I think I have come to know South Africa pretty well over the last 14 years, the time I have been riding a Harley Davidson as the old adage of “going nowhere slowly” certainly applies when we are on these magnificent machines and one takes in places many South Africans don’t know simply because it is more comfortable to travel around 400kms a day rather than 1000kms or more one can comfortably cover in a car in the space of a day.

We have a vast country and I have been fortunate enough to have seen a great deal of it but nowhere near all of it. I also choose to see it on Harley Davidson rides simply because on a motorcycle your holiday usually starts as the engine of the bike starts and not when you reach your destination.

Having said that though, this trip I am going to tell you about could suit you perfectly if you have limited time available and the idea of a touring holiday appeals as it was a total of seven days of travelling.

The first part of the trip takes us to a destination familiar to fishermen but not all that known to the average South African. I am talking about St. Lucia on the far North Coast of Kwa Zulu-Natal and I will take you there in this blog and then on the rest of the tour we did.

Unfortunately, we only spent an afternoon and evening in St Lucia so we didn’t fully experience fully what is on offer and one really does need to spend a little more time there.

What we did to get to St Lucia was to travel from Johannesburg on the N17 to Piet Retief for our first stop. The scenery starts to get pretty as one gets closer to Piet Retief with the rolling hills all around but it was the next day that we really started to see the good scenery.

We left Piet Retief after a good breakfast at our guesthouse and as I have said before, I believe that staying in guesthouses is the way to go. They can be found in almost every town and city in the country and my favourite website to find a guesthouse is http://www.bnbfinder.co.za. As I have often said guesthouses are cost effective and in most cases you enjoy the attention of the owner.

From Piet Retief we were into the pretty scenery virtually immediately and a stop for fuel at Pongola after some 120km and we found ourselves then travelling along the Swaziland border to St Lucia with some fabulous scenery.

St Lucia is not a big town and sadly it has been badly affected by drought for quite a few years to the degree that the famous St Lucia estuary has been cut off from the sea because of the drop in the water levels in the estuary and river. Nonetheless there is still plenty to see and as can be seen from the photo below the St Lucia Estuary is still an awe inspiring sight.

We booked ourselves on one of the small sightseeing boats that operate in the estuary and off we went in search of hippos and crocodiles. On that particular day we didn’t see any crocodiles but there were plenty of hippos and our guide on the boat told us that there are a little over 1200 hippos that make the estuary their home. An interesting fact about hippos in Africa is that more humans are killed by hippos than by any other animal yet they look such docile and slow moving animals, but don’t be fooled. These are extremely dangerous animals.

It was probably this knowledge that made me especially nervous when we came across a lone bull that had been rejected by the herd in most cases ousted by a younger bull. This particular chap, as we approached him, immediately started to “mark his “territory” by turning his back on the reeds and urinating on them. His territory and “don’t come near me”!

Our guide on the boat said that he would attempt to “push his buttons” and I suggested to the guide that I didn’t really want to see his “buttons” pushed. He explained that a hippo has two different types of “yawn”. An ordinary “I’m sleepy” yawn and an aggressive yawn where he is telling you to stay away. It is this latter yawn he wanted us to see. I wasn’t too sure about it but our guide assured us that at the water depth where we were the boat was faster than the hippo which is apparently very quick in water.

He edged the boat closer to the bull hippo and managed to get the aggressive yawn which is an extremely wide yawn and can be seen in the photo below.

The hippos were not all we saw and the area abounds with birdlife and we spotted one of my favourite birds, the fish eagle. This was a female sitting high in the tree. I didn’t know that the female can be identified by a larger white “bib” of feathers on her chest than the male.

He also showed us a collection of nests being built by weavers. The particular weavers use two reeds and build between the two and the height of the nest above the water level is an indication of the rain the area can expect in the summer. The higher up the reeds, the more rain the area will get.

St Lucia itself, whilst a small town is certainly not short of accommodation with an abundance of guesthouses and restaurants to suit all tastes. I had family who went there for a week and they told me afterwards that they didn’t have time to be bored as there was so much to do and see. It is also a fisherman’s paradise.

We left St Lucia after just one night there and headed south to Durban for two nights. Two nights in Durban only because it is one of my favourite cities in South Africa and from Durban we travelled to Ladysmith on a road that is not well known but is certainly worth taking.

We travelled along the N3 from Durban to Pietermaritzburg and turned off and went through to Greytown then to Muden enjoying the splendour of the Muden Valley

Through the little settlement of Muden which was once a thriving citrus growing area with its once famous orange wine and from there on to Weenen to Colenso.

Weenen, taken from the Dutch and meaning “to weep”, is so called because of the massacre of the Voortrekkers after land negotiations failed between Piet Retief and Dingane, who, on the day on which the agreement was meant to be finalised, had Piet Retief and 101 Voortrekkers killed at his royal settlement near Ulundi.  Other massacres followed in the vicinity and finally, survivors fled the site now referred to as Weenan, and the town was laid out in 1838.

