What do you do when you have all the time in the world, limited budget and the need to explore? You convince your best friends to take the day off of work and you head to a place that is named after is lack of well… anything. Welcome to the Valley of Desolation.
On the Monday morning we packed our Binny Bags and crammed into one car, road trips are always more enjoyable when you’re in closer proximity for some reason. Naturally we had all of the traditional South African “padkos” (literally translated “road food”), biltong (dried meat), droewors (dried sausage) and dried fruit. We set off pretty early, well for my liking anyway, and started the 2 and a half hour trek to Graaff Reinet. We pulled into town at around 9 am and of course, our first thought was: where’s the best coffee spot?! My phenomenal husband had already done some research and had found us two local spots with coffee. I would have drunk anything at this point to take the edge off of the morning. As we walked through the doors of Maria’s Roastery, the delicious and lifesaving smell of coffee filled our lungs. The staff were friendly, and it helped because well… I’m not the easiest person to be around in the morning before my coffee.
With our coffee in hand we walked round the shops, and had a look at all the amazing pastries on offer, as tempting as they were I only gym about 4 times a week while on holiday so I said “Not today Satan!” and turned down the offer. We took our little take away cups of goodness and headed towards the valley. Now, before I continue let me put this in perspective, the weather was far from ideal. The morning was freezing , but we were on a mission and the weather would be the last thing to deter us from our little beginning of the week adventure. So as we’re heading there and the dark ominous clouds where hanging over the valley like a tablecloth. We get to the main gate and sign in, the ranger himself doesn’t seem very convinced that we’re going to see anything because of the weather but we won’t let that stop us from giving it a try.
The going is pretty tough, not the road up to the top itself but the emotional stress when we slowly realized that these clouds weren’t lifting anytime soon. We eventually reach the top of the mountain, and well… let’s just say that we were lucky we knew where we planted our feet. We roamed around the top of the mountain until the rain became almost unbearable. We called a group huddle and made a decision to head to the other side of the park, while we waited for the clouds to part, in the hope that we could see something, anything where the rain couldn’t cloud our vision.
It turned out to be the best decision we made the whole day, we saw loads of wildlife; Eland, Wildebeest, Hartebeest, Oryx, Springbok and Impala. My heart literally bursts at the seems when it comes to being in the African bush, there is no place I would rather be.
So we spent about 2 hours in the park and by then it looked as if the weather was improving, so we decided to head back to the top of the valley. Once we got to the top we realized, other people had had the same idea as we did and decided to come later. Nevertheless, it wasn’t nearly what I would consider “busy” there were only about 3 cars when we got there. We walked the “lizard trail” to get to the best viewing sights, and best believe I changed my outfit. I needed these photos. (Any ‘grammers out there can I get an Amen?!)
So this incredibly beautiful place is called the Valley of Desolation, but don’t let the name fool you, this place is completely alive. What made the experience even greater was the fact that we got to share it with our best friends. Traveling is always easier when you have lots of laughs, inside jokes, and good conversation. (A killer playlist helps a little bit too).
On our way back, naturally we had to get more coffee and I persuaded Angelo that I needed a souvenir. We stopped at what would seemingly have been a small insignificant shop, The Windmill Junction, but it had the most incredible decor. Literally an entire roof covered in Acacia thorns, you read that right, thorns. I ended up with a pair of leather shoes, which I’ve subsequently worn every day after this trip. Best. Buy. Ever.
All in all a better Monday could not have been spent. These little spontaneous adventures are the kind that will stick with you for the rest of your life. I’m thankful that around every corner of South Africa there is something bursting with life, even if the name might not suggest it.
As a side not, WELCOME TO MY NEW WEBSITE! How great is it that I finally get my own little space on the internet?! Stay, have a look around, there might be a few things that still need changing, but hey… this is home now. I hope you like it! Welcome #littlebraves