A long day travelling north towards the historic town of Calvinia – named after the protestant minister John Calvin , who fled to South Africa to escape religious persecution – South Africa must be full of these types!
Passed through areas of diverse farming (sheep, cattle, vines). To all the rooibos tea drinkers out there, we drove through the rooibos capital of the world, a town called Clanwilliam, near where we saw some plantations. After lunch we passed through wild flower country which looked lovely even though it is still a while away from spring when apparently it is amazing. Highlight of the day was the climb up the Vanrhyns Pass – a 5 km haul up steep winding road. We thought the Tour de France guys would have loved it!
Our accommodation at Calvinia was in a guest house arrangement – several houses with outside buildings divided into bedrooms. Bernie and I had the “traditional” room – a unit out the back which was decorated in 1920’s Africaans style – lots of patchwork and embroidery plus lots of animal skins, mainly springbok, as mats and cushion covers (a bit gross!). On our bed was a cover of some sort of skins, possibly goat. Weighed a ton but was warm thank goodness as our room was freezing. Passed up on a decent wash as there was no shower, only an old clawfoot bath in a freezing bathroom.
July 13 Wednesday
Today was a day of driving to the Augrabies Falls with not much of interest apart from the sociable weaver bird nests on the phone poles. These are huge grass nests accommodating up to 500 birds. Later saw them taking over trees. Also had our first sightings of the aloe (or quiver) tree – the bark of which the bushmen used for their quivers. The town of Keimos on the Orange River is an oasis of vineyards and orchards and a welcome relief from the flat semi-desert land. The grapes are grown for wine but the area is also a major centre for dried fruits such as sultanas. On the edge of town there is a Persian waterwheel, a listed historic monument, still in use to irrigate the fields.
After checking in to our lodge – a lovely modern guest house complex (but no internet!) – we headed off to the falls. They are on the Orange River and are very impressive, cascading down between huge walls of granite. There had been severe flooding earlier this year and the lower viewing platform had been washed away but still had great views. Apparently, when in flood it has more water than the Victoria Falls. Another highlight were the dassies – they live among the rocks – and we sighted a mother sunning herself and her two babies on a sunny ledge. Very cute!