I have come to the realisation that we have the option of two different types of holiday, particularly in South Africa. The destination holiday or the touring holiday. In most instances where a person has a family with children (of any age) the destination holiday is probably the one that suits the best.
Go to a destination and stay in that one place for as long as the holiday lasts. A beach holiday is generally the one that suits families the best. Quieter centres for those with young children but places with more vibe if the children are teenagers.
So what then is the “touring holiday” and who does it suit? Simply it’s the holiday where one moves from place to place and takes in the beauty of the country and doesn’t necessarily stay in any one place for longer than a day or maybe two. The places where one stays are usually only places to sleep and it’s the travelling where the interest is and the things to see will be found.
Recently some friends and I took a touring holiday on Harley Davidson motorcycles and we did a total of around 4000kms in some 11 days. Allow me to take you on that trip and you don’t need a Harley to do it. I simply want to take you on the trip and you can easily do it in a car.
Our first day was from Johannesburg straight down the N1 to Gariep Dam, a distance of some 650kms. As with any National Road, not a great deal to see but plenty of places to stop for that coffee or fuel. If you don’t want to go as far as Gariep Dam on one day, you can always stop in Bloemfontein for the night. Lots to do and see there and some very pleasant eating places. There is an abundance of guesthouses in the city that are very reasonably priced.
Direct to Gariep Dam via the N1. South of Bloemfontein and about 250kms along the N1 is the Gariep Dam, one of the biggest dams in South Africa. Accommodation is also not a problem with hotels, guesthouses and self-catering establishments.
From Gariep Dam the next place – and still on the N1 is Beaufort West, some 400kms further towards Cape Town and again lots of good quality accommodation in the form of guesthouses.
It’s after Beaufort West that the trip starts to get interesting. About 12 to 15kms south of the town towards Cape Town on the N1, is a turnoff to the left that takes you either to de Rust and on to Oudtshoorn or you can turn off and visit Prince Albert from that road and then after that visit back onto the same road and continue to de Rust.
It’s just before de Rust which is a tiny village that one gets to Meiring’s Poort and it’s truly magnificent. One of those places that no matter how often I have travelled through it I don’t get tired of it.
From there, after spending time in Meiring’s Poort it’s on to Oudtshoorn and either an overnight stay there with a detour to the Cango Caves for a morning or carry on and get onto the South African well known Route 62.
After Oudtshoorn, the first two towns are Calitzdorp and then Ladismith but it’s between the two that the stunning beauty of the Huisrivier Pass is found. Nicely paved stopping places with the amazing views offer ideal photo opportunities.
After Huisrivier Pass it’s continue along Route 62 and one can either stop at the world famous “Ronnie’s Sex Shop” which is a pub in the middle of nowhere but very interesting and a favourite stopping place of travellers, particularly those travelling long distances on two wheels.
Barrydale is next and two choices. Either a turnoff to the left and down the Tradoux Pass which is also has fantastic scenery to Zuurbrak and the N2 that eventually takes you to Cape Town or you can continue on Route 62 to Montagu. A charming little town that is surrounded by typical Cape mountains that add to the charm of the town.
From Montagu, our trip took us to Franschhoek. We travelled down the Franschhoek Pass with its views over the valley where one finds the beautiful town enjoyed so much by visitors, local and from abroad and the wine farms in the Franschhoek Valley
After Franschhoek, we made our way up the Cape West Coast stopping overnight in Paternoster, again a charming village that sits right on the Atlantic Ocean and again an abundance of accommodation. Certainly the place where one can have a relaxing day or two after the drive from Johannesburg.
From Paternoster our next stop was Springbok, a predomintley industrial town and our stop there was really because of the distance to our next stop which was Kakamas.
Also on the road to Springbok one will come across Bitterfontein, which is another town that “time forgot” except that this is the centre from which huge supplies of granite mined near Springbok are brought in order to be railed out to the various destinations the granite is needed. Unfortunately we arrived in Springbok as the sun was setting on a very hot early summer afternoon so any thoughts of seeing the sights were quickly overtaaken by the thoughts of the swimming pool at our guesthouse.
The setting sun in Springbok is however a very pretty sight.
Leaving Springbok the following morning it was off to Kakamas but to get there one must go through the town of Pofadder (yes it really exists and whilst there is not a lot of activity in the town itself it’s at the petrol station alongside the main road that we found interest. At the petrol station there us a small shop and amongst the items in the shop is a genuine Voortrekker wagon and one can’t help but ask oneself how they survived for years under those circumstances. The wagons were tiny and most of the Voortrekkers had fairly big families. I have been told that the women and girls slept in the wagon and the men and boys on the ground under the wagon but I don’t know if that is true or not.
After Pofadder it’s off again to Kakamas and some 35km from the town the famous Augrabies Falls and spectacular after the seasonal rains have filled the rivers. Even when the rivers are low and the falls not at full capacity it still remains a wonderful sight.
Kakamas itself is a small town and the interesting thing there is that it’s a big grape growing area. Not table grapes but grapes used for raisins, etc.
I remember asking one of the locals whether the very dry and hot climate didn’t adversely affect the grapes and he explained to me that for those grapes they don’t want rain. They have controlled irrigation from water tunnels that take water from the Orange River through the grape growing and then leads the water back via the tunnels into the Orange. Rain would cause mildew on the grapes and that is not conductive to those needed for raisins. Most of the raisins from that part of South Africa are for export.
Leaving Kakamas we travelled to Uppington that sits on the Orange River and some very pleasant views of the river from restaurants and guesthouse along the river’s edge. Uppington known for its very high temperatures reaching 40 degrees on most summer days.
From Uppington we made our way to Kimberley via the “forgotten” town of Groblershoop. 500kms from Kakamas to Kimberley.
Kimberley for the history lover is a must. So much South African history can be found in the town and certainly worth more than a visit. The Kimberley Club is now a Boutique Hotel and photographs taken from the days of Rhodes and Barnato adorn the walls along with other equally famous citizens of the town many years ago.
There is so much to see in Kimberley that at least two full days or even more are needed and of course no trip to Kimberley is complete without a visit to “The Big Hole” the diamond mine that itself has a fascinating history and in which many people lost their lives over 100 years ago.
For those wanting to spoil themselves you will also find shops at the Big Hole where you can buy diamond items that they claim are cheaper than one would get them in the cities.
From Kimberley it was home to Johannesburg after a wonderful trip.
You will notice that I have mentioned guesthouses for most towns on our route. If you have not travelled using South African guesthouses, give it a try. In most cases it reduces the cost of your trip substantially and you will often find your hosts more than happy to tell you about their town.
There you have it. Destination or touring holiday? For me it’s a touring holiday every time. I have done many of them through South Africa and haven’t seen a quarter of what the country has to offer.