After stocking up on a few groceries, visiting Strassbergers leather shoe shop and popping in at the Rooibos Tea Factory in Clanwilliam, we headed on into the mountains.
Even though it was a couple of degrees colder here, the skies above were clear. So, we agreed to do the camping thing once again.
Henry, CapeNature’s fatherly tourism officer on duty, encouraged us in our adventure, but added that if it did start raining overnight, there was an open chalet he could book us into the next day.
So, off we went to pitch our tent in the sprawling and deserted campsite. We’d chosen stand 41, which had an even layout, generous grass covering, a large tree and two picnic tables. It was also conveniently close to the squeaky clean and well-maintained bathrooms. A welcome change from Lamberts’ municipal campsite.
As soon as we’d sorted everything out and managed to inflate the blow up mattress after the third or so attempt – inserting the plug just as the other person extracts the pump nozzle is no easy task – Guillaume built a massive fire in the stone braai place to ward off the cold. We’d discovered a few interesting craft beers in Clanwilliam earlier that day and cracked two of them – a Dorsland Weiss and Alemagtag Golden Ale, both by West Coast Brewery – drinking a toast to the soft sunset tones.
As fate would have it, though, big fat raindrops started falling just after midnight, continuing until dawn… and way beyond.
When morning came, we took cover in the washing up section of the ablution facility and made some extra strong plunger coffee to help ease us into our inevitable change of plans.
Upon seeing us at reception’s door, Henry cracked a dry smile and continued to make about half-an-hour’s conversation, before saying: “Okay, well, I guess the real reason you’re here is to find out about a chalet. The Rietdak Huisie is still available, so I’ll just book you in there.”
Fortunately CapeNature was running a 40% winter discount, which made the costs significantly more suited to our shoestring budget.
Like Rocherpan, Algeria has also undergone a few upgrades in recent months, including the construction of a bunch of stunning new eco chalets. However, since we were there on the brink of a long weekend, they had all been booked out way in advance.
The Rietdak Huisie was a cosy alternative, with its rustic stone walls, thatch roof and… best of all… indoor fireplace. The interior is very simple, but neat and clean, with a fully equipped kitchen, freshly made up beds and a bathroom containing a bath as well as a shower.
We spent two nights here, hiding away inside as the rain came down consistently beyond the stable-style doors. A big change from our original plan to go check out various hiking trails in the vicinity.
We kept ourselves busy though – played guitar, made delicious meals, caught up on some reading, took naps, chased a baboon that stole our coffee (yes really) oh and, had one hell of a cabin fever-induced fight. But, a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor… or what?
Sunny skies and flooded rivers
Of course, on the morning we were set to leave, the rain clouds had disappeared and the sun peeped shyly over the mountain. Typical!
Still slightly groggy from harsh words exchanged the night before, we set to work packing up our stuff for the last time on this trip. The familiar process seemed to have a therapeutic effect and soon enough we managed to smile at each other once again.
We visited Henry one last time to check out and, in the process, discovered that our other original plan, to drive back to Cape Town via Ceres – stopping at the Stadsaal Cave on the way – would be impossible after the storm caused havoc on the gravel roads.
Instead, he advised us to retrace the steps that had brought us there.
We did as he suggested, only to find that the Olifants River – that had been dry as a bone when we crossed it just two days before – was in full flood. There was an alternate route via Citrusdal, but the stretch of road visible to us was also underwater and we weren’t sure if the bakkie would make it through.
With nothing chasing us, we decided to just wait it out and watched several larger vehicles rush through with no problem.
Sitting on the flap of the bakkie, we cracked our last craft beer – an Indian Pale Ale named Voertsek produced by Cederberg brewery.
It had come in a four-pack with another of its kind, as well as two Blonde Ales named Boggom. Intrigued by the unusual packaging and colloquial names, we delved into a bit of research:
The Boggom & Voertsek brews pay tribute to a legendary pair of fictional nomads from the cannon of Afrikaans literature who first appeared in a poem by C. Louis Leipoldt and later in the music of David Kramer. It is said that they travelled through the countryside in a red Pontiac, Boggom (who happens to be a baboon) behind the wheel and Voertsek chilling out in the back. The beer’s bright yellow label with bright red accents, depicts the two characters perfectly in their comfy ride and had us giggling for hours on end.
During our time hanging out there on the bakkie’s flap, we got to see the most interesting passing parade – a bunch of local children who lived close-by exploring the wet roads in their gumboots, farmers from the surrounding area coming to check out the glorious site of a river in flood (miraculous indeed during these drought-stricken times), a bunch of energetic mountain bikers and even a chance encounter with two long lost classmates from high school.
When a tiny Corsa eventually came along and fearlessly made the crossing, we finally knew that we’d be safe driving through… and off we went.
Our trip lasted six days and five nights and cost us just under R2 000 each, which includes petrol, accommodation and food. Since we were both on strict budgets, we mostly avoided restaurants and takeaways, but managed to eat and drink like royalty nonetheless.
All in all, winter is really an excellent time for a road trip in the Western Cape – it’s quiet, which makes finding accommodation easy and it’s also way cheaper than in-season.
If you missed out on the previous West Coast blog posts, check them out here:
If you haven’t seen it yet, check out Beyond a Dream on Slow Drive. This beautiful video shot and edited by Guillaume, captures the essence of our winter adventure on the West Coast.
So, where should we go next?