“Ein wonder if dey wud like some music? I think dey wud appreciate it. So I walk up the stairs and enter da restaurant. It’s not too busy although der is a family at one table and a couple at anudder table. As I walk in I see da ladies serving behind da counter and I pick up da guitar and begin to play.”
The obvious way to go from Plettenberg Bay to our next destination, Franschhoek, is to continue with the N2. It’s a scenic route, but it’s not the road less travelled - and that is our goal. So we turn off the N2 at Heidelberg and head north towards Barrydale and Route 62. This long and winding route is probably one of the most scenic and fascinating routes to drive in South Africa. While we will not be driving the whole thing, we certainly are enjoying the part we are experiencing.
The route winds through farmlands and small one horse towns where there is not even a sign of the one horse. Soon the road begins to climb as we make our way up the scenic Tradouw pass. A towering cliff rises on our right and a tree-clogged canyon falls away to our left. With our stomachs staging protests due to lack of attention, we decide that this is the place to enjoy an ultimate picnic.
We find a picnic spot nestled on the side of the road where a small table has been set near a waterfall that trickles down the cliff before struggling its way down a small stream through the forest. The area is beautiful and green, but it is clear that the long summer and lack of rain has taken its toll on the water supplies.
After our lunch, with the gastro-protestors having been stilled, at least for now, we continue on soaking in the beauty and enjoying the empty roads. Route 62 goes past many interesting road-side stores like the now famous Ronnies Sex Shop. The story goes that Ronnie, a local farmer, opened a shop to sell vegetables and called it Ronnie’s Shop. However, one night his friends, obviously having enjoyed more than just Ronnie’s vegetables, painted an extra word on his sign. The shop became an immediate success and Ronnie soon turned it into a pub for people to stop at on their drive along Route 62 and laugh with friends about the shop's name, while enjoying a cold beer (that’s all). Later in our travels we will meet the son of one of these so-called “friends” who confirms the story.
We arrive at the small town of Barrydale, that literally is just a 100m long stretch of shops before giving way to farmlands again. Yet this stretch of town is filled with interesting restaurants promising the best coffee on the planet or the best milkshake, and interesting shops selling everything from koeksisters to artfully created necklaces and sculptures. I follow Nicky into a shop with a warning sign posted above it…
“ATTENTION MARRIED WOMEN!
No admission without husband.
Too many complaints about excessive shopping”
I see why this is the case, as it does not take long and Nicky, who is not much of a shopper, has found a special cream, probably made from the juice of the hoof of a dassie, or something like that. “I’m sorry sir,” says the the owner of the shop as we are leaving, “I’m sorry I was not here when your wife arrived. I would never have let her in unattended.” He beams a broad, and obviously financially contented smile at me. Yet despite the small dent in our budget, its this fun, friendly spirit that you just don't find in superstores and busy towns.
With many restaurants attempting to woo us in with their offers of good coffee and cakes, the choice is not an easy one to make. However we are drawn to a restaurant called “Diesel and Cream”, both because of the oxymoronic name and the amazing decor inside. A retro pub with a flashing “Tattoo” light and corrugated sheet metal bar area dominates the one wall, while old style tins like Cobra polish and a row of yellow plastic ducks decorate the shelves behind the main counter. “This looks good,” I say pointing to the Waffle on the menu. “A Berry Waffle and a Flat White is just what we need to complete our experience here.”
The sound of a guitar playing suddenly breaks the tranquility of the restaurant, as we wait for our order to arrive. I look up and see a bespectacled man wearing a cap and toting a guitar standing in front of the counter. He begins singing a lively song about “Diesel and Cream” to the servers behind the counter. As the song continues the servers beam huge smiles in response to the man as he slowly makes his way around the restaurant while continuing his performance. He stops at our table and we have a personal performance for a few moments before he returns to perform for the ladies serving behind the counter.
“Is he from the restaurant?” I ask the waiter as she brings our delicious looking Belgian waffles, drizzled with a generous portion of berries. “Na,” she replies, “heez just a tourist.” As we dive into the flavour extravaganza on our plates, the minstrel packs his guitar, and in a thick German accent says farewell to everyone. This is the spirit of Route 62. Friends you haven’t yet met and tastes you wouldn't expect all blended in a slow motion.