PS

Back in Perth and time for a sort of post script to end what has been an amazing journey back itwby and the first of many to come.

I have rediscovered an amazing world out there and an independent woman lurking beneath the trappings and strappings of the everyday. Horizons really are huge, landscapes do dissolve into watercoloured perspectives and  lives are grand and lofty, small, humble and  triumphant. Travelling is such a privilege and thank you to the countries and people of the Northern Cape and Namibia who made this journey so very special. Thank you too, to all of you who read the blog and waded through the acres of text, posted a comment and are now wading through through the megabytes of photos.

Kathu and Kimberley

Wake to a perfect morning dawning over the Orange River and the vineyards which for all the world look like acres of mini telegraph poles from the verandah of my Overlook home. As the sun rises flocks of white birds rise and settle in clouds in a patch of vines that has perhaps been newly ploughed and the street below rustles into life with blokes on bikes and coughing cars that weave to work. Eric knocks on my door at 8.30 with a huge breakfast basket and  as this is the last stage of ‘the road trip’ make the most of the time and solitude. The previous evening has again been stormy and wet and everything has that well washed look , as does the Getz, and loaded with karoo lamb and angry pofadder it’s back on the road to Upington, through Oliphantshoek and back to Kathu.

Roads are amazingly busy and am a little daunted having seen what seems like a handful of vehicles over the last few days. The Orange River area is one of the wine growing areas of South Africa and visit a winery with a very elaborate entrance, all casteld turrets and flags and buy some bottles of wine, swish boxed Brandy and little bottles of innocuous looking but at 40% proof plus no doubt highly potent ‘still’ liquors made from prickly pear and assorted citruses. Very flash labels with lots of crests and red and an equally lively Doberman puppy who leaps and hops and offers huge sticks to throw.

Back through Upington and manage not to get lost which is a huge improvement on Springbok and then into Oliphantshoek, a town we have passed through several times on the Namibia trip and on this road trip. At the foot of the LangeBerg (Mountains) on the Namakwari River it’s named after the elephant tusk used as payment for a farm on which the town was built and elephant bones found in the area. There is an elephant statue in a small park on the roadside andI arrive as school is getting out for the day and children are walking the main street clad in shirts and blazers and huge backpacks. At the Dutch Reformed church a gardener is collecting  and bagging camelthorn seeds from the trees around the church and has stacks of bags ready for sale. At the post office and shop on a side road a ‘scotch’ is parked, donkeys looking universally morose and the occupants giggling over the contents of letters and mail collected from the post office. A couple of young girls are chatting on the corner and I ask if I can take their photos. They are in their final year of school and looking forward to more education, perhaps in Johannesburg, but for the moment are content to be in Oliphantshoek with an hour walk to and from school and a daily gossip on the street corner before returning home. I take photos of the elephant statue  in the park  and by now news of the woman with the camera has spread so along with the elephant one of the park gardeners is posing too.

Back in Kathu there are plans for a potje…spelling probably wrong!!…..a sort of camp oven with three legs and I am on the look out for shin lamb or something similar. The Slaghuis is a whirl of biltong strips hung on a circular wire, a bit like a hills hoist!! that spins around with strips of meat flapping skirt like around a fan. He is horrified that I would be lo0oking for any sort of lamb to cook in a potje and sends me off with a huge tray of oxtail. A potje is a one pot dish I guess usually cooked over coals and layered so the meat etc is on the bottom and the vegetables  layered on top and the whole things steams and cooks and is delicious………tip seems to be to avoid the temptation the open the lid and STIR!!

Back in Kathu and the realisation that there is less than a week to go before I head home to Australia.  We are driving to Kimberley on Friday night to spend the night  at the Kimberley Club and then vist the ‘Big Hole’ and the mine museum before catching the little plane to Joburg and then back to Perth. Spend the next few days enjoying hours in a bean bag on a sunny verandah reading easy fiction, working out how to re pack the bag with all the extra goodies and stay, within reason , inside the weight limit and spend time with A and E revisting highlights of the now vanishing almost five weeks of holiday.

Packed and only a couple of kilos over limit, though with a groaning back pack full of all the potentially dodgy stuff that WA customs will want to exmaine it’s time to leave. Say goodbye to Lillian and we head to Hotazel Manganese Mine, a mine and small town in it’s own right, to pick up Andrew and head to Kimberley..

