Under the Stars
Updated: Jul 30
Moving to a small South African desert town is probably the smartest decision T and I could've made. The days are sunny, the nights are cool, and the views are always breathtaking.
The first thing we did when we arrived at Prince Albert was to rent bicycles for a month. We got a couple of mountain bikes at an insanely low price. Tourism in Prince Albert is what holds the economy of an overwhelming majority of residents together. Although COVID-19 had never reached Prince Albert, the closed airports resulted in the loss of international tourism, dropping the prices.
We've been living here for two weeks now, and T and I made acquaintance with some of the locals. Everyone is incredibly friendly. When you walk down the street or ride a bike, people say hello or nod. It gives one a sense of belonging. I think people got used to our presence very fast. T and I go riding every morning. There are lots of interesting places, and we enjoy starting the day this way.
One day, while in the charity shop, the shopkeeper told us that she had left Cape Town two years before. During her first week in Prince Albert, she had decided she was never going to leave. I agreed with her that there was a lot of charm to the town, but I'd never say never. From my experience, staying in one place forever can make one overlook that charm.
On Tuesday, for example, there was a braai (South African BBQ) organised by several townspeople, and we were invited. Allowing ourselves to get together, despite lockdown regulations. The locals seem to be so used to the stunning mountain scenery, that they didn't take it into account when thinking of a location for our braai. We drove for half an hour on a dirt road to the mountains, just to sit by a tree-lined pavilion. Two steps in either direction would reveal a view of the mountains, which at sunset reddened. Of all this vast area, they had chosen to sit where you couldn't see a thing.
Not everyone forgets the charm, though. On the way back, we pulled over on the side of the gravel road with a couple of friends. A friend of T's from school days, her partner and their sweet kid. We sat on the roof of the car and stargazed for a bit.
Prince Albert is famous for its stargazing opportunities, and because of the dry air, there is an average of five cloudless nights per week. People travel from all over the world to stargaze the Karoo night sky. Some of the world's largest international space exploration research facilities filled with hundreds of telescopes are found all around.
The stars in Prince Albert are an extraordinary sight. They cover the sky, and the Milky Way spreads up above you. The moon is so low that it seems like it can disappear at any minute, so the higher you look, the more stars there are.
I do miss home. But of all the places I could've been stuck in, I feel lucky to be here. Under the stars of the Klein Karoo.