Three horsemen set the tone, as they trotted briskly down the gravel road leading to Commando Drift Nature Reserve near Cradock. They were the only people we encountered as we took the loop road between Tarkastad and Cradock, and they waved in friendly fashion.
We could have taken the shorter, tarred route, but that would have been ordinary, and why choose that option when you can do the extraordinary?
Commando Drift was named after the farm owned by Voortrekker leader Hendrik Potgieter, before he set off on the 1836 Great Trek, and I could easily imagine creaking ox wagons trundling down the same road we were taking.
For that matter, it could also have been called Meerkat Alley. Dozens of these inquisitive creatures diced with death as they raced across the road in front of our vehicle. Fleet of foot, luckily, they always escaped.
A cabin located on the shores of the Commando Drift dam sounded like a good spot to spend the night, but we decided to head for Koelfontein, a working sheep farm.
There our comfortable, self-catering cottage was located under giant bluegum trees, and one window overlooked farm lands, ploughed to the edge of the cottage. Being this close to the agricultural side of things gave a real feeling of being on a farm.
Another reminder was a huge, belligerent rooster which sometimes flew at my feet as though reminding me this was his home turf and I should tread lightly. Apparently his days are numbered as, said the owner’s wife, his recalcitrance has him marked for the pot.
At sunset, the only sound was of guinea fowl calls and, strangely, chattering monkeys. Somehow, I had never associated bluegum trees with monkeys, but clearly they spent contented nights in the branches.
Koelfontein lies in a giant bowl of koppies. The sunset was muted, but each of the rocky outcrops had its turn to have the golden spotlight of the setting sun shine on them, before purple shadows crept up to make them prisoners of the night.
I took a long walk in the veld in the evening and very early the next morning. My companions were a grizzled old border collie and a young pointer. The collie limped gamely beside me, but every so often forgot about its age, and raced ahead with its young companion, reliving, if only briefly, the days of its youth as the two raced through tall, waving lucerne.
As to the pointer, it was driven to barking distraction by cheeky monkeys who deliberately taunted it, then jumped into the safety of a tree.
Wild flowers bloomed everywhere, aloes provided bright splashes of colour, and in some places the thorn bushes were so clad with white flowers, it looked like snow had fallen on their branches.
Koelfontein is also known by the locals as Dadelik… because a previous owner had always wanted everything done “dadelik” (instantly).
The owners organise night drives for guests, on request, and at the right time of year concentrate on trying to find the secretive aardvark and aardwolf.