Proud stockists of Ural sidecars & spares

The 2nd Great Cape Road Trip
Dec 2011 / Jan 2012

Undertaking the second Great Cape Road Trip almost put more pressure on us than the first GCRT. In 2009 we undertook our first grand epic Road Trip and it proved to be such a huge success that when we started planning the GCRT II, I felt overwhelmed – how were we going to equal the first one?
Well, we started as usual with a vague outline of where we would like to go and then whittled it down to where we would be able to go and distances travelled, accommodation available etc etc.
In 2009 we rode a round trip starting in Beaufort West where we left our car and trailer and then travelled 2 500kms through mostly the Western Cape until we found ourselves back in Beaufort West.
This time we would be aiming for the Karoo and the Eastern Cape, with our starting point, the Glasgow Pont Hotel. Once again the idea is to leave the car and trailer in a central spot, the idea being if anything goes wrong it’s accessible and it also cuts out the mind numbing highway riding. Urals were made for Siberia and Russian Steppes and dirt roads and passes and adventurous stuff, not the highways!
So it happens then that we do all the bookings and the GPS route planning and the packing and finally, on the morning of the 17th of Dec, we leave at 05h20. Everyone is smiling their bright eyed ‘we’re all going on a summer holiday’ smiles.
We wait at some stop-n-goes and we drive some and round about lunch time we get to Bethulie, which is really close to our destination, i.e. the Gariep Dam and the Glasgow Pont Hotel. Being in Bethulie we take the kids, not monkeys yet, although they do sometimes act like monkeys, to go and see the Concentration Camp Cemetery that is near Bethulie.
The remains of the Boer women, children and men who died in the Concentration Camp at Bethulie were moved when the dam was built. A total of 1 714 people lost their lives in this Concentration Camp. It kind of brought it home again for me that things have never been simple in this country. Our history is often violent and hard, yet we seem to keep going and in the process even manage to forgive or at least to attempt forgiveness. Collectively I believe South Africans deserve more respect than the world would ever know.
Well that’s some note to start the trip on! In Bethulie itself we found some more 1938 Ossewa tracks again! Not far from Bethulie we drove over a long steel bridge crossing the Gariep and just down the drag we found the Glasgow Pont Hotel.
In all honesty it was hot as hell outside and our hotel was up close and personal with the informal sector of things, so I had little hope. But not to worry, because it’s clean and in no time we had Lola and Hari off the trailer, and the trailer manuevered into a space where it could wait with the car until the 2nd of Jan when we were due to return.
Hari is the Austrian prince that stands in for Vladimir when he can’t make it. Personally I think Lola actually likes Hari a little too much, but I won’t tell Vlad. The two of them were happy to be off the trailer and after the worst heat of the day – haha – actually I think the day was at its hottest in the late afternoon – we set off to do a bit of sightseeing and all.
We went to see the Norvalspont Concentration Camp Cemetery, where Ry and Ems did a bit of geo-caching and then we rode off into the heat to find the dam wall. Well, I have an issue with dam walls – don’t like them at all. Really don’t enjoy the thought of gazillions (or like George Bush would have said – brazillians) of megalitres of water all being held up like that. And the ginormous Barbels that live in it really give me the heebeejeebies.
It is spectacular and breathtaking and a fantastic engineering feat, but once we had taken the pics I was happy to get outta there. We rode up to Oviston, the little dorpie that sprung up as a result of the construction of the dam. There are some truly breathtaking views of the dam and a very expensive fancy hotel up at the top called De Stijl.
Back over the same bridge we crossed earlier by car and on to the Glasgow Pont Hotel. The Hotel was built in 1857 by a Scottish man who started the ferry across the then Orange River in 1848. Crossing the Orange was serious business in those days, so James Norval, the same said Scotsman, built a ferry. However, there wasn’t always enough water to float the ferry, so sometimes one had to wait and hence the Glasgow Pont Hotel, named after his hometown in Scotland, happened.
Today it boasts the longest bar counter in the Northern Cape – the result of all that thirsty dam building that happened in the fifties.
Sunday morning, our first real day on the road with the sidecars, was crystal clear and beautiful. A perfect riding day and we could not get going fast enough.
Our first destination, and a significant one I may add, is Nieu Bethesda. We’ll be spending 2 nights in and at the time Ry still asked me should we really stay over 2 nights? Significant because I have been waiting approximately 26 years to go to Nieu Bethesda to see the Owl House.
Anyway the riding is sublime, the air is still cool and the landscape is liberating. We stop for some education on the mechanics of a wind pomp from our intrepid leader and we drive the Knellhoogte where the road sign warns of ‘Gevaarlike Draaie’ (sorry for you if you don’t read Afrikaans then you won’t even know you’re in danger) but they were not ‘Gevaarlik’ at all – they were just Ural perfect.
We go past Gordonsville, which turns out not to be a place but a house - a house that looks like it came straight from Dainfern or Silver Lakes or some fancy estate and now lives all by itself in the Karoo, and not a soul in sight. Strange. But not near as strange as some of the places we were still to encounter.
Rosmead flies by, can’t help myself I just have to check the sky for UFOs and on to Middelburg where we stop to shop for supplies. Nieu Bethesda has no ATM, no petrol, no nothing so we stock up for at least a week – no I lie, not quite a week, maybe 5 days – for our 2 night stay. Lunch is at the Springbok Keg which is aesthetically speaking, interesting to say the very least.
Our approach into Nieu Bethesda is just perfect as we get to see the entire village with its church steeple as we descend down the winding dirt road into the village. The keys for our house, Aandster, is at the Karoo Lamb and from there on it was Game Over – we’re in love with Nieu Bethesda. And it really was like falling in love.
Having off-loaded and unpacked our stuff, we headed straight for the Brewery. Wow, I am no beer drinker, but once in a blue moon one has to try a beer. This stuff is fabulous. Home brewed it is just perfect. Klara was splashing in the leivoor, I looked like a person from the Middle East with my wet buff over my head to cool down, but it was just magic!
We left the brewery, quite reluctantly I must say, but I had not come all this way and waited all these years not to see The Owl House. It was just perfect, a storm had started brewing (seems more than beer gets brewed in the Karoo), the sky had changed colour and it added to the atmosphere in such a way that I’ll remember my first visit to the Owl House for the rest of my life. Suddenly the pictures I had seen in books made sense and the cement camels and wise men and all the owls just looked spectacular against the dark stormy sky.
The heavens opened and after a cooker of a day the storm was just the most fabulous ending to a very good start on our journey! Of course, being rained in at the Karoo Lamb just across from the Owl House, we had to have something to drink and then we had to stay for supper. We just sat and watched life in Nieu Bethesda go by – we talked to some other bikers and generally had a splendid time.
The next day we explored Nieu Bethesda and we rode more than just our sidecars – we rode on Jacob’s Donkiekar with him. His donkeys are shiny and soft to the touch and round! The specific team that was working that day withh Jacob are Vellies and Karoolus. Vellies is a 5 year old and Karoolus 3 years old and they are voice activated, I kid you not. Jacob never touched them with the whip but when he spoke to them they responded – I might give that a try with Lola.
We also did some fossil hunting in the Gats River – looking for Gorgonopseeans bones to be specific. The place is like a fossil treasure chest! And incrementally the love affair deepened until Ry and I were sitting in the middle of the road in front of our house that evening on our dining room chairs watching the most spectacular lightning in the sky behind the church. The streets were quiet and all we could hear was the rumbling of the thunder over the hills and because there are no street lights in Nieu Bethesda it was just very beautiful. I so wished we could have stayed for the Lantern March on Christmas Eve, but our time in Nieu Bethesda was almost up.
On Tuesday morning we headed out of Nieu Bethesda via the Rubidge Pass and in my helmet I promised myself that I would be back. Now we were riding to Graaff Reinett for petrol and to go and see the Obesa Cactus Nursery.
Sometimes in life one just happens across these strange and incredible places. It started off with me reading about a succulent labyrinth in Graaff Reinet and having a real soft spot for labyrinths I badly wanted to see this one. How one thing leads to another – we get the address for the Obesa Cactus Nursery – turns out his son runs the wholesale business where the labyrinth is located outside town but says he, Johan being his name, we must come and have a look at the Nursery in town. In my life I have never seen anything like it! It’s called serendipity I think. We managed to hit the nursery during the only 4 days that some of the cacti bloom – most of them were flowering but apparently there are a few that flower very rarely and we got lucky.
Imagine a forest of giant cacti that covers approx 2 acres? Overload – visually it was stunning although overwhelming.
After leaving Johan and his incredible Obesa Cactus Nursery we went to look at the Cactus Labyrinth. Once again the cacti were flowering and it was jaw dropping. The big labyrinth was being cleared and really is impressive. It’s a fantastic idea to do it with cacti plants and this is a beautiful big classical labyrinth. I just love love love people who do offbeat things on a grand scale. This was the second in a row, first Helen Martins and the Owl House and now Johan and his Obesa Cactus Nursery.

Left the cacti and headed for Cradock on a route that took us onto the dirt just outside Graaff Reinet. Rode past Colonieplaats and Letskraal to name just a few sign posts. Ry plots very careful routes on the GPS and it generally works a charm. This day however, we ended up having to double back a little and after some discussion with other travellers headed in a similar directions and asking some local advice we decided to turn back and take the road more often travelled as it seemed that a public road indicated on GPS had indeed been closed off?
Still had some scenic riding and ventured into Cradock, where we were staying over in the Tuishuise at The Manor Hotel. The entire street looks like Cradock in her Victorian best and we had a fabulous stay. The kids could not leave an ancient old type writer in the lounge alone – what is with old stuff and children? The evening meal at The Manor Hotel is a splendid Victorian affair with white linen, beautiful cutlery and crystal and some impressive candelabra. The dining room is painted a very deep red and all of this seen in candle light is simply splendid. Both our monkies’ eyes were on stalks and we all had a very grand evening.
On Wednesday morning the 21st we wave Cradock and the Karoo good bye. Now we’re headed for the mountains! But not before we sat down to a very Colonial breakfast buffet with – wait for it- Kedgiree. I’m not even going to explain because if you love it like I do, you’ll know how seldom one finds it nowadays. I made a right royal little hog of myself and then we rode into the bright sunlight.
Neither Ry or I have been to Hogsback so this was exciting in capitals. This part of the world is not familiar to either of us so everything was new. We were travelling to Tarkastad via Kommandodrift and from there it would be a nice little ride over the hills and a pass or two and we’d be in Hogsback.
By the time one reaches Tarkastad it’s interesting to see how much the landscape has changed – vegetation, geology and the people! It almost looks like another country. The colours look different. We had lunch on the church pavement – in the shade of a lekker old tree that our monkeys disappeared into true to nature – and then we left for the next leg of our day.
What can one say – hindsight is perfect sight? When we left Tarkastad and took the turn onto the road linking the R344 with the R351, just after Blanco Holiday Farm, we had not the faintest idea what we were in for. The landscape changed yet again – even the air changed. Just after Blanco we entered the Winterberg Nature Conservancy. We were riding high on the back of the mountain and it was incredibly beautiful. It’s just beautiful grassland as far as they eye can see and I think we found horse heaven because I have never encountered so many fat shiny free range horses in my life.
This is kind of where the day started getting strange and then it went really surreal on us. Now imagine you are riding on top of the world in the middle of nowhere and then you come to the exit gate of the Winterberg Nature Conservancy, you exit through an electric gate with cameras - all solar powered – like I said in the middle of nowhere. Now you have to imagine real hard, the road you are driving on is kikuyu grass and there are these large official green road signs telling you what direction to go in and on your right is a flock of blue crane. So we think nothing of the kikuyu road and trundle along happily. It was not too long after that that we came to a T-junction. In the meantime however I’ve been watching this little mountain road out of the corner of my visor thinking thank goodness we won’t be riding there because it looks hectic. Well you guessed right, when we get to the T-junction it turns out that we’ll indeed be riding that little road and now the weather has started changing.
Like Ry said afterwards - the easy 200kms to Hogsback that took us 2 days. We had now reached the R351 between Sada and Balfour, slap bang between The Devil’s Bellows and the Katberg Pass. So at the T-junction we turn right.
The weather had started changing with a storm moving in from behind us. Now on a map they may indicate the gradient of a pass for e.g. 1:18 in the case of The Devil’s Bellows and 1:8 in the case of The Katberg Pass. Knowing that 1 equals a meter dropped in height over every 8 meters in distance or 1 meter dropped over 18 meters distance as with The Devil’s Bellows gives one an idea of how hectic or not it is going to be.
Having monkeyed with the significant other up the Sani Pass which is indicated as 1:6 I use Sani as my personal little pass hecticness-meter. So I thought Katberg will be just fine and we’re going down so what is there to worry about?
Actually there should be more indication on maps – something along the lines of 1 is Heeha-Bring-it-on, 2 being Oh-Golly-Gosh and 3 could be WTF?! This would give us all a fairer chance.
Katberg started of very Heeha-Bring-it-on until it changed to Oh-Gosh-Golly when I almost flung my monkey out the sidecar after a particularly bad bounce, to WTF in a big way!
I remember joking with my little monkey after the first drop that this was liking climbing down stairs with Lola. Well that’s what we did for roughly the next hour and a half – we climbed down an entire staircase with varying degrees of drop and on the sides there are no railings – there is blue sky and thunder clouds and a very looong way down.
Once we had settled into the sheer drops on the sides (sometimes both sides at once), the lightning rumbling through the valleys and the washed away road surface it actually became exhilarating. What a fantastic thing a Ural sidecar is – with the benefit of a sidecar brake and Ry’s line to follow or not we made it safely to where we were rewarded with agapanthus and arum lilies growing wild and we could stop for a well deserved breather.
Not too long after our drink and breathe again stop, the weather forced us to wrestle into our rain suits. We have just passed The Katberg Resort & Hotel’s gates at the bottom of the pass heading for Hogsback via Seymour and the Michel’s Pass. We rode into curtains of rain and lightning forking over the eastern Cape hills.
Seymour came and went looking like its soul along with its character and everything else in the little dorp had been stolen leaving a sad little shell. This is rural Eastern Cape and I’m sure many of the people we passed had never seen a sidecar before. We were mostly met with waves, but this was no longer the friendly Karoo. In this part of the world we passed many abandoned, empty homesteads of a bygone era when these places must have been beautiful and inspiring. This got to me and I often wondered what happened to the families, why was no-one wanting to continue living and working here?
In my head I could clearly hear ‘Riders on the Storm’ as the weather had now turned positively ominous. Lightning was striking around us as opposed to in the distance and it is in these daunting circumstances that we find our way on the Michel’s Pass blocked by a lonely tourist who got stuck with his rented 4x4 bakkie. The sound track in my head screeches to silence and we go and inspect on foot. Just finding a way to park sidecar and monkey on the slippery red muddy slope in such a way that it stays stationery was enough of a challenge. Slithering up the slope in boots and rain gear quickly convinces me and our most intrepid team leader that turning around would be the sensible thing to do.
We are 5kms short of Hogsback when we turn round in the lightning and red mud and slippery boulders to find an alternative route to our destination for the day. We drove back to Seymour and I decided to give the hotel a call to tell them we’ll be late but are still enroute – or so we thought! Sometimes in life one has to ask yourself: ‘Maybe I’m the ….. ?’ Suffice to say that through the patience of the Arminel Hotel Group’s staff it becomes clear that I had gotten it very wrong. I thought I had booked accommodation at the Arminel in Hogsback but ended up booking at the Katberg Resort Hotel – yes! the same one we had passed about an hour ago!!!
Because of the massive storm Hogsback had no electricity and could not be contacted, so we headed off in the direction we came from. Sometimes in life you have to be wrong to get it right – what is that called, there must be a word for it? Back in my helmet again I thanked my guardian angel for taking such divine care of us.
Just before dark we arrive at the Katberg Hotel and Golf Resort in pouring rain looking like we’ve been backwards through a few bushes. The monkeys’ eyes lit up when they realised they each have their own bedroom and there are no less than 3 TVs in the Golf Villa. Fantabulous.
Through all this we realised a little earlier the afternoon that we had lost our one cooler bag after celebrating our descent from the Katberg Pass with some cool drinks. You should have seen the gate man at Katberg Hotel and Golf Resort’s face when he handed Ryno the cooler bag and Ry promptly hugged him! Don’t know who was more surprised – Ry to have the cooler bag back or the gate man for being hugged by a very wet sidecar rider! Apparently a good Samaritan, Mr Coetzee (?) found the cooler bag in the road and having seen us and spoke to us earlier, was kind enough to leave the cooler bag at the gate. Thank you Mr Coetzee, we still use the cooler bag! We can deal with staircase passes, blinding rain, blocked passes – bring it on, but losing the cooler bag results in immediate sense of humor loss!
A wonderful lady named Eunice at the Katberg Hotel and Golf Resort helped me sort out my booking muddle the next morning. Of course the morning dawned beautiful and sunny with no trace of any storms whatsoever. We left for Hogsback via Fort Beaufort and Alice and on and on through the rolling Eastern Cape landscape we rode. We approached Hogsback from a very different direction and rode up the civilised little Hogsback Pass in real hog weather – a misty little drizzle.
I suffered from ‘twisted swivel neck’ – a condition known to helmet wearers. This is the result of looking around too enthusiastically with your helmet on your head. Everywhere there were huge, gigantic arum lilies, tree ferns, fairies and little mist ghosts and I had to see all of it. Despite all these wonders we never saw the sun in Hogsback and we never saw Michel’s Pass – all locals were in agreement that it should be avoided in wet conditions. So went and walked the labyrinth at The Edge, truly magical, and we visited The Fairy Meander. We supped at The Butterfly Bistro – had some of the best pizza you can eat and did what one does in misty drizzly weather – snooze!!
On Saturday the 24th Dec we saddled our Russian steeds and started the journey to Kei Mouth – leaving the Karoo and mountain part of the Great Trek behind for our seaside part. Because of the rain and our previous experience on the ‘easy 200kms that took us 2 days’ we were now a little gun shy – who could blame us? As it was still overcast and wet we left Hogsback via Michel’s Pass and rode to King William’s Town. Being Christmas Eve we shopped until we dropped in KWT. We were hell bent on stuffing/packing/fastening as much as we could get onto the Urals.
It had been drizzling on and off all day – this weather actually continued for most of our 5 day stay in Kei Mouth.
We rode through Komga – couldn’t make it Gaanga fast enough! – where we got onto a dirt road that took us to the tar road 22kms outside of Kei Mouth. Wow things have changed road wise since 2001 when we were last in Haga Haga! A wide, well surfaced beauty of a road takes you all the way into Kei Mouth.
It had been quite a long day’s riding so we were all very pleased to unpack and dry out everything at The Thatches. The 5 days spent by the seaside were generally spent on the beach (weather permitting), playing cards, eating out, riding horses – what a highlight for me and my monkey who got to ride with Don and Cheryl from Mkulu Horse Trails on an empty beach! We flew with the wind, it was magic. So Christmas came and went and the noisiest Boxing Day we’ve ever had with the Bush Pig across from our place making enough noise to raise the dead! Just the bands warming up caused enough noise to kill all activities involving communication. Although we had a lekker time by the sea The Thatches will never see us again and probably not Kei Mouth either.
A highlight in terms of the sidecars – Ry had spoken to a gentleman named Billy Nel who wanted to see a Ural sidecar. Billy lives just outside Kei Mouth – there’s a huge real plane parked at his gate one cannot miss it! Billy’s place is called Morganville and at the gate you are greeted by a stuffed caracal. The strangeness begins and from there on it got progressively weirder and more wonderful. Billy’s collection really defies description – it is an impressive collection of vintage motorcycles, busses, old music organs, pianos and mine lamps to name but a few themes.The main house is literally a collector’s dream – old vintage cars, some very valuable, fill the entire stoep and things spill into spaces all by themselves. Once in a blue moon Billy opens his collection up to the public, usually for a charitable cause. Billy was a tireless and informative guide throughout and it was a memorable afternoon.
Of course on the morning of our departure the day dawns sunny and bright. So we waved Kei Mouth good bye and set off into the sparkling morning for our next stop – Coomb’s Lodge, 38kms this side of Grahamstown. First we enjoyed riding next to sea on the coast down to East London. What a pleasant surprise – we approached from the north and it’s a beautiful place and clean! Kidd’s Beach was lunch stop for the day. And a fabulous lunch it turned out to be at a little restaurant right close to the beach next to the car park. I had a Creamy Seafood Paella that I’ll remember for the rest of my days, it was superb. If ever in that neck of the woods do not pass the The Blue Dolphin in Kidd’s Beach without having the seafood paella or anything on their menu for that matter.
We had to wave the waves goodbye as we were heading inland from here on. The road was no longer as good as earlier but still interesting landscape and riding. Stopped in Peddie for milk and petrol – found petrol no milk and then rode on the N2 over the Fish River Pass to where we turned off to get to Coomb’s Lodge.
What a magical little oasis and as it turned out, we never had to stop for milk or anything. Although the units/houses are self catering our very gracious host and owner, Jeremy had stocked the fridge with milk and cold beer!! We are all most impressed – what a joy to have proper shower and silence at night again! Listening to the bands at The Bush Pig the previous nights had taken its toll and we all sleep like babies, logs whatever you think sleep best – that was us!
We are woken up by bird song and sunshine – a very powerful combination to induce good moods and after breakfast we rumble off to the zip line at Fraser’s Camp. What a treat! We have a magnificent view of the mighty Amatola Mountains and Andrew, our guide, point out the Hogs of Hogsback. There are beautiful little flowers in the veld to keep one busy and too soon we’ve zipped through the 6 slides.
After a short discussion we set our sights on Bathurst and proceed to ride some stunning little sand tracks and a beautiful little pass (of which no one could tell me the name – they all knew exactly which one I was referring to!) through Coomb’s Valley to Bathurst. What a gem! Hey and do we bump into some friends from home - so strange that feeling when you see a familiar face in a strange place. Had a good chat and then went foraging in some of the extraordinary shops. Tori Stowe’s Gallery and Shop stands out as one of the best of its kind I’ve encountered in a long while. Also got myself a very fabulous little Kaleidoscope as a keepsake for finding an unexpected gem of a little village!
Of course we had to go and see the biggest pineapple in the world – Ry and the monkeys climbed to the top and waved! Sometimes I love just being an enthusiastic spectator, so I waved back and took pictures.
On the way back to Grahamstown we rode the Bloukrans Pass, in desperate need of TLC but still a joy to ride. On past Stone Hill and then we found a road coming from Southwell and joining the R67 we were on and it’s one of those moments where you think – man how are we going to come back to ride that road? – it just looked like stunning riding from where we were.
Got our braai supplies in Grahamstown and by now the weather had cooled down a lot and it was a chilly little wind down to Coomb’s Lodge.
Today is the last day of the year and we’re aiming for Ann’s Villa at the other end of the Zuurberg Pass.
First we’re aiming for Riebeeck East. The morning riding is crisp and cool with rain out on its long legs on the horison. Initially the road is tarred but not too long and we get to ride some excellent gravel road and with the mist touching the tops of the hills around us it literally feels like riding between heaven and earth. No dust and the Urals just go like magic. Once we’ve ridden up a nice appetite, we stop for our traditional sidecar padkos at the gate of a farm called Vaalkrans. And now we’ve added Simba chippies to the fresh rolls, boiled eggs and boerewors – yum yum! It just keeps getting healthier!
Not too long after our padkos break and we roll into Riebeeck East. Small and quaint with school going sheep – I kid you not (or should that be I lamb you not). They were all outside waiting for class to start. Maybe the green grass outside had something to do with it?
We had planned to ride to Alicedale from Riebeeck East. The little road we turn into as per the GPS looks like somebody’s driveway initially and then meanders up the hill back into the mist. After 4kms of the road becoming more adventurous and the mist getting heavier we have a quick committee meeting and decide to travel the road more travelled today as we still have a looong way to go. Even if the man driving the Isuzu reckoned that the Ford bakkies still drive that road so the Urals should have no problem!!? Go figure.
Thus we find ourselves continuing on the R400, no hardship in that and finally we join the N10. We ride the Olifantskop Pass, a very respectable pass but none of us manage to spot the elephant’s head? Paterson is not inspiring and once we’ve filled up we high tail it out of there as fast as possible. We are now riding through the Addo Elephant National Park and yes we get to see a few elephant in the distance!
Soon we turn right onto the R335 for our main course and pudding all in one- the Zuurberg Pass! Once again I am left dissatisfied with the map book’s indication that it is 1:14 . Nowhere does the map book let on that this marvel of a pass lasts for almost 40 glorious kilometres! It does not give any indication of the breathtaking views encountered on this pass. My personal pass ranking would require a whole new category – possibly ‘This is too much fun to be legal!’

Building on this behemoth of a pass started in 1850 and it was completed in 1858. In its heyday it was the main connection between Port Elizabeth and the interior. It took its toll on wagons and machinery and people.
The first part up till the Zuurberg Inn really is an easy little canter requiring zero effort. Shortly after we passed the Inn though it changed quite drastically. Suddenly the road narrowed and it was clearly not maintained to the same level as the road up to the little hotel. It is still perfectly passable (haha excuse the weak little pun). We pass a farmer herding a flock of sheep and his wife standing at the car holding a pup – don’t know who were more surprised – them or us? This pass has left a lingering impression.
And suddenly we’re at the foot of the pass and there is a little place on our left ….. Ann’s Villa. Built in 1864 and according to records the oldest Inn in the country, it is now the private property of the Lunns. It has been restored with incredible sensitivity and care. The result is a place that made me wonder once we had walked through the door if I would see biker pants and boots or a long skirt if I looked down. It’s like entering a time warp – it smells and sounds and looks like the ‘old days’. Delightful? Charming? None of these words describe Ann’s Villa – beguiling would probably come closer to the core.
We spend an unforgettable New Year’s Eve all by ourselves. Talent, a very likeable Zimbabwean lady who takes care of the place shows us the blacksmith’s workshop and Wesley the very tame sheep and her little lamb.
The first day of the new year dawns glittering over an enchantingly beautiful Karoo landscape and my first cup of tea for the year is a memorable one. Would have loved to have spent the 5 days here instead of Kei Mouth, maar nou ja!
We take off in Beenleegte’s direction heading for Somerset East. Another inspiring surprise. Beautiful setting and a school that looks fantastic – clean and maintained! We have some chippies and Coke in the shade of a tree in the main road and then we gear up and put on battle gear for the long ride to Cradock. Cookhouse is the opposite of Somerset East and the temperature is climbing. At long last we get to Cradock and the Wimpy!
Tonight we’re sleeping on Erin, a Karoo farm near Middelburg. Half way between Cradock and the farm Lola decides to unwiggle her dipstick – not a word of a lie! Luckily the Wimpy lunch hadn’t kicked in yet and my little monkey was still awake! As soon as she saw smoke and oil my monkey made sure I stopped. Luckily Lola still goes after Ry has emptied a bottle of oil into her and we take it real slow all the way to Erin.
Our last evening of our second Great Cape Road is spent in idyllic surroundings – the Victorian homestead has been restored softly and gently and very stylishly by Trevor and Kathy, the owners. After a real dinkum Karoo dinner we kuier with Kathy and Trevor who host as well as they rennovate. It’s a very fitting last night under the broad Karoo sky and stars.
The next morning we kit up for the last time on this trip and before long we’re part of the hectic traffic moving north. And slowly the magic starts receding and 2054 kms later it’s all over ……. until the next trip!!

Written by:  Alpha Greeff