Church in Ladismith

My 2020 Challenge: 10 South African Towns

In June 2020 the 2Summers blog will turn ten years old.

One decade of blogging. This means I’ve been blogging for more than 20 percent of my life. It also means a baby born on the day I published my first post in June 2010 — here it is, in case you’re curious — is now old enough to actually read and comprehend this blog. It means I’ve currently published 951 blog posts, including this one, and will probably surpass the 1000-post mark in 2020.

I want to do something to recognize this milestone, and I’ve decided I need to be serious and start planning now. I’m going to make 2020 the year of South African Towns.

Riebeek Kasteel, one of several quaint South African towns I've visited this year
Riebeek Kasteel, one of several quaint South African towns I visited in May while exploring the Swartland.

A Year of South African Towns

I’ve visited a lot of small South African towns recently. And I’ve realized that right now, for whatever reason, exploring small South African towns is what brings me the most joy.

Man cycling through Potchefstroom
Potchefstroom, my surprise small-town love of 2019.
Church in Ladismith
A beautiful church in Ladismith, where I passed through last year on the ultimate mother-daughter road trip.

Long road trips used to exhaust me, especially when I was alone. But since moving to South Africa I’ve developed a taste for solo driving. I’ll happily jump in the car and drive four or five hours alone, knowing I’ll reach a new town at the end of it. If I’ve got a friend in that town, or a lodge or guesthouse I’ve been excited to visit, all the better.

I love arriving in a town without a plan, then meeting a random person who helps me make one. I’m also happy to wing it and explore alone, talking to no one, just people-watching and taking pictures. I like eating by myself in restaurants. I like chatting to Airbnb hosts. I like to go running in unfamiliar neighborhoods.

Groot Marico Visitors Centre
Santa and Egbert, the King and Queen of Groot Marico. I visited this whacky town in 2017 with a bunch of girlfriends.
Onrus Beach in Hermanus
Hermanus, May 2019, where I arrived alone with virtually no plan and wound up having a fantastic time.

So. I’m going to visit 10 South African towns over the course 2020 and tell their stories. I want to visit towns I’ve never been to — interesting or unusual towns, outside the popular tourism routes. I want to visit at least one town in every South African province, barring Gauteng because I’ve covered this province pretty well already. I want to drive to all the towns — no flights.

I want you to help me choose the towns.

Give me your town recommendations, people, and tell me why. Tell me the quirky, whacky, unusual thing that will make me want to visit your favorite South African town. Give me towns with interesting people in them, in far-flung parts of the country — the Northern Cape, North West province, the Free State, northern KZN, the Wild Coast, the Karoo. I want to cover the whole country and I want all the ideas.

Rasta medicine man in Graaff-Reinet
A Rasta medicine man in Graaff-Reinet, spotted during a crazy South African road trip in September 2015.
Salespeople at Khoja's Fabrics in Louis Trichardt
Salespeople at Khoja’s fabric store in Louis Trichardt.
Strange cat in Roossenekal
A strange cat I met at a bar in a tiny town called Roossenekal.

I’ll have more to say about this project in the future. But for now the floor is yours. Let’s hear it. Send me your ideas in the comments section of this post or at @2summers on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Hashtag: #10SouthAfricanTowns.

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  • Reply Louis September 17, 2019 at 8:55 am

    Clarens and Underberg. Great for food, outdoor adventure and majestic scenery, especially during the seasonal changes.

    • Reply 2summers September 17, 2019 at 8:57 am

      Thanks! Is Underberg a town? I love Clarens – been there many times 🙂

      • Reply Louis September 17, 2019 at 9:04 am

        Yep – situated in the southern ‘berg – and entry point to Lesotho via the famous Sani Pass (burger and beer at the highest pub in Africa if you reach the top)

        • Reply 2summers September 17, 2019 at 9:13 am

          On the list for sure – thanks.

  • Reply Mr Bunny Chow September 17, 2019 at 8:59 am

    Pofadder is a place I will never forget, we went because it is there, we pulled up to the hotel to find that they were fully booked (pre-internet) but they made a plan and we ended up staying in someones house which had the most amazing roses growing out of an acre of raked dirt. We dined at the only hotel and upon asking for a menu we were informed “tonight it is steak” it was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had and that was over 20 years ago now.

    • Reply 2summers September 17, 2019 at 9:01 am

      Ah! I passed through there extremely briefly once but not long enough to really count it as a visit. Will add to the list.

  • Reply foxtrotindigo September 17, 2019 at 9:14 am

    Have you been to Rosendal? It’s a tiny town (of about 100 or so people) with lots of artists (I met Willem Pretorius and Michele Nigrini) and interesting characters. Actor Chris van Niekerk runs a little restaurant and theatre there as well. It’s 49km north of Ficksburg in the Free State. Definitely worth a visit.

    • Reply 2summers September 17, 2019 at 9:58 am

      I have been there! Loved it. I love that whole part of the country.

      • Reply foxtrotindigo September 17, 2019 at 10:17 am

        Thought you’d love it 😉 It’s such a beautiful part of the country.

  • Reply danventuretravels September 17, 2019 at 10:00 am

    This is such a brilliant post! It makes me miss home

  • Reply Ros September 17, 2019 at 10:51 am

    What about Arniston/Waenhuiskrans in the Western Cape. A quaint fishing village with a sea cave big enough for an ox wagon. Hence it has 2 names. Arniston was named after the ship that sank in that area. Even Bredasdorp which is 20km away is a lovely small town. You have to pass Bredasdorp to get to Arniston.

    • Reply 2summers September 17, 2019 at 11:51 am

      Oh yes, Anniston has been on my list for ages! Thanks.

  • Reply G September 17, 2019 at 10:58 am

    Prince Albert in the Karoo is a must. And then the Swartberg Pass

    • Reply 2summers September 17, 2019 at 11:52 am

      I’ve also been keen to do the Swartberg Pass. Need to get hold of a good car for that 🙂 On the list!

      • Reply violetonlineisonline September 17, 2019 at 2:11 pm

        This is the most sensible suggestion. Prince Albert. Also never been but think it’s a real SA Karoo highlight.

        • Reply 2summers September 17, 2019 at 8:41 pm

          So many people have said this. Sounds like I have to go.

  • Reply Lucienne September 17, 2019 at 11:09 am

    What a wonderful idea! I would recommend Bethulie in the Free State. We stayed over there on a trip back from the Cape. I remember being amazed at the number of small Cafés in such a small town. One that was highly recommended by all the locals was called Ou Kar.
    We didn’t manage to try it has it was closed – if you do get there let me know what it is like? It looked so funky from the outside.
    There is also a very old hotel called Royal Bethulie Hotel and a boat club by the dam.
    Just make sure you don’t arrive there on a Sunday afternoon as the entire town is closed and having a nap.
    I look forward to reading about your adventure.
    10 years and 1000 posts is an amazing achievement! I am new to blogging and dream of getting there too.

    • Reply 2summers September 17, 2019 at 11:53 am

      Thanks Lucienne. I spent a quick overnight at the Royal Bethulie Hotel a few years ago – loved it. Very keen to go back.

  • Reply catherine gallice September 17, 2019 at 11:17 am

    a wonderful idea, can’t wait for you to give us more cool ideas off the beaten track….thanks !!!!

    • Reply 2summers September 17, 2019 at 11:53 am

      Thanks Catherine.

  • Reply dizzylexa September 17, 2019 at 11:23 am

    I can’t wait to see the towns you’ve chosen and to read your take on them. I love so many small towns and to be honest have not visited them for a long time so don’t feel knowledgeable to recommend any to you. I’m sure it’s going to be fun.

    • Reply 2summers September 17, 2019 at 11:53 am

      My list has 30 towns on it already 😂

  • Reply Li Pernegger September 17, 2019 at 11:31 am

    Prince Albert, Oudtshoorn, Matjiesfontein, Beaufort West and Wilderness – all in the Western Cape – come to mind….

    • Reply 2summers September 17, 2019 at 11:54 am

      Great suggestions. Prince Albert is a top contender.

  • Reply Passport Overused September 17, 2019 at 12:16 pm

    Great post 😄

    • Reply 2summers September 17, 2019 at 12:20 pm

      Thank you!

      • Reply Passport Overused September 17, 2019 at 12:20 pm

        No problem 🙂 check out my blog when you get the chance 😄

  • Reply eremophila September 17, 2019 at 12:23 pm

    Fantastic idea Heather! I love the little towns I come across in my solo travels around Oz. Today I arrived in a town I passed thru on a motorcycle 40 years ago peak summer and during a locusts plague. In was a good conversation starter with the locals.

    • Reply 2summers September 17, 2019 at 12:33 pm

      Your small town visits make me want to visit Australia! Some day…

  • Reply Sandy Levenberg September 17, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    Kaapsehoop – 4 hours drive from Joburg & 25 km from Nelspruit – known for wild horses that wander through the quaint, old historic town.

    • Reply 2summers September 17, 2019 at 1:13 pm

      Thanks Sandy. I am visiting a friend in Nelspruit this weekend and planning a scouting mission to Kaapsehoop — can’t wait!

  • Reply Helen September 17, 2019 at 1:08 pm

    Happy 10th Anniversary. I think I have probably read almost all of your posts over the last 6 years since I discovered your blog. In my early days of following your writing I started reading all the posts from day 1 in order to catch up on what I’d missed. I travel and live vicariously in South Africa through you!

    My selection of towns to visit would be Springbok in the northern cape (make sure you stay at Annie’s cottage guest house) and Lamberts bay.
    But for my favourite destination and a must stop in any Karoo road trip is Meltonwold guest farm… they still hand deliver a tray of tea or coffee to your bedroom as they did when I was a child 40 years ago. Please visit and write a post about it.

    • Reply 2summers September 17, 2019 at 1:12 pm

      Thanks so much Helen and great suggestions. I will investigate all of these!

  • Reply AutumnAshbough September 17, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    I am looking forward to this post!

    • Reply 2summers September 17, 2019 at 8:39 pm

      Me too! Although now I’m already wondering how I’m going to choose only 10 towns 😂

  • Reply Nancy Kirby September 17, 2019 at 11:27 pm

    If possible, please take a photo of felines in each of the towns. After checking with Smokey, of course.

    • Reply 2summers September 18, 2019 at 6:35 am

      I think that is a fantastic idea and Smokey will love it. Consider it done.

  • Reply Caitlin Jean Geel September 18, 2019 at 8:02 am

    Mpumalanga – Chrissiesmeer because of frogs
    Limpopo – Haenertsburg and stay at The Pennefather
    KZN – Pongola and the houseboat experience
    Western Cape – Paternoster, the old fishing village
    Eastern Cape – Aliwal North for hot mineral springs
    Northern Cape – Sutherland to see the SALT
    Free State – Philippolis for Anglo-Boer history
    North West – Bloemhof and go when the sunflowers are in bloom

    • Reply 2summers September 18, 2019 at 8:37 am

      Omg, a province-by-province list! This is the best, thank you.

      • Reply Caitlin Jean Geel September 18, 2019 at 8:54 am

        There is so much more to the area around Philippolis. Try organised a tour at the Gariepdam wall (you can walk inside the physical structure). DH Steyn Bridge is one of my favourites. Bethulie is rich in Voortrekker / Anglo-Boer history, so is Fauresmith (where the railway line runs down the centre of the main road), Jagersfontien and Koffiefontein.

  • Reply miadidthis September 18, 2019 at 1:42 pm

    What a fun plan! Small towns are great: Matjiesfontein, Darling, Sutherland, Prins Albert, Richmond, Struisbaai, Napier

    • Reply 2summers September 18, 2019 at 1:52 pm

      Some new ones here! Thanks 🙂

  • Reply Eva Melusine Thieme September 19, 2019 at 2:03 am

    Heater, I am a sucker for your blog challenges! Cannot wait. And I also can’t believe it’s been almost 10 years. That means I’m actually a bit ahead of you in that regard…

    Also: “I love arriving in a town without a plan, then meeting a random person who helps me make one. I’m also happy to wing it and explore alone, talking to no one, just people-watching and taking pictures. I like eating by myself in restaurants. I like chatting to Airbnb hosts. I like to go running in unfamiliar neighborhoods.” – I love love LOVE what you said there. It took for me to be 52 years old to travel solo like that for the first time this summer (in Europe, no flights, trains only), and I felt exactly the same. I never thought I’d like it, but I did! I liked not having to cater to anyone’s plans, and I liked being able to not make any plans and then let the plan come to you by meeting people. You get much better stories that way!

    Here is my town, off the top of my head: East London. Really good friends are from there, and I’ve always wondered about that town as I don’t know much about it. I just think it’s such a cool name – no other Londons that I know of except the one in England of course. So I’ve been wondering how much of the actual London is in East London. We started our Wild Coast Meander a couple years ago by flying into East London but didn’t have time to see any of it.

    • Reply 2summers September 19, 2019 at 7:15 am

      You are the second person to recommend East London – I’ve also just flown through there once but never spent any time. I was thinking it’s too big of a town to include in this campaign but maybe not…will ponder it.

  • Reply Eva Melusine Thieme September 19, 2019 at 2:04 am

    *Heather. Sorry for the typo!

  • Reply Kal September 23, 2019 at 8:03 am

    What a great idea! All the best on this project <3

  • Reply Jeroen October 1, 2019 at 9:16 pm

    Darling, a pretty town north of Cape Town, is the home of the Evita se Perron theatre, run by comedian Pieter Dirk Uys who has been lampooning SA politicians since the apartheid days. I visited Darling once for his great show (and saw hi perform twice in Holland) – you really should too, before he retires! I’m sure he’s up for an interview about Darling. He’s touring SA in coming months too.

    • Reply 2summers October 2, 2019 at 6:19 am

      Oh, that’s interesting. I saw Peter perform in Joburg (he made fun of me for being from Baltimore, haha) but didn’t realize he’s based in Darling!

  • Reply Melanie October 30, 2019 at 8:15 pm

    Swellendam, including a visit to the Rain Day Spa or Tulbagh.

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