So on 24 November 2020 at 5:30 in the morning we hit the road with our Ford Figo and Paul's Fortuner we travelled through Porterville to the N7 where we turned right and headed towards Namibia. A stop at the Engen in Klawer for a cup of coffee and one of the things I cannot pass by, skuinskoek, and we were on the way again.
We turned off at Vanrhynsdorp, which was just waking up for the day. We made it to Nieuwoudtville early morning and decided to see what collectables there were to be had. Interesting shop with lots of of cool stuff. Conveniently located close to the butcher where we stocked up on droë wors and biltong for the road.
Nieuwoudtville also has a really beautiful old church where we met a gentleman who works at the church. He told us that services are currently held in the church hall due to the covid restrictions.
From here we decided a detour was on the cards and we headed to Loeriesfontein to see the Fred Turner Windpomp Museum. As it happens, we arrived to a sign that announced that the museum was closed on Tuesdays. Luckily there was a gentleman doing some painting inside the building, a old Baptist church, who invited us in. What an interesting place. Inside are items collected from the area and outside, windpompe (windpumps) and more windpompe.
What a cool place, well worth a visit. So on we go, back to Nieuwoudtville where turn left and hit the road to Calvinia. In Calvinia we stop at the Hantam Huis to have a look at the collectables they have. Paul finds a very cool book on, you guessed it, windpompe.
The next section of the journey takes us through Brandvlei, where Sharon and I satisfy our craving for sugar at the Agri, and then on to Kenhardt. We reach Keimoes in the afternoon and decide to buy some provisions for the next couple of days the Spar and some meat from the butcher. Outside the butcher are some children asking for food. Paul buys them a packet of polony and it strikes Sharon and I how these kids gobble up the food. We have some biscuits in the car which also goes to the 2 kids. We realise how, even in Kenhardt, how people ask for food, rather than money.
We reach our accommodation, Meerkat Compound, just aft 18:00 where we are warmly greeted by owner, Marius and Francileen Baard. We settle into a very spacious, well furnished cottage and light a fire for braai. We are relatively tired after the long journey so head off to bed early for a goods nights sleep.
Wednesday, 25 November 2020. Everyone is up early and after coffee and rusks we are ready for the day. We head out to Crystal Spring Minerals just outside of Kakamas. Jaco and Tania van Nieuwenhuizen welcome us warmly and show us their shop. This is a dream for any mineral collector. There is something for everyone there, from beads to stunning mineral specimens, jewellery, fossils, mineral spheres and so much more. I think they are still trying to get my claw marks off the glass cabinets. But then it is on to business, we are in the area to buy minerals for the markets and the shop.
After a very successful day of mineral selecting and buying we head back to Meerkat Compound to relax and reflect on the days events. We also take some time to go through our favorite purchases of the day. No better way to end the day off with a nice fire and steaks on the braai. Everyone is tired but pleased with the purchases of the day so we head off to bed. Note on the bed in our room, BEST THING EVER!!!!!! Rarely have we slept so well while away.
Thursday, 26 November 2020 breaks and we have an exciting day planned. We are going to Riemvasmaak to buy some fluorite octahedra but first we meander across the road to the Pienk Padstal. I buy some very good looking dates and dried peaches. The dates, well, BEST THING EVER!!!!!
Now we hit the road to Riemvasmaak which is about 60km from Kakamas. It is a dry and barren landscape but is unbelievably beautiful. One cannot believe that these amasing green fluorite are mined in the mountains around Riemvasmaak.
When we arrive in Riemvasmaak we call our contact who fetched us to his house. While waiting for him the vehicle is surrounded by kids with crystals and pieces fluorite. If you don't want to buy anything then do you have food, the standard request.
We buy some beautiful fluorite octahedra and some other bits and pieces. We also get some really nice rose quartz which they collect in the area. In the backyard is a greenhouse with a really healthy looking cannabis plant. It feels good to be able to support the local miners. There is very little for the people in the town other than artisanal mining. But like everything in our beloved country, the guy is waiting for a permit to be able to mine fluorite. Driving through town we are stopped by another miner where we also buy some pieces.
Now we head off to Vredevallei. The road winds through the mountains. It's rough but passable. The scenery is spectacular.
During one of the stops Sharon wanders off and we find her with some rocks in hand. You just cannot keep a rock lover from picking up a rock
Along the way we pass a very randomly parked red tractor. When we get closer it looks like it rolled down the hill recently. The mudguards on the back are all bent.
We reach Vredevallei and meet Rasta and his daughter. He is an artist and miner. He has lots of Orange River quartz, normal quartz, fluorite and amethyst. And, the biggest cannabis plant I have seem in my life. Never tried it, but jeepers, these things can grow into trees. I suppose that's why they call it boom (like a tree for the non South Africans). Both Rasta and his daughter are amasing artists. He shows us some of his drawings and paintings. His daughter showed us a drawing she did of a quartz crystal on her leg. She has talent and we will take her some, and her father, some art supplies when we go back. It also felt good to support the people here.
Just outside Vredevalley we cross the mighty Orange River and again we see the influence the river has on the area. You come out of the barren region and all of a sudden it is beautiful and green.
We stop for lunch on the road back to Kakamas and enjoy a tasty burger and some ice cold cooldrinks. One more stop to make for the trip but this time it's not for rocks but for bottles. Paul wants to see what is available but unfortunately there is nothing worthwhile for him so we head back to our accommodation to relax and cool down. Supper is a light one of cheese and biscuits. We pack our respective vehicles as we plan to leave early on Friday morning. Paul is heading home to Pretoria and we also have a 800km drive home to Wellington. I chat to some of the other long term inhabitants of Meerkat Compound. One crew is building a new police station in Riemvasmaak. They are from Kimberley, really nice guys.
Early Friday morning we say goodbye to Paul and hit the road. I take the first shift. We change drivers every hour which works out well for us but by Brandvlei we both need coffee. We stop at the local restaurant for a cup of coffee and hit the road again. One more stop along the way is in Nieuwoudtville at the butcher for some meat to take home with us. I can recommend the lamb from them and they delivered to Cape Town.
We arrive home late afternoon to much excitement from the dogs but no rest, we have to unpack our purchases and load the stock for the markets the weekend.
I have reflected on this trip and have come to some conclusions/realizations.
- We are lucky to live in South Africa with it's many flaws, it is a diverse and beautiful place.
- We are very, very lucky to be doing what we do. So many people do not realise what treasures the earth has, It is a privilege to be able to share some of them with our customers.
- Driving towards and from Brandvlei we could see the devastation of the drought in the area. It is hard to live and farm under those conditions. I admire those people very much.
- We saw hungry children in many areas that we visited. There is a huge need out there for help and we want to make sure that we take things that we take for granted with us the next time we go.
- We are eternally grateful to our customers at the shop and at the markets you make it possible for us to do what we do.
We hope to do this trip again in 2021. It was THE BEST THING EVER!!!!