Tag Archives: Kakamas

Travelogue Northern Cape: Part 2

NORTHERN CAPE Part 2

KAKAMAS
3 August

Having already spent our first night in the Green Kalahari belt, the plan was for our second day to be spent travelling to the farthest end such that the remainder of our trip would be spent winding our way back (slowly) in the direction of home.

This meant that Wednesday’s plan began with a visit to Augrabies Falls and had us sleeping in Kakamas.

With only 70km to cover and very relaxed hosts at Bezalel Wine Estate, there was no hurry to start our day. With the sun up and the makings of a lovely morning, it was very refreshing to put on our running togs and take a jog through the vineyards again while we discussed the finer details of the plan for the day.

We settled on a picnic at Augrabies Falls. And we already had all the supplies. Bonus.

On the road with our friends, Motley Crue (the audiobook into which we were now thoroughly engrossed), the time (and the endless bushveld scenery) whizzed by and we were soon at Augrabies Falls National Park.

We pulled up at the main building and – whether it was because of Covid, being midweek or just winter in the Northern Cape – discovered we had the place to ourselves.

Taking the winding path down to the gorge, it was a now-rare pleasure to be able to enjoy the open-air excursion mask-free. The Park has set up wooden walkways and viewing decks along the edge of the gorge and we walked end-to-end, able to admire the fierceness of the falls, the magnitude of the gorge and the scary drop between us on the overhanging viewing deck and the water so far beneath us.

Having done 2km along the walkways, we were ready for our light picnic lunch and enjoyed our sarmies, watching the little dassies sniffing and scurrying about the place, like chubby little Daxies.

The Kakamas Hotel was also directly on the N14 which runs from Upington to Augrabies so we’d passed it on our way through and, with the hotel being on the far side of Kakamas from the Augrabies side, by the time we checked in we’d had two passes through Kakamas which, thanks to boundless graphic signage, was enough to give us locals-level qualification on lay of the land and a very clear agenda. Wine-tasting and pizza at Die Mas.

The Kakamas Hotel for all its small town lodge charm boasted a 4-star rating, which showed in the efficient way we were managed from car to our ultra modern suite, with slimline admin consisting only of our obligatory Covid declaration form and the three little words everyone is always excited to hear: Breakfast Is Included.

Pausing ever so briefly to appreciate our pretty home for the night – from the gravel pathway across the shaded lawns down to the pond where the local gaggle was lazily sliding across the still waters – we were motivated to get back in the car and on our way to our next adventure.

Die Mas had come recommended to us by friends in Jo’burg, and lived up to the anticipation that had been set.

With Wine, Brandy and Gin tasting on offer, we settled (as the only customers, spilt for choice) at a bench table at the outer edge of the grapevine-covered terrace to enjoy the beautiful sunshine and wonderful view, and ordered the white wine flight.

The chap serving us had no sooner poured into the tasting glass when a gust of wind came along and blew it right over! With no intention of wasting any more wine, we moved inside to an upright-barrel table.

Having thoroughly enjoyed the white flight, we ordered the red as well. While swirling and sniffing and sipping and critiquing, a couple of swarthy chaps came in and sat at one of the sets of table and chairs.

With awe, we watched as they ordered the wines, the brandy and the gin tastings all in one go. AND a Brandy and Coke long drink each for in between. They did a bit of swirling and some sniffing, but mostly slinging and giggling and having the best time.

We, meantime, had been served the bad news that the kitchen was not operating. So no pizza. But, when in Rome and all that, so we did a brandy tasting (seemed to be working for our neighbours) and ordered a bottle of Rose Pinot Noir instead.

The wind had died down so we moved back outside and enjoyed the start of sunset with the lovely local’s finest, pleased to see our super-tasters from inside leaving with arms laden with the cases they’d bought to take home.

An extensive Google to try and find a dinner alternative revealed a distinct lack of options. Not believing what we were seeing, we took a drive through the part of town that seeped inland from the N14 and despite finding schools, the usual handful of town buildings, a compact and neat suburb and after a brief foray into the local settlement, we found that Google had indeed been telling the truth.

Fortunately, our hotel had a restaurant, so we had a very pleasant poolside dinner with another bottle of Die Mas Pinot Noir for good measure.

UPINGTON
4 August

While our hotel was a pretty slice of the countryside, it was also right on the main road, which left nowhere to do our now-ritual morning run.

Good opportunity for a sleep-in and a hearty brekkie before the hop back along the now-very-familiar N14 to Upington.

We’d called ahead and arranged early check-in at our hotel, the Oasis, which soon proved to be a lot of value for our money, from the prime location on park-and-walk-anywhere Schroder Street, to the airconditioned reception to the access to the amenities at the Protea next door. And yes, Breakfast Was Included.

