Just before cycling into downtown Beaufort West, South Africa, I stopped at the entrance gate to the Karoo National Park and inquired about camping in the park. The short black man at the gate looked at me with a confused look on his face and said, “Do you have a reservation?”
“No,” I replied, “I just wanted to see if you allowed camping inside the park.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” the man told me. “We’re all booked up.”
“That’s okay,” I said. “What about cycling inside the park? Can I go inside on my bike? I’ve cycled all the way here from Cape Town and I obviously don’t have a car.”
It was at this point that the man looked very confused. He twisted his head around in different directions. It looked as though he were looking for a superior to consult with. Then he said, “Well, there are lions in here.”
I nearly shot the water I was drinking at the moment out my nose.
“… and hyenas and rhinos,” the man continued.
“Well, I guess that’s a ‘no’ then?” I sarcastically replied.
Just a few kilometers later I was in Beaufort West and the first thing on my agenda was to find a place to spend the night. I stopped at the first gas station in town and inquired about a hotel. No less than 10 men ran up to me offering assistance. It was a little overwhelming, but by this point in my South African journey, I had grown accustomed to this type of reaction.
I was told there was a hotel right down the street called the “Formula 1.” When I saw it, I went inside and booked a room for 350 Rand per night. I thought that that was a little expensive, but I feared I had no other choice… and I really needed a shower. So I paid the money, locked my bicycle inside one of the hotel’s maintenance closets and then carries the rest of my belongings to my room.
After showering, I took a short walk around town and discovered that there were a couple other hotels in town – once of which was 100 Rand cheaper per night. I made a mental note and planned to move to this new hotel the following evening. This would allow me to stay in Beaufort West for a few nights, get some rest, eat some good food, and pay less money per night.
I didn’t do very much in Beaufort West. I ate pizza and Greek salads at two local restaurants. I rented a couple DVDs from the local Mr. Video chain and watched them on my laptop in my hotel room, and I wandered around town taking photos.
Below is a photo of the exterior of the Oasis Hotel. This is the cheaper hotel that spent my second and third nights in town in. The cost for a room here was just 250 Rand – about $27.00 USD. While the rooms here were not nearly as nice as at the Formula 1 hotel, the place was relatively clean and cheap. While the Formula 1 hotel was designed to look kind of like a submarine, the Oasis Hotel has obviously once been a home for senior citizens.
I spent one afternoon sitting out by the pool working on my computer and reading books on my iPod Touch.
After three nights in Beaufort West, I was bored out of my mind and ready to get back on the road. The following day of riding would prove to be one of the best during my entire time in South Africa.