For those of you who’ve never travelled the R62, perhaps it’s time to boldly set forth and discover a new path. Stunning mountain passes in the semi-desert environment of the Klein Karoo, boy-blue sky and chunky low clouds set against a windy tarred road marred only by the occasional passing vehicle, we travelled 268km to Oudtshoorn, stopping at the infamous Ronnie’s Sex Shop.
A scene straight out of Texas, with pseudo cowboys and nonchalant cacti, the bar was littered with the memorabilia of decades of road-trippers – bras, underwear,T-shirts and caps, along with scrawled names and stickers.
After a long day’s driving, we arrived at De Zeekoe Guest Farm, just outside Oudtshoorn. Encompassing some 2 000 hectares, the farm lies between the majestic Swartberg and Outeniqua mountains in the heart of the Klein Karoo. Running on solar energy, the farm echoes Paula’s eco-consciousness – she grows organic veggies, installed solar panels and set aside 1 200ha for conservation, which is home to a family of 13 meerkats.
We woke up before dawn even had a chance to crack, facing sub-zero temperatures as we set off to watch the meerkats in their natural habitat. Dubbed the “Meerkat Man”, Devey Glinister has spent six months habituating this meerkat family (called a mob or a gang) to his presence and voice. The three of us sat outside the meerkat mound, waiting for it to be deemed warm enough, and safe enough, for the family to emerge.
First came a scout, sent to identify any dangers. It takes about half an hour for the rest of the meerkats to follow, basking in the early sun while keeping a wary eye out for predators. Stretching and grooming each other, they are just a metre or two away from us as we watch them, thrilled to be sharing the intimacy of their daily rituals.
Devey plans to open a meerkat sanctuary, where he can rehabilitate meerkats before reintroducing them to the wild.
After returning for breakfast at De Zeekoe, we enjoyed a stunning drive that took us up and along the foot of the Swartberg mountains to the Cango Caves. We chose to do the Adventure Tour, which involved slipping, sliding, squeezing and climbing our way through various tunnels and crevices.
Despite our guide talking to us like we were idiots, the tour was very interesting. A series of interconnected chambers revealed delicate crystals, stalagmites, stalactites and helictites (seeming to defy gravity, helictites come from the walls horizontally, looking like tangled spaghetti).
Though we’d planned to travel the gravel back on to the Garden Route, a deluge of rain saw us choosing the tar roads to Reflections Eco-Reserve, near George.
Set against the Rondvlei Dam and the Garden Route Nature Reserve, with over 140 bird species, Reflections is a bird-watcher’s dream come true. Family owned and run, Reflections uses solar and wind energy to power its guest houses, built entirely from alien wood. It also recycles and composts, and has planted more than 1 000 trees to offset its carbon footprint.
Somewhat fortuitously, one of our main sponsors, Niel du Toit of Scoot Café, was in George on holiday. We took our scooters in for a service, which, along with catching up, took the entire day. Afterwards we decided to press on to Teniqua Treetops near Sedgefield, hoping to outpace the dying sun. A stop for petrol, food, and to chat to passersby saw us departing in night as dark as the deepest cave. Following the N2, marked out by cat’s-eyes as it snaked over the mountain, we trusted in our instincts and no small amount of luck, as our bikes’ headlamps did little to illuminate the road before us. Still, there was something thrilling in the adventure of it all; braced against the cold, we conquered the darkness, bravely finding our way.
Up, up and up, surrounded by forest with not a glint of light other than the stars above us, through a gate and on to a gravel road, slowly but surely making our way to the next gate and then we were there, in an enchanted forest, high up in the trees in a magical treehouse suite.
Located in the heart of the indigenous forest, the treehouses make the most of jaw-dropping views over the forest canopy, which contains some 1 000-year old milkwood trees. Owners Robyn and Viv Patz are passionate about the forest; through reforestation, dry-composting toilets, solar power and rainwater harvesting, they ensure the establishment has minimal impact on the environment.
Waking up to the sound of birds chirping, the sight of an African parrot lounging on our deck and the vast, unhindered forest stretching before us was extraordinary, truly giving meaning to the phrase “on top of the world”. I’d be hard-pressed to see how anything could compete, but with five provinces still to go, it’s early days yet. - Cape Times