Sho’t left to Northern Cape spaces

2016-06-01 06:00


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THE Express Northern Cape representative Karabo Ditlhoiso joined the band Mi Casa and a group of national celebrities who embarked on this year’s leg of the Sho’t Left Tour to Upington and its surrounding area.

The campaign is nationally sponsored by South African Tourism (SA Tourism) in partnership with tourism authorities in each province.

The group discovered this beautiful Northern Cape region. Karabo decided to share his experience with readers.

AS I drive into Upington, I feel exhausted.

The long Northern Cape roads and lack of towns between long distances have certainly had its effect on me.

The first form of uniqueness that I see is the most beautiful, yet awkward-looking, quiver tree.

On arrival at the Protea Hotel in Upington, I realise two things: The town is small and it has the cleanest CBD I have ever seen.

As we check into the hotel, each one of the staff members is incredibly friendly. They are concerned about us arriving so late and I pick up immediately that there is something organic and homely about the people of Upington. That gets a thumbs up from me.

14 May

After breakfast and meeting the members of SA Tourism, Northern Cape Tourism and seeing some celebrities, we are in the bus, ready for the day.

As the bus departs from the hotel, the celebrities, who at this point are seated two seats behind me, start to shout: “Where is LootLove? LootLove is not on the bus!”

The bus stops and LootLove gets out of the hotel and quickly gets onto the bus.

LootLove is a presenter on SABC 1’s Live Urban Music Experience every Friday night at 21:00.

In a matter of seconds, we stop at the Kalahari Orange Museum and I seriously begin to wonder: “How small can this town be?” Jokes are thrown around from the back of the bus. This time, Morena the Squire of Shizniz and the kids programme craz-e says: “No wonder the bus was content on leaving you, Loot. You could have just taken a stroll here.”

At the museum we get a quick history lesson in the oldest church building in Upington, aka the Kalahari Orange Museum.

Here we learn that Upington was founded in 1884, on the banks of the Orange River.

The town was originally called Olyfenhoudtsdrif (“Olive wood drift”), due to the abundance of olive wood trees in the area, but was later renamed after Sir Thomas Upington, the attorney-general and then prime minister of the Cape. It originated as a mission station established in 1875, run by the Rev. Christiaan Schröder.

We then make our way to an arts and craft spot known as The Mill.

Creative articles to buy include beads made from scratch to the finish point, which are transformed into beautiful jewellery, kitchen utensils and much more.

The Mill also helps young adults from town to acquire skills and obtain qualifications (as high as NQF level four).

Back onto the bus and we take a sho’t left to the Orange River Wine Cellars for some wine tasting. Everyone is excited about this spot and the one sentence that we have been hearing all morning is: “If you taste the ‘water’ of Upington, you will be back to visit again,” so we are overly keen to find out if it is a myth or fact.

Here we learn three simple rules of wine drinking:

  • If it is white, it should be as clear as possible. Tilt your glass for observation, followed by the swirl to release the flavours and to make the alcohol vigorous.
  • The importance of smelling wine is so that you absorb all the flavours before you taste it. At this point, we are made aware that we are likely to all smell different stuff and that there is no right or wrong smell.
  • The last step, my personal favourite, is to taste. You are encouraged to leave the wine on your palate for as long as possible. I would definitely recommend that you pop in at Orange River Wine Cellars when you make a sho’t left to Upington.

Among other interesting facts are that the Cape wine makers get the bulk of their grapes from the Northern Cape region.

Orange River Wine Cellars also put in another great performance at a leading South African wine competition, taking a top 100 spot as well as two double gold medals.

On to the bus again and we are on our way to a small rural community, Carries Camp. Everyone is relaxed at this point.

Everybody is down to earth, we have already introduced ourselves and we are pretty much a bunch of kids enjoying themselves on tour in the Northern Cape.

As we get to Carries Camp, some kids play soccer on a dirt pitch. I sense as bit of ignorance from our Jo’burg entourage. “Oh, at least they have a ball here,” is one of the comments I hear, but choose to ignore.

We learn more about the indigenous people of Upington and the wars they took part in, including their way of life and how far they have come in the last few years.

We get onto donkey carts and make a sho’t left into the community, who from my observation, is very conservative and down-to-earth. We are to have a traditional lunch with them, prepared on the fire (samp, meat, pumpkin and bread known only as “rooster bread”).

