Sterkfontein Dam

Sterkfontein Dam

Nick Filling Up My Overheating X-Trail

The Sterkies trip had been put together in June/July and everyone had high expectations. I therefore donned my Superman shirt for day one just to prove to everyone that I meant business. Game on!

We met at Nick’s place and spent the next hour trying to work out which cars should be taken. Apparently we were only allowed 2 vehicles per chalet so the plan was to take mine and Werner’s. So with everything loaded into my car we hooked the boat up to Werners. This proved to be a problem and after even more repacking we decided to just risk it and take three cars. A little pig chasing later and everything was sorted…we were finally on our way.

The road trip got off to a good start with a quick stop at the first garage for some friendly banter and a few cans of Monster. Turns out it was my car that needed one and not me. Just before Nottingham Road the temperature needle started to rise rapidly and things looked dire. Thankfully we spotted it before it hit the red and pulled over instantly. After a little cooling time we carefully made our way to the Nottingham Road off ramp where we pulled in to the local garage to try and work out what was wrong. FAIL number 1!

Friends At Sterkies

Mechanic Nick to the rescue! After a few inspections it was decided that the cap on the radiator was stuffed. Thankfully they had replacement caps at the garage so after replacing the cap and buying a few liters of water we were back on the road.

We continued on our way until we hit Little Switzerland where we stopped for lunch. Lorraine had promised us awesome pizza served on the deck but instead we were greeted by a highly overpriced menu with no pizza. So it was burgers all round and I had to laugh when Sharon’s kiddy burger turned out to be the same size as the adult burgers, and for half the price.

We were just around the corner and it should’ve been not more than 20 minutes to Sterkies…but then we hit road works. So after a 20 minute wait, in which time we managed to swap some of the emergency radiator water for a sculpture from a street vendor, we finally pulled in to Sterkfontein. This was almost fail number 2 as they informed me that they didn’t take credit cards. Thankfully a few of my Christmas cards had contained money and so Sharon and I managed to scrape together enough cash to pay for our accommodation. Phew!

Sterkfontein Panorama
Lightning Over Sterkfontein

The accommodation itself looked great from the outside but the inside was another story. Pretty much everything was missing (other than a very smelly mop) so we were all rather grateful that Tarryn had phoned ahead and we’d brought our own pots, pans, plates, cups, etc.

Nick was quick to claim a room and, thankfully, Sharon was on the ball and claimed us the other. Unfortunately this left Werner and Lorraine with the loft which was located up some very dodgy stairs.

The unpacking then commenced which is when Nick decided to lock the keys of his Audi in the boot. FAIL number 2! Thanks to some fancy electronics apparently there’s very little one can do. Thankfully Superman came to the rescue. We managed to force down one of the windows just enough to get my man made hook (comprising of a broom and bent fork) in to the car. Using my Superman powers I then managed to pull down one of the seats and hook out the keys.

Time for a beer!

Nick With A Nice Yellowfish
Sterkfontein Sunset

After unpacking we headed down to the water’s edge which was AMAZINGLY clear. In fact, as much as I’ve heard about the clarity of that water, I didn’t actually believe it until I saw it. The water is literally as clear as a berg stream. WOW! We all swam for a while and then headed back to our chalet to get the party started.

The beer and rum flowed as we made our first braai of the trip. Soon a storm was passing overhead and we managed to take some awesome lightning shots from the balcony. This, combined with the rain which followed the storm, resulted in us completely forgetting about the fire. We managed to get some of the meat braaied but ran out of coals before everything was cooked. As in life everything has a knock on effect, and the effect of this was some very grumpy woman.

Lorraine then took charge, made another fire, and we were soon (just after 10pm) seated around the table having dinner. People faded one by one until it was just Nick and I boozing it up and discussing the morning’s fishing strategy. We even braved heading down to the water’s edge to enjoy a bevy there which turned into a somewhat bad idea as it was so cold that we almost had to cuddle.

I was up at 5:30 on our first morning and was soon joined by Nick. After a rather slow start we got the boat into the water and were on our way. We headed 5kms south to roughly the vulture restaurant and found a protected bay where we parked the boat. It was partly cloudy with enough of a breeze to get a ripple on the water. This made sight fishing somewhat difficult and, while I walked the bank trying hard to spot fish, Nick threw a blind cast right next to the boat. His hopper bobbed on the surface for 10 seconds and then it was smashed by a Smallmouth Yellowfish!

