Monday, November 24, 2014

Weeding the Garden Route ...

It was a bit of a shock to this Kaartman to realise the other day that his very first map of the Garden Route hit the streets in 1973 ... that’s more than 40 years ago, omg. He remembers personally flogging the map up and down the N2 from Mossel Bay to Storms River, to a variety of caravan parks and resorts, most of which don’t exist any more. The map retailed for 85 cents I kid you not, from which we scooped a grand 50c per copy. Ah, those were the days, I hear you sigh, when bread was 9c a loaf and petrol 8c a litre. Don’t get too excited. Qualified teachers earned R125 per month and top prize in the lottery was a huge R50 000. A US$ was 70c and a UK£ was R1.40 and I could go on and on but that would get boring.
Forty years on we have decided to enlarge and expand the seventh edition [due next year] and with that in mind Mrs K and I loaded up the Kaartcart and set off for Albertinia. We aimed to research the nearer Garden Route first (the GR technically starts at Heidelberg); next trip will be to the Far East of Cape St Francis et al.

Apart from the stunning natural beauty the first thing that struck us as we meandered around the Heidelberg hills was the startling number of cows. They came in waves; Jerseys, Frieslands, Herefords, Nguni, often blocking the roads and rolling their large limpid eyes at us. The second thing that struck us was the astonishing variety of wildlife. The instant you get off that awful N2 all kinds of birdies and beasties appear between the hedgerows, running across the fields, or sitting on telephone poles.
Clockwise from top left:
Camel, baby ostrich, Cape terrapin, giraffe, finch, pugnacious ant
The faces tell their own story. Apart from the ‘game park’ creatures [their bonnox-fenced homes should really be called ‘zoos’ because so many of them are quite inappropriate for the area, like impala, springbok and giraffes] we saw more than a dozen kinds of antelope, four kinds of tortoise or terrapin, masses of birds including two wonderful secretary birds (now so rarely seen), and even a Cape fox. And if you like the big stuff like rhino and elephants and  giraffe and buffalo, we found two places where public roads plunge straight through the parks via huge cattle grids, and entrance is effectively free ... see forthcoming map!
Statement gates ...
Down to the coast we went, through the cutesy collapsing cottages of Vermaaklikheid where every living thing, even the shop keeper and her dog, was asleep at 4 in the afternoon. Along the coast towards Gouritzmond the roads are mostly pretty awful, but that’s not what got our goat. There’s an endless procession of private ‘estates’ that make sure there is no public access to the sea. Many of these don’t seem to have a dwelling on them, but they’ve all got huge gi-normous gateways with steel gates, spikes and barbs. What this says about their temporal owners is rather sad: each successively-larger gate says “This is MINE MINE MINE – so KEEP OUT – YOU can’t play in MY sandpit.”
Almost worse are the landowners who have somehow contrived to erect giant gates across public roads – we found several of these. The signs say ‘private’ but the gates are not locked, and we wish more people would assert their right to use these roads. Those routes, too, will all be on the map.
Later these ‘landowners’ were iconically summed up for us by a single donkey ...
But there is whimsy too. We giggled at the smallholding called ‘Dumbie Dykes’ [or maybe we boggled]; we loved the farm that has been renamed from ‘Vergenoeg’ to ‘The Far Side’. Lots of signs made us chuckle, and many small bright gardens made us smile.
Clockwise from top left:
Vermaaklikheid shop sign; Office Inqueries [Glory be!]; camouflaged dikdiks;
a pretty garden all in rows; Pinnochio in the hardeduine; seagulls behaving badly
Ruins, there are, too. Many. We call them ‘hopes and dreams’, for that’s what they once were. Poignant, a reminder for those paranoid landowners of our short tenure on this Earth.