Before that, a local guitarist and probably the local rock star plays gospel tunes and the tourists join him in song.

Something of a “oneness” resonates within me: We are all South Africans, no matter where you go. The gospel quickly turns to Afrikaans sokkie tunes. “Loslappie” by Kurt Darren is blazing in this small community hall, courtesy of the old man, his guitar and the tourists’ singing.

As I make a video recording of this hilarious moment, Mkay Frash (a notorious socialite and celebrity sneaker collector) and I have a conversation on the rawness of the old man playing the guitar: “This guy just went from gospel to mischief real quick.”

I hit back: “He must have heard Mi Casa is coming and is probably auditioning to be their guitarist.”

Then all three of the band members of Mi Casa arrive – Dr Duda (the DJ), Mo T (the trumpeter) and J Something (the lead singer).

They are one of the big draw cards and one could feel a sense of joy from the locals.

After lunch we get on the bus and in less than five minutes we make our way to the Bezalel Wine & Brandy Estate.

This is where I have the most fun. It is a must for any wine and brandy amateur, lover and connoisseur alike.

Here we receive a small history lesson on cognacs, wines, champagnes and alcohol distilling, all of which are very interesting.

The first lesson is that the words “cognac” and “champagne” are in fact reserved for alcoholic beverages from the respective regions in France. I do not think I have been involved in a lecture so passionately since my days as a varsity student.

At Bezalel, all the flavours and experiences are nothing short of brilliant.

Our next stop is at a local paper crafts and designer in Raaswater, Themba Masala. As we drive into Raaswater, some local kids run after the bus and I suspect that word must have come out about the celebrities who would be visiting their community, although I hear a whiff of ignorance once again: “Shame, they don’t even know a bus.”

This time, I chip in with a comment of my own: “No, they probably don’t have buses go into their communities regularly and they wonder where this one is going.”

We stop at Masala’s house in a very poor community. I quickly notice how clean his yard and how inviting his home is (a shack which looks big enough to have about three bedrooms, a kitchen and a living area).

Masala is a very artistic, hospitable and hearty man with a very unique talent. He gives us a quick background on his offerings and tells us more about his client base, which ranges from all over the world. For what he offers, I reckon his prices are ridiculously reasonable.

Pity he is difficult to get a hold of, though. I do, however, suppose the Upington information centre will have more information on him.

As we make our way out of his workshop, the locals are waiting for all the celebs. The jubilation and excitement on their faces seem to be a bit too much for some of the celebs.

J Something, Mo T and Dr Duda of Mi Casa, Morena the Squire and LootLove all pose for pictures with the locals. The soapie star Mbulelo Ndlazilwana, popularly known as S’celo on’s weekday soapie Scandal, receives the most love from this bunch.

We rush to the hotel for a quick freshening up and from there make our way to the cocktail and Mi Casa’s performance at the African Vineyard Guesthouse in Kanoneiland.

As we pull up, we are met by angelic voices of children no older than 12. They lead us to the entrance of the venue in song, where we are met by the Komani San people who are also singing in traditional attire. This evening has the makings of an epic night.

We are seated at the venue and the speeches are made as the starter is being served. The food is delicious and in no time, Morena the Squire and Mi Casa both give mind-blowing performances as we party the night away.

15 May:

At breakfast, I realise that we were strangers yesterday, but today, everyone is a friend.

After that, we are packing bags and checking out of the hotel.

We are on our way to view the Augrabies Water Falls, the “pearl of the Green Kalahari”. The Augrabies Falls are certainly nothing short of breathtaking.

The ancient Batswana people always assumed that there was a snake living in the water, which made the noise. The Augrabies Falls are the sixth largest in the world.

After viewing the falls, we go on a game drive at the Augrabies Falls National Park.

After our game drive, we head out to the Vergelegen Country Guest House, but not before a pit stop at Die Pienk Padstal, which is another craft and roadside store. We take a few photos and some people buy crafts.

Lunch is served at Vergelegen, which is about two minutes from Die Pienk Padstal.

This is where our final goodbyes are said.

At that moment, I begin to reflect on our tour of Upington.

In only two days, we have done so much and yet had to take some items off our itinerary due to time constraints.

There is so much to do in this area and I have met so many cool people and made a few new friends.

On the long way back to Kimberley, however, I am actually looking forward to the vast lands, scorching sun and long roads of the beautiful province that is the Northern Cape.

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