Little more can be said about the delight of travelling forward but straight while en route to any number of spectacular destinations around the globe. Except that once we got to grips with the N7 being as straight and narrow as the road to the Karoo via De Aar, the rest was plain sailing. And, after discovering that our arrival one day ahead of our scheduled Klipspringer Hiking Trail gave us time to explore the Augrabies Falls, our road-trip-slash-hike took a turn for the even-better.
Meeting the local entrepreneurs and property owners who run farm stalls from their homes along the Cape’s west coast corridor was an eye opener. Although the temptation of Northern Cape small-farm living seemed irresistible on meeting the charming locals, it was hats off to those whose lifestyles can only be justified by subsistence and minimal luxury. Good reason then, for farmers in this arid and low winter rainfall region to be known as masters of their craft, come hot-as-hell or high water weather.
Our halfway stop in Calvinia revealed true hospitality of the northern kind. “All systems go during winter holidays,” said the property and business owners. Innovative locals see the west coast flower season as one of three high-season opportunities to boost their coffers. And citrus farmers, who sell fairly -riced produce along the roadside, benefit from passing traffic en route to Augrabies National Park and Upington mining region, just 200km from the Namibian border.
Also notable were the reciprocal connections of “dorp” residents proving why the survival of the fittest hinges on year-round service excellence – from restaurants, who see their profits boosted by passersby and weekend rugby supporters, to hotel and property owners, whose bed and breakfast facilities deserve good ratings.
The small village of Kakamas is home to Orange River rafting operators, and is a place where visitors and adventure-seekers are well provided for by retailers who thrive on small-town competition. After enjoying spectacular scenery above the river and in the magnificent gorge down below, it was time to tackle the downward return via Springbok.
A welcome find after being caught in a heavy rainstorm and temperatures of well below zero that night came after longing for the relative comfort of the overnight mountain huts along the trail. The wonderful, but unexpected, discovery just 60km south along a deserted dirt road, brought three-star comfort at the Kamieskroon Hotel. This experience, complete with delectable roast dinner and introduction to the nearby Klawer Cellars, made for some obligatory wine-tasting.
The fact that local cellars are managed by the winemakers from the surrounding estates on weekends speaks for the hospitality of this area. The agricultural riches of hard-working farmers and labourers can be seen along kilometres of vineyards and citrus orchards, where top quality produce from the Clanwilliam and Citrusdal regions is exported worldwide.
Completing the loop from Cape Town to Augrabies and back brings a new appreciation of the natural beauty of the northern Cape, be the discovery by road or on foot.