This morning we began our trip to Plettenberg Bay. It takes roughly 8 hours to get there from Bloem. After some lackluster customer service at the rental car place, we head out onto the N1 for our drive.
It’s unnerving getting used to people driving on the opposite side of the road. The worst is when you’re turning or making your way around a traffic circle. To me, it feels like a crazy game of Frogger. People going every which way, jockeying for an open lane. Any fleeting thoughts I had of helping with the drive were quickly squashed. Nick and I agreed, he’ll be my chauffer while I’m here.
The weather today is warm, but more comfortable than yesterday. Sunny and windy with lots of puffy clouds. The first few hours of our drive we go through Edenburg and Colesberg. The landscape up to this point remains fairly unchanged. Dry, golden land with little substantial vegetation.
We see mini funnels kicking up the sand in the distance. The land is mostly flat but the horizon is framed with smallish mountains from every angle. The shadowy hills have an eggplant colored hue. Even though I live in California, which has similarities in climate – namely the lack of humidity and the persistent drought – the dryness of South Africa is unmatched to what I’m used to. I’ve felt it in my sinuses from the minute I stepped out of the airport and I can certainly feel it now out in this mid-day sun.
As we continue down the N1 the surroundings eventually start to change. Little by little you’ll notice everything seems a little bit greener. As the coast inches closer, life feels a little more vibrant. But before we get there we come upon a few reminders of the harshness of this road. Children living in the squatter camp across the street play soccer along the edge of the highway. This, essentially, is their backyard. And, between Hanover and Richmond, a man has rolled his car.
One can imagine how at high speeds and with a lack of policing, one can easily get hurt along this stretch of road. The car is laying almost completely upside down. The man was trapped inside, still conscious but hurt. A small group of people had gathered around the car. When Nick approached them they said they had called for help. Seeing the camera in his hand, they also told Nick to leave. It had a hinky factor as if they had something to hide.
I asked Nick what an average response time for help would be out here. He said it would likely take an hour, possibly more. During the Oscar trial, the response time of an ambulance was an issue as Oscar claimed that was the reason he moved Reeva from the bathroom. He claims he was told by the ambulance dispatcher he shouldn’t wait. In reality, the ambulance showed up at his house in approximately 15-20 minutes after the calls. Interesting that even though the man in this car was hurt, nobody moved him. They decided it was best to wait for help.
It’s become apparent to me over the last few days that South Africa definitely moves at a slower pace. If you need to rely on others to get something done, you will likely be waiting a lot longer than you’d like to.
Right around Richmond is the beginning of the Karoo. We stopped to pick up some meat for our braai. One of Nick’s favorites, and now mine, are the lamb chops sold at Travalia. It’s a farm store located about 70 km from Beaufort West.
At this point in the drive you connect with the N12 and head south to George. We were running later than expected after several stops to take pictures. We decided to grab some dinner around 9pm and call Homtini. Even though Nick’s stayed there before, and they were expecting us that night, the owner said he was getting ready for bed. We told him we’d be there in no more than 2 hours to which he replied he didn’t want to be woken up. He told us to find another place to stay. Nice service, right?!
There are many bed and breakfasts and tented campsites owned by private individuals in this area. And although they don’t have the full staff of a hotel, they still need to take care of their visitors. How do you tell a guest at 9pm on a Sunday to take a hike?
It was a lovely little property tended to by a friendly and helpful staff. Tomorrow morning we’ll drive the remaining hour to Plett.