There’s nothing like a great road trip. (A lion, an ostrich and route 62)
Route 62 is a fine road. So fine its road signs have been adorned with their own unique flair reminiscent of the long haul highway signs in the American southwest. But apart from this Route 62 lives up its flair not just in its signs but also in its quaint roadside pit stops, villages and good old country hospitality. Of which many a local will gladly share be it in a story or in the form of a roadside cold one. Route 62 for all it’s worth feels like taking a journey not unlike the frontiersmen of old as they carved a path out west (although we were going east).
Sitting around our campfire in the dead of the Karoo night I couldn’t help but pick out the distinctive sound of what sounded overtly wild and untamed. Personally I had never before heard it in the flesh but had watched enough documentaries to know what it was. There it was again and with each passing decay it sounded as if it was getting closer and faster in repetition.
We had left Cape Town at the crack of dawn and gingerly made our way onto the official start of Route 62, roughly as you exit the Huguenot Tunnel. Excited our road trip was underway I had packed so hastily the night before that I kept wondering whether I had everything for our one night stay over somewhere between Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in the middle of the bush needing a flashlight only to realise you have left it behind. But I was sure I had packed it and got back to enjoying the view.
Anyone up for a quick glass of vino? Well actually I wouldn’t mind a couple of bottles if you don’t mind. But hang on you’re driving not sitting at a roadside wine tasting stall. Mentally I was as we drove on through the start of the longest wine route in the world. Coming in at just under 850km there are numerous opportunities to savour the nectar of the Gods. It takes the concept of a very long drive to the next level. But I would have to scratch that one off of my bucket list at a later stage. The road trip for now was purely an observe and report affair and there would be time for a stop later. But for now all I could do was sigh as the towns of Worcester, Robertson and Ashton slowly passed by.
History is a topic I’m most fond of and when I’m near places that ooze with it I begin to salivate like Pavlov’s dog when he hears the lunch bell. And the town of Montague is all about history, and rock climbing of course. Take for example the rocky archway that acts like a medieval gateway into the town. It was blasted through over a 100 years ago so that the British could use it as a blockhouse to protect the Cape colony from the Boers during the Anglo Boer war. But it can also be climbed with ropes and all, not forgetting the near sheer peaks that surround the town. It really is a magical place and can I imagine it to be the sort of place I wouldn’t mind being put to rest in.
My somewhat morbid thoughts turned over to feeling liked we’d taking the DeLorean in Back to Future as the town of Barrydale came into view. Remember it’s the one where Marty McFly is taking back to the 1950’s. Think Elvis era diners, gas stations and what looked like a drive – in. It was as if the powers that be cut out a stretch of the infamous Route 66 highway and placed it on this stretch of Route 62. It all worked in twisting my unwillingness to stop especially when we spotted the aptly named Diesel and crème diner. The A- Frame outside read “best double thick milkshakes this side of Route 62” and they weren’t lying. Can anyone say “Banana chai and caramelised peanut butter chocolate? If you can then make a stop at Diesel & Crème and don’t forget to inspect the interior and the grounds you won’t be disappointed.
Especially when it comes to talking about sex, right? Ok, what I’m saying is that, usually when the word sex crops up in ones head it’s initially met with excitement. I mean does anyone driving anywhere ever really think they are going to see the word “sex’ staring them down from the side of the highway. Well, maybe if driving through the state of Nevada but in a way that’s exactly the surprises you can except to find along Route 62. And if surprises are your thing then just wait till you meet the man himself Ronnie. Think jolly old beardy man that oozes sex but lets get one thing straight. His shop is honestly just sexy and not a sex shop. Even if his alcohol infused melkskommel (Afrikaans for Milkshake) (all these roadside café’s are a hit with the milkshake crowd) guarantee to get you in the mood for something randy. But not too worry Ronnie and his mates are always on hand to calm you down with a bit of lighthearted banter. It’s Karoo hospitality at its best rough around the edges yet genuine to the core.
Just like the old Afrikaans couple that own and run Smitswinkel, a medium sized roadside everything you can buy off the farm, kind of store. It’s also a fantastic place to grab good old country chow. I highly recommend their farm style brunch of eggs, bacon and rooster bread (farm backed bread) with all the trimmings guaranteed to send your cholesterol through the roof. The Smits even allowed us to feed their chickens, oh the country life, and then pointed us on to our campsite Amber Lagoon. A Tropicana style cocoa cabaña in the middle of the Karoo tundra owned by a Swiss German chap. He looked as if he had taken a wrong turn at the Alps but then again we were in the middle of nowhere. Accordingly we had the pick of the roost as it was the low season and so scouted the grounds of this palm-fringed watering hole uninterrupted.
