“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.
The sun is warm now as it rises towards its pinnacle high above. With the warmth comes energy and more opportunities to eat. I move slowly through the grass away from the view of prying eyes. However if I'm to get to the succulent food I will need to cross the gravel road. It's not something I relish doing because it exposes me. I pause as I emerge from the grass on the edge of the road. I cannot sense any danger. I begin making my way across it...on and on and on I go...it should not be long now. All of a sudden a dark shadow looms over me. I immediately retreat into my shell as I'm lifted high into the air.
"It's just two steps and you lift high into the air," Lucille from FlyTime paragliding says as we sign our lives away…quite literally. As a family the dream of paragliding was just that - more a dream than a reality. It just seemed too expensive, and I suppose a little intimidating too. Yet here we are, standing on top of a hill looking down on the beautiful town of Sedgefield below. Above us a rainbow of colours fills the air as a myriad of floating paragliders look like colorful butterflies rising into the blue sky above.
Soon Joshua has his harness on and is being attached to Jorg, the pilot for the tandem flight, as they stand near the edge of the steeply sloping hill. I watch as our youngest child takes a few steps towards the edge…something we normally discourage our children from doing, and seconds later they are off the edge…as I am projecting “rise, rise, rise” thoughts to counter gravity’s “fall, fall, fall” law… and they begin to rise into the sky. Soon Sarah and Hannah follow. "It's getting closer to my turn," I think, as I attempt to keep track of which floating color spots are my kids. It’s a natural parental instinct that keeps you watching out for your kids, although it’s getting hard to remember which colourful speck is which.
As Josh and Hannah land, with huge smiles on their faces, Nicky launches into the air to join the aerial dance of colour. My vigil is not over as now I have to watch my wife, although her shouts of excitement reaching me from high above, do help my tracking.
"Ok," Deon says, "just keep walking until I say stop." "OK," I reply as I look at the ants walking on the road below…Oh, they're not ants, they're cars! Wow this is high! Quickly, but nonchalantly, I enquire as the edge looms nearer, "So how long have you been doing this?" I'm hoping for, "about four hundred years and I'm the current intergalatical champ and actually I'm a reincarnated eagle which means I can’t fall from the sky" or something like that. However it's too late for conversation we are running towards the edge and destiny. “I wonder if our life policies are up to…” The ground vanishes!
It's like magic! Three steps and the ground drops away and we gently rise into the air. I'm flying! I'm actually flying! This is where words become pointless. I suppose that is why eagles don't blog, they just can't put into words the feeling. This is truly specilirating - I need a new word to augment our language's limitations to capture the feeling. The first thing that strikes me is the quiet. There is no noisy engine keeping you afloat, it's as if you are magically floating high above the trees and sea far below.
We magically bank to the right as we continue to rise joining he colourful carnival of flight as the dance of the paragliders swirls around the invisible thermals. I breathe deeply of the cool air drinking up the surreal beauty and inexplicable sensations with even fibre of my being. I'm flying. I'm truly flying. All those dreams where I've awoken disappointed to discover it was only a dream. And now I'm experiencing flight.
It seems too soon and we are spiralling back towards the same spot that we took off from. It seems incredible to me that we can rise and fly in the air for as long as we wish and return to the same spot once again. Like stepping down a staircase..one, two, three, four and we are standing still back on the the ground once again. However my heart and mind are still flying, and I fear, judging from the family’s enthusiastic conversation, this is just the beginning. We've soared with eagles...and our horizons have been set free.
“Make sure you pack the beer in the cooler box,” Nicky says as we pack a picnic lunch. We’re experts at picnics now, as finding a beautiful place to eat lunch is a near daily occurrence. The good news is that doing this in Sedgefield is particularly easy. A short walk from our timeshare unit on the beautiful Sedgefield Island, as it is called, and we are on the waters edge. We follow the gravel road along the edge of a tranquil estuary framed by a tree-filled hill rising to touch the perfect blue sky on the other side. “Hey look here,” Joshua says, as he bends down to pick up something. He holds up a small tortoise that had been slowly making its way across the road. It immediately retreats into its shell as we look at Sedgefield’s symbol - the tortoise which represent’s the town’s “slow town” motto.
“The water is warm, come let’s swim to the other side,” Nicky shouts from where she is a few meters out in the river. Our senses have been satiated from the high’s of the flight, to the taste of our picnic. And now once more we are flying, this time in the warm water of the estuary, as I float on my back and look up at the vaulted blue sky…I’m lifted high into the air.