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South Africa: Dairne John puts into pictures what she can’t say in words

Dairne John returns home to South Africa after 32 years living away and embarks on a road trip with her Tasmanian-born husband. Her photos say what words can’t.

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Thirty-two years I’ve lived away from South Africa, yet still the country calls to me.

Africa tugs. The smell and feel of it. It has its own beauty. The thorn trees and the aloes, the mountains and the sea. It’s harsh yet soft.

And so it was, some weeks ago, that I set off on a trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town with my Tasmanian-born husband, taking in a road less travelled, the scenic Route 62.

What an adventure, driving through the bone-dry semi-desert known as the Karoo to Prince Albert, nestled in the shadow of the Swartberg Mountains. A seemingly endless road, snaking away into the distance; country hospitality; magnificent mountain passes; and a cutting with a ribbon of water falling from way on high. On to fertile wine lands and fruit orchards at Montagu and Stellenbosch. And then we come upon the cold Atlantic on the west coast at Paternoster, where the locals eke out a living from the sea. White-washed houses and a bay that curves away – all white sand and soft between the toes.

Cape Town beckons and we’re there in a few hours, settling into our accommodation at Bo Kaap, home to the country’s oldest mosque, brightly painted beneath Table Mountain. With the morning call to prayer, we’re up and off to Cape Point, hot-footing it up to the lighthouse. And, finally, at journey’s end, tracing our way along the coast to the Cape of Good Hope, the south-western most point of the African continent.

It’s difficult to put into words, as you’ll see by these photos.

Karoo sunset

Meerkat at a farm stay in the Northern Cape

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Bougainvillea in full bloom in Prince Albert

Waterfall in the cutting at Meiringspoort

The summit of the Swartberg Pass

Fresh bread and stew at a bush pub

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Route 62

Winery in the Franschhoek Valley

View from the garden at Babylonstoren near Stellenbosch

The fishermen of Paternoster return from the sea with their catches

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Table Mountain from the rooftop of our accommodation

Colourful Bo Kaap, one of the oldest residential areas in Cape Town

Locals stop for a chinwag in one of the older parts of Bo Kaap

African penguin at Boulders Beach, Cape Town

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Whale spotting in False Bay

Cape Point in the distance

Secluded beach in the Cape Point Nature Reserve

An ostrich foraging along the coast

Tourists flock to the Cape of Good Hope

Dairne talks about her travels with Deeksie and Kaye on episode 23 of Mind Your Own Retirement.

Have you driven through, or been to South Africa? How was it?

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