Travel: Die Hel


Words and images Des Featherstone

I don’t like my 4×4 just because I can play with it by driving up dunes and over rocks. I like it for the remote and wild places it can take me. Die Hel is one of those places. We left Cape Town on a Friday afternoon, fighting our way through heavy suburban traffic as the rat-race headed home for the weekend. Intending to spend the night in Oudtshoorn, we made our way to Route 62 − with Lady Antebellum my road-trip music of choice. Leaving the city is always, as Lou Reed would have it, a “Perfect Day”. Whenever I leave Cape Town, I am amazed by how quickly crowded roads become quiet country lanes. Even the back roads of Durbanville feel quite rural.

Literally ten minutes out of the city, you can be on a farm. What I love about a road trip in SA is the unexpected surprises along the way. Heading through Barrydale, on our way to Oudtshoorn, we were stopped by traffic police − an American movie was being shot on a stretch of road just past the town.

The Route 62 signs had been changed to Route 66, and (after we’d waited for about 15 minutes), we had the surreal experience of being passed by a Californian county sheriff’s car. In Ladismith, a fire had the whole town out on the street. The local cheese factory was burning, and black smoke billowed up, filling the sky. Because of these delays, we arrived in Oudtshoorn after dark. “Carmen the Garmin” didn’t recognise the name or address of the place I’d booked for the night, so we had to stop and ask for directions. The accommodation was on a hill overlooking the town, had a panoramic view across the mountains, and was worth finding. I’d booked blind, online, and we were very pleasantly surprised.

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