The Club was founded by 28 year old Cecil Rhodes in 1881 and the top men in the diamond industry that started in 1866 when a young Koranna boy picked up a shiny pebble on the banks of the Orange River near Hopetown, showed it to a neighbouring farmer who in turn showed it to a local doctor and amateur mineralogist. He identified it as a diamond weighing 21.25 carats and was named Eureka. Three years later a Griqua shepherd unearthed an 82.5 carat diamond that was sold for 10 oxen, a horse and 500 sheep, became the Star of Africa and was sold to the Earl of Dudley for 25,000 pounds!! After that it was on for one and all and 10,000 plots were pegged around Hopetown.  In 1871 kimberlite pipes were found on property owned by the Be Beers brothers and a hill, Colesberg Kopje was soon levelled and became the beginnings of Kimberley’s  Big Hole. Cecil Rhodes appeared on the scene and as syndicates and companies evolved he decided to consolidate the diamond fields, bought up the De Beers claims and after battles with a Jewish Londoner Barney Barnato bought the Kimberley Mine for 5,338,650.00 punds in 1889.that is serious dosh!! A copy of  the cheque is framed in the Kimberley Club and a visitor to the club is quoted as saying ‘the place was stuffed with more millionaires to the square foot than any other place in the world.’   The building has been burned and rebuilt twice  and recently rennovated  to ‘restore it’s former glory’ and we register and become temporary members for the length of our stay. My room is a  high ceilinged, wood floored room , one of several around a small courtyard that leads into the main building. From the outside it reminds me of a convent or monastery, a simple double storied bulilding with a second floor balcony. Inside it’s lined with pictures, paintings and prints along a downstairs corridor that opens into the dining room and members bar and smells of age and money and history. Assorted British Royals have stayed here and insted of signing the visitors book in a single line Philip has inked his moniker over half the page now framed below his photograph. We have a gentle dinner in a tall ceilinged spacious room walled with bells and light switches and photos and then a drink in the members bar where barman Moses tells us about the silver ram’s head on the bar which would have been full of snuff ( and in fact still has snuff in it, now very dessicated and powdery), the very complicated voting process for new members (total membership is still only 540) which involves black and white balls and neccessary numbers and pieces of furniture from a variety of people and places in the world. Outside the front door embedded in the paving is a metal arrow that points north and was placed there by Rhodes..’go north young man’ as opposed to west I guess.. and the entrance opens onto an amazing wooden staircase highlighted by a huge stained glass window panneled for the seasons and changing with the light as the sun moves behind it.

The following morning we have breakfast and head off to the Big Hole, the largest hand dug hole on earth. Before the diggings were consolidated 50,000 men dug here, morning, noon and night and the viewing platform…another one of those ‘Shall I try to fly’ spots measures 30x30m and is the size of a 19 century mining claim. As we stand on it looking down onto the turquoise water in the hole a bunch of rugby players arrive. It’s pretty crowded with all of us standing on the square and one can imagine how crowded and tense things must have been a hundred or so years ago as miners struggled with the soft and then very hard blue ground in search of a glowing pebble.

We walk through the old mining town along the cobbled streets and through and past the old buildings representing life in the early days of Kimberley.A boxing academy, undertakers, dental surgery, haberdashers, diamond merchants and a clutch of pubs including The Australian Arms and the De Beers Directors Private Pullman railway coach decked out with silverware, cut glass and leatherchairs. In the exhibition centre there is a diamond display, the real mccoy and they are really beautiful stones and the colours are incredible. The pinks, yellows and cognacs but also quite lovely emerald greens and a whopper of 616 carats , the largest octahedron uncut diamond.

And so the hours have ticked by and it’s off to Kimberley airport, which is unlocked today, and heaving with people catching the only Saturday flight to Jo’burg. Seems like only a day or so ago that I arrived there at the start of this wonderful adventure and now 5 weeks later it’s goodbyes and the journey home.  Several hours to wait in Joburg, a trawl through the shops and a conversation with a guy wearing shorts, socks and sandals at the departure gate who is convinced that his flight to Amsterdam is leaving from this gate though the screen tells him otherwise. An hour before we leave two burly lads carry a fold up trestle table and open it up whereby three equally burly lasses stroll up and start stretching and snapping rubber gloves and eyeing the waiting boardees. We eye them back with interest and some trepidation as we are herded away from the gate and told to queue for a liquid and security check. All pretty confusing as we’ve done the xray, off with the steel capped boots and body frisk…….’it’s like a gentle massage madam!’.and the first class passengers are particularly miffed as they have to join the rabble too.

Massaged and de liquided it’s onto the plane, a big sleep and two continents and a lot of in between ocean it’s g’day Australia.

Road trip Keimoes

Wake to a bitterly cold and windy morning in Calvinia. The wind is rattling the windows and palms in the garden and the cold has everyone who is venturing out dressed like Nanook of the North. Breakfasted and on a quest to find some of the famed Karoo lamb to take back to Kathu have a wander around the town which is built around the church and laden with Cape Dutch architecture now serving as B and Bs, small cafes, shops, homes and the local newspaper. Talk with the editor , a very sprightly woman bemoaning the fact that she had reached retirement age and could no longer work at the museum and now to keep herself busy runs the local paper. Needless to say a font of knowledge about the town and the surrounds and it’s from her that I learn of the history of the Blou Nartjie and discover that the engineer who has designed Jaguar’s new fuel efficient car, The Jewel?? is a Calvinia lad and returns home every so often to see the family! She points me in the direction of the ‘slaghuis’ (butcher) where I buy some Karroo lamb. I walk around thetown taking photos of the textures on buildings  being repaired,rendered and repainted and a workman can’t understand why I would want to photograph those and shows me walls he has finsihed which are now pristinely perfect.

