From The Desert To The Atlantic Coast.
The Drifters Karoo Lodge consisted of five flagstone cottages on a remote expanse of five former sheep farms that make up the private reserve around the compound. Drifters plans to expand their desert reserve as new farms around them come onto the market. The 1857 whitewashed farmhouse dates back to the early Voortrekker days, the pioneers that settled the area; today it serves as the bar, lounge, dining area, and kitchen for guests. The thick stone walls keep the homestead cool in summer, warm in winter.
Our homey Baboon cabin had modern charm.
Each of the two unit cottages, sleeping four total, had its own name for identification: Aardvark (an Afrikaans name), Baboon, Caracol, Eagle, and Dossie. What the heck is a Dossie? I wouldn’t find out until we visited the Cape of Good Hope. The two other Baboons in my unit, Peter and Eve kept me chuckling with their German accents and antics. An animal would appear on the horizon and Peter would rush out on the porch and snap a hundred photos. Eve slunk around in a bathing suit. Shower water is heated by the sun, which must make it boil in the summer.
Compass Peak is the highest mountain in the Karoo.
Compass Peak rose like the dorsal fin of a shark in the distance, creating its own weather pattern, a perfect datum point for all around to mark their bearings, and it is the second highest peak in South Africa outside the Drakensberg Mountains; the farmstead nestles against a spur line of the Sneeuberg Mountains.
At one time 15 million or so springboks spronked across these hills in endless waves of antelope. This was Bushman country because of the plentiful game; the dryness of the terrain belies the richness and diversity of often hidden wildlife. A parade of elands strolled by the cottages, at night their eerie calls were like a stretched rubber band between two nails on a board, not unlike deer or elk screeches in the states. Wild ostriches flocked out of the ravine lined by scrub trees and pecked and then peeped around. I was surprised to see wildebeests on the property.
Elands graze behind our cabin at Karoo Lodge.
We day hiked into the hinterlands and gawked at the bones of a dinosaur; at one time the bush was lush around here. At a series of cliffs overlooking immense dry lake beds the gale force winds pitched our hats into the shrubbery.
Jakes and Nadine managed the Lodge and reserve, which entails extensive ranching duties. Nadine was an exceptional farm chef, she whipped up a wonderful lamb stew one evening. The breakfast buffets were bountiful, arriving with homemade breads.
It was a long haul from the middle of the Karoo to the seacoast so we stopped for lunch along the Groot River. Our next Drifters Lodge, on theWild Coast was a total switch from the Karoo Lodge. As the truck climbed over the pass taking us down to the seacoast, I noticed vineyards in the desert, catching just enough of the humid perspiration from the ocean to make the grapes grow. The city of George was an airport hub, but we pushed on for another hour to the beach town of Krysna and the Wild Coast Lodge, where we spent three nights relaxing.
As an adventure center, Krysna (Cries Ner) offers sea kayaking, charter boats, rental bikes, beachcombing . . . and nearby, bungee jumping from the longest freefall from a bridge in the world. The younger Drifters took the eye popping plunge. Guinness World Book records have been set her through the company www.faceadrenaline.com. The jumping fee is an add on extra to the tour. Just watching the jumpers made the blood rush to my head from the viewing platform.
Griffiths takes an eye popping bungee plunge.
After a lunch of hot dogs in the parking lot we trucked down to the Takamisaka Section near the Storm River mouth of the Garden Route National Park where some hiked to the waterfalls for a cool dip, and others looked for seashells in the tumultuous tide pools. Lodges and cabins can be rented in the park, and I made a note about that fact for future returns.
The Wild Coast of The Garden Route National Park.
On the second night Griffiths cooked a wonderful braai at the lodge’s tiled boma; we were like vultures in a tree waiting for the voor sausage, chicken, and garlic bread and mashed potatoes to be served. Our Last Supper in Krysna was at Grillers Restaurant a short walk from the Lodge, where we were greeted like family with handshakes all around. I ordered the kudu, but the grill house was noted for its sizzling steaks . . . zebra steaks, and I carved off a corner of Dave’s entrée. Throughout South Africa beer prices in the restaurants were reasonable, with many local brews served.
The Drifters tour doesn’t end abruptly at the Cape Town Lodge, we still had two nights and days to discover the Cape of Good Hope, which is actually the second southernmost landmark in Africa; we hiked the boardwalk trail from the lighthouse to the point, where I discovered Rock Hyraxs (Dossies) munching on the top of dwarf green bushes. Dossies are like big rats, and I guess they are quite tasty, but even though Drifters is a budget tour operation, I didn’t see any of them on the menu at any time on the 18 day adventure.
With its diverse habitats, ranging from rocky mountain tops to beaches and open seas, the Cape of Good Hope is the home for over 250 bird species. ”Bush Birds” tend to be scarce because of the coarse scrubby nature of fynbos vegetation. When flowering, however, proteas and ericas attract sunbirds, sugarbirds, and other species seeking nectar. Large animals are rarely seen, except for small herds of Cape Zebra and Elands and other antelopes. The cliffs are great vantage points to view Southern Right Whales and Humpback Whales and Bryde’s Whales when they come up from Antarctica to breed in False Bay from June to November.
The Cape of Good Hope National Park.
The cold Benguela current from the west mixes with the warm Aguihas current from the east at the Cape, causing enormous storms and tumultuous waves, and over the centuries, countless of ships have sunk off the point. The Cape was given the name Good Hope to placate the sea gods. The actual farthest southern point in Africa is Aguihas Point in the park of the same name, 300 kilometers east of the Cape.
The Cape is part of the Floral Kingdom, and more than 1,100 species of plants are found here, more anywhere else in the world, including the Amazon basin. Two types of fynbos (fine bush) are found at the Cape: coastal fynbos grows in alkaline sands, while the inland fynbos grows in acidic soils. Fynbos comes in many colors and varieties, and includes proteas, the national flower of South Africa (King Protea)
Wine tasting at Groot Constantia.
We experienced Napoleon wine and other vintages at the Groot Constantia winery in Constantia, on the other side of Table Mountain National Park. Rain had the mountain socked in so we never rode the cable car to the top, so we visited the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.
Drifters Cape Town Lodge is conveniently located in the South Point District of the city, only a block from the beach. The last night we took a 10R bus ride to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Named after Queen Victoria, her first born son, Alfred, poured the first load of dirt to create the artificial harbor and waterfront. The area was rundown for years, but developers saw its potential and revived the V&A with an Aquarium, artisan shops, a mall, hotels, restaurants, and museums. Our last Drifters meal together as a group was at the Quay restaurant; I ran my finger down the entrée lists and it stuck on the braised kingclip fish, while others ordered the Cardinal Fish. The prices were reasonable, with the largest South African fishing fleet at Haut Bay on the other side of the peninsula hauling in the catch daily. The day before when we were in Haut Bay it was snook and chips takeaway and then a visited to a penguin colony,
A protected African penguin colony at Haut Bay.
Like a big family that disperses across the globe, Drifters provided an extra transport fee to the airport. I made some new good friends, and we share emails and photos to this day. Would I go do it again, you bet, and I did, on the 24 day Cape Town to Johannesburg run via Victoria Falls, through Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.
— Feature and photos by Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine.