The Braai Diaries

Road Trip - - CONTENTS - Story by: Kayla Cloete Cap­tured by: Ryan Ab­bott (TCB Me­dia) & Kevin Sawyer

Na­tional Braai Tour 2017

Along with 200 other braai en­thu­si­asts, braai novice, Kayla Cloete, joined renowned South African braai mas­ter, Jan Braai, on the Na­tional Braai tour 2017: an epic, week-long road trip along South Africa’s gar­den route to unite a na­tion around a fire.

Each year, South Africans are in­vited to grab their braai tongs and pakkies wors and join on a week-long road trip, which aims to show­case the di­ver­sity of the South African coun­try­side.

The email cap­tioned, “IN­VI­TA­TION: Na­tional Braai Tour 2017” glared back at me from the long list of un­read emails in my in­box. I knew what its con­tents would read when I opened it – the cap­tion was hardly sub­tle – and de­cided to leave it un­opened un­til one of my col­leagues who were more prac­ticed in the art of braai had ac­cepted the in­vi­ta­tion.

For those of you who are un­fa­mil­iar with the con­cept, the Na­tional Braai Tour was de­vel­oped in 2014 as an an­nual event, which takes place in Septem­ber, in cel­e­bra­tion of her­itage month in South Africa. Each year, South Africans are in­vited to grab their braai tongs and pakkies wors and join on a week- long road trip which aims to show­case the di­ver­sity of the South African coun­try­side and high­light some of the his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant spots along the way.

“The Na­tional Braai Tour is a blueprint of sorts on how to best cel­e­brate her­itage month and Her­itage Day. It is about bring­ing di­verse peo­ple to­gether to en­joy the one thing that unites us all: cook­ing and celebrating around an open fire,” ex­plains lo­cal celebrity braai mas­ter and or­gan­iser for the event, Jan Braai.

As it turned out, all of my col­leagues were busy over the dates that had been sched­uled for this year’s tour. I took this as a sign for me to vol­un­teer – af­ter all, it is just cook­ing over an open flame,

Win­dows rolled down on our Izuzu X-rider, we filled the air with the time­less lyrics of Bob Mar­ley and ACDC (ad­mit­tedly, our playlist was a rather eclec­tic mix) as we drove to­wards Bo­plaas Cel­lar.

how dif­fi­cult could it be? Shortly af­ter ac­cept­ing the in­vi­ta­tion, it was de­cided that our pho­tog­ra­pher and braai fa­natic, Ryan Ab­bott, should join me on the tour. Whether this de­ci­sion was made so that we could get our own pho­to­graphs, or to make sure I did not burn down the camp­site, we will never truly know.

My alarm clock woke me at 7am on a Tues­day morn­ing. The plan was for us to make the three hour jour­ney to Bar­ry­dale in or­der to join the Na­tional Braai Tour, which had started in Cape Town the Sun­day be­fore, at their lunch stop at a quirky restau­rant called Diesel and Crème. We ar­rived to a park­ing lot filled with gees. South African flags hung from car win­dows and the belt loops of dis­turbingly low-rid­ing jeans, #BRAAITOUR t-shirts and caps rested upon weary-look­ing par­tic­i­pants (the kuier the night be­fore had ap­par­ently lasted un­til the early hours of the morn­ing), and braai smoke filled the air with the de­li­cious scent of burger pat­ties in the process of be­ing grilled to per­fec­tion.

Ini­tially over­whelmed by the scene, and not yet kit­ted out with our own Braai Tour gear to iden­tify us as part of the team, Ryan and I tried to make our­selves as in­con­spic­u­ous as pos­si­ble. In hind­sight, tak­ing self­ies with the old petrol pumps in front of the restau­rant was prob­a­bly not the best strat­egy to re­main un­seen. It was not long be­fore we were greeted with gourmet milk­shakes – which had ev­i­dently been pre­pared for gi­ants, or per­haps just with Amer­i­can tourists in mind – and were in­vited to join the rest of the crew as they headed to­wards Cal­itz­dorp for a bit of port tast­ing (as one does in Cal­itz­dorp).

Win­dows rolled down on our Izuzu X-rider, we filled the air with the time­less lyrics of Bob Mar­ley and ACDC (ad­mit­tedly, our playlist was a rather eclec­tic mix) as drove to­wards Bo­plaas Cel­lar. Af­ter tast­ing what I dubbed “liq­uid gold” (more com­monly known as their Cape Vin­tage Choco­late Port), I grabbed a price list and vowed to re­turn as soon as I had made it to my next pay cheque.

Af­ter the port tast­ing, how­ever, my re­solve against spend­ing money I did not have weak­ened, and at our next stop, De Krans Wines, I walked away the proud owner of a De Krans Pino­tage Rosé and Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon.

Our first night was to be spent at Cal­itz­dorp Spa – an invit­ing re­sort with warm wa­ter pools, of­fer­ing self-cater­ing chalet ac­com­mo­da­tion as well as camp­sites for tents and car­a­vans. Ev­ery­one in­volved in the tour is free to choose their own ac­com­mo­da­tion type when they reg­is­ter, and ar­rives at the overnight spot at their own leisure. Once there, par­tic­i­pants col­lect a bag of in­gre­di­ents from the main camp­site area, and head back to their own sites to pre­pare a meal ac­cord­ing to the Jan Braai recipe book, which is handed out at the start of the tour. Ma­gies vol, the par­tic­i­pants then head back to the main camp­site to min­gle with their fel­low campers and en­joy the live mu­sic and open bar setup.

As me­dia, we were in­vited to dine with the rest of the Braai Tour setup crew.as a re­sult, and to my re­lief, I man­aged to get through the rest of the tour with­out hav­ing to put my am­a­teur braai skills to the test. Ryan, how­ever, be­came un­easy af­ter just one night with­out his own fire to man­age. Thank­fully, his braai-itch was soon scratched when we reached the “Prime Braai” spot – the base camp where Braai Tour par­tic­i­pants stop for lunch – in Oudt­shoorn the fol­low­ing day. Af­ter grilling some chicken kebabs, we headed to the Cango Caves to ex­plore the an­cient rock for­ma­tions that lie hid­den in the Swart­berg Moun­tains.

We spent our last night on the tour at San­parks Ebb & Flow Rest Camp in Wilder­ness – a beau­ti­ful camp­site sit­u­ated along­side the riverbed, of­fer­ing self-cater­ing chalets and car­a­van / tent camp­sites.

It was with a heavy heart that we said our good­byes to the rest of the Braai Tour on Thurs­day as they made their way to Keur­booms in con­tin­u­a­tion of the tour, which was set to end in Wil­lows Camp­site in Nel­son Man­dela Bay in Port El­iz­a­beth that Sun­day. For us, it had been an in­sight­ful two days filled with meat, mense, and mem­o­ries – an ex­pe­ri­ence which truly en­cap­su­lated the South African spirit of both the am­a­teur braai en­thu­si­ast and braai fa­natic alike.

For more in­for­ma­tion on next year’s tour, visit www.braai.com.

Jan Braai con­nect­ing with team Kan Braai (con­sist­ing of Michael Brecht, Chris van Niek­erk, Leon Viljoen, and Jo­han Mein­t­jesu) at their camp­site at Ebb & Flow Rest Camp.

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