As you may already know, my mother and I took an epic road trip from Cape Town to Joburg. I called it the #2SummersSARoadTrip.
Our road trip route (roughly) between Cape Town and Joburg.
I’d been wanting to do this for years: Take a full week to drive at a leisurely pace between South Africa’s two largest cities. (In case you’re curious, it takes about 15 hours to do this drive straight through.)
There are many different routes to take but we chose a simple one, heading east from Cape Town through the Langeberg and Swartberg Mountains, northeast through the Karoo desert, then straight north through the grassy Free State back to Joburg. We spent two nights in the Robertson Wine Valley (one in McGregor and one in Ashton), one night in Oudtshoorn, two nights in Mountain Zebra National Park (outside Cradock), and drove the rest of the way home from there.
As I mentioned previously, I hired a car for this trip through Around About Cars.
I can summarize this entire post in just seven words: South Africa is a fu*%ing beautiful country.
I just couldn’t believe how pretty it was, the whole freaking way. (And we even skipped the Garden Route, which many people consider the most beautiful part of South Africa between Cape Town and Joburg.) Also, the roads were great. I could count the number of potholes we saw — the entire week — on one hand.
If those seven words are enough for you, stop here. If not, here are a few more highlights (not including the Robertson Wine Valley, which I already blogged about).
Road Trip Highlight #1: Route 62
Route 62 is a small highway running east-west between the Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces, marketed as a tourism route similar to America’s Route 66. We drove the whole Route 62 more or less in one day, between Ashton and Oudtshoorn, and loved it. We saw lovely mountain ranges, winelands, several quirky towns (some described below), and the beginnings of the Karoo desert. I wish we’d had more time.
Road Trip Highlight #2: Barrydale
Barrydale was our first stop on Route 62. If I did this trip again I would make a point of staying in Barrydale; I felt like there was a lot to explore but we only had time for a quick walk through the shops along the main road. I saw enough to deduce that Barrydale is my kind of place: pretty and weird.
Andre Strydom runs the Die O’Werf biltong shop in Barrydale. (Biltong is like beef jerky but way better.) Mom got her first real taste of biltong and Andre was such a lovely guy. He also serves good coffee.
Road Trip Highlight #3: Ronnies Sex Shop
I was disappointed to discover Ronnies Sex Shop (sic) is not really a sex shop. Like, no sexy merchandise at all. Boo.
As the story goes, Ronnie decided to open a fruit and veg shop and his friends thought it would be funny to paint the word “SEX” between “Ronnies” and “Shop”. This was a really smart move by Ronnie’s friends. Ronnies Sex Shop has since become legendary.
There are no sex toys, but there is a bar with hundreds of bras and panties and old t-shirts hanging from the ceiling. (Ladies, be sure to bring an old bra if you go to Ronnies. I regretted not having a spare.) Ronnies also serves food, including delicious milkshakes, and plays rock-and-roll music.
I didn’t leave a bra but I did leave a 2Summers business card.
Road Trip Highlight #4: Ladismith
Ladismith is just a super-cute small town that we loved. We had lunch there, bought some dried fruit, visited a Parmalat Cheese store, chatted to a friendly wine shop owner, and took photos of a beautiful church.
Road Trip Highlight #5: Oudtshoorn
Actually we didn’t spend much time in Oudtshoorn, which is considered a gateway to the Karoo. We arrived at sunset, slept in an Airbnb, had breakfast the next morning, and hit the road. But it seemed like a lovely town and hopefully I’ll get back there someday to actually check out the place.
Oudtshoorn is famous for its ostrich farms and we caught a nice view of a herd of ostriches on our way out of town.
Road Trip Highlight #6: Oppi-Vlak Padstal
The Karoo, a huge semi-desert region that fills most of South Africa’s interior, is known for its windswept plains and padstals (farm stalls). Mom and I stumbled upon a winner when we stopped at the Oppi-Vlak padstal between Willowmore and Aberdeen. We had such a good time talking with Elzabeth, who grew up on this farm and runs the padstal, and playing with her dog Boeta.
Road Trip Highlight #7: Mountain Zebra National Park
Mountain Zebra National Park, part of the excellent South African National Parks system, should really have a blog post of its own. We spent two nights there in a family chalet and although we didn’t have the best weather (or the best planning) for animal sightings, we really enjoyed it. The scenery is stunning and we saw a whole herd of endangered mountain zebras as we entered the park.
Mountain zebras look very different from the more common cape zebras. Mountain zebras’ stripes are closer together and their stomachs are white (not striped). Also they’re stockier and just plain cuter. Mom and I were overjoyed to get such a good look at this mother-baby pair.
We intended to track cheetahs on foot in Mountain Zebra, but I didn’t have my sh*t together and so that didn’t happen. (FYI, people over age 65 need a doctor’s note to track cheetahs in Mountain Zebra. Mom is in better shape than I am and it never occurred to me to check on this. Oops. Also the cheetah-tracking was booked by the time we got there and I hadn’t thought to book in advance. Oops again.)
Also, it rained. But none of this mattered. Mom and I spent lots of time at Mountain Zebra in front of the fire in our cozy chalet, watching Wimbledon. We loved it.
Road Trip Highlight #8: Cradock
Cradock is the town closest to Mountain Zebra National Park. Again, we didn’t spend much time there but we had a lovely breakfast at a restaurant called True Living, which I highly recommend. This place serves authentic Karoo dishes like “Niertjies in Suursous”, which is “sheep kidneys and liver in a sweet & sour sauce on roosterkoek with scrambled eggs and tomato”.
Mom actually ordered this crazy dish and ate every bite. I was so impressed.
From Cradock we drove straight home, past Colesberg and Bloemfontein and a bunch of other places. It was a long drive — about eight hours — but quite doable in one day because the roads are good.
Thus concludes the #2SummersSARoadTrip. I miss my mama and I miss our cute white car.
Thanks to Around About Cars for providing a discount on my hire car. (Opinions expressed are my own but you knew that already.)