Six degrees of seperation, alive and well and living in Calvinia. Marnie, who runs the butchers from what I can see, has a son living and working in Williams, a small town in southern WA which is also home to friends of A and E’s!!We get onto this subject of where I’m from and why I’m in this tiny town after stocking an esky full of lamb chops, a couple of roasts,  marinated kebas and a very suspect looking beastie called a pofadder, a sort of sauage filled with minced unmentionables, highly spiced and stuffed in an equally unmentionable skin. This pofadder is frozen and looks relatively harmless packed away amongst recognizable chops and roasts  and bags of ice but as it defrosts it starts to look angry, slippery and red and by the time it reaches Kathu no-one can face the prospect of braiied pofadder and possible outcomes.

The road to Keimoes is long, dry and very empty of vehicles and much in the way of big rocks and mountains that were so much the feature of the previous couple of days. Long and interestingly plain the landscape is nonetheless huge with flat grassy plains, tumbled piles of black, shiny boulders and kilometres of telegraph poles and fencing, the latter I’ve noticed following topography regardless of how steep and along every centimetre the gap between fence and ground is lined with rocks to stop animals getting in and I out I guess.

Brandvlei is a little dusty town belying it’s once ancient subtropical environment . Named for the trekboer Ou Brand who set up camp on the Sakrivier it was at one time irrigated by farmers using methods comparable by those used by the Egyptians for thousands of years. Now abandoned as an irrigation method as the evaporating waters on this flat land leave salts and other minerals one of the area’s claims to fame is that Sir Malcolm Campbell tried to  break (unsuccessfuly) the world land speed record by travelling at over 300mph on the Verneukpan in the Blue Bird. Thwarted by pofadders….the snake, not the sausage though who knows that may have been a factor…, scorpions, dustdevils, mirages, sharp stones and a tortoise on the track he averaged a mean speed for the mile of 218.45mph and is quoted as saying ‘Verneukpan is the most intersting experience I have ever made.’ The BlueBird track is there for all to follow but the route on the map as a track was beyond me and the Getz.  Instead we refuel at the local garage and are greeted by a trio of beanied blokes sitting on a wall sucking on cigarettes asking first for a lift, then for some money and then for some food. I give them a bag of bread, cheese and cold meat and fruit and head into the shop to pay for fuel as they set out a picnic in the dust. A quartet of 4×4 drivers leave loaded down with toasted sandwiches and the deli counter now has one cheese and ham toastie or a smoked sheeps head with misted eyes and teeth in tact. A hard choice as you can imagine but having had lamb for dinner last night plump for a soggy, oily sandwich and leave Brandvlei on the road to Kenhardt.

Another long, straight increasingly narrow road through wide horizoned grassy plains and with toastie and coffee flask in hand have lunch in a picnic spot on the side of the road. Signposted by stylised brown and white signs depicting a broad spread acacia with tables and chairs beneath the rest spot is a variable feast. Either beneath the promised tree, or a thatched, or unthatched shelter and usually with blue and yellow cement table and chairs the trick is to look out for the toilet roll decoration and chose the one that is not festooned in loo roll bunting and with a waste bin sporting dodgy looking clumps of paper around the rim. Find one suitably undecorated but with clumps of wildflowers instead and brace wind and cold and wander along the road side and am rewarded by a find of porcupine quills scattered in the bush. Sadly, I fear, the remains of  being clobbered at high speed on the road this is quite a find and they are truly remarkable. Used to the bundles of quills toursist shops sell these vary is size and some are almost 30cms long the tips as fine as hair growing from  black and white striped quills while others are short and sturdy and incredibly sharp.

Arrive in Kenhardt through black bouldered koppies bristling with kokerboom trees into a town very different from Brandvlei. Much livelier and less distressed somehow, the main street with shops,  hotel and the obligatory spired church and a history dating back to the mid 1860s when magistrate Jackson set up camp under a , still present,camelthorn tree. I spend a while wandering around a curio/antique shop come local store with barrows and carts full of stuff and walls decorated with tin plates and mugs. Old miners lamps, irons, cooking pots, saws and axes and enough tools to satisfy a garage sale fan for life.

Next stop Keimoes and back to the Orange River, vineyards and a B and B  The Overlook which as the name hints at sits on a high spot overlooking the town. Named either from the Koranna word for mouse nest or from the Nama words ‘gei’ (great) ‘mus’ (fountain or eye) the town is a settlement on the biggest island in the lower Orange River region. I’m not sure what they mean by island as we do cross several bridges over big expanses of river, the Orange River, on the way in but it’s hard to tell what is island and what is bank. The Overlook is a little haven of greenery and peace in this part of the Northern Cape that is also an oasis in it’s own right being watered and nourished by the river. My home for the night is a small,whitewashed, thatched house overlooking the acres of vineyards and main street of the town which by the time I arrive is settling into evening. Again amazingly well designed and eclectically furnished and decorated with cowhides, an oryx trophy and posters, a great kitchen area and funky black and white tiled bathroom I have a wonderful dinner cooked and served by Eric in my room. Garlic butter snails and dunking bread, seared yellow fin tuna , coconut rice and vegetables in fish sauce and another evening ends as the sun sets turning the sky and vineyards a coppery red.