Warmth. Nothing better. The sun is slowly climbing and washing the red sand and carved rocks in its golden warmth as it chases away the lingering cool remnants of the night . I lie on a rock luxuriating in the warmth as slowly energy seeps into my languid body. I notice a movement and suddenly a shadow drapes across my rock. I remain still. Moving is out of the question. I've only just started to recharge. The shadow passes and I'm pleased I chose not to move. Aah…sun…
With still not a single living being in sight we begin to question. Are we heading in the right direction? Have we been transmorphlocated to another planet? Has everyone on earth been evaporated by a meteor impact and we are all that is left? At this stage all options seem equally viable.
Just as we are leaning towards the meteor impact theory we arrive at the Kagga Kamma gate where a lone sentinel hands us a form to sign thereby granting us access to the desolate realm beyond. “Maybe he’s an alien,” we muse as he hardly speaks to us. Immediately we are welcomed by a sign saying the reception is still another 4km away. We are glad that we have Pajey for this trip as he is enjoying the rugged terrain and corrugated road as the four wheel drive grips firmly to the rugged road. Soon all our fillings have fallen out of our teeth and our milk is now cream, but at least the car’s having fun.
We are almost on top of the office before we see it, it is so well blended into the giant rocks strewn artfully across the landscape. We discover that our timeshare, like all things in this vast space, is a good bounce and drive away from the reception – just enough to pry lose those last few resilient fillings. I see some poor guy who has done this trip in his little Toyota Etios. He is staring blankly into space, a pallid facial expression and a single twitching eye, all telltale signs of PDT syndrome – Post Dirt Track Syndrome. I'm glad our Etios is snoozing at home as Pajey loved the roads.
“What do you mean there’s no Internet,” the girls shout out in unison. They have a similar look to the poor guy with PDT syndrome, yet theirs is worse. Their wide eyes, sweaty brows and twitching thumbs are all classic signs of SIC syndrome – Sudden Internet Cessation syndrome - a terrible infliction to see a teenager suffer. “Yep, you heard right?” I say. “There is no cell phone signal,” I say enunciating each word for effect while enjoying witnessing the onset of SIC syndrome. “We are off the grid. No cell phone. No Internet. No Facebook. No Instagram. No…thing.” As the shocking news sets in and they turn from pale white to deathly shades of grey I quickly try and give them hope. “However, there is an Internet connection up at the pub. It's just a 2km hike through the desert.” This is going to test their love.
Our accommodation is beautiful, a thatched chalet which is cool inside and welcomes us with the wonderful smell of stone floors and thatched roof that shout “holiday!” As the sun dips over the distant mountains the rocks are painted a rust color while the nearly full moon rises in the deep purple sky behind us. The silence is deafening as the evening stretches over this vast place - a place where you can truly disconnect (literally) and refuel. As I doze off in the absolute silence of the night I'm thinking how our unplugging will be an interesting social experiment.
It's time to explore the rugged terrain that stretches out before our chalet towards the distant mountains. We choose the 4km walk that winds down into a valley passing between towering rocks carved by a divine artist and overhanging caves with incredible ancient bushmen paintings. I see a cave that looks like it might have paintings and make my way towards it. As I near I notice a lizard lying on a rock watching me approach. It seems unconcerned, simply fixing me with its beedy eyes as I pass by it by. I’m in it’s home now, and a beautiful home it is.
The walk is a visual feast but soon the sun makes itself felt even more so as we lose the path - something we are particularly good at. It’s still a wonder we did not get lost on the Shipwreck Trail earlier in the year. Charting our own course over the rocky terrain we eventually find our way back and head straight for the pool. Set between huge rocks and next to more bushman paintings this is a perfect place to relax and cool down while a swarm of dassies look pensively down at us.
I'm not sure who breaks first, the kids or me, but this e-disconnect experiment is not working. We all clamber into the car and bounce our way up to the pub. We need to get online just to check if the world is OK. It's been nearly 18 hours! Surely that’s a long enough techno-fast? The connection is akin to sucking double-thick milkshake through a toothpick-size straw, but at least we have touched the outside world, even if only a few bytes of it. After a couple of hours of patience-inducing e-drip feeding we return to relax off the grid once more at our cottage. “I think we are A-D-D I Dicted,” Hannah says sagely…and I think she is right. I feel my forehead for the telltale SIC symptoms. “I have to blog don’t I? I need to be online….I think?”
The plan is to have sundowners out in the wild, so we leap into Pajey and head out to explore the wilds. The roads which are a combination of thick sand and rock wind through stunning vistas until finally we find what looks like an undiscovered Stonehenge. Huge rocks balancing on one another, seemingly positioned by some super ancient race, are clustered together. It's breathtaking! In the distance, over the mountains, a storm is brewing as sheets of rain try desperately to reach downwards from the dark clouds above to the bone dry land below, while occasional streaks of lightening sparkle across the sky.
We climb on top of the monolithic rock structures and its as if we are standing atop ancient spires witnessing the birth of a new world. As the sun begins to break out in golden light beneath the cloud bank, before it sinks behind the distant mountains, we go and sit on top of Pajey. Hannah has set our sundowner spot atop Pajey’s roofrack with a soft blanket and our trusty Howzat chairs. This has to be the ultimate spot to watch the visual feast of this epic sunset unfold before us.
Sipping wine, sitting on top of the car, with not a person in sight, enveloped by the early evening sounds and drinking in the most spectacular sunset is almost too much for the senses to absorb. I just can't get enough of the stark beauty of this area. The rusty colours that rise to meet the deep blue sky are beyond words. And that's before the sunset hurls dripping swathes of red and orange and gold at the dramatic clouds. This has to be one of the best sundowners I've ever experienced. Maybe we have been transported to another planet by a super-alien race. If so, I'm staying! Farewell earthlings!