After the Xmas & New Year rush and schools are back – a good time to have a short semi-local get-away. Leaving Cape Town early,5.00am,like we usually do to get far away from town and the traffic as soon as possible we head off the N1 at Agter Paarl and take the road through to Ceres and thence to the junction of the R355/6 for our breakfast coffee break. We set off up the R356 direction Sutherland and true to form manage to get a puncture on those sharp stones, rear offside – great start – but I manage to plug it on the car, fortunately still early and so cool and didn’t take long and we are back on the road.
Past the usual deserted Farms – where is everyone ?
We want to avoid the N1 at all costs – we are heading to Karoo National Park today – Beaufort West – so we drive the R356 until it joins the tar R 354 but turn off right, back onto gravel, about 10kms short of Sutherland and then take the gravel road, P2259, all the way going through super scenery – Karelskraal Pass – over the R353 Leeu-Gamka Road until we hit the National Park edge and come down back onto the N1 for a KM or so. I decide to go into B West to get the puncture repaired properly and realising that we had left our small gas stoves behind at home – always something with us – we go off and buy 2 more !
We camp here on grass and despite the critical water shortage here there seems to an abundance in the park – unbelievably strong showers – this is a lovely campsite and there were very few people so it was very pleasant.
Nice warm quiet evening and so the next day we set off for Cradock via Aberdeen and Graaff-Reinet.
Sad to say that the South African National emblem – the protea, should be replaced in the spirit of the New South Africa, with the plastic bag or burger box. It is a disgrace plain and simple. I reckon that the taxis stop in Beaufort West and they all fill up with junk food; the wrappers/boxes of which get chucked out of the windows on the road to Aberdeen – ditto Graaff-Reinet down to Aberdeen – no one, but no one, is cleaning up – I have never seen it so bad but it gets worse later in the trip.
Didn’t have the heart to take a photo of the litter
Our next stop is two nights at Mountain Zebra National Park up at the hikers cottage Bakana – the one with the rock entrance – total seclusion – wonderful – You come out in the morning to absolute stillness occasionally broken by the call of a bird but otherwise wonderful nothingness and a visual feast – We love Mountain Zebra and whilst all of the SanParks have something to offer this place ranks extremely high on our list of favorites – the shower facilities are not good especially on this occasion and it can be extremely cold here in winter.
We had no “great” sightings on this occasion but it really doesn’t matter as it is such a joy to be there and drive around the hills and kloofs.
So ended our stay here and as always with a heavy heart we had to pack up and move on – we really should just book longer here as one could just hide away with a good book for a week and watch time pass – Magic time.
Through rundown and sad Cradock in spite of the wonderful old buildings and beautiful Church and thence down the N10 where the litter is simply in a class all of its own – as previously stated it is a national disgrace. My Garmin routed us to enter the side of ADDO National Park on the R342 which is a gated public road – you are not supposed to enter this way but the chap let us through; the result was that we travelled across the whole park to the main entrance on the Addo town side, went out and came back in so that we could go register ! LOL
Addo was humming – people everywhere – for this reason not one of my favourite parks – also far too many tar roads that people speed on – it’s a bit of a zoo in my opinion. We had booked the tented camp “Spekboom” which is all on its own in the middle of the park – 5 tents max 10 people – it is a privilege to be allowed to stay here but there are strict rules; you must be in the enclosure by a certain time and you may not leave before opening time. They are serious about this. The advantage of staying here is that you have a hide so can observe the water hole after the crowds have gone, in total silence – well that is the theory.
The first night we had 4 people who arrived together out of the total 10; at 11.00pm Lin eventually yelled at them to shut up which being German they duly obliged.
The next night we had my all time horror – 4 common as muck, badly spoken, LOUD English… – Oi ‘have you got the booze” etc and similar. Spain must have been full – LOL – Why the fuck you would come and stay here and party is beyond me. They had two South Africans with them from the Eastern Cape who really ought to have known better. So they duly – all 6 of them – got pissed and carried on until 11.00 at night when they fell over and slept. The remaining long-suffering 4 of us were really not impressed.They also arrived quite a time after the cut off time for entry, with much noise – no manners- no brains -no culture –
Having taken their registration numbers I reported them to the Park Manager in the morning; who knows if they were told off or not. As she said to me, why on earth would you book spekboom and carry on like that? – why indeed. Disgraceful behaviour.
That day it was 46 degrees at lunchtime and so we pulled out of the picnic site at Jacks as it was unbearable – and I like the heat – and drove off to the Cattle Baron Restaurant at the main entrance for some warm shade – 2 hours later the temp plunged to 26 and we had a thunder and lightening show with heavy rain of note. Wow ! We were not sorry to move on.
Happy to see the back of the elephants ! People park far too close at the waterholes and they are large troupes – interesting interplay of canned food sitting VERY still while these large monsters brush past their little cars. A few wet seats me thinks LOL – Me, I stay well back – don’t trust them.
Leaving by the Main Gate and Addo village the next morning we avoid Port Elizabeth at all costs and head for Uitenhage & Humansdorp and then turn for Stormsriver SanParks only travelling on the R101 and not on the N2 Toll Road – a pleasant and relaxing drive.
Arriving at Stormsriver they are very busy and the place is teeming with people, lots of Germans and other Europeans who insist on trying to walk down the stairs on the right and give the imperial Prussian hand wave that you should move out of their way – No Chance – Sie Zicht nicht in Deutschland – Links links – Oh Ja ! and they move out the way – Felt like the Polish surrounded by them waiting for invasion LOL
SanParks got it wrong again – when I booked we could not get the same chalet for two nights so we had to move from a 2 bed to a family cottage at extra expense but actually they had lots of vacant 2 bed chalets – I double checked when we checked in but no she says everything is booked – go figure, Grrrr – not impressed and the reception people just don’t get it. – The cattle baron restaurant burned down two years ago but they are still in a warehouse type building with tent attachment – what takes so long ???? Not impressed. It is however a beautiful location and it was nice to be there.
The weather was a bit iffy so the next day we went out of the park to travel a bit. They say the Bloukrans Pass is closed to traffic and I guess it is but being us we went to check – Taking the R101 and a bit of the N2 we pulled off on the Road to avoid the toll gates up to Coldstream and access to the old Bloukrans Pass Road – signs everywhere saying road closed. Imagine our joy and surprise that when we got to the beginning of the pass; someone had dumped a huge load of earth to block it but some other great enterprising soul had cleared half of it away – Way to go !!!!
Basically they are too bone idle to maintain the road and are quite happy for it to fall into disuse so that you have to use the toll road and pay – talk about shooting yourself in the foot – this is a beautiful tourist route pass – real lack of forethought here. The Garden of Eden is busy encroaching & reclaiming the road in sections, before you meet the main bridge over the river, there is barely half a road left Sad, Sad, sad………….Thereafter it is quite passable.
We did not meet a soul and after this bridge the road is much better as if it is maintained – coming out back at the flyover over the N2 the signs are not clear that the pass is closed – go figure – and we avoided the toll by going straight down to Natures Valley pass road & village and thence back up to the N2 on the other side of the toll – gotcha !
The next day we repeated the trick and did the pass again – saw no one and then went on and up onto the R340 Pardekop pass and eventually joined up with the Price Alfred Pass all the way up to Avontuur where we turned right on the R62 and came all the way back via kareedouw and then down the R402 to join up again with the R101 to avoid the N2 and back to our chalet at Stormsriver. I probably picked up a speeding ticket on this road as they have a section with a reduced speed limit (road to kareedouw) they hide the bloody camera in a municipal type box – didn’t see it in time – I wait for the billet doux !
Time to move on, so going to Knysna which we hate – worse than Hout Bay – dreadfully spoilt and a fish lunch (non tourist) with our travelling friends who have relocated there from Jhb -I give them 3 years tops -“Gods Waiting room” The average age in the restaurant must have been 80 plus; I felt like a teenager LOL – and then onto Ebb & Flo at Wilderness, Sanparks – another favourite of ours.
Weather a bit iffy which is typical of the Garden Route but we really like the chalets overlooking the lake. A bit on the small side, maybe next time pay more and take one of the larger family units for more space. In any event Ebb & Flo South, which is the better part to stay in my opinion was relatively full.
Going over to the side behind the family units I found several king-fishers, in the reeds – difficult to get good shots, man they are so quick !
The next day we went down to the Birdhide on the gravel, back road, to Sedgefield and then had lunch at a cheers-type pub in Sedgefield where everyone did not know our name but they made up for that with friendliness – even the LR owners LOL – Sky looking very dark and threatening.
Having looked at the map I saw that there is a road at the far (PE end) of Sedgefield – Egret / Hamerkop roads which crosses the railway line and then becomes gravel and goes up the hillside – having travelled past numerous houses we came to an area from which they launch hang-gliders and a gate, which was open, doing over-kill that this was private property with roaming big dogs yada yada yada but in front of it was a marker showing that it was a P road so ever one to explore we decided what the hell this guy must be a real NIMBY –
All along the track, repeated intervals, are signs virtually warning you of death if you so much as stray off the road WTF – I reckon it is to discourage the quad bikes but who knows – anyway we eventually come out over the lakes with good views, weather notwithstanding, and then come down and through “Outward bound” where there is a sign admitting that this is a public road but do not stray off it – quite so –
Then right next to the lake, with very high water levels, through a smart, in your face, development “Montmere” another batch of NIMBYS with piles of signs saying no parking – yet the verge is public space, and no launching from here – interesting point – all in all a very unpleasant bunch of people I’d say.
One reason why I would never live up here – the place is simply over-crowded and they are all trying to enjoy “their” dream and protect “their” piece of heaven – sucks for me ! Anyway the road eventually comes out at the N2, at the bridge over the lakes – whereupon the clouds opened big time and visibility on the N2 was reduced to nothing. What is it about people with Grey cars that they fail to put their headlights on regardless; – unbelievable.
The weather had taken a predicable turn for the worse and the night before, being OCD; I had checked the Nat Luna Fridge/freezer and all was well – I had just spent a lot of money on it with R&D offroad, Brackenfell who had sub-contacted it out locally rather than send it back to Nat Luna in Jhb. I did worry about this as we have had issues with this over the last few trips.
That evening I discovered that the bloody motor had packed up completely and the freezer was on 20 and the fridge on 30 degrees everything had defrosted. So we dumped the small stuff and the precooked food but there was a fillet and some Namibian rump steak so a braai was the order of the day – the weather did not look promising.
In the meantime I did a tour on foot of North Camp and much to my joy got my first ever Knysna Loerie pictures – a most elusive and hide-away bird. – such joy –
So back to the chalet and in pouring rain do a braai – I was scared that the brolley would catch fire – LOL but I managed in the end – crap cellphone photo – thanks Lin who was in the dry interior.
So all in all a good and nice 3500 Km round trip – we came back on the Sunday so the traffic was light until we hit Caledon – the clouds came down over Sir Lowrys Pass (thick) and this was a bit of a nightmare with the fucking mindless taxis with no lights and people who actually just can’t drive – but then again we survived to tell the tail.
Nice to get away – pity about the “summer” weather but then again good to get away from all the local issues.
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