“In such ugly times, the only true protest is beauty.”- Phil Ochs
This strikes a chord with me – I have always turned to nature for joy in hard times and for appreciation of the good times. They say the best things in life are free. I’m sure many of you have a book on your shelf called Southern Africa: Land of Beauty and Splendour. I have paged through it frequently over the last 40 years or so and am always inspired to take a road trip; sometimes we need a nudge to seek adventure! The weather conspired to provide perfect conditions for a day in the countryside – blue skies of winter, no wind, snow on the high peaks of the Western Cape and colourful aloes at the peak of their flowering – and so we set off before sunrise on Saturday for a mostly unplanned tour of this part of our land of beauty and splendour.
As we reach the top of Ou Kaapse Weg we are greeted by golden light streaming through the clouds as the sun peeks over the mountains –a hallelujah sunrise no photo could do justice to, and it remains etched only in memory. A traffic-free run along the highways to the Huguenot Tunnel passes quickly and the real road trip begins.
Emerging from the tunnel into Du Toit’s Kloof is like entering a whole new world. Towering slabs of rock harbouring snow in deep chasms are the antithesis of the lush hills adorned with vineyards on the Paarl side, and immediately the silence is felt in the shadows where leopards may lurk and eagles roost. All too soon we are crossing the flood plain of the Breede River valley, the river running wide and fast after the recent rains. The Karoo Desert Botanical Gardens beckon and we spend a few pleasant hours on the koppies, birdwatching and breathing the clear mountain air surrounded by snow. Still the lure of the open road beckons, and we turn the car in the direction of Ceres, where the heaviest snowfalls cloak the peaks as far as the eye can see and dormant fruit trees embrace the cold that will bring an abundant harvest in summer.
The Cape Fold Mountains are evidence of the giant forces of nature that continue to shape this planet and the convolutions and compressions that pattern the mountain ranges elicit gasps of admiration even after travelling this way many times. They may not compare in size to the mighty Alps and Himalayas, but they were here first and that counts for something!
(To be continued)