If you live close to Cape Town, in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, you’ve probably heard of the R44. It’s the road that runs from Gordons Bay, along the coast past places like Betty’s Bay, Pringle Bay, and Kleinmond, and connects back to the R43 at Arabella Country Estate. On the other side of Gordons Bay, it also runs up all the way past the N1 to Piketberg, but as a person growing up in the suburbs of Cape Town, the coastal part of the R44 is the section I know the best. It’s an amazing stretch of road; all coastal mountain passes dotted with a few small towns.
I have many fond memories of places along that road. As a small child, Palmiet Caravan Park, just past Kleinmond, is where we used to travel to for Sunday family lunch braais (think BBQ, but with a bigger fire and probably more red meat), trying to catch small fish in the river mouth with nets and watching older kids using some pump type thing to catch larger river-dwelling creatures. I have no idea what they were, possibly some form of shrimp?
In high school, Betty’s Bay was the location that our musical director would take all the leads during the end of first term holidays. His parents had a massive holiday place out there, with plenty of space to camp out for a week. So we all spend that week getting to know each other, getting our parts, learning the music and songs, and practicing scenes. I only had a lead role once in my senior year (yes, I’m a high school musical nerd before it became part of popular culture), but I finally understood why all the previous leads had this bond that carried through the musicals every year.
It was also the first time I discovered Billy Connolly, in the trip back from Betty’s Bay. A mate of mine had an old Billy Connolly show on tape (this was from the time when he still did songs as part of his show), and to this day, 26 years later, I can still recall most of the words of the “Wellies” song, as we sang it over and over again on that trip back.
After high school, Palmiet became a place my mates and I would travel to on weekends to camp out, braai, swim, drink beer, and generally relax. It’s also the first place I ever took Pam (my wife, then my girlfriend) camping.
These days, Pam and I often take the R44 when we’re traveling back from breakaways in Hermanus with the boys, and it’s a lovely drive. You can often see baboons along the road, and driving through all the little coastal towns or along the coast itself, is extremely pleasant. It usually also ends with a stop for ice cream when we come out the other side at Gordons Bay. It’s a little bit longer than the more direct route but definitely worth it.
Today is my 44th birthday, and it got me thinking about all the memories I have of this road that I now share that number with, for at least the next year. I hope I get to enjoy it for another 44 years.