We know it’s always the little-known roads that offer the surprises. Sometimes the surprise is more than you bargained for.
‘Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it’s about to scare the hell out of the dog.’ I once saw that caption beneath an image of a toddler seconds away from putting its outstretched finger into the bottom of an unsuspecting staffie. It’s a boorish gag, but it made me laugh to the point where no sound came out and I just sat there with a contorted face, clapping like a seal. At any rate, I’ve never forgotten it and, for some reason, it popped into my head after a recent trip into the Cederberg.
See, for every beaten track there are hundreds less beaten. At Getaway, those tracks are our bread and butter. We’ll tell you in earnest that we travel them to find the best new places for you, but really it’s a medical condition. We simply can’t pass one by without yanking up the handbrake (do not bring an open drink into the car with us). Then our eyes bulge like golf balls and a peculiar noise leaves our mouths, which sounds a lot like ‘Ooooh, let’s go down there. Just to see…’
On the way back from riding the Old Postal Route in the Karoo-Cederberg (read the full story on in the March issue), a friend and I found ourselves in Citrusdal, rubbernecking one of those very tracks. We’d spent the last few days on scorched earth and beneath marvellous skies (I snapped the above cloud formations at Cederberg Oasis the day before) and weren’t quite ready to hit tar yet. On Chris’ GPS, it looked like the perfect detour around the Olifants River and, without much discussion, off we went. We cruised along the western banks of the river, past preekstoel rock formations and speckled citrus plantations, all backdropped by the spectacular Winterhoek Mountains. It was proving to be a glorious little find.
It appeared at first in the corner of my eye – a white bakkie hurtling towards us. Then it appeared more definitely, to the rest of my eyes – a white bakkie hurtling towards us. It was not slowing down. So we did. We stopped dead. Seconds later so did the bakkie, inches from my front wheel. Then a purple man hopped out of the driver’s seat and began gesticulating wildly. Spittle flew from the corners of his mouth in every direction. He was trying to tell us something but the words leaving his mouth were jumbled and deafeningly incoherent. It sounded like a typewriter falling down some stairs.
‘Chris, I think this man is having a heatstroke. Look how purple he’s gone! Thank goodness we came down this way. He needs help.’
Chris got off his motorcycle and approached him but that only caused the man to palpitate even more. More spit flew, his head swelled and, oddly, it also appeared as if he’d completely lost his bearings.
This is serious, I thought. This man needs a hospital. Or at least air con. ‘Chris! Tell him to get into his bakkie and put the air con on. We can get water from the Olifants…’
That seemed to work. The man climbed into his car and Chris came sprinting back. ‘Listen, we need to go! This man wants to drive over us.’
‘That’s a bit extreme. I know he needs water, but it’d be easier if we walked down to the river and scooped it out. I don’t think he should drive.’
‘No. He says this is a private farm road and if we don’t turn around immediately, he’s going to kill us.’
The bakkie roared to life and so did its hooter. We turned our bikes around and he chased us, honking, until finally we couldn’t see him any more.
‘Why didn’t he just ask us to turn around? There are no signs. Why was he so angry?’ I asked.
‘I don’t know,’ said Chris. ‘He said he doesn’t want to see anybody come down this road again.’
‘That’s crazy. Who’s going to collect his fruit? He’s delusional. It must be the heat. Maybe we should send an ambulance down there. Just to see…’
This column first appeared in the March issue of Getaway.
Our March issue features 18 breathtaking picnics spots to make the most of late summer, a budget guide to sailing Mozambique’s iconic islands, three different train journeys in SA and how to get a real taste of Mumbai.