I rushed back and shot off some footage of Nick fighting the fish before helping him land it thanks to our forgotten nets. We were now rather hopeful and fished for another hour or so with no luck. I managed to spot one fish on my trek around the bay but I’m not even sure it was a Yellow as it swam off so quickly.

Lorraine, Werner, Tarryn, Nick, Warren And Sharon

We then returned to the boat to find it sitting somewhat deeper in the water than we’d left it. FAIL number 3! We got into the boat where the water was now lapping at the edges threatening to pour in at any stage. Slowly we circled the bay in vain hoping to get the boat onto the plane…no luck…the boat was clearly full of water. Time for plan B…we pulled out the drainage plug and got going straight away. We were hoping that the water would drain out the back while we were in motion. But as good as this plan was, it soon became clear that it wasn’t working. The problem now was that we couldn’t stop or the boat would fill up with even more water and we’d head straight to the bottom.

It was all or nothing as we started making our way back across the 5km stretch of water, far from any bank. The boat was so full that we were barely moving and the GPS informed us that it was going to take 45 minutes to make the crossing. In the meantime we phoned Werner who for some reason wouldn’t believe us that we were sinking. The wind had picked up and the chop certainly wasn’t helping as we were heading straight into the ever growing waves.

Sharon Fishing Sterkies

Eventually Sharon managed to find a rescue boat which she sent out in search of us. Due to a little miscommunication they headed right past us despite my best efforts in flagging them down with an orange emergency tub. Finally they spotted us and ended up following us back to the slipway while I bailed water furiously out the back of the boat.

Thankfully 40 minutes later we were on the slipway and all seemed good. Well, good as in we didn’t drown.

Once we’d pulled the boat out of the water we quickly spotted the problem. There was a hold so big I could fit all my fingers into it. WOW!

After a quick lunch we all headed into Harrismith where we stocked up on ice and fiberglass. The afternoon was then spent repairing the boat and trying to get resin off of our hands. Damn that stuff’s sticky! I guess that’s the point though…

Ash River Fallout
Warren Prior Enjoying A Beer At The Clarens Brewery

Finally it was beer o’ clock and we all gathered on the deck, drinks in hand, and relaxed. That was 3 fails and surely the end of our troubles.

That night Werner and Lorraine made us dinner; a couple of pasta dishes and Tequila Sunrises. Win! Once again people faded one by one and it was Nick and I left boozing on the balcony and last to bed.

It was raining when I woke up the next morning and that, combined with the fact that the we were unsure of the state of the boat, meant that there was to be no fishing. Instead we elected to head to Claren’s and have a day out.

The first stop was at the Ash River fallout. This is the point at which the trans Caledon Transfer Tunnel, which transports water from Katze dam in Lesotho to the Ash River, ends. It’s amazing to see the size of the pipe and to watch the volume of water pouring out of it.

From the fallout we headed into Clarens where the girls, and Werner, spent a few hours browsing the shops. Nick and I decided that shopping was not for us and headed for the Clarens Brewery’s pub instead. They offer a free tasting service so after trying a few of their local beers (Blonde, Red, Ale, Stout and Banana) we settled on the Blonde and enjoyed a few cold ones. Eventually the rain started coming down and the girls joined us for lunch which consisted of a platter of breads and sausages served with various dips. It was top class, especially the onion marmalade. The girls repeated the tasting process only this time with the three local ciders. They’re not too bad, especially the cherry.

From Clarens we headed back towards Sterkfontein stopping off to do some off-road Go Karting. I must say that despite the Karts looking really cool, it was somewhat a waste of money as they were highly underpowered. That said they were fun none and less thanks to a massive puddle of mud in the middle of the track.

Now covered in mud we needed to come up with a plan on how to clean ourselves off. This involved stopping off at Golden Gate for a few rides down their natural rock slide. Werner took the liberty of explaining to us about a massive rock hidden under the water that deserved much respect and needed to be avoided at all costs. Thanks to his warning we all managed to miss it…well, almost.

Warren And Nick Racing Buggies

While Werner was at the top a father and son came up to have a slide. He carefully explained the situation to the father who nodded in agreement. They then decided that the father would go down first and wait at the bottom to catch his son. This left Werner aiming the kid down the slide. We all watched in awe as he launched him down the slide and straight into the venomous rock. FAIL! The family quickly left with the kid crying profusely. In retrospect I must give the kid full credits for the awesome air he achieved.

Through all of these events Nick was sneakily photographing the hot chick on the rocks. Respect!

