A newbie Off-roading Adventure in the Northern Cape

This time last year, we hopped into a 4×4 for a road trip adventure to explore the Northern Cape, while flower spotting at the Namaqua National Park and its surrounds. The whole area is rugged terrain and you need a 4 x 4 to travel through the area. Our trusted city hatch back would not quite manage. So, we borrowed my father in law’s jeep for a week of exploration.We explored sand dunes in a 4×4, lived on the wild side when the diesel at a stop we made before a long stretch was sold out and froze our bums off in a stone hut. All part of what makes road trips epic.

I wrote about part of our experience for an in-flight magazine earlier this year but also wanted to share more of our adventure here.

Noup - Anchor

Anchor at the foot of Noup where we spend our first three nights.

Noup

Our base for the first couple of nights was a place called Noup. Noup is hidden on the seemingly deserted space between the small mining towns of Kleinzee and Koingnaas.  It is made up of sea facing ‘huts’ that used to be where diamond divers stayed in the mining heyday. When the diamonds dried up, the huts were used as facilities for tourists.  For the most part, the original state of the huts remained the same. That is, they are uniquely built, basic stone huts with an indoor fire place and bathroom.

Noup

Noup huts overlooking the ocean.

The things that I loved: I loved that the hut was right on the beach and you could hear the heaving of the ocean throughout the night. The staff were so friendly and helpful (shout out to them for telling me the best exact 4G hot spot) and also sorted out the dishes in the morning. It has all the items you would need for a decent meal prep and the interior decor is colourful and charming.

Noup - Far Side

Interior

The things that irked me: We went in the early days of Spring which is still chilly. There were loads of blankets and hot water bottle provided which was great. I thought the fire would make the whole space cosy at night. It did not. No matter how much wood you used, the room felt like it remained just below warm and on a freezing cold night, that kind of sucks.

Noup - Far Side Int

The doors are rather low, which didn’t actually bother me because I’m not that tall, but Steve scraped his head going through one of the doors. It looked very sore and needed a plaster. After that he hit his head two more times, I don’t know I guess he just wanted to make sure it was still low?

Although the website used the words basic, rustic and ‘untouched mystique,’ that turned out to be a bit much for me. As I watched the fire burn down, I discovered (well, I probably always knew this), that I likely don’t like rustic so much. I reckon, I am more a fan of “largely rustic or rustic chic.” Qualifiers are important, people!

Not beach Vibes

Although it was clearly still winter. A part of me thought there might be an opportunity to be go to the beach. So, I packed my swimming costume – It was not that kind of vibe!

 

On the second day of our road trip, we joined the Sand dunes  and Shipwreck run Namaqua Coastal Expeditions and Rodville Adams. When I first called Rodville to enquire about the Shipwreck 4×4 tour, my main question was: “we’ve not really (ever) done that much (any) 4×4 driving, so how hectic is the route?” He said not to worry, it is a fairly easy route with only a few very sandy patches which he could talk us through.

When the day came he armed us with some brief 101 tips, deflated our tyres and armed us with a walkie talkie. While testing the walkie talkie, I thought I would resist the temptation to sign off with “over” after each interaction. I did not. He laughed but I’m pretty sure he’s “over” guests cracking that joke!

Small fishing boat.

The tour is about a 4 hour drive. Along the way we hear about the history of the area including abandoned buildings from when the mine was still open to a farm house and wells still standing from the 1920s. We jump out along the way to chat about the wildlife and sturdy vegetation. Then it takes us to various boat and shipwrecks that are reminders of how temperamental the ocean can be and it might not always want us there!

Noup - The Piratiny (2)

The Piratiny shipwreck – A 22 year old steam ship that ran aground in June 1943, due to bad weather, 
on the rocky coast at Schulp Point, 32 km north of Hondeklip Bay. Local legend has it that
the Piratiny was hit by a German torpedo.

