road trip Karoo                                                              Karoo … small mountains

Two mornings ago, in the dark, I set off from home, destination Plettenberg Bay, 1270 kms away, in my car, on my own.

Something was nibbling at me. I felt restless, yet immobilised. I wanted connection. I thought of flying down to Plettenberg Bay and checked flights. Yes, there were flights. I thought about driving – time consuming – 14, 15 hours.  Mmmm, maybe overnight in Graaf Reinet, 830 kms away, in the Karoo, leaving only another 420 kms or so to cover the next day. A sensible and quite pleasing thought. I could visit the Valley of Desolation just on the outskirts of Graaf Reinet.  Maybe The Owl House also. This long distance on my own – was this wise? Well, I love driving on my own. And driving through the Karoo held a certain fascination. Would my knee which was causing me a bit of grief stand up to it?

My husband was shocked when I nudged him in the early hours to say goodbye. I don’t think he’d taken me seriously when I’d mentioned my  possible plans the previous day, vague though they were. I had decided only the previous evening in his absence.

My Honda Brio is a town car. Small engine, small petrol capacity, small everything. Roughly 10 km to the litre. 30 litre capacity. How far could a full tank on wide open roads take me before I would have to fill up again? Would a kindly stranger help me if I ran out of petrol in the middle of nowhere?

My car did me proud. Such a pleasure to drive. Excellent mileage. Such a pleasure to see  nature unfolding before my eyes. Fields upon fields, a pale beige colour with a touch of gold upturned to the sun and wide open skies. I could almost feel its energy welcoming in the upcoming spring that is on its way. The vastness of skies, blue, bright. Vastness on all sides of me. Barely possible to see where the sky met the land. Majestic, soft. Zipping along, catching myself smiling, an endorphin or three entering, expansion of blood corpuscles –

Not too many cars, many trucks coming from the opposite direction as well as going south in my direction. Thoughtful drivers in their pantechnicons – they gave way. I always signalled my thanks. They would flash back … sometimes I was the only car on the road.

I thought of my mother and how her children must have caused her grief many times. Accidents … no-one is immune.  Sometimes I drove in silence; sometimes I did no thinking and went into free fall. Sometimes I listened to Charles Eisenstein’s ‘Ascent of Humanity’ – powerful beyond words. Gripping.*

 I stopped in at Graaf Reinet to fill up, stretch my legs. It was only 2.00 p.m. I had previously thought of overnighting there and resting. I was two thirds of the way already – I pushed on. The mountains became more visible, not so distant. Then they were close as I wound my way around and through them. I marvelled at the good condition of the road and how coming around the corner brought yet another breathtaking view –

The last stretch – over the Outeniqua Pass – that magnificent Pass, shrouded in mist, mountains rising on my right, deep deep valleys and gorges on my left, unseen because of the mist, windscreen wipers going as I wound around ..

And then down, and through George (named after George Rex), stopping in at my sister’s holiday home in the Wilderness for a cup of tea and to say hello. And then the last hour to  Plett, another 70 or so kms from Wilderness, smelling that scent that is so unique to that part of the world … I arrived around 8.15 p.m. welcomed by son Mike and his girlfriend Oda. I gave continual and silent thanks for safe arrival.

Yesterday, a complete chill out. I gave myself time-out. Saw whales from the balcony. I was so happy! This made my day, week, month, year. I had forgotten that it was whale season. Did some writing on WIP. Made notes. This morning I had breakfast at the Lookout and watched whales from there. Heaven was my world. I wondered about walking and my knee but it felt a lot better than yesterday and last night. O such bliss to walk on the sand along the shore, mountains cutting into the sky, walking further than I thought, watching whales jumping, seeing huge splashes. Giving thanks to Mother Nature and her bounty. If my knee aches later, it is a small price to pay.

beach from LookoutLookout Beach, mountains, sky from The Deck, Lookout Restaurant. Plettenberg Bay

I may have been a bit impetuous in making this trip. My husband thinks ‘impulsive’. He may be right – there was an impulse in me. I’m glad I followed up on it. I feel a shift. I feel more connected. The outer shifting the inner …

* Charles Eisenstein: The Ascent of Humanity. Available for free as pdf, audio etc. He says you are welcome to it as a gift and to give as a gift but not for re-sale for economic gain. A free-thinker. Many hours of audio or reading. Just googling him will bring you to his page ..

