Oudtshoorn - Day Seven

Dinner at Jemima’s which is reviewed as the best restaurant in town. Very good meal; V had a skewer of local lamb chops which were much more flavourful and gamey than the ones that we get at home and I, in spite of the heat, had a braised lamb shank. Very good, but still not as good as mine, said with proper humility. We had reservations for another and equally well-reviewed restaurant for tonight but they seemed to have an unfocussed menu, some Thai dishes, some bistro dishes and we were concerned that they weren’t quite sure if they knew what they wanted to be when they grew up, so we re-booked Jemima’s for tonight. May have missed a great meal but, at this point, couldn’t matter less.Climbing over the top of Swartburg Pass, South Africa. March 2013. Original size 5451x3744px. (Gerald FitzGerald) Spent the day driving, first to an ostrich farm, which was an instructive reminder why we don’t travel in tour groups. We were bundled in with a group of young Belgians who were good fun but tiring en masse. V got some very good shots but unfortunately my battery died, and a baby ostrich that I was holding, relieved itself on my newly laundered shirt so all told, couldn’t get out of there fast enough! Next on to the Swartberg Pass which is supposed to be one of the most scenic mountain passes in Africa. The approach to the pass is a gravel road that runs off the main regional road and then works its way up to the top of the pass at 2,400 metres. Stunning drive up and views were fabulous, across a wide plain to another range of mountains to the south. The gravel road begins very well, drivable and dusty which gives you good warning of another car coming in the opposite direction, of which there were thankfully, few. There are no guard rails or walls so that as you climb and approach a switchback, the car would be pointed up and all you could see was sky dropping off in front of the car as you turned the corner, had its hairy moments. As we approached the top, 3 miniature deer raced across the road ahead of us, which was very exciting; V managed to get a good shot which I’ll post.

View from the top, Swartberg Pass, South Africa. February 2012.View from the topThe fun really began when we summited; took the requisite pics and began the descent. The road on the other side of the pass, I’m guessing, belongs to a different and poorer municipality or district, and is markedly less well-kept than the approach from the Oudtshoorn side. On the Prince Albert side, the main town over the pass, the road was close to un-drivable without a 4x4.The gravel road for all of its long descending length was washed out, littered with large stones, corduroy bumps, potholes and bare reefs of rock. While on the upward climb, the direction is essentially up, on the descending side you, go down, climb other small passes and work your way down in a much less direct fashion. We could only maintain a driving speed of between 7 and 10 k an hour or the car started to shake itself apart. As a result the climb and descent took us about 2 1/2 hours. Hair-raising in parts but with a better-suited car it would have been better fun.

Drove on a circular 100k route back to our guest house which took us to a spectacular waterfall whose name escapes me. It’s a climb off the highway up a hillside to a cleft in the rocks with a 60 meter waterfall rushing down the back of the fissure in the rock into a pool below; shaded, quiet and verdant with waterside vegetation, really stunning. At this point I have to vociferously thank Chuck and Eileen for their advice on footwear. We had planned to take Teevas as our sandals. C&E have just returned from SA and strongly advised us to get a pair of Ecco or similar sandals. Great advice and has been a lifesaver, most recently on the climb to the waterfall.

Stopped for a pleasant lunch and am now sitting beside the pool washing off the dust of the day; V already in and so will stop now. Ready for dinner at Jemima’s.

Oudtshoorn to somewhere past Knysa - Day Eight

Montagu to Oudtshoorn - Day Six