We stayed at four different places on our trip, all of them very pleasant surprises, and all of them highly recommendable. 
We started at Honeywood, just outside the Grootvadersbosch reserve [CapeNature don’t take bookings for Sunday nights]. It’s a bit of paradise, with the forest on your doorstep and views of the Langeberg marching away in both directions that cannot be beat. John Moodie will also sell you a bottle of his gorgeous home grown, ratel-friendly honey.
Honeywood: – phone +27 83 270 4035
Our wanderings took us next to the Wild Olive Guest Farm on the Goukou River, upstream from Stilbaai, and another top-notch stay where Karen will sell you a delicious loaf of home-baked bread, a salad and the tastiest free-range eggs you can imagine.
Wild Olive: – phone +27 28 754 2719
Then it was on to Vleesbaai. We had wanted Gouritzmond but everywhere there seems to demand a minimum of three nights. The approach to Vleesbaai is daunting. The whole joint is gated and ringed with an electric fence. They must have serious security concerns ... or just hectic paranoia, as we remembered that donkey again. We drove up the hill and there was the sign for our cottage – ‘Helsewinde’ [Hell’s winds!]. Utterly charming, not ringed by steel armour, with an absolutely fabulous view far away from the hideous hot-wired hamlet. And as it turned out, very little wind. Caroline opened up for us, it’s her personal special plekkie and she’s justifiably a little anxious about strangers, but it was an excellent stay.
– phone +27 83 225 4473
Homeward bound we stopped at Zoutpan, off the N2 near Albertinia. It’s a way-stop for sure, but a very comfortable one that provided a great supper and a fantastic breakfast for weary travellers who by then had accumulated near 1700 km of mostly dirt roads ... thanks, Amanda!
Zoutpan Struishuis: – phone +27 28 735 1119

Next time it’s beyond the Tzitzikamma ...

Kaartman, Nov 2014

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Ruby had attitude ...

She did not like being told what to do ...

and I confess ...

that when Ruby died

I cried.

Kaartman, October 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014

Paper Nautilus shells

Mrs Kaartman and I try to walk the dogs every morning on Muizenberg beach. Normally it is the most delightful place for an early-morning walk. It’s wide and flat with good solid sand – none of your desert trudging – with beautiful, opalescent early morning light across the bay, distant mountains dark against the dawn sky. The air is often like chilled champagne, too, and there are all sorts of interesting things to see. We’ve had a dead whale, zillions of washed up blue-bottles, live and dead seals, trek-fishermen heading out in their brave little boats and then heaving their groaning nets out of the water, once a body (sad!) and even once a small shipwreck ... every day is different. 

A few months ago we arrived at the beach down our usual little track through the dunes, to see that most of False Bay was covered in mist. As we stepped onto the beach, far away there appeared out of the mist a ghostly galleon, a fully-rigged sailing ship! It was rather a wonderful if spooky experience, until we remembered that the Chilean Navy had a training ship visiting Simon’s Town.
And in the right season we occasionally find paper nautilus shells.

Then of course there are the dogs, walking their masters and mistresses. Old Man used to be known as Grumpy Old Man, but we shortened his name to be polite. He specialises in very hairy German Shepherds, and they can’t even raise a paw without him shouting at them in a most grumpy manner, up and down the beach. 
Man in Hat is walked by an indifferent Jack Russell. He was extraordinarily unfriendly for many a year, refusing to return our greetings as he strolled manfully past with his Jack R. trotting ahead, but, after six or seven years of careful evaluation he’s decided we’re OK after all, because now he actually sort of semi-tips his hat. We discovered recently that he’s Scots, which might explain a lot. 
On Friday mornings we have to be careful to avoid the Chattering Ladies. Some time ago they appeared without warning on our Friday morning beach, a vast mob of women all towing without exception either a Yorkie in a pink bow or one of those ancient, overweight black Labradors with a grey muzzle and a bad smell. They all talk at the tops of their voices, none listening to any other, a shattering experience. Fortunately the number of Chattering Ladies has rapidly whittled away and now there are only four or five of them who brave the sands. However, they still make as much noise as they did when there were 25 of them, and their black labbies still smell.

