The pelting rain that swept us into the lovely town of Riversdale almost entirely obscured our view through the windows. The directions to our accommodation hadn’t been entirely unambiguous, and because we hadn’t visited Riversdale before, we soon found ourselves quite disoriented. We took a couple of wrong turns through the centre of town, but eventually found the R323 leading to Ladismith out of town on the other side, towards the mountains, which were blanketed by impenetrable grey clouds.
It was with considerable relief that we saw the sign to Oakdale Cottages through the curtains of rain.
We skidded to a stop on the water-slicked road, and turned sharply left onto a small gravel track that led us between green paddocks on either side, and towards a huge shed.
Just beyond it, we saw a couple of reddish-terracotta buildings (kind of the same colour as the aloes I had photographed along the way), their colours dramatically offset against the surrounding green lawns that were so well-kept that they would have made any homeowner proud. I leapt out into the rain to see whether I could identify the house number, and quickly located our unit.
As soon as we had lugged all our gear from the car into the cottage, in the rain, we nosed around our accommodation, checked out the beds, the bathroom, the kitchen area… A helpful sign on the fridge explained that the water from the tap might taste a little different, but that it was fine for cooking and drinking. In case us city-folk didn’t like the taste, though, there was a large plastic container with clean spring water. We decided to use this for our tea.
Ah! Speaking of which…
“Ooh – yes, definitely!”
“Right-i-o, I’ll put the kettle on then.”
While the kettle started to simmer and boil and bubble away, we unpacked the edibles from the cooler box into the fridge. I peeked outside – the rain had slowed to an intermittent spitting drizzle, and the clouds were fading away. Yes! Mugs of tea and a plate of biscuits in hand, we ventured outside, and made ourselves comfortable on the verandah.
Aaah, now that’s the life.
Oakdale Cottages is a dairy farm, which explained the cows in the surrounding fields. I’m not a ‘farm kind a gal’, so I don’t know what the correct terminology is for bull calves and cow calves, depending on their ages and whether they’ve been … um … castrated or not, or whether they’ve been weaned or not etc.; it seems rather complicated! As we didn’t see any obvious udders on the four calves grazing and wandering around the field in front of our weekend-home-from-home, I felt it safe to assume they were male calves.
They were rather nervous of us, and it took a long time for one of them to come close enough to sniff at my hand. They weren’t interested in any carrots or apples, I am saddened to report.
Ooh, but the two horses might be!
When I was little, I was completely nuts about horses. (Ask my poor mom, who regularly had to chauffeur me to a riding school in Firgrove, near Somerset West.) Although my nuts-ness has mellowed over the years, well, at least as far as horses are concerned, I still felt a strong urge to go and make friends with the light-grey horse on the field with the young calves, and the bay horse on the field closer to the main road.
As soon as I’d finished my tea and biscuits, I grabbed a couple of carrots (in case you’re wondering, this is why I always take along some carrots – and apples – when we go on a trip).
“I’m off to feed the horses,” I declared, waving the carrots at hubby, who semed to be thinking about pouring himself another mug of tea and getting comfortable on the sofa. I could understand that. It was freezingly cold outside, and he had just discovered a handy little fan-heater, which – although it was chugging along at full blast – was struggling to take the edge off the cold inside the cottage.
I can tell you that this little fan-heater was our salvation during the weekend. Whenever we were ‘home’ at the cottage, we had it on: we huddled around that valiant little fan-heater as though it was a crackling fire, warming our hands, our faces, our feet, our damp socks…
We had also brought along our hot water bottle, which was in almost constant use that weekend too. It was either tucked inside the front of my jacket, or against my lower back, or at our feet, or in the bed between us, or under our cosy fleece snuggle blankets when we watched a DVD on our laptop in the evening. It even went with us in the car. Seriously. Without those two luxuries of civilisation, yours truly would not’ve been a happy camper.
But back to the carrots for the horses.
“I’m off to feed the horses,” I declared.
“Really? OK, wait, I’ll come with you.”
Disappointingly, the grey one ignored me completely. I felt quite hurt. How could a mouthful of grass taste better than these delicious, crunchy, sweet carrots?
“Here, I’ll hold your carrots for you,” offered hubby. And then he took a big bite off the tip of one.
“Well, I had to make sure that they taste nice,” he explained.
“Well? Do they?”
“Yes, simply scrumptious. Crunch crunch crunch. I think we should try the other horse.”
We trudged along the farm track, leaping over rain-soaked potholes and skidding on muddy-wet patches of grass. The bay horse was grazing at the far end. Much to my delight, he came over to the fence immediately. He was very friendly, and carefully picked the pieces of carrot off the palm of my outstretched hand, though only allowing me the briefest of touches to his nose and forehead. He followed us back to the end of the field, hoping for another carrot.
“I’ll be back tomorrow, we’ll get some more carrots from the shop,” I promised. “Bye!”
He looked quite dejected, gazing at me with his beautiful brown eyes.
“I promise, I’ll be back tomorrow morning, okay? I’ll bring you an apple too, if you like?”
He continued to gaze after us as we walked back to the cottage.
“OK, now that the rain’s cleared, how about we drive into Riversdale to see where the concert will be tomorrow morning, so we don’t get lost?” suggested hubby. “Besides, we need some wood for the braai.”
So we headed back into town, and asked our way to the local tourist agency, which happened to be in a cluster of shops right on the edge of the national freeway, the N2. We picked up a map from the friendly lady at the tourist agency, who explained to us where the Town Hall was. She also pointed out a couple of coffee shops and tea gardens, and recommended that we visit the Korentepoort Dam some distance outside town, as there were some hiking trails up there.
We’d been planning to explore the area on foot a little on Saturday after the morning concert – if the weather held – and were hoping that there might be some 2-4 hour way-marked hiking trails, like the ones we are used to in the Silvermine or Table Mountain area. The Sleeping Beauty Mountain Trail, however, was a two-day trail with an overnight hut, that required bookings and permits and a whole lot of gear, never mind some serious fitness levels that we did not have. The tourist agency did not know of any short hikes.
Once we had located the Town Hall, handily located in the centre of town, we bought some firewood, carrots (of course!) and biscuits from the local supermarket and drove back to the farm. Along the way, we detoured past the nearby nursery and tea garden, but they were already closed, and then headed up Garcia Pass, which crosses the Sleeping Beauty mountain range, to see what it was like up there. I’ll show you some pictures in the next post.
By now, the sun was already quite low, and the temperatures seemed to drop by a couple of degrees. We were shivering.
“I think we need to head home to start the fire for supper – the wood is going to be damp, and it’ll take some time to get the fire going properly,” urged hubby.
He was right.
It took AGES because the wood was quite damp…
We even ran out of the indispensable Blitz firelighters and resorted to scrunching up some papers I had taken along, printouts of things to do and places to see. Eventually, and only thanks to hubby’s persistence and gentle blowing at the crucial moments, the wood itself caught fire.
Luckily, the rain stayed away, the skies remained clear, and we could sit outside on the verandah, enjoying our braai under a beautiful night sky, dotted by hundreds and thousands of sparkling stars. Ahhhh, heaven on earth!