Day 1 and 2 – Fisherhaven to De Hoop

So we finally managed to clear our desks, but cut it so fine that our bumprints hardly had time to erase themselves from our office chairs.  Throw in a punctured bicycle tyre, the late pick-up of Heather’s new cellphone and a stop in Napier to check Erica’s sore throat, it’s a wonder we managed to make De Hoop at 6:30pm yesterday.

We arrived in semi-darkness.  Little Erica slept like a, well . . . like a baby, the entire way.  Turning into the dirt drive leading up to the chalets, we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by many breeds of antelope and what we thought were Zebra.  We switched off our headlights to see better (I know that sounds odd) and continued to crawl forward in the bakkie.  We got quite close and saw that the “Zebra” were quite small with poorly-defined stripes, probably the result of attempts to re-breed the extinct Quagga into existence.  It probably says something about this on the brochure which I’ll post here when I get a chance to dig it out.

We could not see much at night as we moved our gear into the rondawel, but we guessed that we were right next to the lake.  The night sounds of water birds drifted over the water towards us.  De Hoop is very quiet at this time of year which adds to the ambiance.  I confronted five large ants as we stepped inside the rondawel – they took a fair amount of killing and we made doubly sure their buddies were not hiding under the beds to exact revenge during the night!  Once the perimeter was secured, a quick supper of Pro-Nutro was all we had energy for, then we pushed the two single sleepers together and created a bed for 3.

Next morning we opened the door to a panoramic view over the water and bush, with myriad species of birds busily attending to their morning schedules. One such bird had a breakfast meeting with us – how the hell does a pheasant eat porridge off a step?  One would think a beak is most unsuitable for the task, yet not a scrap of porridge remained!  Obviously this pheasant’s mother taught it manners because it ate all it’s food and did not come into the rondawel without an invitation.  We were however keeping an eye on the troupe of baboons arriving on the opposite bank who apparently need no such invitation.

Heather braved the chilly morning for a refreshing outdoor shower.  The facilities at De Hoop are immaculate, and all this for only R430 per night, off-season. They even remembered to include a two-prong plug!  For those who prefer camping, there are vast level grassy areas perfect for pitching a tent. While we were looking at the almost-empty campsite, we spotted some Ostriches nearby breakfasting on the abundant wild fig.  Erica was quite astounded by the size of them – just wait till we get to Kruger!

De Hoop is awesomely beautiful.  We did not have time to visit the restaurant, river mouth, sand dunes,  4×4 and MTB course, but we will definitely return on the first long weekend which presents itself.

Back on the road this morning just before 9am, heading toward Malgas.  They have a pont there which we wanted to check out, having never crossed a river in this manner before. I was expecting some kind of motor-driven barge, but instead we encountered a large floating slab of pavement pulled along by no more than the strength of 3 men!!  Of course, they need lots of rest so we didn’t spot them at first sleeping in the bushes on the opposite bank.  We drove to the nearby Malgas B&B and obtained cellphone numbers to call the pont to our side of the river.  This massive, floating bulk of tar and concrete held the weight of 3 bakkies without appearing to sink even slightly.  The 3 ropesmen casually walked up and down, pulling on the guide rope without much effort. I still can’t believe how this setup actually works – they do it 7 days a week, 365 days a year during office hours.

The pont was a great experience.  After a brief moment of panic when we got underway, the ride across the river was actually quite novel.  Sitting ensconced in the comfort of the bakkie while being ferried across the Breede River in absolute silence.  We’ve decided to do some more pont-tourism, crossing rivers in this manner whenever and wherever we get the chance!

So the next stop was a Wimpy on the N2 to have a break and re-gas.  Except the gas was coming from us after a double egg breakfast. We both started at the same time shortly after leaving the Wimpy – man what do they put in those eggs!

Confined cabin space forced us off the road into the safety of a den of Lions – I’m not even kidding!  This den of lions was called Jukani Predator Park and cost R85 per head to enter. We joined a tour of the very well-maintained premises where lions, tigers, leopard, cheetah, caracul and wild dogs are free to roam . . . in their spacious enclosures, that is!  They also had some white lions and white tigers set up just on the other side of a fence from an unsuspecting cow – the tigers perpetually stalk the none-the-wiser cow but are always a wire’s width away from closing the deal.  Apparently this is to keep them amused, but even if they got out of the enclosure they wouldn’t know what to do with the cow.  Food in Jukani travels by wheel and not by legs. The wheel is attached to a wheelbarrow, which should never be brought into the enclosure.  The tigers are sure to hunt both barrow and bearer into extinction!

All these predators consume a lot of food.  The surrounding farmers phone in when they have livestock deaths which are not related to diseases which can be passed on through the meat.  If a mad cow is a bugger, can you imagine a mad lion!

After our brief stop we were feeling fresh and rested.  We deemed it safe to enter the cabin and proceed carefully to our next destination – Wilderness SANPark.  For those who are hungry most of the time, like myself, there is no SPAR in Wilderness.  You can drive back about 6km to George (which was not an option for us – we avoid large towns as much as possible) or you can drive a further 15km to Sedgefield where you can obtain all the usual deli delights plus the most KICK-ASS chicken pie this side of the equator.  There was so much chicken that the crust seemed like a pointless formality. And what crust there was, was crispy and brown.  Not like those half-cooked, tepid pastries you find near Cape Town.

So after scoffing our pies in transit, using nothing but bare fingers in the absence of suitable plastics,  we finally arrived at Wilderness just in time to check in at 4:50pm. This immaculately maintained park offers quaint log cabins along the river banks, with well-apportioned braai areas and parking for two vehicles – I think Heather said it was about R490 for the cabin.  The bungalows all have full shower bathrooms and look brand new.  There is DSTV in the mian building, and we arrived just in time for me to not watch the Springboks lose to the All Blacks by a hair’s breadth.  I walked right past it during the Haka and proceeded to light the fire for our all-kebab cast. Told you we get hungry!

Some fatty chicken, a hot shower and an unopened Toblerone later, I’m about to join Heather and Erica in our two-sleeps-three arrangement.  What’s with all the single beds?