“This is not your regular tour”! Friend and fellow writer, Karen Durand, has always been keen to go to South Africa with me, and when I started planning the route, I asked her if she’d like to join me. I warned her that I was looking for material for my travel writing, some of it off the beaten track – some of it might even pop up as we go along – and, I was going to try to find some places where I could drop off copies of the book I wrote on my dad “PIET wat POMPIES was”. On the way, therefore, she would meet and stay with friends and family of mine!
So, the time is drawing nearer, and I am running through my checklist! Karen will have only the day of her arrival in Johannesburg, so we’ll see what we can fit in. Dinner at Sandton Square is a must before leaving after breakfast the next morning for the first leg of our journey. I have just had an article published in TravelSquire about that, the N12 Treasure Route from the City of Gold to the City of Diamonds.
My brother, Johan and his wife, Lina, have just moved to Bloemfontein after living in Kimberley for many years. So, we will catch up with them after spending a night in the luxurious Cygnature Boutique Lodge and Golf Resort outside Kimberley, near Magersfontein where a bloody battle between the Boers and British took place – I will be writing an article on the Lodge and probably Magersfonrtein also. Then, it is on to Bloemfontein, which will be a new city for me to explore. No doubt, Karen will have her first real South African family braai experience in the van der Byl family’s backyard. It will be great to see Johan and Lina’s daughter, Arina and their granddaughter, Linee, as well.
Our next leg of the journey takes 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…. If there is time, we will take a drive through the Karoo National Park before overnighting in 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.
The next day, we stop at Matjiesfontein, a Victorian village, established in 1884 before proceeding to the Boland with little villages and small towns nestling between beautiful mountains and fertile wine valleys. We overnight at Worcester, where I lived for 4 years and taught music at Worcester-Noord Primary School. We are bound to visit some of my old school teacher friends there.
Franschhoek was established by Simon van der Stel and developed by the French Huguenots who settled there in 1688 after fleeing France. I want to show Karen the La Motte Estate with an art gallery honoring one of South Africa’s oldest and most recognized artists, Pierneef.
We spend three nights in Cape Town, meeting friends and sightseeing, before heading to Hermanus, known for its ‘Right whales’ and Betty’s Bay where there is a huge African penguin colony. Our journey then takes us inland to the ‘Klein Karoo’ where we overnight in Oudtshoorn and visit the spectacular Cango Caves. Then, it is back to the coast to sleep with the elephants at the Knysna Elephant Lodge. Our next adventure is a 3-day luxury safari at Kariega Big Five Private Game Reserve, staying at Ukhozi Lodge – on assignment to write a few articles. We are now in the Eastern Cape.
I am still in travel writer mode when we overnight at the Dockside Guest House in Port Alfred on the Sunshine Coast, with appointments set up with the manager and the Royal Golf Club. We stop at my brother Pieter and his wife, Doffy’s farm and farmstall, Natureview, on our way to East London airport before flying back to Johannesburg. Karen, we are going to have a great time!