The site we finally agreed on was perfect. Atop a ridge overlooking the Klein Karoo in all its majesty with the town of Oudtshoorn in the distance. Well I wasn’t 100% sure it was Oudtshoorn but then again what other town could be out there in the sheer vastness and silence. Apparently a lot, such as Calitzdorp the town we had passed on the way here and home of best port produced in the world. How could we have missed that? Guess we’re not that much into port, but all this talk of drink was making us thirsty and hungry. It was time to forage for food. Heading into Oudtshoorn for dinner it wasn’t long before we found a very open plan looking restaurant perfect for the evening’s dry heat, a cool breeze providing the relief. The best part about being in big bird (ostrich) country is that it features extensively on the menu and is by far the choicest meat to come out of South Africa. It also comes prepared in every way form Sunday, be it curried, grilled or baked into a pie it’s mouthwateringly scrumptious.
Back at camp sitting lazily around the fire under a star filled Karoo sky there was not a sound to be heard. That was until our ears began to pick up a distant groan. At first I didn’t say anything until my partner noticed it too. We instantly turned to each and were both visibly pail with fright. Was that, could it be, no…a lion? My partner grew up in Namibia, practically in the bush and knew all too well the groans and moans lions make after dark. Fearing the worst I instinctively grabbed a burning log from the fire, a survival technique I had mastered from watching the jungle book one too many times. Walking toward the sound in the dark (by this point I still hadn’t bothered to check if I had packed my torch) man fire in hand, a silhouette started to appear deep within the bush. We were convinced it was a lion but our curiosity brushed our fear aside. Suddenly the sound stopped, a rustling commenced and I figured we were done for. And that’s when it came into a view. A plume of white and black feathers raced past us kicking up dust as it did. It wasn’t a lion but was in fact a male ostrich. I immediately assumed it was roaring at us for having eaten one of its brethren earlier. It was quite possibly the catalyst but was more likely that a jackal was in the area trying to grab an egg or an ostrich chick.
The following morning we drove back to Oudtshoorn not because we had to find a finite answer to last nights encounter but because we had a date with the big flightless birds in question. And Mooiplaas like so many other ostrich farms in Oudtshoorn seemed like as good as any a place to start. It was also a great way to immerse ourselves into the history and heritage of the town while getting to know it a little more intimately. Our guide after a brief introduction using the surrounding landscape to his full advantage slowly ushered us into the world of ostrich farming. We had the pleasure afterward seeing how they incubate the eggs, care for the young and watch over the adults. And then later after some playtime with a few of the newly hatched chicks a quick inspection of the facilities was followed up with a short tour of the grounds. Ending with an opportunity to feed the adults up close and personal and face to beak. It was to say an experience I highly recommend. But before we left I had to ask our guide, is it possible that an ostrich can roar like a lion? After a quick succession of chuckles and blank stares he eventually said it was but it also somewhat of an urban legend. Apparently very few people have had the pleasure (or horror) of experiencing for when it happens it is rarely when people are around and that we’ll have a hard time trying to convince people of the fact. They’ll never believe you and they’ll just have to experience on their own. This made us realise something, its experiences like these you could only hope to have while driving down Route 62! Happy Road tripping!
Interesting Tit Bits:
- Route 62 takes you from Cape Town through Oudtshoorn, the Garden Route and finally ends at Port Elizabeth.
- A great alternative to the N2 highway and is officially named regional route 62 from Montague to Humansdorp.
- Alternatively it is known as the Wine Route (A staggering 860 Km long) leading through major wine growing regions namely Wellington, Tulbagh, Worcester, Robertson and the Klein Karoo.
- Activities that can be found along Route 62 include wine tours, safari drives, tribal art, cultural tours, museums, hiking, mountain climbing, 4×4 routes, canoeing, horse riding, ostrich riding, fishing, caving, and even Skydiving.
- Towns that are a must stop along the way: Robertson, Montague, Barrydale, Ladismith, Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn.
- Route map: Cape Town – Worcester – Robertson – Montague – Barrydale – Ladismith – Calitzdorp – Oudtshoorn
Do visit and/ or do:
- Rock climbing in Montague
- Diesel and Crème diner and the Blue Cow Coffee Shop in Barrydale
- Smitswinkel in Calitzdorp
- Mooiplaas Guesthouse and Ostrich Farm Tours in Oudtshoorn
- Cango Caves, Cango wildlife Ranch and Rust en Vrede Waterfall just outside of Oudtshoorn
By Slippery Joe Lyzard ©
Photography: Nomadic Bug ©
Nomadic Existence 2016 ©
Explore. Conserve. Discover.