Our next leg of the journey took us on the N1 through the Karoo.
There are quite a few nostalgic songs in Afrikaans about the Karoo, including one my dad wrote: “Give me a farm in the old Karoo.”
This semi-desert landscape with its characteristic small bushes and large sheep farms rolls on forever…. a group of playful vervet monkeys entertained us, though, and we enjoyed stopping at a few ‘padstalle’ (farm stalls), tasting the home-made products such as ‘droë wors’ (dried sausage) and ‘mebos’ (sweet-sour candy), and kudu pie. Karoo Padstal bought a book and kept a few to sell.
We overnighted at Beaufort-West where I had my first teaching post as a music teacher at the local High School at the tender age of 20! Beaufort-West is also the birthplace of Chris Barnard, the first surgeon to perform a heart transplant. Our B&B faced a small dam with ‘seven swans a-swimming’ (quoting Karen here!), geese cackling away and a lonely springbok watching over all this.
The next day, we stopped for lunch at Matjiesfontein, a Victorian village, established in 1884. One could spend a few hours here, doing the quick bus ride, exploring the old hotel, motor and memorabilia museums, and Olive Schneider’s home. This is a lovely stop before proceeding to the Boland.
An Afrikaans couple who started chatting to us bought a book and warned us not to stop for any vendors along the road – they used their boxes of grapes to ambush unsuspecting travelers.
The scenery suddenly changed to beautiful mountains and fertile wine valleys. We booked in at a lovely guesthouse in Worcester, where I lived for 4 years and taught music at Worcester-Noord Primary School. I had coffee with a Facebook friend, Dalena – I knew her as a baby! – and Karen and I took a dear friend and ex-colleague of mine out to dinner at the Hussar where we had a truly great steak each, topped with a velvety, creamy, chocolately, complimentary liquid dessert.
After another hearty breakfast, we drove through du Toit’s Kloof tunnel to reach Paarl and the official start of our Wineland tour.
We stopped at Fairview for a wine and cheese tasting, and of course, their trademark ‘roaming’ goats, and then enjoyed a chocolate tasting at the neighboring Spice Route. Of course, we had to stop at Oom Samie se Winkel in Stellenbosch, and Karen enjoyed shopping at the local craft market on the village green.
We were in time to see the highly entertaining ‘Parade of the running ducks’ at the Vergenoegd wine farm. There are about 1600 of them, and three times a day, are sent into the vineyards to fertilize the soil and keep insects and pests at bay.
We reached Franschhoek late afternoon. This busy little town, crowded with shops and art galleries, was established by Simon van der Stel and developed by the French Huguenots who settled there in 1688 after fleeing France.
Once again, we admired the stunning views across acres of winelands, and stayed at a beautiful B&B. Early the next morning, we stopped at the La Motte Estate to buy some wine, while also admiring the stunning art gallery honoring one of South Africa’s oldest and most recognized artists, Pierneef.