My daughter has spent the last two years studying in Paris and when she returned and told me that she was going to be living and working in Cape Town, it was mutually decided that we would use the opportunity for a road trip. We had not seen each other during the time she was away, so we decided plan a trip that would be meaningful as well as give us time to reconnect.
The first leg of the trip from Johannesburg was overcast and rainy, however we were in high spirits, as we would spend our first night in the thriving metropolis of Winburg!
The town seems to still be stuck in the old South Africa, with the bar at the hotel overrun with memorabilia from our past.(Including an old South African flag!)
Like many small towns this one seems to survive by being supported by the local farming community.
There is a peanut plantation and the nearest big supermarket is in Bloemfontein or Welkom.
If you are a vegetarian this is not the place for you. Winburg offered us proof that chicken is actually a vegetable!
It was freezing cold but our guest house was very pleasant and our host was cheerful and welcoming, which is one of the reasons that I enjoy small towns
For my daughter, who IS vegetarian, her dinner consisted a Greek Salad…not the ideal meal on a cold winter night. But for the carnivores there is plenty to sink your teeth into…
The dining room at the guesthouse also doubles as the local museum, although there is another museum in the town.
According to the local hotel manager the elephant statue in the town is the geographical centre of either the Free State or of South Africa. You can take your pick as there is no plaque to confirm or deny either claim.
It’s just a pity that most travelers are not willing to take the 8km journey from the main road to discover this little gem
After a leisurely Sunday breakfast it was time to brave the mist and the rain and head off for our next overnight stop in Graaff-Reinet…but like all great road trips, there had to be stops along the way!
However stops on a Sunday in this part of South Africa have to be planned in advance as most of the places we wanted to visit were closed.
We did stop off for lunch in Nieu-Bethesda, which is always worth a visit as the coffee shop near the Owl House offers great food at reasonable prices.(and they are vegetarian friendly)
For those who remember the General Dealer in the centre of town, you will be sad to know that the 21st century eventually arrived and it was sold and turned into a bookstore and an art gallery. Neither of these worked and the building is currently empty and for sale.
If you take the back road out of Nieu-Bethesda the scenery is more spectacular and the road is in far better condition.
Our accommodation in Graaff-Reinet was an eye-opener! We had an entire house to ourselves. Without sounding like an estate agent, it was everything I would want in a property to retire to.
The Victorian bath was extremely welcoming and the bed with its mound of pillows and warm duvet was so comfortable that I did not even get to read.
With great furnishings and fitting and two warm and welcoming bedrooms, this is a great self-catering venue for a family and well worth a visit. It was just a pity that we only had one night there.
A little known fact is that this area is the centre of tequila production in South Africa!
At least here we found a family restaurant that was open on a Sunday…and it catered for vegetarians, big plus factor.
There are guesthouses in abundance here, and I am sure that travelers will find something to suit their pockets.
As it was a clear winter’s night, the added bonus was watching the stars before we turned in for the night.
With a plethora of small shops and museums to visit we spent the morning exploring the town before leaving on the next leg of our journey.
In order to get to Oudtshoorn we decided to use the N9 and go via Aberdeen, Willowmore and De Rust.
This is a well-maintained alternative to the N1and we stopped off in each town along the way rather than go whizzing past as most holiday-makers seem to do. Each town has a charm of its own and it is difficult to try to ascertain what keeps their economy buoyant.
There are coffee shops and antique stores in each town that gives tourists a reason to stop and visit.
We chose Oudtshoorn for our next stop as my Dad had grown up here. It is an ideal place to spend a few days, or an entire holiday! The town and the surrounding area have more things to do and places to visit than you can imagine. The main street of the town has more coffee shops and places to eat than several major cities I have visited.
From crocodile and, of course, ostrich farms to the spectacular Kango Caves. The standard route will astound you with its fantastic formations varying in age from 1.2m years to baby formation of around 400 yrs old! If you are feeling daring and have the time, try the adventure tour.
We based ourselves at the Cul-de-sac B&B, Derrick and Amanda were superb hosts and the accommodation, and breakfasts are well worth the visit. The accommodation consists of either double accommodation or self-catering apartments that sleep 4 (In total they can accommodate 28 guests). A breeding pair of Ostriches kept me entertained, as the male seems to be the only one interested in the eggs. He spent both day and night on the eggs, while his “partner” patrolled the fence.
Luckily for us the snow had not closed the Swartberg Pass and we were able to use this route to Prince Albert. The pass is BREATHTAKING and an absolute must if you are in the area.
It seems as if this tiny hamlet consists of coffee shops, craft dealers and B & B establishments, but it must be doing something right as there are 3 estate agents in the main street. According to the lady at the Gallery the locals have an awesome social life! If you have the time, a visit to “Die Hel” is also worth the 37km (2hr!) drive.
We returned to Oudtshoorn via Klaarwater and De Rust as the road is tarred all the way.
The attraction of this route is that it crosses the Meiringspoort River 27 times.(my daughter counted!) Although it is an easier drive it is as spectacular as the pass, but for different reasons.
Our remaining time in Oudtshoorn was spent looking through antique shops and finding my Dad’s nursery and high schools. The latter has been converted to a wonderful and informative museum.
We took road to Paarl via Mossel Bay. (This seems to taking on a Umhlanga Rocks type of mantle with large apartment blocks being erected). Approaching Paarl via Swellendam meant that the road was less busy than the N2 and with no toll roads… and less than 10km longer than toll road! By missed the Huguenot Tunnel we were able to enjoy the stunning scenery that the Du Toits Kloof Pass has to offer.
The guesthouse we stayed in Paarl was built in 1812 and the building that currently houses guestrooms used to contain an indoor swimming pool!
Paarl, like most of the other towns we visited seems to be filled with coffee shops and art galleries and “antique” shops of various descriptions. As my Mom was born here, did some investigating and we were able to find her family home.
We found some great art and some not so good food. We had the worst meal of our entire trip here. But we did find a great fudge shop, which eradicated all memories of that meal.
Our last official day on the road was to Kleinmond and Arabella Western Hotel and Spa.
5 star luxury in the “middle of nowhere”
We spent the morning at the spa and after a wonderful massage and their signature “Rain Forest” treatments it was time to face the last leg of our ”epic” road trip.
To get to Cape Town we used the coastal road via Pringle Bay and Gordon’s Bay in order to try to see some Southern Right Whales in Walker Bay. Although there were a lot of whale watching boats to be seen, the whales proved elusive.
Cape Town rolled out the red carpet for us, with a full military parade…well there was a parade, but it was not actually for us, but we like to believe that it was.
The hotel we stayed at was opened in March, but unfortunately their signage is still not up and we drove around in ever decreasing circles until we found it, more by accident than design.(A mini road trip?) But the staff at reception was very friendly and this did help to diffuse the situation.
My daughter had never been to Cape Town before, so we spent our last day together exploring the waterfront and Sea Point.
We had come to the end of our road trip and all that was left for me to do was deliver my daughter to her new “home” and to make my way back to Johannesburg.
I have to say that my TomTom GPS behaved impeccably and Simon, it’s voice, got better and better at pronouncing Afrikaans names! (For some reason the voice disappeared for a day, but I think he actually went for Afrikaans lessons.
Was it worth the cost in petrol and mileage? You bet it was. Not only did we get to see parts of what makes South Africa great but we got to spend eight day together!
I will leave the last word(s) to my daughter…
“Having lived my whole life in Jo’burg with very little venturing outside, it was such a great opportunity to go on a road trip and get to see so much of the South African landscape. A far better plan than just flying from Jo’burg to Cape Town. From the tiny town of Winburg via the picturesque Paarl, through breathtaking passes and eventually landing in the Mother City. I have met so many different characters that make up our South African community. It is a blessing to be able to go on a road trip in your own country and even more having done so with my Dad”.
The Winburg Guesthouse.
Contact details: Deon Botha
Cell: 072 474 0344
Office: 051 8810 233
2] Graaf Reinet:
Tel: 049 892 3469
Mobile: 083 233 1227
Web Page: www.dekothuize.co.za
Derick and Amanda Engelbrecht
Telephone: 044 279 2322
Anton & Magriet van der Spek
Klein Vredenburg Guest house
Telephone: 021 872 9898
Cell: 082 210 5548
5] Cape Town:
Harbour Bridge Hotel & Suites.
Tel: 021 465 3530
Toll free: 0800 600 889
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