I had slept like a baby, but the moment the alarm goes off and I open my eyes the heat press down on me like a smothering blanket and I’m up in a flash. Eager to be on the road before the scorching heat gets us, we quickly pack up the campsite and take a shower to freshen up. We leave Augrabies’ gates just after 8am – the GPS’s estimates 7.5 hours of driving lies ahead of us.
Pofadder is our first pit stop for the day – one of those towns which you might miss if you drive too fast. Next up is Springbok, a very popular stop-over apparently. It is hot and dusty and the garage’s 2 pumps can hardly keep up with the line of cars waiting to refuel. When our FNB FuelRewards card is declined the mood is almost as stuffy as the weather, but we cool off with Red Bull and Coke and I take the wheel, and take the road towards the coast.
Garies holds another surprise for us. The only garage’s bathroom is disgusting – a muddy mess covers the floor but when a girl needs to go… So we squeal and shiver and tip-toe over the floor and rush out before any infections can even realise they have potential victims. In the shop we look for ice and water to no prevail, and then the state of the bathroom is explained: Garies has no water. Not bottled, not frozen, and not in the toilets. We shake the Garies dust off our shoes as fast as we can and head for Bitterfontein, hoping for better.
Sure enough, just after 2pm we are able to get some ice and water. We use it to wash down our hot-dogs which I’ve made with sausage from last night’s braai. I locate a mister under my seat which I also fill with the ice-cold water and keep Z awake behind the wheel with unannounced mists as we make our way towards Vanrhynsdorp.
We arrive in Lambertsbaai just about 4h30 pm, as the GPS had predicted, and we drive through the town to Malkoppan, our campsite for tonight. Our stand is huge and although there are no trees or shade in sight, the campsite is located behind a dune to help protect against the wind. With the tent pitched we wash off the day’s travel and take the short drive to Muisbosskerm Open Air Restaurant, just across the road.
What an experience! Built right on the beach this is literally a “shelter” – a rugged construction of driftwood and grass, with tables and benches of all shapes and sizes created from any sort of material around the sides of the shelter. Right in the middle is a huge open fireplace and two large cement tables, where we are told, all the action happens. The “restaurant” is quite open and a chilly breeze enters from across the waves as the sun sets in a fiery orange glow.
We get a bright-green drink from the bar which is built from sea-shell-clad cement, and enjoy the sunset from our corner as the tables fill up. A huge bowl of fresh fruit decorates one of the big tables and we help ourselves to delicious peaches and grapes. As the last sunrays fade, lights are turned on and another appetizer laid out: corn on the cob, and Bokkoms. This is basically fish-biltong, a small fish which is salted and dried, and was just quickly heated up on the fires. It looks disgusting, but tastes delicious and is a delicacy well-known to the West Coast.
The atmosphere is relaxed and light-hearted laughter is heard from the folds of the shelter as the waves provide mood music for this unique meal. The main course is a feast of angelfish, snoek, hotnotsfish, yellowfish and others, with the best sweet potato I’ve ever taste, Paella, crispy potatoes, salads, chicken curry in a big black pot, and “Waterblommetjiebredie”, also very traditional. The only cutlery is a cleaned mussel-clamp which does the job amazingly. I try to only taste a little bit of everything but still feel like I’m going to burst. On our way to throw away our plates we see they are cutting a steaming-hot freshly baked potbread – how can we resist? The slice of bread with melting butter and fresh jam is accompanied by a similarly steaming hot piece of battered hake. The meal is rounded off with a mug of proper filter coffee and Koeksisters. No one is in a rush to leave and the managers/owners join the guests at their tables, chatting away about the area and the restaurant. We reluctantly leave, urged by our sleepy bodies to get to bed after the two long days. The wind is quite busy and we put bricks on the tent-pegs to make sure they don’t pull out during the night. Despite a tummy overloaded with delicious food, and the eerie sound of the wind around us, I drift off in a sound sleep.