50 Comments on Wide Open Spaces

  1. Susan.

    So happy you followed your inner voice and made the drive. Your descriptive progress along the road made me feel like I was in the passenger seat, and I’m glad your knee wasn’t too disruptive. It sounds like your day on the beach and whale-watching was rewarding and soulful, beautiful photos.

    • Thanks so much Sammy! Glad you came along for the ride! All is well, knee behaving. Back is a bit sore though – from making muesli and then muffins. 🙂

  2. Thank you dear Debora! I agree re: the comments and insights from those who read it. Always enlarging and affirming … I just love it too!! xx

  3. Not only is your writing good to read, Susan, but how wonderful are the comments and insights from your readers. I just love it! xx

  4. Hi,
    I am so glad that you followed your impulse. You are tanking up, regaining yourself and that is a wonderful feeling. It takes these times of listening to our inner spirit and complying in obedience without worrying about what will happen, to find ourselves. It shows that someone greater than us care when we are out of sync.

    Love you, Susan.

    • So lovely Patricia thank you so much. Your words are-affirming and encouraging. I feel that it so necessary to take our own pulse from time to time, tune in, listen and pay attention … then the rest will be taken care of – by a force greater than we ….
      I love you too Patti,

  5. Beautiful place, Susan. No wonder nature inspired you to get going, to re-connect. It feels peaceful looking at all that beauty from afar, through the pictures. I can only imagine how immensely satisfying must’ve been in person — the sound of the wind, the sights, the silence, the wide open spaces. We all need to re-connect with nature from time to time — that’s where inner peace is. Glad you followed your instinct, and thank you for sharing the photos.

    • Thank you Silvia. I’ve been thinking about careening along in cocoon of car, time standing still-ish on the outside, I zipping along. Interesting contrasts. Your words inspire me to listen more when standing still … to the wind, birdsong, waves.

  6. What a beautiful way to spend time with ones self and de-stress. I am a terrible navigator and always get anxious when driving any distance alone but something about actually doing it is so empowering. I have been watching “Shark Week” on the Discovery channel and Piettenberg Bay looks like it could be home to Great White sharks as well as whales?

    • Hi Vicki, lovely to hear from you, thank you for coming by! I received your comment on cell phone while on the beach this p.m. now back on balcony. Yes, Plett is home to the great whites; Robberg is a promontory (is that the right word?) that is a great hike/walk … and when walking on it, the Robberg Express (great white) can sometimes be seen cruising along under water. It’s a B.I.I.I.G one. Son Mike surfs a fair bit and has seen them. There’s been the occasional attack. Whales … such a sight to see. Saw a few from the balcony this morning … cruising, not jumping .. the occasional fin catching the sun.
      How are you? hope all well …

  7. Dear Susan,

    This could be Southern Arizona in your top photo, as I think you would agree, having been there — even the highways are striped the same. And, below, as Gwynn commented, the beach at Plett looks like a Southern California beach. These could definitely be photos of our American Southwest, and no one would know the better. Beautiful scenery.

    And, as you were traveling and then writing your beautifully evocative description, I was editing my upcoming book, “Leftover Bridges,” the first part about my travels alone across the U.S. in my little Hyundai. Yes, I have that restless spirit and enjoy road trips, alone or with company, and with or without music, with just the silence of the open country and the incense of nature speaking to me.

    Thank for sharing your marvelous journey.


