lower back, and heard my name being called as the voice asked if my back is okay. I turned around, shocked to find my doctor standing behind me. He was in one of the 4×4’s and was driving back after a holiday with his family. Knowing my medical history, he asked if I needed anything and if my vertebrae and neck was behaving on this terrain. I smiled and told him the pain is worth it. He shook his head and smiled. Knowing that he saw what I saw while we came over the pass, he didn’t argue.
After an exciting afternoon we made a liquid stop in Steinkopf before heading for Vioolsdrift. We headed for the tar for the last stretch. Turning left at Vioolsdrift, we opted for keeping it proudly South African and headed up the Orange River via Kotzeshoop, considering I have a red smiley in my passport from Namibia and my previous expedition’s in my earlier days in a Scania.
We stayed at a camp on the Orange river called The Growcery. It is a beautiful camp on the river. Very lush and green and vegetable gardens have taken over. The food you get served comes from their gardens and the showers are open air. After a dusty desert day, this felt like an oasis as we stood with our feet in the Orange river as the Richtersveld mountains stood majestically at our backs, black rock towered on the opposite side of the dirt .
We shared a meal prepared for a king that night by the young gentleman that stays on site. His kindness and passion for living well is contagious as we spent the evening sharing adventures and moments that make us who we are. The next morning our hike was chosen for us by an Australian cattle dog that led the way into the Richtersveld mountains. We hiked up an old dried up river bed. With black rock all around us. Hear I could have easily been willingly lost and forgotten. Such simple beauty. When we got back, we mentioned the fact that the dog had led the way, and were told that ‘Lucy’ had recently conquered her first 10 day trek in the desert with her owner. Seems respect for our new four legged friend was in order.
By now, the stof scooter had changed color from black to off grey from all the dust, our kit had faded a little too, getting dressed again, I was grateful that we both still felt insanely awesome and daisy fresh.
The quick dash to Springbok with Vyfmylpoort as pudding for a fuel up session, human and scooter, then we fled the town via Spektakel pass and entered the Namaqua Park. During our time spent in the park, we embrace the beauty around us. The clouds seemed to canvas the skies and fall perfect shadow colors over the open spaces. We exited the park and headed through the Grootvlei pass into Kamieskroon. Here we were surprised to find our accommodation was a small little homestead on a sheep farmers land. The picture you would get of Ouma and Oupa sitting on the stoep…. Yes ! We welcomed the farmer’s comments of giving us permission to open and close gates as we walk the lands. So we did. We opened and closed gates in the sheep kraals as we walked through them all until we exited the boundary lines into the kloof the next morning. Seems the water crisis has affected their farming and they have had to discard other fields and now only farm to keep the sheep going. The Grootvlei farm has been in their family for over 150years and is still successful even though it has been through many changes and challenges.
The next morning we knew the turnaround was officially homeward bound as we exited the farm after a refreshing hike. After making Van Rhynsdorp with 1 litre of petrol to spare, we knew the next few hours would be amazing as we had covered the ocean, the river, the farm and now it was just going to be mountains, my favourite!
We turned off the N7 just outside of Klawer and rode next to the river parallel with the N7 until Clanwilliam. A quick town in and out and then back off road… we headed into the Cedarberge. I have never been here before so it was all eye feasting for me being pillion I didn’t need to focus on bumps and rocks and paths of sand, I could just take it all in with an open visor. We turned towards Wupperthal and Biedouwvalley. Breathless moments on these beautiful roads. These are some of the Western Cape’s best kept secrets hidden away and kept safely between mountain passes and fast dropping valleys. Wupperthal is such a pretty little Heritage town. They are busy giving the little town a fixer upper and some of the thatch roofs have already been replaced, keeping it still authentic and clean. Climbing the rocky cliff that leads to Eselbank was to say the least an interesting feat. At one stage staring down the cliff as the scooter ‘billy-goat’ed itself up the mountain I questioned my likes and dislikes as a girl, and wondered why I never took interest in make up and high heels, feeling a big bump over a rock I was shaken back to reality , neh – make up and high heels were never really my speed and who wants to climb mountains in Gucci anyway.
We stopped at the ‘Waterval’ just before Eselbank and took our few minutes of leg stretching as we walked over the cliffs of this waterfall. Immediately I am humbled and a sensation of absolute gratitude overwhelms me, for everything we have been able to experience and explore over the last few days.
Our last night was spent at Cedarberg Oasis. A home away from home and perfect choice to end off this epic trip. With a hearty meal and good stories shared with the Oasis family we headed for lights out early as Cedarberg Mountains waited for us at Sunrise. We hiked the rocks at Truitjieskraal the next morning. With a hand drawn map of all the tunnels, nooks and crannies of these ancient giants we were able to explore the bushman drawings on the rocks of a time before things were complicated and concrete.
Great appreciation for this experience. I have seen you, I have walked on your lands, and I am left absolutely speechless and in awe of your beauty, our Cedarberge.
We packed the scooter for the last time and a very heavy heart, we would be back in our own beds by sunset.
Dropping down Gydo pass, it felt as if even Ceres was too busy now all of sudden, a few weeks ago this felt like my quiet haven. To end off our trip in good fashion with everything local and simple, the ‘Tolhuis’ in Mitchells Pass served up roosterkoek with jam in a tin plate and some good hot chocolate in a tin cup.
Today we are ‘Opgestaan’ … to be young, alive in a time like this where there is so much to explore and endless roads leading to the most beautiful and unexpected towns of our beautiful country.