Ah, the quintessential “road trip”…
For me, road trips whilst growing up were not fun. We lived in Johannesburg and road tripped to family just outside of East London EVERY SINGLE school holiday. That’s roughly a 10 hour trip of being squashed between two siblings (with a dad who refused to stop unless it is a matter of life or death). It was painful.
It’s taken me about 20 years to come around to the idea that a road trip can be fun. Here’s what you need to ensure:
- You pick the right road trip partner/partners. The emphasis needs to be on RELAXED. If they’re of that nature, they’re in. If they’re nice to look at, that also helps a lot. I chose this guy (jackpot!):
- Choose the right car. It needs to be light on fuel and air conditioning is the most important feature by far! (Ours was a 1.4 Polo Comfortline – just perfect).
- Choose a scenic route. The main routes that we chose were the Garden Route and the R62 (Route 62)
- Don’t fit too much road time into one day. We never drove more than 5 hours in a day and spent time in the areas that we stopped over in.
- Take it slow and easy. SA road accident statistics are crazy and so are some of the mad drivers out there. Be chilled. It’s an adventure!
Here’s an account of the most wonderful adventure that changed my mind about road trips for good. I’ve laid out our route stop-by-stop, shown you some highlights and left some meaningful contacts here for you if you’re keen on doing the same sort of thing.
The first stop had to be Knysna, or rather, just outside Knysna along the “Rheenendal Ramble“.
I found an interesting looking place online called Peace of Eden, which offers tented accommodation in the forest. Tents, you ask?
It’s not camping, you don’t have to bring your own tent, but you sleep in an already set up tented “room” in the middle of the forest. Yes, that will do!
The balcony view was not bad at all…
The idea of shared outside showers and loos might put some people off, but it was not an issue at all and the sounds of the forest as you go to sleep is worth more than any en-suite, that’s for sure!
Comfort Level: Rustic
Just up the road from Peace of Eden is a glorious hidden gem. An unassuming sign for “pub food” took us past Portland Manor and we discovered the most beautiful old English-style manor house, with an 1800’s stone pub. We had just been transported back into another time in gloomy Britain and found ourselves ordering gin and tonics, asking if we could “use the croquet set please, old chap”. The property also boasts a dam for boating, skiing and cruising. Definitely worth a stay next time. Lucky find!
Vibe: English Country Manor
Our short visit to Jeffrey’s Bay gave us some insight into the beloved seaside surf haven. High season showed us the full extent of it’s offering and it’s a conglomerate of party, beach, surf, eat, chill and shop (even though the Billabong Factory no longer produces out of Jeffrey’s Bay, the factory shop and neighbouring factory shops do hold fantastic deals).
A more unique experience was a brief stay at Marina Martinique. This marina estate of waterways, bridges and luxury homes is a stone’s throw away from the festive season madness in J’Bay town.
Hire a house and stay for a few days – a morning, midday and evening dip in the marina is not overrated!
Vibe: Living on a freaking marina! Bring us a G&T please, darling.
Comfort: Luxury (dependent on the house/apartment you rent)
CINTSA, WILD COAST
On your way to the Wild Coast Jikeleza Route into Cintsa, stop off at the Friesland Milk Bar in East London for their legendary milkshakes. The Friesland Milk Bar has been there for as long as anyone can remember and churns out delicious milkshakes in these cute-as-a-baby-cow’s-nose milk bottles <3
You know you’re at the Wild Coast when… you’re dodging cows on the way to the beach. There is just something about this coast that can’t be found anywhere else in the country. It’s a coastline less travelled (and in going further up into the Transkei, it’s literally because it’s too difficult to travel on these roads) but well worth a visit.
This picture was taken on the way to Cefani river mouth, a more secluded beach with a beautiful river mouth for swimming, paddling, dunking the kids etc. (You can find it shortly after you turn of Schafli Road, as if you’re going into Cintsa East.)
The beaches along this coastline are just gorgeous, but you have to get there early in the morning before the wind picks up! This is Cintsa East Main beach, with gentle waves and plenty of rock pools to explore.
A must when you visit this side of the world is a horse ride on the beach with Cintsa Horses. They do basic beach rides for beginners or riders who know what they’re doing. It’s a few hours of beautiful scenery through the trees, dunes, rock pools and beach. What’s special about this operation is that it funds the New Hampshire Equine Rehabilitation Centre, who takes on and looks after horses in desperate need of care and homes. Horses working for their friends – it’s fantastic!
Cintsa has recently jumped onto the “Craft Beer Bandwagon” and opened up the first microbrewery in the area – Emerald Vale Brewery. I’m not much of a beer drinker, but I did enjoy a glass or two. Be sure to book ahead in peak season – it gets completely booked up.
You’ll find this coastline perfect for fishing from the rocks and this particular bay below is one of the best surf spots in the area, just before you get to Cintsa along the Jikeleza route (Queensbury Point).
Tea in the Trees is a good spot for a relaxing breakfast and yes, that is an actual teapot in the tree. Cute.
Once a year, towards the end of December, the Chintsa Runners host a trail run through some of the neighbouring farms in Chintsa. This one was organised as 5km and 13 km routes, starting and ending at Tea in The Trees, with scenery to die for (side note: I did feel like dying, myself). All proceeds go to the Chintsa Runners from the local township to fund their races etc. A worthy cause, I reckon.
This was definitely one of my highlights. We decided to take the R62 from Jeffrey’s Bay back to Cape Town, for a change of scenery and an escape from the mad rush on the N2. What a fabulous idea. There are some really interesting places along this route and I’m sorry that we didn’t spend more time exploring it.
The Belfry Kitchen, Twee Riviere
This hidden gem is REALLY hidden. There are no signs from the main road – word of mouth is mainly what brings customers to The Belfry Kitchen in Twee Riviere. It’s a cafe and bakery in the town’s old post office, which still operates as a post office today (over the deli counter). They accept bartering as a form of payment and relies solely on its own vegetable gardens, poultry run, orchards, livestock, purpose-run dairy operations and so forth, to produce the ingredients for its menu items and groceries range. It’s peculiarity is intriguing – you must stop past there and at least have their R29 cheese platter (that is not a typo – everything is more than half the price of general retail prices).
In a 1984 Reader’s Digest on the bookshelf:
It hit well over 43’C en route through Oudtshoorn. There is no escaping that heat, except in the aircon of your car.
Ronnie’s Sex Shop
Just outside of Barrydale, you’ll pass Ronnie’s Sex Shop. Rumour has it that Ronnie painted the name “Ronnie’s Shop” on this cottage next to the R62, planning to open a farm stall. His friends played a prank on him and added “Sex”. It was a laugh and ended up turning the building into a tourist stop and bar.
This fool parked in front of the legendary sign – what kind of monster is this?!
Barrydale is gorgeous. From the East Coast side of the R62, you enter in through the Tradouw valley, which is quite the scene. On the other end, you exit into the semi-arid Klein Karoo. It’s incredibly interesting!
In between, you find quirky places like Diesel & Creme. You can spend hours there just looking through all the novelties and decor, before even ordering your coffee and food. It feels like another world – perhaps it is?
Karoo Saloon sits on the Klein Karoo side of Barrydale and is a stop-over setup, saloon-style. The heat of the day catches up and settles quietly into the vast sunset here.
Vibe: Beer, darts and sitting
Comfort: Basic of basics. Bring mozzie spray!
Why end the trip already? Head a little bit further, past Citrusdal to Clanwilliam Dam, if you’re into water sports and have access to a boat. It’s necessary.
Vibe: Sun and Ski
Comfort: Ranges, depending on what kind of house you rent. Be sure to check for working aircon!
Go, baby, go go! I’m bringing road trips back into fashion. Amen.