A Pearl by any Other Name would be as Sweet!

As a farewell gift, 2022 has given us a true blessing. Larry was offered, and duly accepted, a new position at a company in Paarl down in the Western Cape. Like seriously! Can you believe that luck? Took us a hot second to decide to go. Paarl, with its magnificent mountains, surrounded on all sides by pure beauty. The name in Dutch means “a pearl”, originating from the glistening of rain drenched granite rocks on the mountain, resembling pearls or diamonds.

This happened in November and was quickly followed by a flurry of activity that has not involved much writing! As a result, whilst I am itching to get re-engaged, my poor novel remains stagnant on chapter eleven. From getting permission to work from Paarl (and agreeing to be back in Johannesburg on demand), packing boxes, finding rental agents, securing accommodation, organising a moving truck, carting off previously loved items to charity, Larry flying to Israel, saying farewell to friends, booking the trip down and working full time until mid-December, it has been emotionally, financially and physically taxing.

BUT come the 17th December, whilst we were both fried, we were excited about the upcoming adventure! We tetris-ed 2 suitcases, a large lithium battery (for our inverter – I work from home so can’t live without it here in the land of load shedding), a large tin of cookies (thank you Shuna for the ‘padkos’), 3 laptops, 2 tog bags,  jackets and jerseys, a big bag of dog food, water, a dog blanket, a dog bed, 2 dog bowls AND 2 excited full size boxer dogs into a MINI One (two door). It was quite a feat. Bulging at the seams we set off up the N2 heading south.

Our first day of driving went smoothly. We stopped regularly for the ‘children’ and to refuel/ recharge and, after about 7 hours, arrived in the seriously dead-end town of ’Noupoort’ – this being the only place I could find that had space available over the long weekend AND would accommodate our pooches.

Per Google, Noupoort is situated between Hanover in the Northern Cape and the border of the Eastern Cape. It was once a popular railway town and in the 1920’s had trains passing through it every day, connecting Cape Town, Namibia and Kimberley with the transport of goods. Today, it is apparently a change-over hub for trains on the Bloemfontein railway, but we didn’t see much going on at all. Talking to the locals, they confirmed that, with railway pretty much dead, Noupoort is struggling to survive.

The town, whilst old, crusty and unimpressive, is home to some really pleasant townsfolk. Even the desperate man offering to wash the car for a few coins left Larry with more of a sense of ‘how can I help this guy’ rather than the default Johannesburg ‘oh my word, leave me alone’ response. Jelome Guest House was clean and comfortable and made us all feel welcome. Just the thing we needed after a long days drive. The supermarket over the road (I think owned by the same guy as the guest house) was manned by friendly and efficient staff who provided some much needed supper. Our two burgers were not very good but the enthusiasm with which they were rendered left us unable to complain.

The end of day two (18th December) found us at Karoo 1 Hotel.  A wonderful establishment in, yes you guessed it, the Karoo, about hour and a half from Paarl. Reasonably priced, great staff and wonderful treatment. Despite having been hit by a flood a few days before, they were accommodating, friendly and went out of their way to make sure we were taken care of – all while they were cleaning up and repairing quite a bit of damage. Definitely need to make a plan to go back and explore properly. There are apparently natural rock pools that I simply must see once they have recovered from the flooding.

I loved the wire sheep they had all over the place, representing the Karoo Lamb and giving a relaxed and friendly air to the establishment. Tucker and Mia had a blast running around all over the place like furry over enuthusiatic teenagers. At one point, Tucker in his excitement slipped unceremouniously and loudly into the pool, and had to be deftly rescued by one of the other guests (quite the entrance my boy! One way to get your parents noticed!)

The next morning we finally made it to Paarl, arriving at our rented townhouse at 9am to collect keys and await our moving truck. We waited till 9.20 for the agent and were getting a bit agitated (being on the road for days will do that) only to discover she was waiting for us inside the whole time and hadn’t bothered to tell us. My dealings with estate agents (probably 7 in total) found them to be mostly brusque, unhelpful and in some cases downright rude. I am, however, happy to report that none of them were from Paarl. I am also happy to report that I have found that old school manners and respect are alive and well here too. Something Johannesburg is sorely lacking and, interestingly, which you don’t really notice until presented with the charm and friendliness of the locals down here. Maybe a coping mechanism?

Since arriving we have been on hikes, swam in crystal clear rivers, tanned on beaches (just an hour away, what a perk!), ate at amazing restaurants and walked in vineyards. All this whilst being completely blown away and totally immersed in unspoiled beauty. I cannot begin to articulate the gratitude I feel for this opportunity. The end of this blog (and this year) finds me as happy as a cat that is still eating the cream. As I look dreamily into the future as a proper Paarlesian, I wish you all a fantastic new year and a peaceful and prosperous 2023.

Stay safe and see you on the flip side!

Janine (J9) Nijs

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