As we drove towards the Vaal, the clouds got darker and darker, reminding us of the opening scene of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Luckily for my wife and me, we arrived at Old Willow No 7 Houseboat Charters without incident except for the fact that the rain arrived at the same time as we did. That made unpacking the car and getting all the food and luggage onto the houseboat an interesting if speedy exercise. It was all completed without anything, either human or organic, getting too wet.
This was to be our “home” for 2 nights, a trip that we had been looking forward to for some time. However, the weather was not keen to play along and the constant driving rain made us change our plans for our first night on the water. Discussions with each other and the staff made us decide to remain at the jetty for the evening, as chugging down the Vaal in the pouring rain was not really on our agenda. Given that the driving position is exposed despite the canvas overhang on that portion of the aft deck. But, we had food, we had electricity and we had each other and no other guests, so did we really need to head off? Seeing that the weather forecast was better for the following day, we decided to hunker down and enjoy our time together.
In 2006, I proposed to my then-girlfriend (now wife) with this ring and she said “YES”. This was a somewhat delayed return visit to recreate that experience and given the similar weather conditions, it was almost a reenactment of that evening 15 years ago. Back then it was a chocolate-dipped strawberry, which I was unable to replicate on this trip.
“Left hand down a bit”? Nope, not going anywhere while the rain continues to cascade…
My wife did not realize just how much water was being ‘held’ by the awning and she almost got herself soaked. I had, luckily, stepped back in order to take this image.
From the inside looking out. It was as comfortable as we remembered from our previous trip, and the rain that was thrumming on the roof made it just that bit cosier.
The bed did look inviting, but there was food to be unpacked and dinner (or late lunch) to be prepared.
For those who caravan, this must be a familiar sight, but this is one aspect that both my wife and I had forgotten about. The shower cubicle is as small as it looks in the picture, but the water pressure was amazing and the water was hot and the showers that we enjoyed were most refreshing.
Much like the kitchen is the heart of the home, the galley became the heart of our time on the houseboat.
The kettle was put to good use and many cups of tea and coffee were enjoyed during our time onboard. The whistle of the steam signalling for one or both of us to reach for the packet of rusks that we had brought with us.
Seeing that we are used to a king-size bed at home, we were not comfortable on the double bed in the main bedroom. However, the amicable solution was to make up the second bed in the galley (the table and bench seat converts) and I slept there. In this way, both of us got a good night’s sleep without having to fight for space and the duvet.
Sunset over the Vaal. “Red sky at night is a shepherd’s delight” is the old adage and I took this as boding well for us leaving the dock and getting underway in the morning…
As usual, I was up early in the morning just to see what was rising out of the mist on the river. This wooden jetty was a short way away and eventually became visible and the veil lifted.
The sky had cleared with not a trace of the rainstorm from the previous day in evidence. Time to have breakfast, then head off down the river to gasp in awe at the HUGE properties that line the banks on this stretch of the river.
Time to cast off and head off on our expedition. Not quite going to find the New World, but exciting never the less. (There will be more postings to follow that cover our experience on the water and the birdlife that we discovered when we overnighted at Otter’s Cove.)
One of the other houseboats that had left the dock before we did. There are 9 houseboats available for charter and most of them were on the river with us. But they had turned to starboard when leaving, while we had turned to port. This made us the only boat on that stretch of river for most of our time on the water.
We were at Old Willow from Wednesday to Friday, when the river is quiet as weekends can get somewhat busy when the home-owners come to play.
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