A cloudier day today – the clouds were low over the peaks, very mysterious and atmospheric. We had a brilliant breakfast at Airlie’s. Neil, the manager, is such a nice man and we also met his parents who were full of tales of the area over the years. We had a good laugh with them. They were great travellers. Airlies is really nice as is the whole area. Well worth a longer stop. One day……
Set off about 915 and rejoined the R62, heading east towards Barrydale, about 40km. Our first stop there was at the Barrydale Brandy and Wine Cellar. The area is not only famous for wines but also for brandies and port. We had to have a tasting! Well, it would have been rude not to. We bought a fabulous bottle of 10 year old brandy which has won all sorts of prizes worldwide. Something to keep and sip at when we get home.
On we went, stopping at Barrydale hand weavers, an enterprise set up to give local people an outlet for their crafts. Very traditional methods in use and all sorts of product on offer from t towels, to bed covers. I managed to avoid the temptation!
We drove on another 50km towards Ladismith, through amazing scenery. This area is called the Klein Karoo, and its quite difficult to explain what characterises it other than to say there are great plains of wild bush almost-desert, bordered with very sharp rocky mountains, rocky outcrops, many rivers (often dry). There are enormous canyons which the road winds down. It’s horse country. Not unlike parts of Arizona in places, but more mountainous. As we approached Ladismith, the road passed through vast orchards of apricots, peaches, nectarines, apples and of course still vineyards. There have been some fires a few years ago and we saw burnt hillsides but also orchards that have been replanted.
We stopped in Ladismith for lunch. It was much smaller than I expected because I was getting it mixed up with Ladysmith which is in Natal. It was rather historic though and we had a nice salad/panini lunch. The weather started to brighten up in the afternoon and then the sun came out again.
From Ladismith we took a small detour from the R62 en route to Calitzdorf which took us on unpaved roads through the Hoeko Valley. Again, a spectacular route which I’m so glad we took. We saw lots more orchards along this way. From about this point on, we started to see a lot of ostriches. I assume they are being farmed although they are relatively few in massive areas of scrub. The scrub is fenced though, so they must belong to someone. The area centring on Oudtshoorn, our final destination, was the centre of the ostrich feather industry in the 1800s and there are many “feather palaces”, splendid homes built on the profits and immaculately kept even today. I wanted to go in one which is open to the public but disappointingly (and weirdly) it is not open at the weekend!!!
Arrived at our b&b, Earthbound, at around 330. website An amazing place, although totally different from Airlies. Instead of an historic house, this is a modern place built around a swimming pool and with garden rooms for guests. Ours is really lovely and so well equipped and designed. The garden is lush with bananas and tropical plants. Nice little touches: local bonbons and a decanter of sherry. We were quite tired for some reason so it was nice to flake out for a while!
Tonight started disappointingly. There is a fantastic game lodge just outside of town called Buffalsdrift. I’d tried to contact them to book dinner before we left and failed but wasn’t too worried as they have a very large restaurant built over their watering hole and apparently you can see all sorts of game while you eat – always hippos, but generally elephants too in the early evening. Tried again last night and the website wasn’t working so we decided to drive out there for an early dinner and try and see some animals. Got to the gate only to find that they were completely full tonight with a big party. So disappointed. I should have rung them, but maybe it wouldn’t have made any difference.
So we headed back into Oudtshoorn and found a lovely restaurant right opposite the ostrich museum called the Karoopot. We were not tremendously hungry so we decided to forego a starter. We both ordered an ostrich fillet steak grilled, and it came with two veg (candied pumpkin and stewed cabbage), onion rings and Bob had mash and I had beetroot salad. The ostrich was unbelievably delicious, the best I have ever had. It must be the difference between eating it fresh and eating it frozen as we usually do at home. I honestly could not tell by either texture or taste that it wasn’t the finest beef. It was so tender, cooked blue for me, and so juicy. I also enjoyed all the veg especially the candied pumpkin which was a new treat. I washed mine down with a 1/2 litre of local cab sauv (they didn’t do glasses, honest) and Bob had a large beer. The whole lot for two of us was just over £20 including tip. Amazing.
An early night back at Earthbound. We have an exciting day of animal encounters tomorrow and then down to the coast for the afternoon and night.