When we got back to Sterkies the weather was semi decent so Nick, Werner and I took a drive to the wall for a little fishing. Once again sight fishing was out of the question so we casted blindly in the hope of picking up a Yellow. Nick lucked it by picked up a Smallmouth Bass while stripping in his hopper to cast again.

Another storm was fast approaching so we headed back to the chalet for a few more beers. We braaied for the second time of the trip, this time under the watchful supervision of 3 evil looking woman who seemed to think we’d forget about the fire once again.

Sharon And Werner Racing

Nick and I were last to bed…again…

We woke up to the last day of the year and Nick and I headed out to try our luck once again. Our boat repair seemed solid and we flew across the water instead of through it. This time we headed across the dam to First Stop and Stratherrick.
Things were looking up as we found a rocky outcrop which we could fish off. Almost instantly we spotted a few Yellows. Sadly, as many as we casted to, none of them seemed at all interested in our flies. I had one Yellowfish rise to my beetle, open his mouth, and then turn and reject it at the last second. Aaaaaagh! We spotted a massive Sharptooth Catfish off the small cliffs too.

When we got back to the chalet we phoned the hydro electric station, which was the supposed plan for the day. Sadly it was closed (which was not what we’d been told a few days earlier) and we had to give it a miss. As a result we spent the day chilling in the chalet and I gave Nick his first few Photoshop lessons. We also took the opportunity to play a few games of 30 Seconds which Nick and I dominated!

That evening it was Sharon and my turn to cook a meal. We put together a Mexican evening along with cocktails in a bag. The Mexican was good, the cocktails were kak! Well at least the guys thought they were…the girls managed to gulp them down with great vigor.

Sadly as a result of too much relaxing, and 3 nights of heavy boozing, everyone was in bed well before 12pm. Sharon and I managed to stay up and see the new years in, but it was somewhat of a letdown. There were a lot of fireworks going off in the area but amidst the rain and mist we could see very little. Oh well…

Warren Sliding Down A Rock Slide

2010 got off to a slow start when Werner and Loiraine headed home. Sadly he was not well and being away from home in those conditions is never fun.

None the less there were things to be done and fun to be had so Nick, Tarryn, Sharon and I took full advantage. We opted for an outing and headed in the direction of Royal Natal stopping off at Mont-Aux Sources for lunch. After we’d scoffed down our toasted sandwiches and chips we continued on our way to Royal Natal.

Why Royal Natal? Well our Garmin had told us it had a hatchery and we thought we’d bash some Trout. Turns out the hatchery is a thing of the past. Despite this minor setback they still had one small Trout dam available for fishing so we opted to give it a try.

Nick and I headed out in our respective directions and started fishing the water. It looked fairly decent except for one problem…day visitors. Between people picnicking around the edge and kids throwing rocks in I don’t think we had much of a chance. There was also the ever present threat of hooking one of the million kids running around.

Eventually I made a bold move and waded out to an island hoping to get away from the chaos. It was well situated amongst some reeds and I fancied my chances there. Sadly I had no luck other than one small fish which followed my fly all the way to the bank before darting off. Clearly this was a week of rejections for me.

Warren Fly Fishing Sterkfontein

Having come to terms with the fact that we weren’t going to catch anything we gave the ladies a few casting lessons. They both did rather well despite the wind which was pushing their line back towards them and causing some difficulties. Sadly it then started to rain so we packed up and headed back to Sterkfontein.

That night we had the rib braai which was originally planned for New Years. The food was fantastic and we chilled outside drinking and chatting until a massive stormed forced us to take shelter. Nick and I were feeling somewhat cocky after our pervious 30 Second wins and so we took the ladies on. Clearly we’d had one too many brandies this time and we ended up coming second for the first time of the trip. Damn it! So much for out unbeaten streak.

When we woke up on our last day it was sunny and the water was like glass. Typical! Sadly we couldn’t head out fishing since we had packing to do and needed to be out by 10am.

The drive home started out well and we even stopped to buy fruit in Winterton. But that’s really where the fun stopped. Shortly after that my car started overheating again and we were forced into the nearest garage.

Clearly the problem was not the radiator cap as we had previously thought. Nick got brave and we pulled out the thermostat and filled the car with water. Hoping this was the problem we got on our way and made it close to 100kms before the needle started rising again. FAIL! Luckily we were nearing home and so we crept home slowly stopping every 50kms to fill the radiator. Not the best trip home but at least we made it without hitting the red.

Definitely a trip of ups and downs but what an awesome trip it was. Let’s hope we can get back there in more favourable weather to nail those elusive Yellows.