Nostalgia centred around Donald Duck cartoons

There was a cartoon that I had taped back when I was a kid. It had a variety of Disney cartoon shorts featuring Mickey, Donald and the gang. There was one where Donald Duck was in this car and he drove past all these motels each showing a NO VACANCY sign. He finally gets to one but alas, the NO light illuminates as he reaches. I actually have forgotten the ending to that cartoon. Anyway, driving through the outskirt suburbs of Mossel Bay made me feel very much like Donald Duck. We’ll get to that in a bit…

I had just traversed the Outeniquas and entered George. I have been here twice before and, like most South African towns, it has changed drastically over the last few years. It is one of the bigger towns in South Africa – I mean; it has an airport that is serviced by some of the low-cost carriers! I also have great love for this town because it is here where I saw a really attractive Indian girl speaking to her sari-clad grandmother in AFRIKAANS! Indians don’t speak Afrikaans. Even though most people do it for at least 10 years at school and end up with a distinction for it, Indians just don’t speak Afrikaans! Afrikaans is not a sexy language – it does rank right up there with German as one of the least sexy languages you can come across. But this combination – Indian girl + fluent Afrikaans – I was like Donald with those hearts in his eyes when he sees Daisy. I didn’t speak to said girl though – it did happen eight years ago after all. But still, it is a cherished memory…

Back to reality, my little road trip buds that I met suggested I stay in George for the night and go clubbing that evening. It was enticing but, alas, the sea, she was calling. The issue I have with George is that it is painstakingly close to the vast blue of the Atlantic (or is that the Indian – I think it is the Indian) but instead, it’s built maybe 15km away from the surf. This did not and still does not make much sense to me. I avoid the turn down to Herold’s Bay – I have been there before but I actually didn’t like the town at all. That was probably because I had visited Nature’s Valley the day before – these two are incomparable…

I join the dreaded N2. My sincere hope was to avoid the main National roads. This avoidance philosophy was heightened due to my short stretch on the N1 earlier on in the trip. A few kilometres west of George, the brown tourist boards point to the seaside village of Glentana and the R102. Having never heard of the place, I hurry along as saltiness thickens the air. Just like the roads around Amanzimtoti, the roads are an intricate maze that eventually opens up to a large parking lot terminating in a dune. It’s pretty deserted with only a learner driver attempting to park. I park right up against the misty dunes. The weather holds much passion and excitement with the threat of a downpour and maybe a few lightning bolts. It, however, has waited for me and holds back. I get off the car, have the sand caress my feet and I experience the icy blue of the magnificent Indian Ocean…

The water is indeed freezing. The ocean, however, has this mystical property being able to draw out all your worries through your feet. I linger for a few minutes listening to the symphony of crashing waves. The beach is deserted and perfect. I want to linger but the mist that has made its way from the Outeniquas tells me I need to make my way to some shelter soon.

Now this is where the fun starts. In Glentana, there is a B&B perched maybe 300m away from this beach. Called The Shamrock, Lassie proudly guarded the establishment. She guarded it so well that I didn’t dare go up to the door. A lady comes out with her frown et al and asks me what I want. And I thought all these small town folk were friendly…I tell her I require lodging for the night and she blurts out a ludicrous figure that probably caused some thunder. I smile and make up some excuse before I depart again – this time in search of somewhere to stay. From here on in, it gets worse. I happen across a rather exquisite B&B right on the beach – NO VACANCY. I try another two with the same result – NO VACANCY. I head further west leaving the riches of Glentana for the riches of another small town Groot Brakrivier. Again – NO VACANCY! This might be a good thing because the town’s founder laid down a law that no alcohol may be sold in Groot Brakrivier. This law stuck till fairly recently – I don’t actually know if it was reprieved…

As the sun sets over the Outeniquas to the north, I start to panic. I frantically look for numbers of B&B’s in the vicinity. Many just ring. Others are already fully booked. This is when I enter the Reebok and Fraai Uitsig suburbs of another town – Klein Brakrivier.

The suburb’s name is indeed Reebok. There was no hopeful branding around though – just the now common huge houses that litter this coast. Finally, I find an overdose of lavender that shall be my lodging for the night.

Yes, the lavender was severely overwhelming. However, the folks at the B&B were incredibly friendly and the room was pretty cosy. Coupled with a spectacular view, this did make for a great place to stay.

