After failed attempts at our bouldering projects one Saturday morning in July, Chicken Head (Bernie Theron) and I had enough. We jumped in Head's car and got clear out of Rocklands. We were heading for some real climbing (Sport) in Montagu! A few hours on the road and we came over a pass and down into an enormous, flat plain, seemingly enclosed by endless mountains. The vast space stretched, and disappeared into the distance.
I asked Head what this place was called and he answered: "Nothing, its not that flat".
We stopped at a small supermarket to get some food for the road. The guy behind the counter complimented me on my glasses, "Oh love the glasses by the way, what can i get you sir?". People do this in South-Africa.
Heading back over the mountain range in a pass way down the road, we entered wine country. Bonnievale. After some roadwork trouble (and hastily called detours) we eventually found Head's Mom's place. Right in the middle of all the vineyards.
Running to greet us was a pretty exited dog. Head told me that his mom just got a new one called Chiko. He ran alongside our car as we entered the garden, nearly jumping under the wheels just to meet us. We got out and Chiko immediately pounced on us to say hello.
We passed out in actual beds in the lovely house and woke up refreshed and ready for sport. The crag on top of our list was Bad Kloof, a long kloof with a shallow river running through. The river is covered in tall reeds and the cliff sides are covered in routes. We drove passed the town Montagu and around the mountain to enter at the far side of the canyon. That way you don't have to buy a permit.
As we walked into the kloof, we passed a few families hiking, a young girl noticed we were going climbing and told her dad: "Ohhhh, they are sooooo lucky." With the most passionate voice we ever heard.
We quickly got on some cool-looking routes and boy did we get pumped... We decided bouldering had been bad for us and moved around a bit trying out some different styles.
On the third day in the Kloof, just as Head was attempting his project again, a father and two boys came walking underneath. When Head fell just after the crux moves, the youngest boy shouted at him: "Aren't you supposed to climb to the top?".
Ah, that's what we've been doing wrong...
There is a few high multi-pitch routes over at Cogmans Buttress, and after a few days of sport climbing, we wanted an adventure. We found a long route in the middle of the prominent cliff. Six pitches of varying length graded 22. That's 6c. Coming straight from two days of bouldering plus two days with sport, we needed a rest day soon. And given my lack of understanding about foreign grades, I was up for it.
The climbing was pumpy, juggy and a ton of fun. We tried to eat some lunch on a large ledge below the last few stretches, but we hadn't really brought enough food. It ended up 130m above the approach with an extremely cool and sustained last pitch. After finally abseiling down and reaching the ground, we walked back down to the car exhausted and hungry.
Rest Days and Wine Tasting
We had half rest day once, partly because of some car trouble. We were packing our gear getting ready to head into the kloof when Head put down his jacket and keys in the back of the car. Forgetting for a moment that he needed those keys, he quickly closed the boot. #*%&!
We headed into the kloof anyways, leaving the problem for a bit later. After some hurried climbing in the cold, we set back hoping to open the car before dark. We found a piece of wire on the way, but it turned out to be a little too short. We couldn't reach the lock switch inside.
Head went over to the "Mountain Resort" staff to ask for help. We waited a bit before two guys appeared. They brought a small screwdriver and a long piece of wire. Exited, one guy cranked open a slit in the door, while the other reached inside with the wire. They got to the boot lever and Head got his keys back. Thanks guys! We took the rest of the day off.
As we were driving home past all the vineyards I wondered how you could have so much free wine tasting in one place. I had to ask Head, "How can we taste all that wine and then drive between vineyards?". He looked at me from the driver's seat and said: "...very slowly." And then he started to laugh. I guess there is a reason why there are so many bad drivers here.
So when we finally had a rest day, the plan was clear: Wine. After a slow morning on the stoop (porch), we headed out to hit the vineyards with Head's mom Miemie. I know nothing of wine, but I often like it. I worked really hard pretending to notice all the the different flavors, notes and hints of different berries, fruits and so forth. "Oh yes, this vintage clearly has a different aroma..." Head for once, was pretty good at looking like he knew what he was doing. Head did a wine class at one point... Miemie just relaxed. Most of the wine tasted pretty much the same to me, but I really enjoyed the South-African muskadels and ports. Sweet!
A few days before we were planning to head back, our Norwegian friend Jugs arrived! Jugs AKA Crutches AKA Part-Time (Alva Fossen) brought a few friends from Rocklands curious about sport climbing. We were now five dirt bags from Rocklands sleeping in Miemie's house, eating her food.
Tomorrow we'll head home to Rocklands, where we'll laugh at highballs and long traverses. Thanks to Chicken Head for bringing me to The Gu. And thanks to you Miemie, for all the great food and for letting us all stay in your home.
From Chicken Head's Mom's place in Bonnievale.