Tired of living at work? Bored of the same view 24/7? Our Boredom Busters aims to provide travel inspiration from around South Africa, this trip heads to the Nuy Valley.
Like dassies scared of an eagle that might swoop down, we three stuck our noses out the house recently. The level 3 adjusted lockdown imposed by the government to help curb the spread of COVID-19 means travelling for leisure is allowed.
It’s been a while since we last loaded ourselves into the Disco (Land Rover Discover I V8), and The Toddler was giddy. Every chance he gets to ride in the ‘trok’ is an adventure in itself for this three-year-old.
Our destination was not way out in the gamadoelas, but a bit closer to Cape Town. The Nuy Valley (don’t ask me how to pronounce that) between Robertson and Worcester, to be precise, on a guest farm in a cottage named Solitude – which is as accurate a description as you can wish for. The entire three days that we spent there; our solitude was only interrupted by wildlife trotting over small koppies to the close-by watering hole. Absolute bliss.
The drive there was rather uneventful. We were just so excited to get out and have the open road stretched out ahead of us, that we rushed to get there, lest someone stop us and sends us home. We know how quickly things can change…
The cottage does a great job of posing as a standard A-frame bungalow, but with solid wood construction and luxurious furnishings, this is not just another canvas tent on a game farm – this is a home away from home. The added bonus is the view looking onto a watering hole less than 100m from the front stoep where blue wildebeest, springboks and zebras come to drink. The west-facing cottage has a perfect view of the sunset over the peaks of the Boland mountains in the distance. You could find far worse places to call home for a few days.
But regardless of the tranquillity, I was anxious to get the ol’ Disco’s tyres dirty on some proper gravel roads again. The few kilometres of gravel road leading up to the farm – even though they advise against bringing a low-slung sedan to traverse them – does not fill my gravel-road lust.
Cruising for sunset
Relaxing in the morning sun, we had a lazy start with our coffee and breakfast whilst the little one played in the brush around the bungalow. Finding animal tracks, underground homes and birds in the bushes through the eyes of a three-year-old is like seeing things for the first time. But we can’t just sit around all day.
Viljoensdrift is a working wine farm a few kilometres south of Robertson on the Bonnievale road. It uses its location straddling the Breede River to its advantage by offering boat cruises. If we’re going out of the house, we are doing it in style, and we booked ourselves onto a cruise up and down the river. You realise how being cloistered up in your home for a few months makes you miss the simple things. Like a fresh breeze blowing over the water onto your face.
When we came back to the farm (and after a mandatory middagslapie) we decided to go exploring. There are mountains all around – seeing as it is situated in a valley. But the game camp that you enter when heading to one of the cottages, has its own little jeep tracks all around that you can explore. One heading up to a viewpoint caught my eye, as it was a steep rocky climb (from where I could spy it from the stoep of our cottage). And that was where we headed.
The climb was steep enough to warrant low-range at some points, but mostly because I wanted to take it as slow as possible to prolong the experience (and I had a giggling three-year-old in the backseat that really does enjoy the swaying and bobbing of the Disco over bumps and rocks.)
The road climbs for less than a kilometre until it reaches the viewpoint, but it doesn’t end there. We followed it for a further kilometre till it ended in front of a closed gate. Not sure if we could go through, we stopped and proceeded to explore the top of the mountain on foot. The vygies (succulents) and fynbos were doing their level best to compete with their more famous Namaqualand cousins, and if you are a keen birder, you will definitely enjoy the abundance of BOP’s (birds of prey) and BBJ (big brown/black jobbies) that you can see in the mountains and gorges around you from this point. Not one of us is an expert birder, but our prehistoric brains cause us to pause whenever a big shadow passes over.
With the sun doing its best to approach the horizon at break-neck speed, our day was soon coming to an end – and we knew tomorrow we’ll be heading home again. By the light of the moon, we counted stars, drank an evening cup of coffee and listened to the wildebeests and zebras playing at the watering hole. One day like this a year can see me right. (Elbow fans, rejoice!)
Some gravel – at last!
For our trip home the plan was to take gravel roads as far as possible. The chance to deflate the tyres and lock the centre-diff of the Disco was enough to keep me happy, and the prospect of a gravel road under the wheels had me excited. I was rushing to get everyone loaded up and on the road as soon as possible. After packing up, saying a lively goodbye to the zebras at the watering hole and doing a mandatory chicken walk around the chalet to check for any misplaced toys that the sprog may have hidden in a bush (he does that), we headed out towards Robertson to fill up the petrol tank on the Disco (smiles per gallon from a V8, of course).
Heading west on the R60 for a few kilometres we came to the turn-off heading south on the Eilandia-road. Diff-lock: engaged. This road meanders over hills and through valleys in the greater Breede River Valley – following the curvature of the river on your left-hand side. There are fruit farms and guest farms and even a wine farm along the way. The dusty road makes you almost forget that you are less than an hour’s drive from pottering along at a snail’s pace in the infamous Cape Town traffic. Even our little one’s chattering seemed to quiet down as the stones and pebbles pinged off the chassis and undercarriage as the gravel road sped along under the wheels.
We tend to forget how friendly South Africans are, and the number of friendly waves from farm workers, tractor drivers and children next to the road was like something out of a very corny TV commercial.
After about 20km, we came to a T-junction. If we turn right, we head back to the hustle bustle of our daily lives (in a pandemic lock-down). Left gives us more opportunity to explore and drive on a road we haven’t driven on before. The bonus is that it heads towards the river and the Tracks4Africa-map on my ancient Garmin told me that it is a low water bridge.
After good rains all winter in the Cape, the Disco got a good splash to clean its underside and the toddler got a nice view of water splashing out from under the wheels. There was only about 10cm of water flowing over the bridge. This entire part of the river is almost like a floodplain – reminiscent of the Okavango Delta (or at least that’s what I kept telling myself) – so from my perspective you will need the level of the river to rise substantially before this bridge becomes dangerous to cross.
On the other side of the river, there is another T-junction, and this time we were forced to head right – back home and back to tar roads, our home in the ‘burbs and routine. I know this is a cliché, but it really was fun while it lasted. And knowing that it’s almost literally on our doorstep, means we will be back.
If you only have time for a short break, you don’t want to head out into the great unknown, but you still want to feel as if you are off the beaten track, the Nuy Valley is one of many spots you can head out to around Cape Town. And here, you can breathe.
Text & images: Gerrie van Eerden