Adventure in the heat of the day
TOURING the Northern Cape and Karoo in summer is definitely not for sissies.
With temperatures soaring into the high 40s and mirages dancing before your eyes, it is a land where only the strongest and fittest survive.
But, despite this, it is a land of stark beauty where the sandy roads are arrow-straight for hundreds of kilometres heading into the deep-blue sky.
And, once you stop, the only sound invading the eerie silence is the gentle whisper of the wind.
It is no wonder that many ghost stories have originated in the Northern Cape.
We took our 10-day summer break and headed away from the madding crowds i n Cape Town, aiming t he bonnet of our trusty old 4x4 in the dir ection of t he Tankwa Karoo en route in a great loop to Upington then back home via Williston, Fraserburg, Leeu Gamka, Oudtshoorn and Montagu.
I had promised to show my wife the real beauty of the land we were going to traverse, and to do it all off the tar roads.
After our first day out in soaring temperatures that would easily match the heat in a blacksmith’s shop or on the footplate of a steam train, she was certain that I was short of a few braincells, especially after having to wrap a wet cloth around the petrol pump on my vehicle to keep it moving, plus repairing one puncture and totally wrecking a second tyre.
However, after sunset on that first day, when t he mountains t ur ned bright pink and the night wind cooled the land, all was forgiven.
I had also promised to show her attractions international visitors would pay thousands to see, and we certainly found plenty to fill our minds and distract us from the searing heat.
We discovered the best time to explore was i n t he earl y morning before the sun exploded into the sky and late in the afternoon as the soft light threw shadows across the vast plains.
We encountered many interesting succulents just metres off the road, sociable weaver’s nests clinging to every telephone pole for up to 100km, the ghost town of Putsonderwater, had breakfast on Verneukpan where Sir Malcolm Cambell broke a world land speed record in 1929, and photographed a lonely cyclist pedalling along the 17-mile track.
In every small town we met the most f r i e ndl y f ol k on t he pl a net , enjoyed refreshing homemade gingerbeer and some of the best cheesecake.
In Canarvon, a man drove alongside us, greeted us with a huge smile and an invitation to enjoy the safest town in the country. He turned out to be a pastor working among the poorest of communities in 19 towns.
Then we photographed corbelled buildings, sandstone churches and abandoned railway stations along the old SAR service roads, which we plied throughout the region.
And along our 3 600km, journey we came across fewer than 50 vehicles, were never plagued by impatient drivers, saw no pedestrians and only had to stop for small buck to cross the road and saved one, which had become tangled in a fence. CONGRATULATIONS to Clive Human for his photograph of a hoya flower. Clive wins dinner for two at CinCin, where food and life are celebrated with superb views of t he Cape Town c i t y s k y l i ne, Ta bl e Mountain, and its pièce de résistance, a 3m genuine Swarovski crystal chandelier.
CinCin is synonymous with elegance and ambience. The menu changes with t h e s e a s o n s , i n c l u d i n g a n u mber o f themes: the vegetable garden, the sea, the farm, the veld and fynbos.
From the mountains to the sea, the colour f ul dishes r efl ect l ocal f l avours; sweet, sun drenched, earthy, rich in taste and aroma. Visit CinCin at the Protea Hotel Colosseum in Century City and allow its team to reveal the true essence of CinCin. Whatever language you speak, may it be a celebration.
Our runners-up are Erika Reinhardt for her photograph of a cr ocodile i n t he Chobe National Park; and Bev Armstrong for her photograph of an old lady on a skiff outside An Quang Pagoda, Vietnam.
Travel2009 will continue to publish the popular readers’ photographic competition, with a prize of a dinner for two for the winners each week.