An Upside Down Christmas

Because I am lucky enough to be able to ‘work from the road’ today I am working from a wine estate in beautiful Stellenbosch. Yes, I am working despite being surrounded by stunning gardens and endless bottles of wine!

It’s 30 degree, tourists are coming and going; wine tasting, having lunch and enjoying the heat. On the rest of the estate, the social enterprises that are based here (go-karting, dirt road biking, potteries and an education centre) are hustling with activity.

And there’s Christmas music in the background. Continue reading

Home is where the caravan legs stay down

To start from the beginning and find out what this adventure is all about, click here.

If we have stayed anywhere longer than a night or two, our habit so far seems to have been two weeks maximum. Despite promises of low crime rates, a friendly community, development initiatives and beautiful landscapes we were skeptical about Pringle Bay. We knew we needed somewhere to call home for a while longer so we can we find our feet (and patch the holes in the caravan). A few days into our time in Pringle Bay it feels like this is it. We have set up camp next to a family friend of the boy’s and already feel like one of the locals.
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The Mother City

To start from the beginning and find out what this adventure is all about, click here.

So we unexpectedly found ourselves in the Mother City. A last minute visit to Cape Town from some of my favourite people from home and more tyre troubles led us to speed down the last bit of the west coast (with promises that we will be back) to get to civilisation, tyres and friendly faces.

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A very cloudy view of Table Mountain!

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West Side Story: Chapter 2

Since Port Nolloth we have been heading south and stopping at places we like the look of (or that have gas stations). Having been disappointed so far in our search for a friendly, small, quanit fishing town with a welcoming atmosphere and opportunities to fish for our own supper, we pinned our hopes on Honderklipbaai (Stone of the Dog). Our journey here was hassle free through expanses of land covered in different types of flowers, past rocks with seals sunbathing and round a number of tortoises crossing the road.

First seal sighting

First seal sighting

We got used to keeping our eyes peeled for tortoises in the road

We got used to keeping our eyes peeled for tortoises in the road…

Even though some were missed right at the last minute!

Even though some had a narrow escape!

Two weeks later, we are still here and haven’t been disappointed.
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Namaqualand Flowers

Part of the reason we left the Midlands when we did was so that we would make it to Namaqualand during the infamous flower season.

The Cape Wild Flowers are one of the natural wonders of the world. The arid areas of the Cape West Coast and the semi desert of Namaqualand, transform into a floral wonderland.

Heading straight west we drove through areas known for their flowers but it wasn’t until we started to go south along the coast that we really saw variety and flowers in abundance. The flowers pop in in single bursts or clumps of contrasting colours amongst the green, dry foliage. The region is know for being sparse and arid outside of Flower Season but in the two months the flowers are out, people head here in droves and tourism picks up. For many of the B&Bs and other accommodation offerings, Flower Season is their busiest time of year and it keeps them going.
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West Side Story: Chapter 1

We made it to the West Coast! All the way from East to West with a caravan and two dogs! There were definitely times when I didn’t think we would get here (nothing like a bit of melodrama to make changing a tyre easier, hey?)

After spending the night on the side of the road, at the top of a mountain pass and in an empty truck lay-by, we carried on with the last stretch to Port Nolloth.

Morning view from the side of the road

Morning view from the side of the road

Our first sighting of the Atlantic was coming into Port Nolloth past all the white chalky earth heading towards the ferocious looking waves with wind howling past us. Our first point of call was of course the beach where the four of us stood for a few moments and took in the salty smell, wind and waves. It was instantly obvious the West Coast is very different to the East and the water is SO cold!
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Go West; It’s What We’re Gonna Do

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.

Changing a hose on the top of the mountain pass

Changing a hose on the top of the mountain pass

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!
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The Midlands, KwaZulu-Natal

Not having a plan has got off to a great start! We thought we would have left the Midlands a while ago but, 3 weeks after I got back, we are just starting to (re) pack the caravan up!

The days have been filled with caravan jobs; taking everything out (who knew how much could be fitted in such a small space!), repacking, finding room for my things too, cleaning and scrubbing inside and out. Right now, everything is in, even the washing machine (having clean clothes and sheets is SO nice, right?)…and, there’s still space to swing a (small) cat.

All this (and more) fits in the caravan!

All this (and more) fits in the caravan!

Getting used to living in a small space not designed for tall people is going to take some doing. No matter how many times either of us hit our head our brains don’t seem to remember where the sharp corners are. Morning greetings have gone from ‘it’s your turn to make coffee’ to ‘don’t hit your head when you sit up’ If they aren’t uttered in time, the other person holds a grudge for the lack of reminder 😉 The dogs are oblivious to our suffering and swearing focused on staying as close to us as possible so they don’t get left behind accidentally and miss out on the adventure they know is coming up!
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Route Planning

I have always loved maps. Mum and I look for excuses to go ‘the map shop’ on Longacre in Covent Garden just to stand on the map of London that’s printed on the basement floor. Sadly, I don’t think I would get much of London on the floor of the caravan!

Another passion of mine is Lonely Planet books. As soon as I have an inkling that I might be going somewhere I pick one up and spend hours reading through them. I continue to read them while I am away, re-reading sections just in case I missed anything. I am not by any means someone that relies on what has been reviewed and written in terms of restaurants, hostels etc. I use them to get a feeling for an area and a culture before I get there, then to understand the history of a building, landmark or tradition. I hate not knowing all the facts, I want to know the whens, whys and hows of things.
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The plan not to have a plan

As I sit here at the airport I am excited and ready to go back. It feels normal, like I am going somewhere familiar, somewhere like home. But, at the same time it’s strange and different to be going ‘back’ to a country I have been living in but to a different place. I have only ever returned to the place I left whether for a holiday, a trip or for business. I haven’t ever gone back but at the same time not really back.
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