Take the road (to Prince Albert)

Roadtrips… When I think about a road trip I remember long days in the kombi with my family, Dad driving, Mom educating us on all the geography and historical facts of the places we passed, Ouma telling us the story of Pavlov’s dogs and occasional bouts of feeling car sick.

Somehow I think we take fewer road trips these days. Cheap local flights makes it easy and afforable to fly the whole family to a major city. The six hours it takes to drive from the Swartland to Prince Albert is hardly an epic road trip, but it felt like a trip down memory lane last week as I packed my bags into Adi’s newly acquired Syncro and hit the road. (also, please note Mango flights do not go to Prince Albert…)

I took ‘the scenic route’ as advised by my aunt how lives in the tranquil Karoo town.

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No hardboiled eggs or homemade meatballs in a tuperware for me, but I did make sure to stock up on padstal padkos all along the way.

First stop, hardly 30km from Kalmoesfontein where my journey started, was my local deli Crisp in Riebeek Kasteel (for some fruit and dolmates) and the Wine Kollective to make sure I had some good Swartland wines (I heard a rumour most restaurants in Prince Albert aren’t licensed… be warned).

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From here on I head towards Ceres and keep going north. In Ceres I always have to fight the urge to buy fast food. As the Logistics Lead for Afrikaburn’s Department of Public Works I head up to the remote Tankwa Karoo with my crew in early April every year, after Ceres there is no fast food in our future for the next two months. So upon our way up and once we return to civilisation seven weeks later, we usually ‘induldge’ in burgers, pizza or pies in Ceres… Not this time, I keep driving and turn off the familiar track to Tankwa just before the R355 turns to dust and point the Syncro’s (non existent) nose towards Touwsriver.

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Once you are on the N1 it really starts to feel like a road trip and as the land flattens out and the Karoo landscape surrounds you, you find the time and space to let your mind wander. I do some thinking, I talk out loud to myself about the state of my life and work and where it is all going. Under the vast Karoo sky my issues feel small and my worries insignificant.

Next stop – Maatjiesfontein. Exactly like I remember it as a child. I buy coffee and water and snap a few pretty pictures while a British tourist tries desperately to get his rather intoxicated wife back onto The Blue Train.

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In her sms with directions my aunt told me to stop in Laingsburg and not to miss ‘Aunt Poppie se roosterkoek, oorkant Shell’. And, sure as the karoo heat, there they were, Aunt Poppie and her three year old grandson Shelvin, with a fire and some roosterkoek on the side of the road.

Shelvin, she says, is a third generation roosterkoek kind. “Hiert sy ma gestaan die dhele nege maande tot sy begin kramp het’. Today he is unruly but he has a big smile and he loves seeing himself on the screen of my iPhone.

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Behind them is the Granaat Karoo Kafe, a must see experience. I bought home made fudge, lemonade and locally produced honey, but if you are that way inclined you can also buy jams, knitwear, tea cosies and all sorts of small town memorabilia.

For other things to see in Laignsburg click here, and make sure to visit The Flood Museum (with some local student art).

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From here on it is smooth sailing to the turn off from the N1 onto Prince Albert Road. Here I picked up two hitchhikers, the one had just gotten of a Greyhound bus from Kraaifontein and the other works on the N1 (it was just after 5pm). Prince Albert locals who got out when we arrived in the town and said “nou maar dankie en geniet Mevrou se paar dae hier in Prince Albert”…

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And I did, but that is a story for another blog…

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