Then there’s Ramrod, a most straight-backed lady who has become quite friendly. Her mutt is extraordinary – extremely shaggy fur, the pile of which lies forwards in the front half and backwards aft. This gives it the general air of a dog stitched together from two halves of different dogs, so we call it Double Dog. This resulted in “Ramrod and Double Dog”, a phrase so poetically perfect that we wish we could use it for the title of a book.
The Mighty Finn jogs actively up and down the beach with a very large indeterminate mutt in tow, prior to her leaping into the pounding surf no matter what the weather. She’s quite friendly and she is so called because during the school holidays she appears accompanied by a small tribe of grandchildren who, in the best Scandinavian tradition, remove all their clothing the instant they arrive on the beach, and then disport themselves pinkly in the freezing waves, with blithe disregard for the hoards of Great White sharks that are frolicking in the water behind them. Final proof of their nationality was provided by the appearance one day of their mother, walked by one of those awful dogs with luminescent blue eyes and the shape of a Siberian wolf. From Finland, I am certain. It gazed icily and hungrily at our pounder, and Kaartman Dog #1 clearly thought so too as she leapt into our arms.

And then there’s Mr and Mrs Underinova. Unlike Man in Hat the Underinovas have still not, after seven or eight years, acknowledged that we even exist, even though we pass them almost every day. Resolutely staring ahead to the distant misty cliffs of Strandfontein, they stride past with nary a flicker of their collective eyeballs. So named because come rain, ice or snow he’s always underdressed in shorts, barefoot in open short-sleeved shirt; come baking sun and searing berg winds she’s always overdressed in scarves and shawls and woolly jackets. Woolly long-johns too, for all we know. But that’s not the main thing about the Underinovas.
We compete with them to find paper nautilus shells.

We only discovered this earlier this year, during the nautilus shell season, which the books all tell you is in March – untrue! untrue! We spotted Mrs U walking ahead of us, weaving along the tide line. She stooped several times to pick something up. Near the main beach parking lot she went up into the low dunes and pushed something under the low vegetation. She wandered off up the beach and we sneaked a look. Three rare nautilus shells.
We were tempted to pinch them, weren’t we? But then we spotted the holes. They all had holes. Nautilus shells on the tide-wrack line always have holes, because the sea-gulls peck ’em. That’s why we have a collection of absolutely perfect shells. Because we only pick them up when they are left, wet and shiny, by a receding wave. Before the gulls get there.

We’ve never shared this important info with the Underinovas, and I guess we never will. Not at least until they say ‘Good Morning’. Or even a blink, hey, just a blink would be great!
I wonder what names all these happy walkers have for us.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Bouldering for Columbine

Paternoster: view from Cape Columbine lighthouse
This blog is specially for Tim and Jane, who ought to pack their children and go there without delay. It's about a special place, one of those rarities that lots of people know about, but few have actually discovered how to get to stay there. I'm talking about the lighthouse houses at Cape Columbine, the westernmost promontory of the Saldanha peninsula. It's a place that used to be pranged into by lots of unwary mariners before the lighthouse was built in 1936. 'Why so late?' many of them might have asked, but they asked too late. The Columbine was one of them, an early casualty [1829] of the mass of semi-submerged granite boulders that lie treacherously below the surface of the chilly Atlantic, each lying in wait for godknowshowlong to snag a ship. One of those was – ahem – hardly a ship, but a small clinker fishing boat owned by Willem Tities [pronounced, of course, 'taai-tees']. Willem did not survive the encounter, but his name is enshrined at Titiesbaai. The really sad thing is that most Engelsemense pronounce it 'Titty's Bay' – they would, wouldn't they – and fondly imagine that it's named after the voluptuously carved, sculpted and curved granite boulders that adorn the seascape, each lying in wait for godknowshowlong etc etc. I bet old Willem would've had a long throaty chuckle about that. Skande!
Tumbleweed Cottage
We chose Tumbleweed Cottage, and the view inland is deliberate, to hide for one more moment the fantastic view that you will have from your stoep, night and day ...
The lighthouse is so close that you are constantly under its benevolent spell [but don't worry, they've thought of that and the cottage curtains are thick enough to hide completely the beams that are visible for many miles out to sea].
This close ...
If you're wise you'll choose some days in August to November, when the flowers are at their best. The rest of this post is a sort of photo-essay but ... I nearly forgot. There are three self-catering cottages, magnificently equipped with everything you can think of except ice-trays [but there are ice buckets, go figure], lekker beds, fireplaces, outside chairs n braais n stoeps n n n ... even Japie, a genuine lighthouse keeper, a very appropriately very tall - and pleasant - man. Try to book online through
... it ain't easy, but eventually you'll end up with the ever-helpful Tasneem, who will guide you through.
flower fields and granite boulders ...
Clockwise from top left ...
Sour fig; Romulea; Ferraria; Madeliefies; Vygies;
Bokbaaivygies: Pelargonium; Piet snot
Bigger boats and smelly little boats ...
Birdies [rock kestrel] and beasties [fur seals]
and of course, Titiesbaai ...
Enjoy it, hay.

- Kaartman, Spring 2014

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Cape Point #4

Back in December 2002 we produced our first-ever map of Cape Point. We were hung up on an A2 format in those days, and the only way we could squeeze the old Cape Point Nature Reserve onto the sheet was to draw it to a smaller scale than the rest of the Table Mountain series. You could not stick all the maps together without the Point looking a bit silly. But at last that’s overcome, and the all-new spiffy A1-sized Cape Point (that goes up north all the way to Kalk Bay, by the way) glues seamlessly onto Silvermine and Table Mountain.
That’s not all ... scroll down to the end of this post to find out how you can snaffle this full colour waterproof map for 20% off the retail price ... for the month of August only!
Even that’s not all ... thanks to the SA Navy Hydrographer’s Office we also have off-shore info on the new map – the underwater contours, the sunken ship wrecks, treacherous reefs and Foul Ground. We’ve not neglected the landward side, either – all the paths are fully revised, and thanks to Chad Cheney of SanParks we have the latest Park boundaries. Even Roodeberg, the very latest acquisition is there. Chris Berens gave us some great relief shading, and all this with contours at 5m intervals make this the finest waterproof hiking map of the area ever produced.
And if you’re a foreigner, there’s even a topograph to show you how far away from home you are ...
The map includes the magnificent Red Hill / Kleinplaas area, of course, as well as the whole of Simon’s Town. Many hikers in this area will have been intrigued by the sad ruins of many little houses in the Brooklands area. Read all about the horrible events of the 1960s at 
Now to the nitty gritty. Go to . Choose the Cape Point map and click on ‘Add to Cart’. Go through the log-in procedure with MonsterPay – if the OTP they promise does not arrive in your email inbox, check your junk mail box too [their message sometimes gets diverted by your system]. When you’ve moved on to the page after you’ve put in your address – the page is headed ‘SHIPPING, etc etc ...’ – you’ll see a little panel marked ‘Do you have a gift certificate or promotional code?’ Enter this code in the space provided – make sure you type it correctly, with spaces: Cape Point 4 . You’ll be invited to click on ‘Redeem Gift Certificate’. Now you’ll notice that your final bill includes a 20% discount labelled ‘Launch Coupon’ ... and there you are – we’ll post you your 20% off map as soon as we receive your order. Offer valid, as they say, for the month of August 2014 only ...
We’re a generous lot here and we have another freebie waiting for you. If you’d like an illustrated guide to the Cape Point hikes you can download a FREE five-page printable pdf from 

Have some great hiking!

Kaartman, August 2014

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Tankwa ...

Give it a moment to load [here], depending on the speed of your ADSL – then tell us what you think!

Tankwa means [according to the book], “turbid water” [for the Tankwa River], or maybe “place of the San”, or simply “thirsty land”. It’s a magnificent arid plain framed in the west by the Cederberg and its familiar peaks, in the east by the soaring, dolomite Roggeveld mountains and, in the south, by the Koedoesberg. We recently held a poll on our website for our next map and the Tankwa Karoo won by a short head. Suitably encouraged, the Kaartmans loaded up the research wagon and headed for the Forgotten Highway. It leads out of Ceres and into the vastness of the Karoo, and, if you’re an AfrikaBurn fan you’ve been there.
 Day One began at Ceres, a day of threatening rain. Fifty millimetres a year, Mr Kaartman cheerfully told the missus, that’s all the Tankwa gets – it won’t be raining there. He was wrong. Of course.

