|Karoo reality: Lola the pet dog at Gamkapoort Dam: Pic Steve Pike|
Hosting friends from the US for 12 nights during the July school holidays, we showed them our local haunts. We also used the break to indulge as holidaymakers and explore our surroundings.
# There's always something new to see in your backyard
On day 1, we eased our friends Tom Landon, Beth Macy and their 13-year-old son Will out of jetlag by taking them to our favourite suburb, Muizenberg. We walked along the coastal path past Baileys Cottage to St James, the giant swell from spring tide lashing the route along the way. We spotted a few baby sharks, not in the ocean but in Kalk Bay, in a tank at the Save our Seas Shark Centre, a place of interest I have never visited before. We ate fish and chips at the Brass Bell, watching a group of gung-ho surfers getting barrelled at a break a few metres from our table window.
# The resilience of Robben Island
|Madiba's prison cell on Robben Island. Pic: Tom Landon|
We walked to the station by following the fan walk through the city. We caught the Metrorail train to Steenberg Station, giving our visitors a feel for the natural working rhythm of city life.
# Spoilt for choice: Neoprene or lycra
|The mountain or the ocean?|
So day 4 became a surf morning too, for half of us. The others took a break from the ocean and tight neoprene in favour of the mountain and moulded lycra, heading instead to the Tokai forest for a bike ride followed by a quick tour of Groot Constantia, the grand old dame of wine estates.
# Even locals can be fooled by the weather
|Half-way up Platteklip Gorge in a black South Easter|
# It can be safe to sleep outdoors near the city
|Orangekloof tented camp, a safe haven|
On day 6, we walked through the shopping labyrinth at Greenmarket Square. We toured Newspaper House, Beth – a journalist at the Roanoke Times - delivering a talk to our newsrooms. We explored the devastation of District Six and pointed out the socio-economic contrasts between returning home along the M3 and the M5.
Later we headed out on the N2 for a night in Greyton, staying at a friend’s house. The town was blissfully quiet, like everyone had gone into hibernation for the winter.
# Sex sells, even along the R62
|Ronnie Price is the face of the R62 sex shop. Pic; Beth Macy|
# It’s wild fun taking a sedan into 4X4 country
|Gamkapoort Dam: The curvaceous Klein Karoo. Pic: Janet Heard|
After zigzagging for another 25 km along a hazardous dirt road that had recently been eroded by floods, we reached our destination, Gamkapoort Dam, in the dark. I patted my car. We settled into our two-bedroom, Eskom-free cottages (R125 per person a night) which are managed by Fox Ledeboer, the legendary unofficial water bailiff who lives at the bottom of the hill, and Anne Reid, who lives at the top.
The next morning, the Karoo winter sunlight reflected, refracted and shimmered over liquid and rock in front of our cottage. I forgave my husband Steve for insisting that we trek for a day along unforgiving roads to show our US friends an obscure place way off the tourist radar. With no cell reception and aware that the closest shop was in Ladismith 90 minutes away, we spent three nights in the Swartberg among the oddly shaped cacti and giant thorn trees. We walked, cycled, kayaked, ate, drank and stared into the stillness of the illuminated Klein Karoo.
En route home along the N1 on day 10, we stopped in at Matjiesfontein for lunch in the pub, then back to the Mother City.
# There’s more to the Noon Gun than the big bang
On day 11, Beth and I separated from our clan to vist the gorgeously kitsch Tretchikoff exhibition at the Iziko National Gallery. We strolled through parliament gardens, toured Lavender Hill “where Ellen Pakkies lives”, and ate a tasty Breyani for lunch at another place I had never been to, the Noon Gun Restaurant at the summit of Bo-Kaap.
# Where there’s a Will there’s a wave
|A stoked Will catches a giant ripple at Surfers Corner. Pic:Tom Landon|
*An article about Robben Island appeared in the Cape Times on Wednesday July 20, link: http://bit.ly/rgVrUE.