Travelling with Somebody. A Weekend in the Karoo - Kanniedood 4x4 Wild Camping
Two’s company and three’s a crowd. There are times when we have a very unwelcome guest in our midst. Her name is Somebody, and she’s the one that causes all the ructions. It’s almost impossible to pin her down, and she never owns up, apologises, or admits to being the culprit. Her shenanigans have no limits, and her impeccable timing causes the perfect storm.
Our Breede Valley and the Hex River Valley are changing colours. Autumn has arrived and with it a few winter rain drops. Easter always signals the end of Summer.
I can see her rolling her eyes and shrugging those broad shoulders. Butter doesn’t melt in her puckered mouth, and her eyes shoot daggers. She tap dances impatiently, her feet saying, “oh, get on with it, stop making such a scene. I’m innocent.”
Tell me, who left the iron on or didn’t fill the ice trays? Who misplaced the kitchen scissors and left the loo seat up or didn’t close the toothpaste tube? The peanut butter jar is empty, and there’s no milk in the fridge. We loathe pointing, grubby little fingers. Yet. Someone did it all. Today someone switched our lights off. Again. Piles of weekend laundry lie scattered all over the kitchen floor.
What we hoped would be a lazy weekend in the Karoo turned out to be one fraught with mishaps. Little Miss Somebody was up to her old tricks again. It all started on the morning of our departure.
In the garden, the resident Cape Robin Chat wakes up and starts chirruping at quarter to five every morning. Our wake up call. Bouncing out of bed, we switch on the kettle, Butch sets up his stationary bike, and after coffee and catching up with the kids, I join my gaggle of girls for an early morning cycle or walk. On Thursday, things were a bit different. We fetched our Honey Badger on the farm to pack and set off for a well deserved Easter long weekend in the Karoo.
While I stocked the fridge and stowed my clothes, jackets, touques and cameras, Butch filled the water tanks and brought out the bicycle rack, which he’d removed after our last trip to have the Badger's tyres serviced and checked.
Attaching the bike rack is a two-man job, so I downed tools and went to help. With a heave-ho, we held the heavy stainless steel frame aloft. Jiggling it to slot into its attachment hinges, only to find that one tyre arm was facing the wrong way and therefore impossible to fit the carrier. Somebody had not been concentrating when they replaced the arms after the spare wheels had been rotated.
Off Butch went to the tyre fitment centre to have the 50kg spare wheel removed and the arm refitted correctly.
Out came the bike rack once again. Oh dear, the bolts that lock it in place were missing. Butch had initially placed them on the spare wheels in anticipation of merely slotting them in place once we had the rack in the slots, and forgot about them when he drove off to the tyre man. They fell off enroute. The long and short of it; there would be no cycling for the weekend. Back our bikes went and sat forlornly under lock and chain.
Life is what you make of it, right? We could hike, and I have no problem with that.
We were soon packed; we’d logged into the GPS, a new Audible book was starting, and we had steaming mugs of coffee and Daly Bread's sublime, flaky almond Croissants. We were ready to roll. Our first stop – the butchery in Laingsburg.
While Butch fetched our order for Karoo lamb chops and liver in caul, I searched for Tannie Poppie van As. She’s the lady who produces the “world-famous” roosterkoek from her blue gazebo on Voortrekker str on the N1.
There was a queue. While we waited, I had an opportunity to squizz around and learn the finer details of roosterkoek baking. Her menu is short and has just three choices: cheese and grated Biltong filling, jam and cheese (traditional) and stew (not yet available).
We enjoyed our Roosterkoeke for brunch. They were delicious, and I’m sure Tannie Poppie taught the Italians a thing or two about Roosterkoek during her sojourn in Rome and later during her visit to Jan in Nice. See her Instagram page @poppievanas (4044 followers).
Our destination was Kanniedood 4x4 Wild Camping on Pieter and Micaela’s farm Antjieskraal north of Laingsburg. Their turnoff is after the railway bridge, where the Cape Town Johannesburg line crosses the N1.
Butch will corroborate that Micaela has the longest legs in the district. Focusing on her lovely, long, bronze legs caused him to lose all judgement while negotiating his way through the farm gate, and poor Honey Badger got ripped and scraped. Fortunately, Somebody thought it a minor scrape and managed to plaster the gaping wound with some silver Duck tape.
Pieter and Micaela escorted us to our campsite, a sheep kraal with a small Olive grove, ancient plane trees, a creaking windmill and a cement dam. There were a few routes we could take for our morning walks; they pointed out.
We soon had our shade cloth pegged down, our tables and chairs out, when we realised our solar panels were not positioned effectively. The truck had to be moved, and we did so. After an inspection, Butch decided we needed one meter forward. The engine ticked over, lo and behold, a dead battery, we were going nowhere.
