Cape Town has safaris near by too! If you didn’t know that, or are planning a similar trip to the Western Cape, please keep reading .
On a recent trip to Cape Town, we wanted to get away from it all. Completely disappear for a few days. I remembered the ‘Little Karoo’ from childhood visits, and thought it’s relative proximity by car to be our perfect solution.
Sun-baked teracotta-coloured sand separates bushes of fynbos like capillaries as we wound down Route 62 (South Africa’s answer to the US route 66) further and further away from the city. We stopped at The Barn On 62 in the quaint little town of Montague, sipping on the most indulgent iced coffees beneath waving banana trees.
Iced coffees in Montague on Route 62
More minutes than I had initially expected passed with our little white VW Polo weaving over dirt roads. The gate to the lodge was unmanned, just a little sign stating this was the right place. There was doubt on my husband’s side that this was the right place, however as the resident South African I took a deep breath and got out to let the car through as I closed the gate behind us, leaving cellphone signal behind. Our little Polo rattled over the dirt, disturbing two Eland buck and causing them to escape across the road ahead of us.
Our arrival at the lodge was accompanied by an immense desert sunset, and the evening improved when we were informed we were to be the only guests for our whole visit, leaving the smiling staff at our sole disposal. As soon as was polite I got into the pool, sipping on crisp gin and tonics whilst admiring the view. Despite being the only guests, we still enjoyed a full dinner service replete with beautifully set table, ending the evening with a bottle of local port beside the fire.
A Karoo sunset on arrival at the lodge
Waking each morning and drawing open our curtains filled me with so much excitement, if there is one thing I have learned about this desert is that you won’t have the same day twice. We had days of blistering heat and keeping to the shade, as well as days where a heavy mist sat just above the low shrubs in the land before us. I still can’t tell which was more mesmerising, and I did not get one opportunity to read my book as I kept finding my gaze drifting over the endless view.
Top and bottom: how just a few hours can give a whole new view
We went for game drives, with morning coffee served alfresco in the bush and sun downers at the top of a ‘koppie’ (hill) for the best view. With all three meals and activities organised by a sweet and helpful staff, all I could do was spend the time at the lodge in an almost meditative state, constantly staring out at the horizon.
We saw ostrich, zebra, baboon, eland, kudu, and rare blue wildebeeste on our drives, but most memorable were the animals that approached the lodge themselves. A small herd of impala came grazing by the lodge one morning, and on a short walk around the lodge (with a walkie-talkie for emergencies) we came across a few brave giraffes coming towards the lodge watering hole. It’s one thing to see animals from the game drive 4×4, but is a whole other to spot some elusive creatures on foot and without a guide.
Impala viewing from the deck, centre of picture
Brave giraffes seen on foot, left centre of picture
The desert always teaches me something, I guess that’s why they have such attraction to me. The Karoo tought me about nature and loss, seeing a few old skeletons of animals not able to survive a harsh and long time of drought made me think about the beauty and cruelty of nature, and what might befall places like this with even more intense climate change in the future. At what point does ‘survival of the fittest’ end and extinction start? How many animals have to die before we realise something has to change? I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the answers in my lifetime, but for now this little corner of the Karoo has opened up a little piece of my heart.
Let me know if you have visited or have plans to visit the Karoo area!