Travelogue Northern Cape Part 1


31 Jul – 07 Aug 2021

After a long year of ups and lockdowns and the bitter disappointment of a cancelled skiing trip to Lesotho in July, a roadtrip getaway was exactly what the doctor ordered. And, with international borders a challenge, the Covid virus still in a brutal Third Wave and a country recently ravaged with violence, where better than the most remote part of the country, the Northern Cape.

Knowing little about the region, surface-deep research revealed that we’d uncovered a hidden gem. Having thought of the Northern Cape as desert, we were delighted to find that it is also home to the Green Kalahari, a lush fertile strip along the Orange River with all sorts of unexpected and exciting things; most notably, a wine route!

Intentions set, we plotted a fun and relaxing week-long roadtrip. And having booked our leave at short notice, were in the car a few days later, heading off on our adventure.

The first day was the longest drive with 480km to Kimberley. A relaxed departure, good roads and traditional Wimpy pitstop had us at our hotel late afternoon, to enjoy the last of the sunshine. And to revel in being in short sleeves after having struggled through weeks of gruelling Joburg winter.

We’d picked the Protea Marriott because of its location overlooking the famous Big Hole of Kimberley, fancying drinks on the terrace while taking in the biggest hand-dug pit in the world… 

But a hole is honestly not much to look at, so we went to the Big Hole Museum (literally next door) instead.
The Museum is housed in an Old Town reconstruction of the early buildings that sprung up around the mine and became the first beginnings of Kimberley.

The museum (and access to the Hole viewing deck) was already closed when we got there, but we were free to wander the dusty streets with its quaint collection of examples of the shops and offices that must have serviced the miners that flocked to dig their way to fame and fortune.

The experience includes an Old Town pub and grill, called The Occidental. Decorated like an old world tavern, but with the benefits of new world technology and a very modern menu, we settled into the sepia setting to spend the evening watching the Springboks play the Lions, while munching on delicious deep fried pork belly and rump strip nachos, washed down with the local Vokof craft beer.

On Sunday morning we decided to do our own jogging tour of the newer part of town to build up to breakfast, so hit the roads on a winding tour that took us past sportsgrounds, university, schools and shopping centres.

A quick Google had revealed that a lot of coffee shops and breakfast spots weren’t open on Sundays and nothing much opened before 10, so we figured we’d squeeze in a quick walking tour of the old Victorian suburb of Belgravia to give Kimberley a chance to wake up properly.

We showered, checked out, and drove (no more than a few minutes) to Lodge Road to go and see the beautifully preserved building, some 130+ years old. 

Belgravia is a stark contrast to the modest suburbs we’d run through earlier in the morning, with manicured lawns and water features bridging pretty fences and the neat and sturdy brickwork that had so well preserved this slice of history.

Using the internet as our guide, we matched house numbers with significance, which centred mostly around the Oppenheimer dynasty. 

Unfortunately the museum and gallery were not open (unclear as to whether a Sunday thing or a Covid thing), which motivated us to get to the breakfast that had morphed into a brunch.

Good thing too, because when we got to the Crazy Horse to get their famous Full English (and then some) breakfast, we were initially disappointed to be told that they were no longer serving breakfast… 
But fate was on our side because this forced us to try a Kimberley special; crumbed and deep-fried rump drowned in cheddamelt sauce. Served with the most buttery mash. What a treat! 

The kitchen was not only epic but also super quick, and we were on the road again just after midday, heading towards Groblershoop for our Sunday night stay.

Driving the Northern Cape really is ‘the open road’. With decent highway slicing through the flat dry bushveld, barely any traffic and continuing the audiobook we’d started the day before (the story of Motley Crue, as told by the band members), the two and a half hour drive was almost relaxing. 


Sunday 1 August

As a pitstop to break the journey, we’d chosen Groblershoop for its remoteness, and a quaint little farmstay cottage overlooking vineyards and pecan nut trees on a working farm.

We were most pleased with our choice and were soon lazing on the deck chairs on the sunny stoep – exactly as we’d imagined we would be from the moment we’d seen the ad on Airbnb – admiring the lush lemon trees in our oasis garden, with the grey wintery vineyards as backdrop.

There’s really not much to report about the rest of the day, since we barely moved more than a few metres from the deck chairs to the bench table to play backgammon for hours while the sun set and the stars appeared on the pitch black blanket of sky.

On meeting our host, we had asked about running trails in the area. He’d indicated that we were welcome to run through the vineyards, which would lead us to the Orange River. So, since we awoke to a perfect morning, that’s exactly what we did.

We were fortunate to be exploring this part of the world at this time of the year because any sooner and it would have been too cold and any later too hot to have both a refreshing morning trot and a leisurely start to the day. What a novelty to be able to run in these surroundings and deposit ourselves on the riverbank (which looked remarkably like a beach!).

Also in no particular hurry – with our host having invited us to take our time checking out and to just leave the keys in the door (!) – we were able to take our time exploring the farm and still fashion a relaxed brunch from the things we’d brought with us in our cooler, planning ahead for our remote location and self-catering.


Monday 2 August

Having previously enquired, we were expecting no-option self-catering at our overnight on the Bezalel Wine and Brandy Estate, so we broke the 130km-odd journey up with a quick stop at Kalahari Mall (which an inadvertent slip of the tongue had us calling it Calamari Hall from the get-go) in Upington to get a few supplies. Nothing fancy, just snacks and treats to see us through, with lunch to be the main meal of the day.

It was very easy to spot our home for the night, with a very conspicuous castle-like entrance on the main N14 road we were travelling from Upington.

We knew immediately that we’d chosen the right place when we were met at the door by an enormous chocolate coloured dog, who took to us immediately and spent the better part of the afternoon bringing us things to throw for him to retrieve.

With the afternoon’s primary entertainment being a wine and brandy tasting, we prioritised getting a good lunch on board to line the stomach. For once we, never usually liking to be the only people in a restaurant, were grateful for the freedoms it allowed, so we could take off our masks and enjoy the garden and playing fetch like good humans.

With a hearty lamb pie and delicious springbok ciabatta behind us, we started our tasting at around 3pm. 

Martiens, the owner and 4th generation farmer on the Dyasons Settlement, narrated us through a captivating couple of hours, effortlessly mixing tastes of their wine, brandy and infusion products with education on how everything is made and colourful anecdotes of his family’s heritage and experiences.

There was lots to tell, bearing in mind his great-grandfather had started Bezalel Estate, having moved to the Kalahari from Johannesburg, where his grandfather had been the Bezuidenhout who owned the farm that included the current Bez Valley!

We walked away richer for the experience and with a selection of bottles of what was available for sale.

The area and industry had really suffered from the prohibitions of the last couple of years so we were pleased to be able to support local industry with such self-satisfaction.

We returned to our cottage at around 5, in time to crack open a bottle of the Colombard we’d just procured and wile away the sunset overlooking the vineyards and the tranquil little pond that completed the picture.

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