We realised our inverter batteries were losing power. Instead of charging to 100% during the 200km trip, we had lost 6% of our energy. Is it the alternator, our new batteries or a connection to the batteries? We’re stumped. Somebody (Old smart Alec) asked whether we had a Multimeter. We don’t; NOW, it’s on the to-do list.
Somebody hadn’t done us any favours with these batteries since they’d been replaced in December nor after a service/check-up in January.
Fortunately, Butch had the presence of mind to remove a fuse and tighten a cable. The fuse he adjusted slightly, and he checked to make sure the radio and lights were off. The engine started again. Phew. We could reposition the truck for maximum sunlight on the solar panels.
It was beginning to feel like Friday 13th on a Thursday.
In the Karoo, one has coffee and Pasteis de Nata (Daly Bread) at 16h00. Butch filled the kettle while I put our mugs out and heated the little custard tarts. That’s when the water pump wouldn’t run. Fortunately, this has happened before. All the taps had to be opened. It’s a pressure thing. Soon we had water spluttering and gushing from all the taps. But...
The gas geyser refused to ignite. “No problem,” he said. “I’ll just change the gas bottles.’ Out came the ladder, and up my Precious goes. Not in a thousand years did I expect the following words. “Both bottles are empty”, he shouted into the wind. Somebody had forgotten to replace the empty gas bottle—no problem. We can always boil water on a fire. We're great at compromising.
Pieter, as they departed, mentioned the inconvenience of having internet coverage where we camped, and we sagely agreed. In retrospect, we were thrilled. We could ask Micaela to help.
Karoo sunsets are a photographer’s dream. The one on our first night was going to be one for the books. I charged into the cabin to grab my phone; my tackies squelched as I ran across our mat. Looking down, I saw the carpet was sopping wet. Puzzled, we looked up, and the ceiling was dry. Lifting the carpet and skid-proof under-mat, we saw the floor was wet too but there was no water seepage. A mystery.
I returned to fetch my camera and stepped into a stream of water gushing and snaking across the floor from the geyser's compartment. Water and wood panelling don't go together.
Butch was off like a shot. With his head into his toolbox, a set of screwdrivers were produced. Over time and many corrugations, two clamps had losened. Water was running everywhere, and no wonder we had no pressure in the taps. With a little bit of elbow grease, he soon had the works clamped—something else we need to watch in the future.
A chilly wind brought a bank of cloudy weather across the lush, golden, grassy Karoo veld. We needed sunlight. My greatest fear was having to pack up and return home.
I was surprised by the number of flowers still visible in the veld: Vygies, daisies and an abundance of various grasses and Karoo shrubs.
In keeping with the Cape Malay tradition of serving Curried Pickled Fish during the Easter Weekend, we loved our Pickled Snoek for lunch after our walk on Saturday. These, bought at Food Lover’s Market, were recommendations from an independent survey. FLM was the panel’s favourite, followed by my personal favourite Woolies, for their robust, spicy Malay Curry.
Once we’d got our heads around the fact that there would be no hot shower, no gas hob or invection plate, no air fryer, and minimum lights on, we settled into an easy rhythm. We slept late, went for long walks, enjoyed our late brunches and found a basin bath quite adequate. We read, Michael Robothan's "When you are mine" was a quick weekend read, we napped, watched the birds, listened to the windmill and some romantic Spotify tunes. I do regret declining the offer to dance. Our days went by simply smoothly.
Butch is a traditionalist, and the one routine we both enjoy is our Friday night steak. It is his privilege to select our steak, and he enjoys choosing by age, the correct cut, thickness, and weight. Last Friday was the first time we were disappointed by the quality and freshness (I will not detail) of his purchase from Food Lover’s Market at the Mountain Mill Mall in Worcester. For supper we had left overs and salad with a baked spud.
Although we are sticklers for always supporting local businesses, we’ve decided not to repeat this mistake.
This year we didn’t have the usual Easter hunt; there were no children around. But, I did forget where I’d hidden our stash (a senior moment). I went through all our hatches and lockers, breaking out in a nervous glaze. Of course, they were in the last place I looked. Butch was very bemused. We toasted our Hot Cross buns over the coals. Golden butter dripping from our fingers
Micaela did her best to make our stay as enjoyable and comfortable as possible. On Good Friday, they scouted Laingsburg for a 5kg gas refill. To no avail, but Pieter stocked us up with more wood for our fire.
We managed to sweep Somebody under the wet rug and welcomed adorable Hugo (pronounced You Go) into our lives. An amiable fellow. With him, you go first, you go and relax, you go last, you go carefully, you go and have the last Easter Egg, you go and shower first, you go and read your book, you go, sit with your feet up I’ll make the coffee and so forth. I certainly prefer him. Never ever have I heard Somebody say "O-la-la you're terrific!" Have you?
If you enjoy wild Camping then Karoo Kanniedood 4X4 Wild Camping is the place to go.
Call Micaela on WhatsApp at +27624741974 for a first-class experience.