Day nine – Calvinia

Early breakfast is going to be the norm for this trip I think! We always have a lot of ground to cover or activities to do each day. We had mostly packed the night before, so we had breakfast, and dashed to the room for a final check and loaded the bags onto the truck.
Saying goodbye to our prison accommodations, we headed out of Cape Town for a full day’s worth of driving. 

We met our tenth passenger on the truck as he’d finally arrived the previous afternoon after a series of unfortunate airline mishaps. Garth is a super nice guy in his seventies who has traveled most of his life and has endless stories to tell. His wife typically travels with him but decided not to join in this trip so he’s solo. I highly suspect I’m about to be the target for all the “nagging wife” jokes. I shall respond in kind by including him in the “idiot husband” comments.

We drove for most of the day and enjoyed the beautiful scenery in between cat naps. I am thoroughly enjoying reacquainting myself with my music collection. It’s nice to suddenly have hours to listen to my OWN music for a change.

We only have ten people aboard at the moment. We will pick up six more in Namibia as they are only doing the two week tour. This means Jess has her own seat and is able to stretch out a bit and nap. There are no assigned seats so we take turns moving around and getting a chance at the big window up front. We typically settle into the same seats for the day, though, and the seat pockets are useful for snacks and books and whatever. I’m VERY glad I brought this handy little neck cushion. It’s making sleeping on the truck very comfortable.

The only annoying thing about the tour so far is that we spend a long time sitting on the hot truck listening to the guide explain either what we’ve just done, or are about to do next. There is only one guide, and they haven’t equipped the truck with a PA system. Any time he tries to point out anything on the way, only a few of us can hear what he is saying at all. It’s very frustrating, as he’s an excellent guide full of lots of random interesting facts! 

We broke up our 400 plus kilometre drive with a couple of bathroom breaks at service stations and lunch at a tiny restaurant. After a surprisingly decent toasted cheese and ham sandwich we jumped back in the truck to finish the drive.

Once again, we are here at the wrong time. Apparently, the Hantam region around Calvinia absolutely explodes with flowers a couple months from now. We saw a few yellow blooms throughout but nothing compared to what it will be soon. Too bad! It would have been a sight to see as the land is quite flat and you can see for miles in every direction!

Upon arrival, we stopped at our hotel Hantam Huis to check in. Our family causes some confusion as I have a different last name and they are not certain who to put in what room! In consequence, they had Jess and grant in one room and me on my own. 

But WHAT a hotel! It was a series of houses that were built in the 1800’s. They ended up giving our family the ENTIRE main house! Jess (who shamelessly took my room) had what was likely the master suite. It had a wonderful little cradle with a doll in it, a canopy bed, and a bathroom fit for the queen with a huge old tub with a curtain around it. All the furniture was in keeping with the period and the ceilings were extremely high (15 feet?) and had exposed beams while the entry doors were so paradoxically low that Grant bashed his head more than once! We had two sitting rooms, two big bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dining area, and two different kitchen rooms all to ourselves! Strange, but wonderful place. After the prison cells (literally) of the two previous nights, it was good to spread out. 

After we dumped our stuff in the rooms (and kept the whole tour waiting while we tried to figure out what doors to lock and how!) we headed off to the local Jewish museum. Apparently Calvinia had been home to a large group of Jewish people at one point. Go figure.

I had low expectations for this small town museum. Calvinia is around 8000 people and looks like a typical middle of nowhere sleepy little town. The museum was pretty cool though! They had loads of old vehicles and farming implements, some old dental machinery, and even a train! Our group poked around for an hour or so and headed back to the rooms to await dinnertime. Not much else of note to do there to pass the time!

We hung out in the courtyard having a few beers and chatting with our fellow tourists. At dinnertime we all grabbed our flashlights and headed the couple blocks to the hotel restaurant. 

We brought flashlights because in South Africa, the power grids are overloaded and they often practice what is called “load shedding.” Essentially they turn off the power at prescheduled times in various locations to make up for the shortfall. From our township tour, we understood that this is largely because of the millions of non paying “customers” that steal electricity for their houses/shacks by cutting into adjacent power lines. The electric company loses millions of Rand worth of power annually (maybe billions.) 

The lady at the museum was explaining to Grant that this practice of load shedding has dramatically increased crime throughout South Africa. Apparently people wait for the lights to go out, break into your house, beat you up, and steal your stuff. I noticed a news article earlier this week in Hermanus that suggested much the same thing. That article was saying that it is illegal for the police to publish crime statistics (WHAT?!) but that they do say the rates of break and enters have been rising sharply. Concerned citizens in Hermanus have formed committees and crime watches to help the police address the issue. Needless to say, we lock up tight at night and travel in groups!

Dinner was a three course affair with wonderful food. We all had spinach soup to start and I chose Waterblommetjie stew (lamb stew) and Jess and Grant had a local dish called Bobotie – a mixture of curry, minced beef, egg, and chutney. Needless to say, Jess ate nothing. My stew was decent but her bobotie was outstanding so I abandoned my dish and ate half of hers! We rounded out the meal with some trifle, and wandered back to the hotel to bed. 

Nights here are super chilly and there is no central heating. We had turned the heater on before we left for dinner but it wasn’t doing a lot. Then we discovered the electric blankets!! Cranked those bad boys up and hit the hay. Woke up in the middle of the night sweating profusely and had to turn off the electric blanket! 

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