    • Thank you Samantha … another bit of synchronicity … editing/writing about your travels alone across the U.S. I’d be keen to do that at some stage – Route 66. Shall we? Nice to imagine! Some country rock music at times we could sing to? What I REALLY want to do is a road trip through S.A. and not have any plans … 2 or 3 weeks …

      I wonder if there are parts of the U.S. that are similar to the Karoo whose beauty and grandeur I did not capture on my cell phone.

      • I’m ready to go when you are, Susan. –Either in the U.S. or S.A. But, Route 66 my husband and I actually drove, before our Interstates existed, in 1967, when Kellie was 4 months old, from Phila., Pa., to San Diego, Calif., where he was to attend a Naval training school and where he was to be stationed. That’s how we got to Redondo Beach.

        Along the way are stunning Monument Valley and Bluff, Utah. Vying for the most beautiful place on earth, though, is Yosemite Valley in Calif. Being in Yosemite is like being in heaven, to my mind. Of course, there’s the Grand Canyon, which is hard for most of us to wrap our minds around — it’s so stunning and vast.

        The idea when you go on road trips is to not have any plans, no deadlines. I like just wandering around and looking at things or talking to the locals.

        Somehow I’ve got to make my books bestsellers so we can do this.

        • Oh yes … well, you did Route 66 , 47 years ago if my math is correct – i.e. a long time ago! Time for a revisit along the route you describe. Yes! And it doesn’t have to be either SA or US .. both?

          Here’s to bestselling books so that we have the moolah to cruise 🙂 xx

  8. Oh you have made me fancy packing up the car and just setting off for a weekend road trip somewhere…thank you. 🙂
    Thanks also for the recommendation of Charles Eisenstein book, been on his site and it’s just my cup of tea, thank you. 🙂
    My list of books to read gets longer, I need that weekend away to start reading.
    Take care.

    • Thanks Maggie for coming by! ‘Somewhere’ is just right!

      For Eisenstein and reading, you will need a month away:) But a weekend of reading would be a good start!

      You too take care.

  9. Hi Sue – took me back to the many trips I made on my own around Southern Africa .. beautiful views, wonderful spaces … I loved Graaff Reinet, Desolation Valley, the Owl House – all treasures along the way, if we so wished … and then Plett and George … I’ve many a happy memory of time there ..

    Sounds like you made a good choice and cleared your own mind too – good luck with the writing … and enjoy the coast … cheers Hilary

    • Glad it took you back Hilary! Must have evoked happy memories! Things are a little clearer thank you!

      I’m distressed that I don’t automatically receive your posts. I think I mentioned this before. Can you advise please.

  10. Dear Sis, yes, indeed, it was a beautifully described journey and seeing and arriving to Mike and the whales –
    We are back now from the Wilderness, and I mentioned to my husband that I would like to drive back there next week while he is away on business – Mira, my husband disallowed me, but I think there is a strong possibility I may do it! I love driving by myself, usually with no radio or music to listen to, and enjoy the mountains, the scenery and the skies, and at this time of the year, the bright yellow canola fields – in the distance they appear sharp edged, in their angular shapes, sometimes round and I try to imagine how van Gogh would have painted them.
    Thanks for the post

    • Thank you Debora for your lovely comment. Ah, canola fields .. I’m sure that’s what they were, awaiting flowering. How lovely to imagine van Gogh’s paintings of the mountains. I see you were saying to Mira who commented earlier about your husband disallowing you. Disallow? Are you willing to be disallowed?

      It was so lovely to see you the other evening, albeit brief. Make the possibility a probablity…permit yourself to do this.

  11. beautifully described and altho the landscape is not known to me I felt I entered it thru your eyes. a deep pleasure to journey with you.
    whales happening along our coast too….
    how simple it be when we surrender to our intuition and allow our selves to launch off into …
    the wide open spaces…

    • Thank you Sandra .. some synchronicity at work the both of us writing on similar themes .. what magic! How beautifully you put that ..

