We all headed out of the city on Saturday 5th May – it’s always good to leave for tour on a Saturday – less traffic is one of the major considerations! Nine ladies and our coach driver all chatting and full of expectation at what was laying ahead for us all.
We travelled along the N2 with the first stop being Peregrines where most bought a coffee – next stop Tredici in Swellendam – also, always an excellent stop. Their lunch was superb and served so very efficiently!
We took the route to Barrydale via the Tradouw Pass a beautiful scenic trip. The yellow proteas are just starting to bloom which are so very beautiful. Our next stop was Ronnie’s Sex Shop just outside Barrydale – for some this was a second and even third visit – but for some their very first stop and didn’t like it much!!
By just near 17h00 we had seen the road sign indicating the way to La Plume on Volmoed Road just 7km outside of Oudtshoorn. Such a warm welcome we all received – with their staff on hand to make sure the group arrival went smoothly. Very soon after we were all settled in exquisite accommodation. An absolute delight!
Dinner that night was delicious – usually soup or ostrich carpaccio followed by either Lamb/ Ostrich Steak / Chicken or Fish with delicious farm-cooked vegetables and a dessert buffet of note! Breakfast the next morning was equally substantial and delicious.
On-the-road again on Sunday 6th – heading to Mount Camdeboo. We were warmly welcomed by Sophie at Sophie’s in Willowmore. Most chose their baked cheesecake or their Mozart cake with a super cup of coffee and shortly after this we got back on the road.
It was decided to not do any more stops and rather head straight to Mount Camdeboo – a wise decision as when we left the tar road and hit-the-gravel we were to discover that this road is in a very bad state of repair. In the 15-seater coach, it was not easy to bounce along the road and our coach driver, wisely, went very slowly!
On arrival at Mount Camdeboo High Tea was already laid out – Sandwiches / crisp chicken pieces and a delicious array of cakes – and we were all ready to get going on our first game drive. The cherry-on-the-top for Carol was that Les Slabbert (who no longer works at Mount Camdeboo) had been invited to be our game ranger for our stay – and the other ladies were soon to discover just how lucky we were!
Les has worked at Mount Camdeboo for many years and knows the game / fauna and flora / history / and natural beauty like the back of his hand! Oh my goodness, on our first afternoon we found Tendika, (the loved one), the Cheetah very close to the road. Les has an intimate knowledge of this Cheetah and he first got off the game drive vehicle and then invited us all to join him whilst we stood within 10 metres of this magnificent animal. Les said she had last eaten on Wednesday – so obviously hungry – wonder why we all stood there so patiently?! (Les was right – we all got safely back on the game drive vehicle).
However, this was an experience of a lifetime – my goodness – something everyone will remember for a very long time. Dinner was delicious and an early night followed.
Our routine this time at Mount Camdeboo was somewhat different. Breakfast at 08h30 followed by a morning game drive; lunch and an afternoon game drive! Our game viewing in the late afternoon was also good – always checking for signs of buffalo / the male cheetah (whom Les tries constantly to track); and of course, their rhino!
Monday did not let us down as far as the rhino goes – we tracked him and then were invited to walk about 300 metres into the bush where we found this male bull! Oh, my goodness what a treat! Two of the women chose to walk holding hands back to the vehicle – does this tell you anything?
We were also able to track another 2 pregnant female rhinos and a young male bull rhino in a different area – again what a treat!
After lunch two ladies braved the icy swimming pool whilst the rest of us lay on the chaise lounges at the pool. At 16h00 we, once again, donned warm jackets and scarves and headed out for a drive! This time Les drove up the hill (koppie / mountain) to the top of the escapement – at first, we sat in the area where the Battle of Paardeberg took place and Les recounted interesting details of this battle – then amazing how Mount Camdeboo always times this perfectly – as we got to the top the sun was setting! Drinks / snacks “on the top of the world” – NO finer feeling at all!
On our way down Les always radios the staff at the lodge to let them know our time of arrival – I heard them telling him to “come to the back entrance” – I knew this probably meant we were being taken to the Boma for dinner! Oh, my goodness -the staff had set up this feast for us – a typical Out-of-Africa scene for sure. Delicious dinner under the stars – what could be finer!
Tuesday morning and 5 of us enjoyed a 07h30 breakfast – followed by a trip to Nieu Bethesda. This trip has always been on the bucket-list for Hilda, Ann and Ingrid. Carol went along for-the-ride! It was the general feeling the the Owl House was the main reason behind their want to come to this little town and after the video presentation; and their walk around the garden and house – all thoroughly enjoyed the experience! By 13h00 we headed back the 111 km to Mount Camdeboo.
On arrival a cup of tea; quick change into warm clothes; and back on the game drive vehicle! This time Les did not disappoint us AGAIN! Up the side of the mountain – oh-my-goodness with us all holding-on-for-dear-life! He had seen Buffalo droppings which he estimated were there from early morning! Then he took his binoculars and saw a herd under the trees at the top of the hill – up we went higher and higher. En route we encountered a herd of Oryx – and then the magnificent Buffalo – what a treat to be so close to them!!
Les then chose a magnificent place to watch the sun set – we kept our eye on a pair of Black Eagles swooping around – this is P.A.R.A.D.I.S.E!! After a Gin and tonic and much laughter we headed down the slope back to the lodge. The staff are always awaiting your arrival with warm face cloths and a happy smile! Tonight a few ladies expressed interest in doing interactive cooking – and we were called into the kitchen – where we were taught to make our own pasta; watched the chef making a chicken roulade supreme; – it was fun for the few that took part! Dinner followed and then sleep!
Wednesday 9th dawned and we had to say our good-byes to Mount Camdeboo – sadness but such a happy feeling – after the time we were fortunate to spend in this wonderful lodge! We headed into Graaff Reinet and up to the Valley of Desolation. We all did the walk up to the top and the views are sublime – my goodness so worthwhile! Back down into town and we visited the NG Kerk in town – followed by lunch at Polka in their courtyard. Then, Oudtshoorn here-we-come – via Aberdeen and Willowmore (AGAIN) and we all arrived in Oudtshoorn at about 16h45 – whilst Kevin re-fuelled, the ladies strolled the shops – Ann finding some towelling with a definite purpose; and Carol purchasing a turquoise mini-feather-duster – “Just right for my computer keys”!!
Checking into La Plume, once again, and we all had been upgraded to suites! What a treat – a delicious dinner followed. La Plume, a boutique hotel, to return to time-and-again!
On Thursday 10th May it was sadly our last day – we headed out of La Plume along the R328 past Eight Bells hotel and Mossel Bay. Next stop was the House of Aloes in Albertinia. A coach load of Indians had beat us to the shop, and my goodness what a buzz of activity and shopping! The money they were all spending was unreal with most of the men with fat pouches of R200 notes! Wonderful to have tourists buying a totally South African product!
Lunch was at La Belle Alliance – and a delight this was too! Service sublime and a delicious, fresh lunch for all and by just after 14h00 we were ready to head back to the city of Cape Town. We arrived at the airport holding bay and after a short wait we were in our individual shuttles to travel back to our homes!
An Irish Blessing:
May the roof above us never fall in,
and may the friends gathered below never fall out!