It really is pretty weird that every time I do visit the coast, it rains. As darkness fell, the heavens opened up in a torrential downpour. I wonder if this is some sort of blessing in some way. The lights of Mossel Bay glitter in the distance promising so much…

Advertisements

Fresh Karoo Mutton

I really love Graaff-Reinet. Seriously, I do. It’s such a quirky town with just so many little anecdotes that make you love life in South Africa. It is not a small town and has enough of the modern niceties to make living there pleasurable. But, it has not been swallowed up by corporate South Africa. Stopping by the Information office one morning, I proceeded to park my car on the main street and walk into the office. After being hit on inside by the rather attractive young receptionist, I go to the bookstore next door which is pretty well equipped. A sign proudly notes that all proceeds go to some animal shelter. Uh…yeah ok. I found Mario Puzo’s “The Family” for ten bucks. Good purchase. I emerge to depart on my daily travels. As I’m about to start my car, a lady points some space-age device at my window which silently prints out a little till slip. I start getting scared wondering if this is my death notice and I ready myself for assimilation by some alien spaceship. I lower my window and she smiles, shows me the slip (uh, oh) and tells me, “That will be R1.” That’s when my mind went, “kapweeoissh,” because it blew up. Behold the all-knowing device in the hand of a Graaff-Reinet local. It was undoubtedly the coolest device I have ever encountered in my life, ever.

If you ever take the bus down to George from Jozi, you’ll stop at the Engen on the main street in Graaff-Reinet. Here is a 24-hour shop. It probably is the coolest shop ever. Instead of some bland Garage Shop with prices that make you cry, it’s a typical corner shop with everything you need and then some with prices that will make you cry with joy. I picked up a soda and popcorn here. The soda is a locally brewed drink called Bashews (well, it’s bottled in Cape Town) that tasted pretty good. The popcorn was about double the size of the biggest cinema popcorn box. Together, these cost R5.50. Down the road is a supermarket NOT run by Checkers, Spar or Pick ‘n Pay, Here I get wine in a one litre milk container. It cost me R12. Yeah…

In my lodging, which is bigger than my present place of resident yet costs about half as much, I came across a little relic from the past. We once had a plastic bin purchased in the late 80s. It was pretty awesome but it disappeared. My mum did relay the story of its disappearance – an older cousin came to visit and my mum told him to take out the bin assuming he would take out the plastic bag and dispose of it. Instead, he took the entire bin outside for disposal…Its pretty odd how when things from your past pop up, the objects bring back a crystal clear memory and that warm, fuzzy feeling of nostalgia yet you will never be able to just bring up the memory under normal circumstances.

I love the town but I want the sea. The sea is a few hundred kilometres away but I have spidey-sense you know! My parents loved the ocean and its blue calmness. This has been passed down to me – a holiday is not a holiday if there is no sea involved. I set off down the N9 – sad but happy at the prospects that lie ahead. I enter the real Karoo.

It is a mystical land. Similar to the Free State, all one sees is rolling fields of nothing. This is the land of the Karoo sheep and the black crow. The romantic Camdeboo and Sneeuberg Mountains are but a memory. The wind is harsh and so is the sun. The sun is surprising seeing that it is mid-winter. It’s a landscape that tests your sanity. You feel like you are on a never ending journey that has no destination whatsoever as there really is nothing that looks remotely interesting that pops up at all. The drive, though, did bring back memories of those Binky books I read in junior primary school.

It must have been an hour and a half when I see the undulating mountains of the Grootrivierhoogte – the only blip in the landscape. I stop on the side of the road to peer at, well, this difference really. After seeing nothing for an extended period of time, it’s great to actually see something! I do spot a buck grazing…

At the foothills of the Grootrivierhoogte is the Beervlei Dam. Built in 1954, this dam stands completely empty and in disrepair. The authorities are so confident that this dam will never be used that the N9 is built through the catchments. A period of 55 years is not a long time when it comes to infrastructure and I was amazed that this skeleton graced the landscape. It does show us what a precious commodity water is in this land. The Karoo, Highveld and Lowveld are what characterise our country – not water. We need to respect this. The great Gariep is an anomaly in this land of drought. I do meet some road trip buddies that are on their way to Cape Town via George…

Another anomaly is the town of Willowmore. I drive into Willowmore in desperate need of some sustenance. I happen upon two quaint little eateries on opposing ends of the street. On the left is a pretty establishment called Sophie’s Choice. On the other is a more traditional place – a corner café where even the menu is made of meat! I opt for Sophie’s Choice. Apparently Sophie liked an antique shop with a very colonial vibe with a fire going in the fireplace even though it’s the middle of the day. The antique shop was ostentatious. Out back, however, was a fairy tale like garden. It seemed a bit out of place at the foot of the Baviaanskloof. But hey, they made some good quiche!

Willowmore is known as the gateway to the Baviaanskloof. Recently declared a World Heritage Site, this wilderness is undoubtedly the most beautiful part of South Africa. I’m tempted to take this route but the route is taxing. It is a complete dust road. Several sections of it require a 4×4 to cross. It is on top of my to-do list though…

I soldier on and am greeted by the unmistakable rock formation of the Outeniquas as I traverse the Potjiesberg Pass. It’s a quiet beauty broken only by the calls of an unseen bird.

Clouds and mist kiss the mighty Outeniquas as I snake down the N9 towards George. It is a drive of spectacular beauty. It is familiar territory – I’ve been up and down this magnanimous pass several times before – but it still leaves me breathless. I sit on a rock, gaze and smile…