So, we’ve hit the road and are officially ‘caravaners’ on a road trip! We left Howick heading for Kimberley thinking we would get there that day including a stop off in Clarens for me to see a town I have heard a lot about. However, hadn’t really taken into account the difference in driving speed when towing a VERY full caravan as well as the fact we would need to stop at the top of a mountain to change a water hose in the engine. Needless to say that wasn’t as straightforward as it could have been; surrounded by howling winds with the caravan roof lifting and the back window blowing out led to a few ‘choice’ words and us questioning what we are actually doing.
After a cross country detour our first night was spent in the Golden Gate National Park, at the foot of some incredible mountains having driven through landscapes that, at times, felt like they were more suited to a Lord of the Rings set than here. We arrived in the dark and on opening the caravan were met by the contents of the cupboards being in a heap in the middle of the floor and the electricity not working; all of which made for a quiet and thoughtful early night!
Day 2 started with rearranging of the caravan contents in preparation for more rough roads before heading off to Clarens for breakfast where we rewarded ourselves with pancakes to celebrate. The town is full of character and feels like you have stepped back in time. It’s a beautiful setting surrounded by mountains and overlooking valleys. As with so many of these towns I can imagine that Clarens is sleepy, quiet and relaxed for long periods of time but when high season arrives it takes on a different persona becoming full of the hustle and bustle of tourists. It’s filled with cute shops, old stone buildings and traditional crafters.
From Clarens we continued our westward mission and headed for Kimberley via Bloemfonten. A stop at the side of the road to clear up one of the dog’s ‘tummy troubles’ meant we found ourselves still east of Bloem when a tyre blew on the caravan. What was meant to be a quick tyre swap turned into quite the mission when we discovered the spare tyre was flat leaving stranded at the side of the road with two useless tyres. Luckily a passer by stopped to help out and after him making several efficient phone calls, before we knew it I was headed into the city with him to pick up a new tyre and fix the less damaged one. By the time the caravan sporting two tyres that would get us somewhere and was ready to go again, it was late and dark. Our ‘rescuer’ offered for us to park on his farm and join him and his wife for dinner. Over the evening it came out that he had been the Mayor of Bloem 10 years ago and the evening was filled with history of the local area, discussions on politics, past and present, and some much needed wine.
On the ex-Mayor’s recommendation we spent the following day in the city rather than driving straight through. Leaving the caravan at the bottom of Signal Hill (after a seven point turn around the security booth where we were informed that no matter how well behaved the dogs may be, they couldn’t go in) with the dogs to guard it, we headed up to Naval Point. From here we looked out over what is known as a University city, alongside a larger than life statue of Mandela.
As we later drove through Bloem heading for the Anglo-Boer War Museum, it hit me that we really were going to have to get used to having the caravan attached; what would normally be a simple drive gets much more complicated in congested areas where feet rule the streets, drivers seem oblivious to the road markings and we have to make sure we take the right directions so as to avoid making more multi point turns. We also quickly realised travelling with the dogs was going to have it’s advantages; no need to pay for car guards in car parks and less people approaching us in traffic jams to sell their wares.
The museum was interesting and thought provoking telling the story of a war I knew little about despite the ancestral involvement. I think we made the car park security guard’s day by rolling up, parking the caravan and making us all (including him) coffee before we went in.
Fortified by our coffee we were ready to hit the road again, heading for Kimberley where we arrived 48 hours later than ‘planned’ having slept at an ex-Mayor’s house, in a a National Park and having changed two tyres and one hose.