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Reports

Saturday, 27 October 2001
Brakkefontein --> Oudtshoorn (SA)

From Brakkefontein I was brought up most of the way towards Oudtshoorn, where the climate changed from misty to tropical to semi-desert in less than 25 minutes.

In Oudtshoorn the rain started while I walked barefoot through the city. Fortunately beers and pool games made it all good at the Backpacker Paradise.

At the Carrie B Farm in Brakkefontein my hosts let me sleep in as long as I wanted to. Somewhere around 10am I joined them for a weet-bix breakfast. Just after breakfast I handed the Letmestayforaday-gift from my previous hosts in Bredasdorp.

Wendy Nillson was very startled with this whole idea, she didn’t know about it yet. But she realized how I can’t take any present for myself with me and had already arranged a gift for my next host!

Wendy was very delighted with the historical cards of Bredasdorp and area, the hand-painted kitchen-magnet and the hand-painted Kapula-candle.

The rest of the morning I played around with their male hand-raised sheep with the female name Jolina (just for the fun of it, because it really is!), as the men worked with the ostrich chickens. Wendy was preparing us all an ostrich lunch, together with potatoes and smashed pumpkins.

That lunch was tasty and I can say that the taste of ostrich meat can be compared with sirloin. It’s just very rich to fill the belly with.

After the lunch I had everything packed again and was ready to go. I had to catch the shuttle bus in a nearby town called George that would take me to my next destination in Oudtshoorn around 3pm, and as Anthony and a friend of his also had to go there, they gave me a lift in their car.

On the road, even while we were in a hurry to catch this shuttle bus of mine, Anthony drove through Mosselbaai for a quick peek.

In the Guinness Book of Records (great beer by the way!) Mosselbaai is entitled as the 2nd Most Sunny Place on Earth (next to Hawaii). And I was having the luck to be here when the clouds covered the town. No sun to see for me.

From Mosselbaai Anthony drove us over the hills towards George. At the local backpackers’ place we had to realize that I missed the shuttle bus as timetables aren’t really in use in South Africa. Anthony decided to drive me towards the junction that has the main road towards Oudtshoorn, another 30km up north.

And there my amazement started to grow. Within 25 minutes we crossed a countryside where the atmosphere changed from cloudy to tropical. Suddenly everything was green and humid. After the 25 minutes we drove through a misty mountain range and entered the Caroo valley, where only 20mm of rain falls every year. This was the dry desert area of South Africa again. Later I was told that this was the only place on earth where the surroundings change this fast while driving through.

I thanked Anthony for driving me up here and for being the company to let me stay for a day in his house at the farm in Brakkefontein. Hitchhiking didn’t take long, in half an hour I caught a ride that would take me to the front entrance of the Backpacker Paradise in Oudtshoorn.

Oudtshoorn was the home to rich feather barons (who just called themselves barons because they became so rich) until the turn to the 20th century. The collapse of the feather industry (feathers were used for writing) meant that the area had to find other attractions in order to survive.

And basically they did a great job of that. If I wanted to see everything Oudtshoorn and surroundings has to over, I should be staying here for almost a week. There are the Cango Caves, with its displays of stalagmites and stalactites, the Swartberg Pass (built by convicts) and the warm sunny weather of the Little Karoo, a veritable semi-desert between three great mountain ranges. Even though the Little Karoo appears to be a dry land, there is in fact enough water under and above ground to sustain large farming communities, many of them hidden in green valleys.

I was supposed to stay with another host today, but he’d be somewhere else this weekend and arranged me a free stay in Backpacker Paradise. So at least I could stay a night in Oudtshoorn before traveling on again.

The Backpacker Paradise is a comfortable double-storey house with a balcony designed to see the incredible sunsets. I wasn’t really able to see any sunset today as the weather changed very quickly.

Manager Louis welcomed me at the hostel and showed me the double room that was reserved for me. The hostel also contains a TV-lounge, a self-service kitchen, a funny splash pool and a separate pub in the back garden.

I settled myself in my room and decided to go for a little walk along the Oudtshoorn main street. I walked barefoot as my hiking shoes are in need for a serious repair by a shoemaker and thus experienced how it is to run through the street when extensive thunders announced some heavy rainfall within seconds!

I ended up at the one and only Internet café that Oudtshoorn conceals and while hiding in there against that tropical rain massage, one of the assistants recognized me from the article that die Afrikaans written newspaper Die Burger had published about me today.

What a coincidence! And with a Letmestayfor-chat-session coming up tonight at 10pm I asked the lady owner of the place if there would be a possibility to be online at this place, because it closes at nine.

Having heard about me and read about me too, she would arrange for her son Gregory to open up the spot for me, as he works behind the bar of the backpackers’ pub.

After a little while on their Internet connection I ran back to the hostel, which takes only ten minutes thanks to the rain, I met up with Greg and Louis and had a few Windhoek Lagerswhile everybody was watching a very important rugby game on TV.

Around 7pm dinner was served. Normally the barbecue would be in the open air, but with the rain and the wind it was moved to the inside area. Professional cooks prepared the ostrich meat in the fireplace and the funky bunch that had reserved this dinner all gathered around the kitchen table.

It was interesting to be surrounded by Irish, Australian, Dutch and English people who had been traveling around through South Africa and we shared stories of places where we all had been and we all really should go if we could get there.

After dinner, around 8, I had a little hour nap in my room (well, I tried to with the thunder hitting grounds a few times and pretty close too and the rain hitting the roof) and joined the group of young people in the pub again around 9.

Greg and I played against the Irish with a game of pool and of course we lost against those semi-professionals. Around 9.45 Louis threw me the keys for his pickup truck, or bakkie how they call it here. Greg doesn’t have a driver’s license and walking through the rain towards the net café wouldn’t be such a smart idea.

I was allowed to drive! And that was interesting, as I haven’t done it since my stay in England a few months ago. And I turned around Greg’s stomach with my driving, as I wasn’t really used with a pickup and the driving in the left lane. But we survived and I made it right on time for this chat-session that I had set for tonight.

It was interesting to be able to communicate with people from ten different countries and even my mum was in the chat box. I will be doing this kind of thing again in November, as it is very interesting to see people chat with each other about their favorite sports, holiday destinations and my travels. After more than an hour I logged off, closed the café again and I drove Greg back to the backpacker’s pub.

Here the pool games were involving pots of money, so I just sat back and enjoyed the talks I had with Dutch’s who had been traveling around South Africa, while Louis was pouring in beers for me.

Around midnight I went back to my room and got ready for a good sleep. The rain had stopped and created this humid air in the room. Louis had told me that people in Oudtshoorn have been praying for rainfall like this, as it is very rare in the Little Karoo. That sounded like a good argument for me and I just have to enjoy the rain too.

Good night Oudtshoorn!

Ramon.



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