We leave Spice Route and take the road North towards Cederburg, a large wilderness area that Waldo and Megan had told us about back in Joburg. Getting excited to break open the truck and get our first night of camping in. It’s still a few hours away though. As usual we’ll be racing the sun.
We get the bluetooth hooked up to Peter’s phone and continue our binge listening of My Dad Wrote a Porno. It’s the first time Drisdelle has heard it, “Pfffffft! What the fuck is this?”, “Exactly.” Then I think it dawns on all of us in unison, “Maybe we should name the truck Belinda!”, “Yes! And when you accidentally hit the wipers instead of the turn signal, is that Belinda blinking?”, “Oh, it’s too perfect”, “Settled then.”
From now on our SASS beast will be named Belinda.
The elevation starts to climb as we get into the Cederburg area. Initially we were aiming for Clan William as our entry point but the sun is threatening to leave us behind a mountain. “But can’t we just camp anywhere is this thing?”, “Yeah, isn’t that the point?”, “It is.” And so we veer off on a dirt road towards the wilderness. The truck handles the dirt and potholes no problem but I can definitely feel the sway of that 80 litre water tank around corners.
We spot two wild ostriches chasing each other down by the river. That’s amazing. We stop and check them out. They look so cool when they run.
We go down another dirt road hoping it will take us into a more forested area. Signs state that it’s heading towards a bed and breakfast place. “Well, we could ask them if there’s a good place to camp around here”, “Yep… er nope. There’s a gate.” Hmmmm shit. The boys hop out to take a leak and check the gate. Locked. Damn, now we’ll have to backtrack.
There’s a rumble and a line of dust coming our way. It’s some guy in a truck. Probably works here. He pulls up beside us with his window down. Rough looking older guy with a hearing aid, “Howzit, what brings you boys out here?”, “We were gonna go up to the BnB to ask some questions about the area”, “Well ask your questions then.” Ha, very matter of fact. Direct. I like this guy. “Any place good for camping? Or to get firewood?”, “Yep. Go up over the pass. When it turns pavey make a left into Jamaka. Go down the dirt road and there’s camping and firewood”, “Oh perfect! Thanks so much.” He just nods and pulls away in his truck.
We return out of the BnB road and back to the main dirt and head up the hill. Go up over the pass and see the pavement he’s talking about and signs for Jamaka. We take a left and are soon back on a dirt road. Below us we can see the valley unfold. Mountains and wilderness as far as we can see with smatterings of farmland.
We come around the bend and down into the valley. Down the road a ways we see a sign for reception. “Let’s check it out.”
Bingo. There is a campsite down by the river, we can pick any site we’d like. It comes to about 15 usd for the campsite and 5 bundles of wood. Amazing.
We go down the road a bit and spot a sign for the camp. Off onto an even worse dirt road. Geez, you need a 4×4 just to get into camp. Down a steep hill and then the campsites open up right alongside a river. There is absolutely nobody here. Ahh this is perfect.
We park the truck and have it set up in less than 5 minutes. Damn, Belinda is beautiful! With the four of us it takes no time at all to crack beers, pop the top and side out, and set up the table and chairs. We take some time to organize all of the groceries and supplies we picked up into sensible storage places.
This truck is fucking incredible. Can’t even describe how happy we are.
We get a fire and some tunes going. Can’t believe we’ll be doing this for the next three weeks. Stars are popping, a satellite goes by, it’s unreal.
Everything you could need in one mobile transformer. Time to make a little pantry in here.
Drisdelle whips up some strong klippies and cokes. These South Africans may be on to something with the brandy. Shit, we’ll need another bottle. Nuked this one in under 20 minutes.
“So is Klippies and Coke the drink of this trip?”, “Whaddya mean?”, “Well every trip kind of has a signature drink”, “Too early to tell, but front runner for sure.”
“What was the drink in SEA?”, “Might have to give that to the Jager Mojito”, “Oh fuck, forgot about those. South America?”, “Probably the Pisco Sour”, “Yep. Was there anything on the Taiwan and Hong Kong trip?”, “Ahhh, we kept getting Godfathers”, “Well, we need more Klippies”, “Oh for sure.”