We passed the Fat Boy Loo, sulking in the veld near Karoopoort, and called in briefly for coffee at the Tankwa Padstal. Wally Lange gave us plenty of tips for the map, including harsh words for some existing ‘maps’ that show you how to get lost. We diverted briefly up the Skittery Pass [our horses behaved, by the way], passing the Naked Footballer and watching rainbulls sweeping menacingly over the vast plain below. We paused at the turn off to AfrikaBurn. The ‘Tyre Shop’ signs are the ones to fear ... and if you don’t know what a ‘stofadil’ is, just go drive around the Tankwa – sooner or later you’ll meet one.

We paused once more to view the sad remains of ElandsvleiBurn – not, we presume, associated with recent events at the Tankwa Tented Camp. One hundred kilometres later we blew a back tyre on the ghastly bit of track that heads south off the Calvinia road, the road from the north to the Tankwa Karoo National Park. As this Kaartman lay down in the dirt under the back bumper, seeking a jack-up point for the injured wagon, a rainbull struck in all its fury. The road became instant mud, torrents of dirty water struck me in mine eyes. Happily for us, Wonga, a young ranger from the Park, happened by and in minutes he had the spare wheel on the wagon.

Without much chance to admire our lekker cottage at Varschfontein, the next morning the owls in the palm trees woke us with lots of tuwittuwooing, and we hit the Gannaga Pass to Middelpos. Our trip hung in the balance. No spare wheel would mean skulking meekly back to Ceres, our research hopes in ruins.
Middelpos, population about 250, is about 250km from Ceres – that lightie in the hoodie  has a long walk ahead. Middelpos is also the Boerbul Breeding and Testing Capital of South Africa. We stopped to admire these huge slavering carnivores; the owner in the picture also has a Jack Russell which we believe he keeps in his top pocket. Replete with free second-hand tyre with no tread [the only one available, what did we expect] we returned to Varschfontein in time for a sunset to die for.

All followed by a lazy, unwinding Sunday in this highly-recommended Park, when a warm sun washed down on the incredible silence of the desert; lizards lazed in the sun and bokkies sipped water from the varsch fontein, which is cunningly situated so you can keep an eye on it over a large breakfast.

On day four we hit the road with half-a-tank of gas, for distant Sutherland. The old skooltjie at Uintjiesbosch conveys well the enormous emptiness of the Tankwa; a bit further on was the first of many signs that helped convince us of the need for a good map ...
The Ouberg Pass was originally a ‘trekpad’ and is still used for the seasonal moving of sheep from the Roggeveld into the Tankwa, and back again. It rises about 700m over three or four kilometres and is not an easy road – at all. It’s even worse when the petrol gauge has hit ‘empty’, you’re forced to drive in first gear, and Sutherland is still 24 kilometres away ... and the rusting old Oldsmobiles at the roadsides don’t boost confidence, either.

We made it to Sutherland with 400 ml of gas left in the tank. That’s about two glasses of wine or a bit more than a beer, so the Kaartmans were much relieved. We sank happily into Hannatjie Sieberhagen’s absolutely lekker cottage at Rooikloof – absolutely recommended, with the biggest and absolutely best bath we’ve enjoyed in many a cottage-for-hire. Hannatjie’s house has absolutely everything, even the distant bleating of sheep – very important for that proper Karoo atmosphere. Makes me hungry, though. 
At Sutherland JWL of JWL motors got us a new tyre, all the way from Worcester – good service, hey. Day five saw more strange roadsigns, baboons scooting across a hangbrug that most humans would, well, skitter over; a ‘bushmanland tent tortoise’ that the locals just call a doppieskilpad, a scene out of Star Wars #7 and an unusual farm – no, that’s not Nkandla re-named.