      ‘how simple it be when we surrender to our intuition and allow our selves to launch off into …
      the wide open spaces…’

      It’s so soft and gentle .. thank you.

  12. Susan! I am always so impressed by your spirit! I was contrasting you with the average Indian woman — the ones with husbands and families etc — and while we too have strong and independent women here, I wonder how many would have just taken off like that on such an amazing trip and how many husbands would have allowed them to!!! And what a reward…not just for you, but for us who read about it…thank you!

    • Thank you Mira! Maybe it is a tiny bit nuts, and if so, I am grateful for that nuttiness. If my children had been small I could not have gone. The poor husband was shocked, lovely WASP that he is … he knows that I think about travel a fair deal and gets anxious when I say I want to go to eg Chile this year. And it’s fine if he can’t come, I’ll go tout sole …:) x

  13. Wow, wide-open spaces – a different experience to edging along on crowded motorways in the UK. I had a taste of these kind of distances, near empty roads stretching endlessly towards the horizon, in Australia.
    Children, the wide sea and whales, it must be invigorating. Have a wonderful time.
    I’ll look up Charles Eisenstein, your road companion 🙂

    • Thanks for coming by Ashen .. your posts of your time spent in Australia were so evocative of this sense of space too.
      It’s early Sunday morning here; cuppa tea in hand, and will be up just now to check out if any sightings from my balcony ..

  14. What gorgeous scenery. I’m totally envious. I SO can relate to your restlessness! I used to love to drive long distances. I still love driving. I just haven’t driven the long distances by myself in years. Excellent post and beautiful pictures. Your beaches look like the expansive California beaches. Have fun and walk the beach for me too!

    • Thank you dear Gwynn for stopping by. As you know, my brother in Durban actually didn’t want me to visit him at this time. This was the original plan. I reckon I was bit invested in driving (only) 600 kms to visit him but that plan was thwarted.
      I will do a walk with you in mind walking Paulsboro …

  15. The narrative of your travelogue felt like pure poetry and obviously a fitting solution to your restlessness. Thank you for introducing me to terrain and landmarks unfamiliar to me. Big sky, beautiful bay, very enticing to me right now. You are a brave soul, Susan.

    • Thank you Marian for saying about me being brave .. your comment makes me feel so. A nice feeling thank you. I hadn’t thought of myself that way! I guess stretching myself out of my comfort zones meant a bit of a risk …

      Thank you for your lovely compliment on my travelogue 🙂

  16. Every mile of that journey recollected, Graaf Reinet, George, the Outeniquas, and finally that that that beach! Small sadism. Ah please enjoy for two, celebrate for two and I wish you and your knee a pansy shell!

    • I assuredly will Philippa. Next stop the ‘Why Not’ on Beacon Island beach where your mother’s take-away used to be so many years ago. I will imagine where it was .. I probably knew it in my young years.
      This time I didn’t look for a pansy shell. I was too busy looking at play of the whales, showing off, splashing .. and just walking, admiring, being awed …
      Maybe tomorrow on BI beach I may find a pansy shell …

  17. What a wonderful way to unravel, unwind and reconnect to your creative soul. I felt as though I was traveling along with you because your post was so well written. Seeing whales would be fantastic right around now. Lucky you!

    • Thank you Stephanie .. yes, I felt the coil unwinding, my shoulders relaxing while driving – and another kind of ‘drive’ entering slowly but surely as these hours and days pass ..

  18. Thank you for this lovely post..I could almost see the wide spaces and promises of spring.
    The impulse and search for connection particularly drew me in x

  19. A beautiful post and lovely journey, Susan. Thank you so much for sharing them. Sometimes we do need to follow impulse, it feeds the hungry soul and is just right for us x

  20. Dear Susan;
    A scenic journey through impetuous feelings and what sounds like breathtaking scenes. the psyche needs that kind of nourishment…

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