Friday, 14 May 2021

A few days in the Swartberg

Last week, I enjoyed an unexpected but much-needed break with four-nights away in the Swartberg Mountains near De Rust. Located 90-minutes from George, it is a pleasant and easy drive.

Tied to work, my computer and responsibilities, I had no plans for a break - certainly not for another few months. I've really been feeling the weight of the last nine months.

Celliers took a few days off during the school holidays to go camping. He returned a bit refreshed and, knowing that I wouldn't take a break myself, he presented me with the booking and instructions to "pack a bag, you and your dog are going to go tomorrow". He and Magda, his right-hand at the factory, selected a venue and sealed the booking. I was also instructed to leave my laptop behind. I did take it but used it for map drawing and photos, not work.

Of course, I had plans to catch up on reports (that urgently need to be written but I don't get chunks of hours - and too many other things that need to get done - to focus and nail them), emails to send, replies to type... I did as instructed. 

I got a bit bogged down in the morning but left George around noon after answering phones and emails and getting to the shops to get some food for the self-catering place.

The drive out was very pleasant. Rusty is a great car traveller too. I listened to an audiobook and made it through to the Meiring's Rust farm - a few kilometres past the village of De Rust at the entrance to the Meiringspoort pass. 

Celliers and Magda chose well -  a perfect location for me. This place has lots of hiking routes and sits in the Swartberg mountains. It also has no mobile reception or wifi. Exactly what I needed. While I'm quite happy to turn off, having no other option is even better.

The last thing I did before leaving last Thursday was to print off some Google Earth views as maps so that I could explore the area. I don't like aimlessly wandering around.

Shortly after we arrived, Rusts and I went out walking to take our first look at the surrounds. Spectacular! 

On the Friday we did a nice long hike, discovered a flowing stream with crystal-clear water (good drinking and dog cooling). Saturday was rainy all morning so we played with rePhotos and when went out for a muddy exploratory hike in the afternoon. Sunday we went hiking at 7am with a retired guy from De Rust on a route off the maps that I'd printed and also with a section with no paths. We got back at 3pm. It was awesome. On Monday we had an easy morning and then packed to return home, bumping into adventure racing friends Heidi and Stephan in De Rust.

I got some great photos for observations - some proteas, succulents and an agama (like a lizard).

The time away was good. I don't know that I'm coping any better with day-to-day stresses and everything that I haven't done is still waiting to be done. But getting away was good for me and spending time with Rusty and being out hiking was brilliant.

Here are a couple of photos from these days away.

First afternoon out. Map, compass, kilometres and kilometres to play in and my dog. All good.

Not tame eland, but not skittish either. They hang with the cattle.

Rusty indulges me.

Big open sky - looking kinda Oudtshoorn direction. The big mountains are behind me.

Trying to take a selfie with Rusty...

Looking into Meiringspoort.

We're in the Swartberg mountains - but not on top.

Interesting rock.

Crystal clear.

A pretty, flowing stream.

Southern Rock Agama (Agama atra)

Common Sugarbush (Protea repens) flowers in bloom up in the mountains.

Snake ragwort (Curio repens) -  an unfamiliar succulent growing between rocks up high.

Western Sunbush - Leucadendron sessile (Protea family)

Tired dog.

Celliers, thank you for making me take this break.

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