The long and winding road - Day 357
We were moving on from Graaf-Reinet today which was supposed to be a 4 hour drive. We weren't expecting such a long and winding road though!
When we had met Evelyne yesterday, she asked us to revisit Johan and tell him off for not visiting her last Sunday. With a twinkle in her eye, she said she had waited for him all day and wept herself to sleep. We did as we were asked.
We arrived at Obesa Nursery to find Johan sitting with a friend, Wilhelm, who he introduced as his twin. Wilhelm had cancer for some years, and last year it returned in his blood and lymph glands. He used natural remedies including cannabis, which is now legal in South Africa and is now in remission. How amazing is that and how sad that these natural remedies are not widely offered to patients. We had a nice long chat with the two of them. Johan is very open with what he gets up to in his colourful life. Good job we are not bashful!
Time for us to move on as we had a long journey down to Knysna. We planned a stop at Willowmore as this was just under half way – so we thought! How wrong could we be – but that’s for later.
Willowmore is a bit of a one-horse town, bypassing the main N9. Despite its remoteness, we were surprised that the main thoroughfare had rather interesting shops and places to visit. You can even stay the night at the Old Jail!
I had found online Sophie’s Choice Café. Weirdly it had what looked like antique wedding dresses hanging in the window. We entered this double fronted building which looked more like a wild western saloon than a café in the middle of the Karoo! Old large tables, huge paintings on the wall of women dressed in vintage clothes, old bikes and teddies on the walls, chandeliers, and an assortment of other paraphernalia! More like an Antique Shop than a café.
As usual, we had a chat with the owner, Sophia. She has owned the café for the past 13 years and took over from her husband, now creating it as she wishes. She showed us an embroidered, white silk dress that a customer bought in for her two years after they had eaten at her establishment. It was their grandmother’s dress, who had sadly passed away, and had come all the way from Ireland! They thought she would appreciate it. She, or Sophie’s Choice, certainly leaves an impression on people. While we were tucking into a delicious, healthy salad, a gentleman came in and handed her a parcel. Inside were beautiful cross-stitched tablecloths and napkins, again inheritance items not wanted by the family. How lovely to hand these over, knowing that Sophia will cherish these. What an interesting lady and place.
We carried on our journey, and just as we were travelling through Uniondale, I was pondering that I needed some Aloe for my burn. Hey presto, this place processes and packages Aloe gel! How fortuitous is that! I stopped off and bought a huge tub of the natural gel for less than £2.50.
Just after this small town, the landscape changed. We had come to the extremely long Prince Alfred’s pass, built by Thomas Bain in the 1860s. He was given the nickname of "The man with the theodolite eye" as he had the incredible ability to visualise where the pass could be built and how to overcome all the obstacles presented. Driving through this, we could appreciate his talent.
The mountains became rockier and higher, and the road became rougher and wigglier. The track climbed higher, the drop became deeper; precariously we were driving along the ridge, crossing the Langkloof Mountains. Now, if anyone has a fear of heights, I would advise that they either saw me for a session or two or avoided this road like the plague! This pass went on and on and on, relentless, I was glad it was Tim driving, he takes it all on his stride. I can imagine that my hands would have been aching from gripping onto the steering wheel too hard!
During the two hours’ drive through the Pass, we saw just one truck and a couple of isolated residences, including one called Angie’s G Spot! I wonder if she is friends with Johan. We were pressed for time so didn’t stop!
The surroundings changed, the vegetation looked black, and I suddenly smelt a whiff of smoke. In the distance, I could see a tendril of smoke, whispering into the air and gently evaporating. I was concerned; we had read about the deadly fires further south. Had they reached here? As we turned another bend, the vista swept out. I could see the direction of the road in the distance, but just near the side was more smoke, this looked persistent. Underneath this, I saw flickers of flames. “We’re not going there” I announced. Tim didn’t seem to share my concern, but luckily, just around another corner was a road leading us away, the only other road we had seen in the last 120 minutes. I quickly checked the map and could see a detour that, even though the distance was longer, the road wasn’t meandering so much. Phew! Our four hour journey ended up taking six!
I was concerned that we didn’t inform anyone of this fire; however I did research later, and there’s no mention of it in the news. I hope it died down quickly.
We finally arrived at our new abode. I knew it would be nice, it was just off of George Rex Drive (my dear ol’ Dad’s name was Rex George), and our host has three grown-up daughters, just like my Dad…in fact, he reminds me a bit of my Dad with his bald head and round kind face. And then we saw the view from our window – Wow! Yes, I think we’re going to like staying here for a while.