It was dark when we eventually entered Bloemfontein and we put Miss GPS on, just to be on the safe side. Obviously she is programmed to find ways to avoid rush hour and we were dumb enough to follow her advice. It would have been so straight forward if she had just left us on the N8 so we could automatically link up with the N1 and find the first highway petrol stop to park for the night. But no… she sent us through a township south-east of Bloemfontein, then through fields and industrial areas and when we eventually hit the N1 we were so far south of Bloemfontein, that returning to find a highway petrol stop was not an option. So we continued to Colesberg, which took us another 2 hours or so. Not at all what we had planned! We pulled off at the first petrol stop and went to bed.
The following morning however, one of the attendants informed us that we had parked in the wrong spot and that his manager didn’t like it when trucks park on the side of the car park and restaurants. Luckily we were just packing up and we left the petrol station.
We continued our trip to the south through the beautiful Karoo landscape with its endless horizons and dramatic skies and passed through quaint and Victorian towns like ‘book town’ Richmond (unfortunately too early in the morning and everything was still closed), Beaufort West and Matjiesfontein.
We had more or less planned to overnight at Matjiesfontein before hitting our last stretch into Cape Town. We did, but our afternoon took an unexpected twist.
We got out of the truck and walked into the pub, adjacent to the Lord Milner Hotel. We’ve played this scenario before: walk into a pub or restaurant and discuss with the manager that we don’t drink and drive and if it is ok to stay parked overnight in front of their establishment. So far no-one ever had a problem. So that was our plan of action.
As the pub has retained its old time Victorian atmosphere, Stefaan had a walkabout to look at the old photos on the wall. He got hailed by a guy, Johan, at the end of the bar counter and struck up a conversation. Some guys we had seen outside on a smoke break, Rehan and Heinze, came in shortly after and obviously made up the full party. Just as I was served our drinks, Stefaan called out to come and join the three men. Long story short: the three men were on their Friday afternoon off-work-break from their job at the Roggeveld wind farm project some 20 or 30km further north. We had a jolly good time together and by the time that they were getting ready to leave and we were getting ready to retire in Trokkie, an invitation popped up to join the team for a braai at the wind farm. That sounded cool enough so we said yes!
Rehan jumped into the truck with us, chatting happily all the way and having a ball riding in the truck.
We eventually arrived at the wind farm, where Hugo joined the party, and the rest of the evening flew buy with storytelling, drinking and joking around and enjoying a full out meal with homemade soup and a generous braai. Johan encouraged us to look up Tjol se Gat, near Sutherland, the next morning.
In the heat of a very happy evening, promises were made that we could possibly visit a wind turbine, but the following morning the sober reality kicked in: working day for some and all sorts of safety practices would not allow us to really visit the turbines. Deep down we had kinda anticipated that, but it’s nice to dream!
Thanks again to all the guys for a wonderful and happy evening!
So, when all the guys drifted off to their particular jobs, we packed up and hit the road towards Sutherland to visit Tjol se Gat.
The closer we came, the more we realised we had done part of this road before when we had visited Tankwa. We must have misunderstood Johan regarding how far it was (we thought he had said 40km before Sutherland, but it turned out to be closer to 14km). Be it as it may: we stopped and had a beer and a chat with Tjol. He bought this old Toll House, put in some sweat and elbow grease to upgrade it and has turned it into a pub and interesting stop for passersby. He’s also working hard at establishing a camping ground across the road.
Seeing we were this close to Sutherland we decided to give it another go for a star gazing session at SALT, but unfortunately, the session was fully booked again. We ooh-ed and aah-ed and half decided to go watch a space movie and do the stargazing in town at the Sutherland Planetarium. (photos courtesy of Sutherland Planetarium website). The movie was cool enough with reclining chairs so you actually feel as if you’re lying on the ground looking at the stars, but it made me realise that the size of telescopes at SALT would most probably be bigger than the ones in town and we decided we’ll rather hold out for the proper SALT stargazing. We hope that our third time will be our lucky one… whenever this opportunity will come around!
We slept in the street- again- and returned to Matjiesfontein the next morning for our last stretch into Cape Town.
We passed through the beautiful Hex valley, now adorned in the rich oranges and reds of autumn and the first snow on the mountains as we entered the valley. Later that afternoon we pulled up in front of my sister’s house. We would be hanging around in Cape Town for an unforeseeable time as we had various things to sort out for the truck and get our corona vaccinations.
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