Fredo and Janey travel mostly during the winter months. It is the best time to visit the game reserves and it is not so impossibly hot as during the summer months.
However, it can also be very cold and in the Cape region it can also get quite stormy if on the day when you start your travels one of those cold fronts move in. Or if you are in the Maloti’s of the Eastern Free State when the cold winds come over the mountains. Man, it can get very cold.
One day when we left Cape Town on our way to Kruger National Park was one of those days. The rain was pouring down and by the time Fredo had the caravan out of the driveway he was already soaking wet. The rain lasted until we reached the top of the Hex River Mountains and entered the great Karoo. Lunch at Laingsburg was pleasant but did not prepare us for that buffeting westerly wind which would make the ride with the Ranger and the Tourer SP very uncomfortable all the way to the Karoo National Park at Beaufort West.
We hid the Ranger and caravan as best we could behind the bushes in the nice little caravan park – ready to proceed the next morning. Being our first night on a long 40 day trip, Fredo was determined to braai – wind and all. We eventually crawled into bed and listened to the wind howling around us. Coffee and rusks woke us up, we quickly showered and got the Ranger and its ‘little elephant’ ready for the road.
As we left the park it was bitterly cold
As we left the park and handed our permit in at the gate the shivering guard told us – “Sir, I do not blame you for leaving, it is too bloody cold here.” Indeed, outside some snowflakes were falling.
We had a proper breakfast at the Wimpy at a place called Three Sisters – named after three round mountains standing together like three sisters. From there we finally reached Colesberg near the Gariep Dam where we would spend the night. While we refuelled Fredo asked the attendant if it was always so cold there. “Yes sir, when it is the cold front, she comes from Cape Town!”
We would have a few more pleasant days until we reached Golden Gate National Park. It was clearly not a popular time for caravanning under the majestic Maloti’s. We were the only people in the camping site. Braaing became an endurance exercise – we shivered as we ate inside the van. The next morning at 08:00 it was still minus 4 degrees. We travelled to Clarence and invested in two nice ‘Basuto’ blankets that two colourful old characters, Minne and Gertie, were selling in their shop.
That night, when our friends Ettienne and Cola Louw arrived, we sat in those blankets around the fire. Ettienne is clearly well prepared for these cold nights, because he produced his ‘holheaters’ (meaning ‘backside heaters’) – little tins which he filled with coals from the fire and put under your chair. You could literally feel the warmth rising from below.
We then moved into the eastern parts of the country – where it is much warmer. By the time we arrived in Kruger we were in our t-shirts. It taught us to always pack the warm stuff for the first three days or so of the trip – and have them ready for the last few days of the return trip. In between – in the eastern game reserves and when you are in Etosha in Namibia – it is t-shirt time!
Some memories of the cold – but there was also harrowing experiences as travelled in the Cederberg. That’s a story for another day. On the wall we found the words of the ‘Duitzwes Lied’ and this brought back great memories of the 1970’s when my varsity friends from Namibia rendered great renditions of the song in our residence.