Over the mountain pass to Oudtshoorn

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May 30th 2019
Published: May 31st 2019
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The day has started our brilliantly fine and in fact we should have got up to the breakfast lounge at sunrise as the woman running breakfast showed us photos she took of the most magnificent sunrise you could expect to see with sun rising out of the ocean in the east.

A check of the expected temperature today at our destination inland from Mossel Bay was to be 29C and a decision had to be made as to whether shorts would become the order of the day. In the end opted for light hiking trousers which are still cool enough to wear even in the high 20’s.

Breakfast was again delicious and would provide enough to keep us going through the day

We had plenty of time on our side to make the relatively short journey inland to our destination past Oudtshoorn and so headed down to the end of the promontory that is part of the city of Mossel Bay to take in the coast.

The camping ground at the point had a number of caravans with very large tents attached and most had mobile satellite receivers so you had all the comforts of home including being able to watch the opening game in the Cricket World Cup from the UK between England and South Africa. It was very much like the camping ground at the Mount except the tents attached to the caravans were 3 times as big.

Gretchen contemplated the breaking waves over the rocks while I climbed part way up to the lighthouse. Just off the path were a couple of Dassies, fat and furry little creatures closely related to the elephant, one of them took off as I climbed towards them while the other posed for the video camera.

The road out of town was straightforward and we quickly cleared the city boundary heading inland towards the mountains.

As we left Mossel Bay behind we reflected on just how affluent the city seemed, not too dissimilar from our own home city of Tauranga.

The road towards the mountains had farms and animals that had not been as evident in parts that we have passed through over the past couple of days.

Then we started to climb, just a slow rise in the road as we turned corner after corner and then accelerating as we neared the summit of Robinsons Pass at 800 metres above sea level. The road had been constructed in 1869 as a way into the interior from the coast and then upgraded and presumably sealed in 1951.

We took a stop at the top of the pass to take in the surroundings including a very narrow 14.6km track that heading off away from the summit with warnings about not to do the track alone, its dangers and that you needed to arrange a vehicle to pick you up at the other end.

The run down the other side towards Oudtshoorn took us through arid scrub land all the way until we arrived at the floor of the vast valley or Little Karoo as it is called in African terms, where there were a number of streams and rivers which the farmers could draw water from and grow grass.

The city of Oudtshoorn was larger than what we had thought and seemed to have every service one could want from shopping malls to a University. When we checked the map it became clear that it serves a vast area as there are no other towns of any substance around.

Following what we thought was the road to our accommodation some 14km out of the city we headed east and near the outskirts of the city came to another major road works project with traffic stopped and only being let through in one direction at a time.

A couple of very obvious things we have observed when we have waited up to 10 minutes at these roadwork’s is the large number of workmen, most of them standing around and talking to each other, not unlike what you see in NZ at similar road work sites. What is different here though is they don’t work with any mechanised equipment such as small diggers. Everything is done by hand with a shovel. Sure there were large graders and rollers for the road surface but all the other work that takes place on the edges and drains etc was done manually.

Soon it was our turn and they rolled the stop sign away and we moved off in convoy for around 3km until we met the traffic stopped coming towards us. They don’t do major roadwork’s by half in this country. We caught a glimpse of a sign that did warn that traffic could be stopped for 20 minutes or more at any time.

Right on the edge of town is a new ‘township’ one where new block and plaster homes have recently, by the look of the age of the buildings, replaced what was probably a shanty town.

All the small square dwellings of roughly 25 metres square had been built in straight rows with a proper road built for those who owned a car to be able to drive from the main road to their home. There were also a number of two storied dwellings which were divided in two but would give double the area to live in. All the homes were freshly painted, many of them light blue in colour and we must say that the whole township looked very tidy.

We mused over the thought of whether this type of group housing would quickly fix NZ’s housing problem especially for the homeless or those who cannot afford to pay a mortgage .Then we also thought that perhaps this standard would not be acceptable to New Zealanders and probably the construction wouldn’t meet NZ building requirements.

We hadn’t gone far and we came across another 3km of roadworks although this time we weren’t stopped for more than a few minutes.

It was after this though that we had a feeling that we were on the wrong road to our accommodation and the GPS on the mobile was brought into use to confirm that we were going in the wrong direction completely.

We decided to let the GPS guide us and she had us turning off towards a small town and then even suggested we head down a track that was barely formed. We bailed against that and retraced our path back through the two sets of roadwork’s getting through the first as’ tail end Charlie’ and soon made it back to town and this time noticed the road sign that put us on the right track out to The Old Mill Lodge.

The lodge is 14km out of the town and on the road to the mountain pass that we may possibly take tomorrow, if we dare as it is rated ‘dangerous, care in driving it is needed’.

Again we were given the option of two different rooms and we opted for the one we had booked which had its own separate lounge while the other on offer was open plan and had a shower that was in the bedroom, a bit weird !

The lodge had enclosures of ostrich, deer and rabbits, so Gretchen was in her element visiting to see if she could see a Barney or Petal lookalike. She found a Petal and as their enclosure was right out in front of our room she was kept happy for the afternoon watching the antics of the rabbits.

We decided not to visit the ostrich enclosure as we planned to have ostrich for dinner !

After a couple of gins(we have to get this Gin and Vodka down to half way on each bottle for flight to J’Burg on Monday)and a watch of the World Cup Cricket match between England and South Africa for an hour so it was time for dinner and we did both have the ostrich 200gr steak which was very tender with absolutely no fat and was served with a sweet red pepper sauce which wasn’t too overpowering.

We moved to a South African red wine tonight and were served the fullest wine glass we have ever had and fantastic value at NZ$4.80 equivalent per glass, two each would have been too much !

It had been another interesting day with scenery we hadn’t encountered before on this drive which is continuing to give us an appreciation for this country which is very varied in its scenery.

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