Since it wasn’t yet midday, we had plenty of time for a session in the fitness centre in the Protea. Chris opted to do weights and whatnot while he had access to the equipment and I filled the gap of my missing running partner by running along with the Olympics contestants on the telly in the gym. I did 2 sets of 3000m steeplechase with the world’s finest athletes, cheating a bit since I didn’t think the hotel would appreciate me leaping on the treadmill or splashing through the kiddies pool for authenticity of my virtual event.

Our pre-planning had uncovered a local offering called “Sakkie Se Arkie” that looked worth a try. The review promised a relaxing couple of hours of sunset cruise down the Orange River, which sounded about our speed. Showered and ship-shape, we prioritised going down to the jetty to book so that we would work timings around that excursion.

Fortunately we had taken the car purely because the Orange River Wine Cellars tasting rooms were 4km from the hotel or we would have felt very foolish driving to Sakkie Se Arkie, which we’d assumed as a turn of phrase when the Oasis receptionist had told us it was ‘around the corner’, but which turned out to even be understated since it was just on the other side of the Protea Hotel building!

Sadly, the cruise season had not yet begun (combination of weather and lack of demand) so there would be no Arkie for us. But there was wine-tasting, so all was not lost.

And neither could we be since the tasting rooms were literally on our road. Four short kilometres straight-straight down dead-straight flat-as-a-pancake Schroder Street.

We were very soon seated at a table at Orange River Cellars with a flight of 7 of their finest wines to sample; 3 whites and 3 reds of our choosing + a bonus red one that was new and being promoted.

We worked through the rainbow of generous tasters while lunch was served and then, with nothing else on the agenda, ordered a couple of glasses of our favourites and frittered away the afternoon, absorbed in the novelty of wine-routing.

We had hoped to get a pint of Guinness somewhere in the Northern Cape to add to our online Index. Some Google research had offered the promise of an Irish pub in Upington. And of course it was said to be on Schroder Street.

A few doors down from our home base, we had driven past it on our way out. It looked shut at the time, but we irrationally hoped it was something odd like small town hours or curfew-related restrictions or somesuch.

No such luck. On our return to our side of Schroder, a close up inspection revealed a note in the door that advised the pub was closed owing to lockdown and it was unknown when or if it would reopen. Equal parts sad for them and disappointing for us.

This only left the Red Ox for us for sundowners.

A complete surprise, the Red Ox proved to be a particularly shiny hidden gem. Upmarket enough to be associated with Sandton’s Butcher Shop or Rosebank’s Grillhouse, but with the added appeal of being riverside with spectacular sunset views over the Orange, our only regret was that we had eaten so recently since the delicious cuts on display in the counterstyle showcases and in the “Buy to Braai” fridges at the entrance were nothing short of mouth-watering.

We made do with sampling the local Kalahari Lager and Red Ox pilsner as it got dark and we planned our next day.

KURUMAN
5 August

When we had done our planning, we had only booked up until Upington, leaving the last couple of nights free in case we wanted extra time anywhere or got referrals along the way. Neither being the case, we were flying a bit blind, with the internet as our guide.

Scrutinising the route home, we made two decisions; firstly, to spend Thursday night in Kuruman (because we’d heard of it and there was a hotel in the same chain as the Kakamas Hotel that we’d so enjoyed) and secondly, to return home on Friday since the remaining distance was manageable and there was nothing else ‘must do’ en route.

Thursday morning began with a last run in the vineyards, accessing them by crossing the Orange on the bridge we’d seen from the Red Ox the night before, followed by a hearty breakfast at the hotel – a rare-pleasure buffet, carefully managed by the banqueting staff in line with rigid Covid protocols.

The only stop we made on the trip to Kuruman was at Kathu.

Established as an iron ore mining town, our limited view of Kathu gave us the opinion that although nice enough, there’s not a hell of a lot to see and do, so we settled for a quick visit to the local mall.

Leaving Kathu, it would appear that the town holds future promise with a lush looking country club and some adjacent residential development.

We did not hold a similar opinion of Kuruman which, sadly, was dusty and delapidated by first impression.

When the hotel manager at check-in warned us off the town’s claim to fame, the Eye of Kuruman, because of threat of vandalism and theft, the day’s fate was sealed.

We had booked a garden unit and it was right next to the pool so we did with our last afternoon on this roadtrip what we so seldom do on holiday. Absolutely nothing. And loved it.

Travelogue Northern Cape Part 1

NORTHERN CAPE

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. 


GROBLERSHOOP

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.


KEIMOES

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.