Mountains Climbed Lions Tamed

Glen Davis

We carry on to the mountain-ringed Cape Winelands surrounding Paarl, Franschhoek, and Stellenbosch (founded by Dutch and Huguenot settlers in the late 1600s) for a world-class lunch at Bosman's Restaurant at Grande Roche, Africa's only Relais Gourmand. We taste the superb wines of Grand Roche, Boschendal, and Spier. Instructors become chauffeurs. Back in Cape Town, a native choir welcomes us to dinner at the prime minister's historic residence. It seems that there'll be no end to the eating and drinking. And drinking.

Real off-roading comes early the next day, and it is very, very good. Our LR3 has a 300-hp V-8 that shifts through a six-speed manu-matic and a hill-descent control system that won't let the vehicle roll downhill unchecked with your foot off the brake--which is most helpful when it gets dicey. Terrain response allows the perfect tractive selection with the spin of a knob. I select the rock icon to climb into the pines, spotting a mongoose and a few klipspringers, which look like tiny reindeer perched on clothespins. It looks like Colorado, I think. Baboons run out. Colorado, but with baboons. A sentry male barks and moves toward us, menacing, while the rest of the troop flees. "I raised four baboons," says Timcke. "They ran loose at our safari lodge. The males are domineering and see humans as other primates. There will be one alpha male and lots of beta males. My mom, they hung on her leg. My dad was the dominant male. At maturity, they challenge the troop. This one, he'd demonstrate his strength to the weaker part of the troop. That would be my sister. He eventually nipped her, drew blood, and I got out the revolver and shot him." OK, then.

Once through the forest, we dive into a thicket of grass and find that the rain has made a lake of our trail. Knowing that an LR3 can push through water high enough to break over the hood, I press confidently along, completely forgetting I am on highway tires. No problem. We come out in the fynbos, a riotous blast of purple, pink, yellow, and blue spikes, flowers your florist would die for.

Back to Stellenbosch for an open-air Indonesian and Cape Malay buffet with delicacies such as springbok saut and gnu stew. (I made that last one up.) In the city center, there's a great crafts market, but I've decided to not tell you about buying the Congolese mask from the Zairian merchant, whom I somehow bargained up from 280 to 300 rand, about fifty dollars. Rob is suffused with mirth as I climb in with my precious cargo. The guy was sweating. He pleaded. I felt sorry for him. Forget it.

Luggage stowed, we head for an overnight in the coastal town of Knysna. We of course go the longest, most difficult way. There is a dirt trail all the way from Cape Town to Knysna, but we don't patch into it until we turn off just west of Mossel Bay on Route 327, pass ostrich farms that line the road on both sides, and head into the Centre Valley of the Western Cape, the arid red earth and rocklands of the Little Karoo. In the distance, two wild ostriches haul tailfeathers across the bleak plain. "Damn quick little buggers," says Rob. "Sixty kph [37 mph] at full speed." The road turns to lane, the lane to trail, and soon we are climbing past a sign that reads, 'Men remove dentures, ladies fasten your bras.' It's the oxwagon autobahn, the path of Dutch settlers between 1689 and 1869. If they could do it, so can we.

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