Ashton Hospitality and New Friends
During our time in Robertson, we met some awesome people who we’re now lucky enough to call friends. These folks generously welcomed us into their homes - and introduced us to the Ashton area, another incredible part of South Africa’s Route 62!
“Het jy 'n rit nodig?”
Full disclosure, we had to use Google Translate to look up this phrase - Afrikaans for “need a ride?” But, these few words happened to kick off a great friendship.
The Robertson Backpackers is a little over a mile from downtown Robertson. While not a terribly long walk, it can leave you drenched in sweat during peak southern hemisphere summer. Fortunately, due to a happy coincidence, we wouldn’t need to walk into town on our first day exploring.
As we got to the end of the block, a gal pulled up beside us in her car, opened the window, and asked something along the lines of “Het jy 'n rit nodig?” Met by our dumb stares, she transitioned to English and said: “Oh sorry - thought you spoke Afrikaans. Can I give you a ride?”
What an absolute sweetheart! Jumping at the opportunity to get out of the sweltering sun, we hopped into the car. After some introductions, we learned that our new friend Natasha has lived in Robertson for years with her daughter - and was pleasantly surprised to see Americans hanging out in town.
At the end of our few-minute ride into town, we swapped contact info as Natasha dropped us off at our destination, hoping to catch up soon.
Prospect Wines, Bakkies, and Panoramic Views
And catch up we did! Showing the hospitality and generosity the area is known for, Natasha shot us a message a couple days later: “How about joining me for some sunset wine and snacks at my friends’ clifftop overlook?”
Unfortunately, with time zones being what they are, Jenna had a work call that night so couldn’t join. Loving husband that he is, Chipp empathized with Jenna’s situation: “So sorry you have to work tonight… Welp, see you later!”
Natasha lived just around the corner from the Backpackers - an easy stroll. Meeting there, Chipp and Natasha had a glass of wine then headed out to her friends’ place.
Marleen and Chris - whose family goes back generations in the Robertson Valley - own a stunningly beautiful wine farm just outside of Ashton. Their label - Prospect - is absolutely delicious (which Chipp would come to find out shortly). And, in a small-world coincidence, Chris has a brother who married an American girl and now makes wine in Kentucky - Leatherwood, another outstanding choice.
Nestled underneath a high, red kloof (cliff), Chris and Marleen’s house sits in the middle of their vineyards. We met there, and Chipp was promptly introduced to another element of Afrikaans culture - the bakkie. Similar to rural (and military base…) America, pick-up trucks - bakkies in Afrikaans - are ubiquitous in the South African countryside.
But, unlike the still-gleaming-never-been-taken-off-road-just-for-show pick-ups taking up two parking spaces in suburbs throughout the US, these countryside bakkies have a pretty functional role to fill. For us, getting up the washed out dirt trail to the kloof-top overlook above Chris and Marleen’s house, that functionality meant hopping in the bed of their bakkie for a ride. Pretty nice way to travel - ten minutes or so, standing up in the bakkie, beautiful Robertson Valley unfolding before us. Not bad.
And, things only got better. From the top of this dirt trail, there’s a 100-yard-ish path through the low brush. With bottles of wine and snacks in hand, we navigated this rocky route - always mindful of snakes! - and were rewarded with an absolutely stunning, panoramic view out into the valley. For the next hour, we watched the sunset, sipped wine, picked at snacks, and chatted.
What incredible hospitality, to bring a complete outsider into your family circle to share an experience like this.
Round Two in Ashton - and Food!
Incredibly, after one night hanging out with Chipp, Chris, Marleen, and Natasha weren’t overwhelmed by his nonsense. Quite the opposite, they insisted that he come back for another sunset on the overlook - just with the caveat that Jenna be able to make it this time!
So, the next week, Natasha picked the two of us up (still didn’t have a rental car) and took us back to Chris and Marleen’s place. After another great bakkie ride and gorgeous sunset - plus more wine! - we headed back to the house for a gluttonously large and delicious spread of snacks.
Late into the night, we hung out, chatted, ate tons of food, and drank plenty more wine. Despite being on the other side of the world from the States, these wonderfully warm and hospitable folks made us feel at home. At risk of sounding overly cliche, meeting people like Natasha, Marleen, and Chris has been the highpoint of our travels.
“So What’s a Linefish?”
Sitting around and chatting, we also A) learned about a great local drink, and B) settled a debate between Chipp and Jenna.
First, the drink - well, really, a shooter. Made with a layer of Amarula and one of creme de menthe in a clear shot glass, the Springbokkie - in addition to being delicious - represents the national rugby team, the Springboks. The Springboks have green and gold as their colors, and this tasty little treat shows the same colors - and proceeds to warm your soul!
Next, the debate. For the couple months we’d been in South Africa, we kept seeing “linefish” on restaurant menus. Chipp was convinced that a linefish was a specific type of fish local to South Africa. Jenna, on the other hand, was pretty sure it was just a generic term for any fish caught on a line (as opposed to in a trawler’s net).
Chipp couldn’t wrap his head around this idea, as it would mean that, when you order a linefish, you don’t actually know what you’re ordering. Welp, turns out Jenna was spot-on - a linefish is just that, any fish caught on a line… Who knew?