I reach down to get my knife from my bag and touch something by the zipper. What is that? I start to pull it. Sounds like Velcro. A light hits it, whoa. Giant caterpillar. Wha.. this thing is massive! A quick scan under the table reveals more of them. There’s already been some casualties actually. Damn, that sucks, they must be attracted to something. I get a stick and move the little guy over by the river. Should take him a while to find his way back from there.
The firewood we picked up is fantastic. Lasts forever and makes great coals, wonder what type of wood it is. We separate the grill into a section for coals and one for a fire. Time to cook. We’ve got lamb w braai sauce, fired corn, and smashed potatoes with rosemary.
Now this is camping.
We clean off the table and set it with plates and cutlery. Might as well be a little classy about it. Crack the Wolftrap wine we picked up in Century City. Feast round two.
This Jaq’s Chili, green salsa-type stuff we picked up at the Fairview deli is superb! On the potatoes.. dynamite. Super fresh tasting, tangy, and a clean wallop to the heat sensors. Damn it’s good, wonder if we can find more, I don’t see it lasting long.
Narmz, that was baller. Man, for a first day on the trip we sure are killing it.
Drisdelle gets into cleaning mode. We clear off the table and he gets to washing. We dry and put away.
We take an after dinner stroll across the wooden bridge by the river and into the woods. It is pitch black. Can only hear the odd bird or insect and the galloping water echo under the bridge. Wow, this is great. Look up and the constellations are all different then what we’re used to. “This constellation looks like the cover of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe”, “Yeah, that’s cool.”
Drisdelle pulls out a star mapping app and we get our bearings.
“No bugs”, “Huh, yeah. Weird, I thought it’d be miserable”, “Nope. No bugs at all”, “Crazy”, “Crazy awesome!”
The wine’s done and we’re all feeling content. Back to Belinda, we move on to the dew and gather around the table.
Over some drinks, Drisdelle talks about how he was a volunteer firefighter for a year. Being at the station. Tying knots. The carry test with a sack of potatoes over an obstacle course. I start picturing him in the movie Backdraft. I would like to see that.
We play the photo game. It’s easy. Just open google photos, search on any of your friends and see what ridiculous shit comes up. This entertains us for a good while.
Peter is on his phone and sighing heavily, “You alright, man?”, “I’m sick of this shitty data. I’m trying to upload an Instagram picture”, “Hahahaha get used to it, bro”, “Oh shit, I’ve gotta call the dentist!”, “What?!”, he finds the number in his email and dials them up on speaker phone. “Hello, <so and so’s> office”, “Please be fast I’m in South Africa”, “Ahhh that’s out of my control…”
The rest of us are dying laughing at this shit. Who gets drunk and calls the dentist? While camping in a foreign country, then immediately tells them it’s long distance and to please hurry. This is absurd. But it works out, the invoice was inaccurate and whatever it was is already covered. “No, no, it’s already covered. It’s covered”, “Well cheers, you made my night.”
After this brief relapse we get back to enjoying not being around society.
I still can’t get over this truck. We decide it’s time to call it a night, lots of driving ahead of us tomorrow. We pair up again and Mark and I get the rooftop. Peter and Jamie set up in the back. Good amount of space, we both fit well and each have a zippered window to look out of. This is sweet, it’s like a treehouse.
Ok, I’m ready to throw it out there that this is already the best non-Coachella-style camping yet. That time we were camping in Siberia by the Mongolian border when a wedding party showed up to get pictures and two Russian fishermen came over to hang out with us was another stand out (but that’s a story for another time). This is pretty damned fun.
Maybe it’s the excitement of finally being on the road, or our first use of the truck. The feeling of freedom to stay and go as we please, have no set agenda or places we have to be. Just making it up as we go. Or maybe that feeling of being well off the grid but still able to contact our dentists? Whatever it is, that feeling when you’re gone on a trip, completely foreign, detached, unconnected, in the moment, free to figure it out on the fly, and a good distance from what you define as normal and comfortable.
We crossed the threshold into that space tonight and wow does it feel fantastic.