Day six began with the worst bit of corrugated road we found anywhere. There’s no best way to drive a road like that, unless you ride in a bulldozer, and the Nommerplaathek says it all. If you lost yours there thanks to extreme vibration, well, there it still is. The next road sign repeated the Call of the Tankwa – ‘map me pleeeeeze!!!’, and it was followed by a mystery plaashek where you were not allowed to stop, so we simply rode it down. The research wagon has some scars, but it was worth it to avoid meeting the friendly, hospitable South African farmer [remember that famous reputation?] whose ‘private’ notice was pretty unambiguous. It was not, in fact, Matjieskloof farm – there the all-steel locust was impressive. But it’s a long and not-very-winding road to Calvinia, so don’t take the kids on that road if you’re planning a trip there soon.

And so to Calvinia. We’d booked into the Hantam Huisies, and we were not sorry. We had a lekker little house and a very lekker mutton pie in their restaurant, that evening. Highly recommended!
Day seven was disturbing. It began with some innocent-looking sheep, but, after refusing to get out of our way, they actually chased us as we gunned the wagon as fast as we dared up the rustic country road. A terrifying moment – all those blank, yellow eyes wondering if you taste as good as grass. The piebald horse was a relief, but we crossed a nek and, ye gods, there was Doctor Doolittle’s original pushme-pullyou at the roadside.
We fled down a dusty pass. At Soutpansrivier we had our revenge on the sheep, but we thought we should let City Tramways know [remember them] that we know where their lost bus is.
Research complete, we trundled down the Botterkloof Pass to Sevilla and an extraordinarily idle weekend at Traveller’s Rest, which of course, we recommend too, but don’t go there if you’re scared of the beautiful, rare little namtaps and the magnificent Bibron’s geckos that actually share your planet [and even some of your DNA!]. You wouldn’t believe the snotty complaints downloaded onto TripAdvisor about these harmless little beasties ...

Kaartman, Inauguration Day, 2014 [don’t look, now!]

Monday, May 5, 2014


We revisited Silvermine during the recent endless round of public holidays. Up the jeep track to Junction Pool (a good breakfast spot, that) – then up the back of Steenberg Peak to the Fat Lady’s Cave. We’d all like to know the origin of the name, someone please. There we met a party going the other way, who asked for advice.
“Do you have a map?” we inquired. “Yes,” they said, whipping out an antique version 1.1 of the Silvermine map.
“Oh dear,” said Mr K, “this map has passed its sell-by. Time you upgraded to version 4, you know.”
They looked confused until we were all introduced.
Which made me think it’s time to post a modest photo-essay of some of the delights of the Silvermine walks. These are all on the eastern side, where entrance is free, and possession of an ‘Activity Card’ for your dog seems to be somewhat respected in the breach. If you haven’t walked there before then it’s high time you did. You can get the waterproof map online; you can even download a free description of the best walks. And you can cap that all with a new, superb little book, ‘Common Flowers of Table Mountain and Silvermine’ by Hugh Clarke, Bruce Mackenzie and Corinne Merry.

And when you’ve done that and you remain puzzled by the election results and how come a majority of South Africans still vote for corruption, for the grossly overweight, and for a future of being pushed off the road by blue-light convoys conveying pathetic idiots who think they’re important, you can even read about why this Kaartman maintains an occasional correspondence with a murderer ... [which has nothing whatsoever to do with Silvermine]
Flowers: Clockwise from top left: Aulax cancellata, rare in the Cape Peninsula; Sugarbird on Protea cynaroides; green Erica urna-viridis, only found here; Saltera sarcocolla or vlieëbos
Flowers: Watsonias after a fire; Leucadendron laureolum; Mimetes hirtus; Protea cynaroides
Places: Silvermine Waterfall; Junction Pool; Fat Lady Cave [with two slim ladies]; climbing on Wolfkop
Spot the dogs ...
Views: Simon’s Town; Noordhoek Beach; Cape Hangklip; Constantia Valley
Drop-tail Ant, Myrmicaria nigra – common at Silvermine.
©2014 Peter Slingsby

– Kaartman, almost election day