After a good few days in and about Durbanville, we set off again on our next adventure. We had had some good weather down here and the landscape was starting to turn green again after a long dry summer. Some of the culinary highlights included brunch at Phesantekraal Farm just outside Durbanville. This farm was the scene of many great adventures as a child and belongs to a distant cousin. He recently started making wine and the restaurant has been in operation for about 2 years now. Well worth a visit. We also had coffee at Asara which is near Stellenbosch. I have had a few good meals here and so wanted to show the beautiful farm to the family. From Asara we went to Morgenster in Somerset West. This farm specialises in olive oil and this makes quite an interesting tasting. They also make some interesting Italian cultivar wines.
Getting back on the road again was nice and the scenery for this next leg of the trip was pretty spectacular. We headed along the N1 through the winelands and past Paarl towards Worcester. The tunnel through the du Toits Kloof mountains is still impressive. Just past Worcester one drives through a beautiful little poort and into the Hex River Valley. The colours were still pretty good as the farmers haven’t started to prune yet. The only pity along here is that there are few places to pull over to admire the view. The hawkers selling stolen grapes have created a safety problem and the police don’t seem to have the will to sort it out. We saw a good lay-bye to stop and take a few shots; a police car was parked there and believe it or not the hawkers still tried to harass us! After about an hour on the road we felt the need for coffee, so we stopped at De Doorns where we also bought some wine. I haven’t tried wine from this area before so we picked up a couple of bottles of Sauvignon Blanc and a Muscadel for the winter.
As we didn’t have far to go for the day we stopped again at Matjiesfontein where we had a nice lunch and spent some time in the museum which is inside (and under) the old station platform. Unfortunately some of the little shops were closed for lunch – sometimes it’s hard to understand that travelling in the off-season has some frustration.
From Matjiesfontein the drive up to Sutherland is fantastic. I really love the Karoo! We arrived at Sutherland mid-afternoon and did a quick walk up and down the main street; and the Mall! The rest of the afternoon was spent in the Pub at the Hotel where we were staying. The main reason for visiting Sutherland was, of course to visit the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) which is home to SALT or South African Large Telescope. We opted for the evening tour and spent about an hour viewing some really interesting starts and other heavenly bodies in perfectly clear skies. It’s not winter yet but temperatures were in the low single figures. One of the highlights here was looking at Jupiter and five of its moons. Saturn and the rings were also pretty special. On the way back to the hotel we had a close shave with a buck walking across the road. I think I did clip it though.
After breakfast next morning we left Sutherland and headed for our next stop at Douglas. The road from Sutherland to Fraserburg and Loxton was pretty good gravel and the landscape was awesome. Did I say, I love the Karoo??
We had lunch at Loxton which is such a pretty little place. It looks like everyone here has a job so nobody lying around the streets! Hospitality at Die Rooi Granaat was great and the thick vegetable soup with home-baked bread even better. After lunch we headed off for Carnarvon which was a bit of a disappointment. Its quite a large town but offers little for the eye. We drove on and soon came to Vosburg where we ventured onto dirt road again heading towards Prieska. I must admit it had been great traversing this wonderful region on dirt roads; they were pretty well maintained.
Needless to say, as soon as one gets too comfortable (and brave) fate deals you a challenge. About 60km from Prieska we had a blow-out and spent the next 30 minutes rolling about the dust and dirt changing tyres. Fortunately we had not damaged the wheel rim in the process. This put a bit of a damper on the rest of the day. Anyway, we were fortunate that we could replace the tyre in Prieska. Whilst waiting for the wheel change we booked our accommodation at Douglas. The drive through was fine as we were back on tar again and we were looking forward to a shower.
Douglas is a big agricultural centre but not very attractive. It sits at the confluence of the Vaal and Orange Rivers. Our accommodation here was basic to say the least but at least we had a good shower. We opted for dinner at the Hotel at the recommendation of the B&B owner; I guess when there isn’t much on offer these places are OK.