There is That Moment when you are embarking on a trip, where you get this Feeling in your chest. The heart quickens. The senses come alive. The breath slows and deepens. You feel yourself coming into your body, into the present moment. It’s a sense of excitement. Of adventure. Of wonder. Of joy.
I like to think of it as an Opening to the Spirit of the Open Road.
It is magical.
It is The Best Moment Ever.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that, for me, this Moment is happening further and further away from my home base of Cape Town. I think it probably has to do with how much Cape Town itself has grown and expanded.
Not so long ago, perhaps 20 years, the Strand, Somerset West and Stellenbosch used to be quite separate from Cape Town.
Now, the entire low-lying area between the Table Mountain range in the west and the Hottentots Holland Mountain in the east is more or less densely populated. One suburb, one settlement, one township, merges almost seamlessly into the next. Not surprisingly, Cape Town is now referred to as a metropolis.
When I was very little, and my Mom and I drove out to Firgrove (horse riding), Stellenbosch (ambling around the picturesque village), Somerset West (visiting friends or family) or even beyond (Yay! Road Trip!), that Moment came as soon as we left the perimeter of the City Bowl, which is where we were living at the time, and reached the start of De Waal Drive, the scenic road that hugs the middle reaches of Devil’s Peak, from where you have such stunning views across our city.
When I was slightly older, the Moment happened when we were driving out on the N2 and passing the distinctive cooling towers of the Athlone power station (the towers were imploded and demolished in August last year [dramatic YouTube clip] – you can learn all about its history here). A couple of years later, it began to happen only when we were ascending Sir Lowry’s Pass, and leaving the city behind us.
More recently, it has been happening when we cruise down the serpentine loops above the small town of Bot Rivier, at the eastern foothills of the Hottentots Holland. There is a point where the vast plains and rolling wheatfields of the region known as the Overberg lay spread out before us, and it feels as though the world opens up.
“Mmmm…,” I sighed contentedly, beaming at my Significant Other and toasting him with a Cup of Tea.
“The Moment, hm?”
We took the turn-off towards the coast, and drove past its sequence of small towns – Hawston, Onrusrivier, Vermont. Soon it was time to slow down once more, as we cruised slowly through the centre of Hermanus, the Whale Watching Capital of the World:
“Hermanus has the status of being the best land-based whale watching destination in the world. Southern right whales visit Walker Bay from June through to December and can be viewed from aboard a boat, an airplane or the shore. Hermanus is home to the world’s only Whale Crier who blows his kelp horn when whales are spotted along the central sea route.” (Hermanus tourism website)
Not having visited Hermanus for any length of time for many years, I was rather taken aback to see how much it had grown. It used to be such a quaint and charming little place, with unexplored nooks and crannies, beckoning the visitor to venture up into the range of mountains above, or down to the oceans below to see the whales frolicking in the swells. As the tourism website said,
“With its unparalleled scenic beauty, modern infrastructure, upmarket shops and endless adventure options, it’s little wonder that Hermanus has grown in size and popularity during the last decade. …
Hermanus is a cosmopolitan town but has retained some of its historical fisherman’s village heritage.” (Hermanus tourism website)
Leaving the outskirts of the town behind us, we continued along the R43. The road took us in a broad sweep, skirting a range of mountains on our left, and the lagoon – and the ocean beyond – on our right. After an extended straight stretch, the road swung right and crossed the Klein Rivier, which, after a couple of serpentine bends, empties into the lagoon we had passed earlier.
We had arrived in Stanford. Click Hello, serene Stanford to go to the next instalment.
Here are the links to all the posts in this series, in case you’ve missed any: