The 2nd Great Cape Road Trip
Dec 2011 / Jan 2012
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
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
it boasts the longest bar counter in the Northern Cape – the result
of all that thirsty dam building that happened in the fifties.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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!
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.
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
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!!