Camdeboo of the Karoo

No long drives today, just relaxing and enjoying the scenery.

Our target today was Camdeboo National Park, a 194 square kilometer nature park that almost totally surrounds Graaff Reinet. It’s divided into three parts by highways, with the central part being a wildlife viewing area and the west being dolerite formations surrounding the Valley of Desolation.

Evil Tom shows his true colors

The park’s entrance was only a 5 minute drive from our lodge so we shouldn’t have had any problem finding it. Easy peasy. D chose to ignore Google maps and use Evil Tom to get us to the park. Instead of the entrance, Evil Tom sent us to a sketchy neighborhood at the edge of town. We were led down to a narrow gravel road blocked by cars  with the drivers standing around, looking at us, with no sign of moving toward their cars. Guessing it was not close to the entrance to a national park (We are smart like that), we turned around and headed the way Google Maps told us, which was the exact opposite direction across town. Note for future trips: Fuck rented GPS units and stick with our phone app. Evil Tom was henceforth retired to the glove compartment where he stayed for the duration of the trip.

Good thing we bought car insurance

Once we paid our fees and entered the park we studied the park map to strategize about the best way to see the sights. From the entrance station the map showed a driving tour of gravel roads crisscrossing the zone with locations labeled 1-9. To our left was a dirt road leading to location #’s 1 and 2 (or so we thought) and to the right were 3-9. Naturally we headed toward #1. What started out as a wide and flat road gradually became rougher and narrower and led through stands of thorny acacia bushes that rubbed against the sides of the car. The further into the road we drove the thicker the bushes. Did you know that acacia thorns can scratch car paint? With every screech of the branches against the car we cringed. We kept driving hoping to see a clearing but after seeing nothing of note and thoroughly torturing the car, we doubled back to where we came in. Although we like to blame Evil Tom this one was on us.

The game drive was actually worth it. It featured species we hadn’t encountered yet up against some of the most dramatic backdrops we’d seen on this trip. Being a fenced in area, we had a check list of the animals it contained. We saw blesbok, eland, black wildebeest and the usual cast of characters: common duikers, guinea fowl, ostriches, Cape Mountain  Zebras and a huge monitor lizard. No carnivores since they didn’t put any in the park.

South Africa Eastern Cape
Black Wildebeest
South Africa Eastern Cape
Elands

South Africa Eastern Cape

The Valley of Desolation area was totally different. We climbed for a while to a point called the Toposcope where we had spectacular views of Graaff Reinet

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Looking down onto Graaff Reinet

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Graaff Reinet

The surrounding valleys and beautiful dolerite formations.

South Africa Eastern Cape

South Africa Eastern Cape

Further up the road, we walked the Crag Lizard Trail to get even better views and some isolation from the noisier tourists.

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On Crag Lizard Trail
Exploring Graaff Reinet

With it’s imposing Dutch Reformed Church, pre-Victorian buildings and collection of art galleries and fancy shops, the town of Graaff Reinet totally reminded us of a quaint European village. Walking around we had a hard time believing that we were in Africa. Unfortunately we weren’t able to visit many shops since it was a Saturday. Unlike the US, shops in Africa close by 1pm on Saturdays and don’t reopen until Monday.

South Africa Eastern Cape

We were approached by a group of African children celebrating Guy Fawkes Days. They were running around with painted faces shaking cans to collect money. Not sure what this has to do with Guy Fawkes but we went along when asked to contribute.

South Africa Eastern Cape
Celebrating Guy Fawkes Day

 

Accommodation:

Aa’Qtansisi B&B
Room 8
Graaff Reinet, SA
http://aaqtansisi.co.za/

Waking up at Aa’Qtansisi B&B in Graaff Reinet was so sweet after a much too long and stressful drive from Clarens. Our room was nice and comfy. The walls are really thin so we heard our next door neighbor snoring and talking. Inc. breakfast and secure parking.

 

Eats:

Polka Restaurant
Graaf Reinet, SA
http://polkacafe.co.za/

International and Nouvelle South African cuisines.  About  1/2 a block away from Aa’Qtansisi and so convenient that we ate there twice.

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