Autumn is for adventure

2016-04-18 21:00 - Nadia Krige
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Even though I’ve lived here most my life, the Western Cape’s tendency to switch seasons in what feels like a matter of seconds never fails to leave me reeling. No prior warning. No gentle reintroduction. Just a sudden realisation that the next phase has arrived and you’d better go with it. 

For instance, when my alarm clock buzzed at 6am this morning, I immediately thought I’d made a terrible mistake setting it the night before. It was pitch dark outside. 4:30am kind of dark. Yet, there they were: the familiar sounds of early-riser traffic and birds tentatively chirping their greetings to the rising sun.

Just a week ago, soft light had filtered through the gap between my curtains at this exact time… and now, it was just a very gloomy shade of grey. Yup, summer went and did it again – her customary Irish goodbye. 

But let me tell you a secret - I’m not really that upset. Of all four seasons, Autumn is by far my favourite and April the month I love the most.

Plus, I’ve come to think of it as the best time of year for adventures – both, into the unknown and to rediscover the forgotten wonders just down the road. It’s a season of intense and gripping beauty; an aesthete’s delight. And isn’t the search for some sort of splendour always a driving force behind our travels?

There are very many reasons I’ll forgive Autumn its gloomy mornings (and maybe I’ll just set the alarm half-an-hour later from now on too), of which these are probably my top six:

Leaves changing colour


This past weekend, we headed out to the winelands for lunch. As we took the turn-off to Stellenbosch, I heard myself gasping before I really even knew what it was about. In the distance, and right next to the road, grapevines had started exchanging their cool summer garb for a warm Autumn glow.

It’s a slow process and one which has by no means reached its colourful crescendo, but the vineyards are now interspersed with patches of light-catching orange and yellow, among the deep, late-summer green. Later we found the Liquid Ambers and Pinoaks of Tokara Wine Farm shaking off their leaves, falling red as rubies to the ground. 

Quality of light


There’s probably some mind-boggling scientific explanation for this – something about the angle of the sun and the spinning of the Earth - but there’s a certain softness, a sort of haziness to the light in Autumn. It’s like the world enters an enchanted realm and we all get to glide around like elven queens and kings.

But, seriously, the light is pretty amazing and nowhere do I find its display more beautiful than in the coastal Overberg. It ignites the fiery tips of various fynbos species and leaves a misty shimmer hanging above the mountains. While this special sort of luminescence lasts all day, early mornings and twilight hours are when it’s at its most magical… which brings me to my next two points.      

Sunsets


This is the time of year where evening scrolls through Instagram are characterised by one spectacular scene of fiery skies after another. There’s just no arguing that sunsets in Autumn are by far the fairest of them all.

Whether you’re strolling along Sea Point promenade, settling into the comfiest chair on a large Karoo stoep, lighting a braai fire in the bushveld or sipping a cocktail along Durban’s beachfront, there will certainly be a show of incandescent splendour… all you have to do is capture it. Or even better - just enjoy.     

Misty mornings and evenings


I live just far enough from the iconic Green Point lighthouse to find the blaring of the foghorn cosy and comforting. My personal signal to snuggle up on the couch with a hot cup of coffee or a glass of red wine, depending on the time of day.

Mistiness does, of course, occur ever so often in summer, but it becomes a far more regular visitor from April onward. Sometimes it arrives so unexpectedly that you find yourself far away from the comfort of your couch, yet in just the right spot to appreciate its bulbous beauty from afar – I’ve seen the CBD swallowed in clouds from high up in Vredehoek and watched a wave of white roll in over the Atlantic seaboard from the top of Lion’s Head. I’m sure there was even one time on Table Mountain that the surreal scene of skyscrapers poking through a puffy blanket left me feel just a little dizzy.  

Surprising summer days


One of the best beach days I’ve ever experienced happened exactly two years ago to the day of writing this – on 13 April 2014 (so Instagram tells me). I woke up to a crisp Sunday morning (fortunately not at gloomy 6am) all a-glow with that special light we spoke about earlier. There were wispy clouds in the sky and just a hint of a breeze, keeping the temperatures at a pleasant mid-20s median. This was it: the beach day I’d been waiting for all summer, so I called up my friend, Marli, who I knew had been waiting too, and we set out for Clifton 2nd.

Arriving at around 9am, we spent the entire day stretched out on our towels, catching up on conversation and the books that had gathered dust on our nightstands. The ocean was even a few degrees warmer than usual and utterly inviting, prompting me to intersperse my relaxation with a series of delicious swims.

I remember having the same sort of experience, growing up in Betty’s Bay – April, May and June bestowed jewels of days upon us, as if to say: “You’ve been so patient, enduring that howling summer South-Easter and all those scorching days. Here’s a little reward.”  

Perfect time for mini road trips and camping 

Finally, Autumn seems to signal a marked slowing down of social calendars. Wedding season draws to a close and everyone seems to slip into a sort of pre-hibernation mode. This means that weekends are no longer filled up months in advance, instead bringing with them much more opportunity for spontaneous exploration.

Since it’s also the end of the traditional tourist season, you are more inclined to find affordable last-minute accommodation when the road trip bug bites without warning, as it always seems to do.

If you’re a camper, even better! You can just pack your tent and head out in whichever direction you choose. Apart from being almost certain of getting a stand in any campsite around the country, the weather is typically mellow, making for the best sort of outdoors experience. Unless, of course, you are just an unlucky camper. Even so, I believe Autumn’s magical powers are such that they can dazzle even Murphy and his annoying little law.

Which is your favourite season for travel? Tell us about it by sending a mail to info@traveller24.co.za

Nadia Krige is a freelance writer based in Cape Town. She’s also an unlucky camper, an occasional hiker and enjoys catching tiny waves in the whitewash of Muizenberg whenever she can. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.