On Doctor's Orders

Posted in Travel

On Doctor's Orders

Isn’t exactly how it all happened. Summer colds are really the pits, especially in spring. We were both bitten by a bug. Runny noses, sneezing, bunged up sinuses, laryngitis and an embarrassing gungy cough. Not bad enough to tempt one to pull a duvet over one’s head, but enough to make you lose your will to cook, exercise or look presentable. When my voice became a husky croak I thought I’d take the gap and keep my thoughts to myself. I hardly succeeded.

We needed a recuperating road trip and rejuvenating few days away from home. Somewhere dry, hot and peaceful. For once all the elements worked together and our booking, made months ago, came together and we followed the N1 to the Karoo National Park on the outskirts of Beaufort West.  Camping or Self catering accommodation is available.

Not our first visit so we were pleasantly surprised to see the park in really good nick, well maintained, well managed and still very well supported by tourists, honourary rangers, tweeters and just ordinary Joe's out to recuperate. Our spacious chalet overlooked the veld and as the sun set behind the familiar Karoo mountains we lit the fire for our customary Friday night steak braai. With my feet up, sipping a sundowner I watched Butch stack the wood and light up. We enjoyed our first outdoor meal of the season as the Karoo stars came out to light the night sky. It was so remarkably quiet. Not a sound, snort or sniff from any animals, even the bugs drawn to the light went about their business soundlessly. We snuck off to bed before our cups were cold. We needed to charge our batteries.

It was encouraging to hear that the Restaurant still served a good breakfast, our booking included breakfast. I had my misgivings. Proved wrong again. If someone had to ask me to name just one highlight of the trip I’d without hesitation say “the friendly staff”! Flitting about between the tables, chatting, helping, serving and smiling these Karoo ladies did an outstanding job. The menu has a good selection of breakfast options. The plates are nicely presented, the food well prepared and cooked. A good hearty breakfast goes a long way to restore a tired, ailing body. This one certainly did its job.  The shop is really well stocked with a wide selection of meat, wine, toiletries, gifts and souvernirs.  No need to panic if you've forgotten something, you'll find it there.  We'd forgotten to pack our picnic cutlery, but the shop had some plastic forks and spoons to help out.

After breakfast we wandered around and ambled up to the fossil trail, which was most enlightening. Interesting facts about the Karoo are cleverly laid out and the story, which unfolded hundreds of millions of years ago, told with insight. One is quickly drawn into the drama being there where it all began and with all the evidence on display. This is Gondwana. I found it fascinating especially as I could look up at the Great Escarpment, walk amongst the plants, rocks, stones and witness what the landscape must’ve looked like. The large mountain tortoises, geckoes, ostrich and plains antelope a tiny sample of the animals that roamed there.

Our drives took us on kilometres of dirt roads and 4x4 tracks as we searched for the cats, here in Sylvester’s old hunting ground. Unfortunately we made a left instead of a right and missed out on a good lion sighting. What we did enjoy was a herd of approximately 200 Eland migrating over a large plain with the blue mountain as a back drop. Very impressive indeed.

This is home to the Cape Mountain Zebra, as well as Rau Quagga which are Plains or Burchell’s zebra which have been back-bred to resemble the Quaggas that roamed the Karoo in great profusion until the middle of the 1800s, when they were hunted to extinction. The last Quagga died in an Amsterdam Zoo on 12 August 1883. (Wikipedia). I loved their unique markings and the way they resemble a plait joining the tails.

Love was in the air and we witnessed the mating rituals of Ostriches and one very amorous tortoise. Interestingly there are five species of tortoise in the Park, the largest in the world. We briefly spotted a Riverine rabbit but it hared off too soon to go on record.

The 4 hour drive from Worcester to the Karoo National Park is a breeze, especially if you stop off at one of the numerous roadside farmstalls or coffee shops in small villages en route to stretch the legs, have coffee and enjoy a bite to eat. It’s not always possible so a leisurely road trip certainly ticks all my boxes. In nature we are able to unwind, relax, restore and rejuvenate, now we’re ready to tackle the rest of this year as it quickly unwinds towards Christmas.

My G.P never takes me seriously enough so, I doubt he would’ve recommended a Karoo meander, I’m going to suggest he adds it to his patients’ prescriptions next time I consult with him.  Proof?  The spring in my step I’ll remind him.

P.S. If you're into birds of the feathered kind, this is a great destination to do a spot of bird watching.  While we were there Japie and his family, all guides, were there along with the Honourary Rangers on a birding weekend.  We've attended one of these weekends, terrific, Ralie is a top notch birder especially when it comes to identifying the myriad LBJ's we saw.
Telephone +27 (0) 23 4142980
Fax +27 (0) 86 6060267
Email: karoobirding@beaufortwest.net
Japie +27 (0) 83 724 7916
Ralie +27 (0) 82 500 7834
Jakkie +27 (0) 71 895 9370
Contact details Karoo National Park Beaufort West

Tel: +27 (0)23 415 2828/9
Fax: +27 (0)23 415 1671
Email: karooreservations@sanparks.org