The Border shipwreck – A 285-ton British motor coaster that ran aground in dense fog at high tide, at Naas Naas Point south of Kleinzee, on Tuesday, 1 April 1947. The 20-year old ship lost her
rudder and damaged her propeller. It carried cargo for the copper mines and teams of donkey carts were eventually used to transport her cargo across the sand dunes to the nearest road, approximately 2 km away.

 

Although it was our first time driving in this type of terrain, we did quite well. Followed the basics which were “keep the momentum” and “Put your foot on the accelerator.” The drive was relatively easy, that is until it wasn’t.

At some point in the trip, Rodvilles’s voice crackles through the walkie talkie, “guys, this part is a little bit tricky, so wait there and I will guide you through.” We stop the jeep at the top of a dune. Ahead of us, the sandy trail we have been following takes a sudden plunge before quickly rising to the top of the next dune. Rodville appears at our window and provides some brief instructions of how to tackle this. I don’t remember all the instructions because I was giving Steve a look that said hey, you’re listening right? Don’t look for nothing! However, I also nodded with understanding, so we don’t seem too city slicker.

Team to the rescue!

 

We take the plunge with a team of spectators watching our every move. Through the radio, I hear Rodville saying “put foot, Put foot.” In case Steve missed that I also start shouting “Put Foot.” But, as it turns out, shouting “put foot, put foot” won’t always get you to the top of the dune. The next thing I know, one of the guides is digging us out the sand with a spade. They then grab a rope and pull us out… backwards. So we need to do this again.

The second time around, I opted for rooting “go, go, go” until we were stuck again. We made it out the next try or it could have been the one after. It was fun and nerve wrecking at the same time. We message my father in law a picture with a picture of us chassis deep. He responded: “Oh, the shame.” Which we agreed with between raucous laughter. It’s all good though, the next time we will be intermediates.

 

Pristine Beaches

Tour: Sand dunes  and Shipwreck 

Rodville Adams runs Namaqua Coastal Expeditions which organises local adventures tours such as surfing, hiking, shipwreck and sand dunes tours. You can book a seat in his vehicle or navigate the terrain behind him in your own 4×4.

Cost: At the time we went it was R250 per person.

Noup Sign

Exploring Tygerberg Nature Reserve

Winter has a way of turning you into a hermit. Weekends can just turn into cosy foods, toasty fires and soup. Even on days that are chilly but not really that cold, that sunny spot in the reading corner is always good looking. After a while, I find myself thinking “hmm, maybe we should go outside?” And so on a sunny Sunday morning, we took some time out to discover Tygerberg Nature Reserve in the northern suburbs of Cape Town. 

Hiking Trails at the Tygerberg Nature Reserve

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Things to do on the west coast of Cape Town

Since moving down to Cape Town, my explorations have been along the west coast. Just because it’s closer and mostly off one road, the R27. Which is great because I’m not yet up for getting lost in the city. Getting lost is great when you are on holiday or on a road trip but when you have an appointment, it’s not so fascinating. So for now, these are some of my ‘go to’ interesting things to do on the west coast of Cape Town.

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48 hours in Port Elizabeth

One of the lovely things about friends and family moving away, is that it gives you the task of visiting places that you may possibly give a miss on an another day. A friend of ours recently moved to Port Elizabeth (PE) – the friendly city – and it’s the reason we drove those extra kilometres through the garden route for a brief 48 hours.

Morning view of the harbour and beach from the apartment.
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Wild Flowers and Glamping on the West Coast

The Western Cape is still experiencing a drought and while there are still water restrictions, we’re no longer obsessing about buckets and rushing outside to catch the last drop for use later. Now when it rains, we lazily peek out the window and remark, “oh lovely.” Heavy storms have been minimal even in the last rainy season. Of course, on the day I decide to spend the night in a tent, the clouds would burst and the worst storm in the are would happen. Yep, that’s me.

After the storm

Late last year, we welcomed the warm seasons with a road trip and glamping experience at the Wild Flower Camp near Hopefield. The weekend focused on birds, flowers and nature on the banks of the Berg River. I’ve spoken about my “love” for camping on the blog before and possibly ranted at other places. This time though we would be glamping and I thought, “surely I could manage that. As it turns out, I could… well, mostly.

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Great Farm stalls for a Road Trip pit stop

Packing a nice lunch with all your favourite tasty goodies for a long road trip is always a great idea. You know what is also a good idea? Stopping at local food stalls along the way. The food is fresh and locally sourced, it feels like part of your destination and you are helping small businesses thrive. Wins all around. Our trips usually start in Cape Town and up the garden route. These are some of the best farm stalls to stop for lunch, coffee or stretching on your road trip. 

Open road – The joys of a road trip.

 

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Sutherland – Stargazing, relaxation and getaways.

Star gazing, cosy nights, good company, and fresh air are the makings of a great holiday getaway and the small town of Sutherland has all these ingredients. This Karoo town in the Northern Cape is a quiet town known for its snowy winters, striking landscapes, and clear skies for astronomy. There isn’t a bombardment of activities to do there but sometimes, relaxing under the stars is just what the doctor ordered.

The Rooikloof Farm where we stayed.

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A Day Trip to Kalk Bay

Kalk bay is a suburban fishing village along the coast of the False bay in the Western Cape. It’s a trip we often make when we feel like a change of scenery and tasty lunch of the freshest fish on the coast. Despite its eclectic vibe, there are so many different things to do in Kalk Bay that everyone can find an activity to enjoy. A trip here probably warrants a whole weekend if you have one to spare.

Kalk Bay Harbour over looking a colourful town

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The Valley of Desolation

The first long distance trip that I remember was when I was eight years old and drove down to Cape Town with my family. We listened to the Quincy Jones album “back to on the block” so much that we knew all the words by the end. We stopped for loads of junk food (and peeing) and it was a long drive. My dad was so over it by the time we arrived in Cape Town, that he flew my brother down to drive us back home.

On the drive back, my mom made my brother stop off in the then Transkei (Eastern Cape) to visit her friend and a national park. It was great. That’s because mom knew how to road trip. You need music, a good temperament, food and stops. Stops maketh the road trip!

 

 

Bird Watching - Camdeboo park

Camdeboo National Park game viewing and bird watching.

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Spring Flower Power: Best places for West Coast Flower Spotting

The days are getting warmer and longer, cocktail hours are springing up again and the flowers are peeking out to prepare their brilliance. I call it ‘faux Spring’ because it’s that time of the year when you start to pack away jerseys, coats and soup recipes. You start getting invited to outside events, hear things like ‘summer body loading,’ and then Nature comes along with one last heavy, cold front and screams, “Lies – I said it’s still winter.” Even so, the Spring flowers defiantly come out. I always try a plan a trip to Cape Town (I live her now, so it’s a no brainer) around this time of the year, so I can take a drive up the West Coast to do some flower spotting.

Flower Route

When I tell people that I am going to see the flowers, people ask “why?” or “what happens there?” I suppose, it’s because the flowers don’t do anything – other than just exist. No one asks this when I go on a game drive, or when it snows in Matroosberg or whale watching in Hermanus. The wild flowers aren’t planted, they just naturally come through year after year. So, if you just like pretty things then take a stop off at these places for some spring flower viewing. Continue reading

Tips to surviving your long wait at the airport.

ORT

I have so many great experiences traveling through various modes of transport. Trains, planes, the back of van, and long haul buses. While I love the actual travel part, I just can’t bear the waiting to leave part. I think this stems from the hours and hours I had to wait for my sister to finish her multitude of after school sports, so we could just go already! So as you can imagine, hanging around to get on flight at out of Joburg at OR Tambo International airport can be really annoying. These are some of my hacks that I use to keep me sane.

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