The museum (also from 1838) houses a collection of Voortrekker  artefacts and was constructed by Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius whose waterwheel is one of the exhibits. It has previously done service as a magistrate’s office, post office and a prison.

Photo of Weenen Museum courtesy of kwendatravel.com

The road from Greytown to Colenso is not busy but the scenery is well worth taking in and many people don’t know the road at all.

We spent the night in Ladysmith at a guesthouse called Buller’s Rest named after General Sir Redvers Buller

and the little pub at the guesthouse has an amazing collection of South African War memorabilia.

After leaving Ladysmith, we and moved on the following day to Harrismith and then through Golden Gate National Park in the Eastern Free State with it’s amazing rock formations.

Through Golden Gate and you find the little town of Clarens which was established in 1912 and named after the town of Clarens in Switzerland where exiled Paul Kruger spent his last days.

One of my favourite places in the Eastern Free State and what I hadn’t known before was that in 1912, a resident of Clarens, and surprisingly his name is not recorded, pointed out how much a rock formation looked like the Titanic that had sunk in April of the same year and so it is that the Titanic sits overlooking the lazy little town of Clarens.

Leaving Clarens after a pleasant stay in one of the many guesthouses, we did the relatively short ride home to Johannesburg. Seven really good days taking in a huge amount of the eastern part of the country.









South Africans generally choose to holiday at a “destination” rather than take a touring holiday and this is understandable, particularly if one is travelling with a car full of children who have no interest in anything other than getting to the holiday destination. The sad result is that South Africans miss so much of what we have in this country but yet foreign visitors in tour busses can be found in some of the most obscure places enjoying what many average South Africans don’t even know exist.

We are fortunate in that we generally travel on our holidays by Harley Davidson and for a variety of reasons we stop more often and therefore see much more of the country.

The other major difference between a motor car trip and a motorcycle trip is that a motorcycle trip starts when you get onto the saddle of your “bike” whereas in a car, the important aim is generally to get to the destination.

What I would like to do is to take you on a photograph tour of our recent trip to Hermanus and back to Johannesburg which follows my previous blog entitled “A Visit to the Whales”

Day one saw us travel from Johannesburg to Gariep Dam.  The view of the dam from the hotel where we stayed is one that is not often seen by the motorist who has never been into Gariep as he or she speeds by on the N1 towards Cape Town


Gariep Dam is one of the biggest dams in South Africa and feeds from and into the Orange River some 200Kms south of Bloemfontein and about 40Kms north of Colesberg.

After leaving Gariep Dam we crossed the Orange River on the “old Road” to Norvals Pont on the narrow “one way” bridge that gives one a fantastic view of the Orange River.


After crossing the Orange River, a few Kms further we reached the tiny settlement of Norvals Pont and stopped for breakfast at the Glasgow Pont Hotel, a quaint little building which is now an historical monument. The downside from the owner’s point of view is that he is not able to make alterations to the building to create en-suite rooms in view of its historical monument status.


Travelling further south through what I once thought was the boring Karoo the landscape changes all the time and in the distance on one side of the road the far off hills that seem to form a protective wall around the Karoo.


Whilst on the other side, some 80km before reaching Beaufort West are the “three sisters”, three hills jutting out of the landscape. In the photo below you can see the “third sister” shyly peeping from the back behind the other two in the foreground. I give a little more detail of Three Sisters in my previous blog.


After our overnight stop in Beaufort West, our next stop of any significance was at Matjiesfontein at the Lord Milner Hotel for lunch,


and for a ride around the dusty little streets on the red London double decker bus.

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Standing at the back of the bus in the photograph is the real “character” of Matjiesfontein and of the Lord Milner Hotel who is not only the tour leader (it lasts all of 10 minutes) but also the entertainer playing some old favourite songs and singing along, on the slightly out of tune piano in the pub of the Lord Milner.

Travelling further south towards CapeTown the scenery of the Karoo suddenly changes as you reach the Hex River Valley that stretches away below you.


From there we made our way to Hermanus, made famous because it is the centre of the whale watching area on our coast when the whales make their way north from the Arctic to our warmer waters for breeding and this happens from around May to early November every year.


Hermanus itself has much to offer as a destination holiday venue with a variety of interesting activities in addition to trips on the whale watching boats that allow you to get “up close and personal” with these amazing creatures from the sea.


One thing that many people don’t know about Hermanus is that it has a thriving wine industry with various estates stretching as far as Gans Baai which is the little town that can be seen in the distance of the photo above.


One tour operator in Hermanus offers very reasonably priced “hop on – hop off” wine tours to the estates that enables visitors to safely do tasting without the concerns of having to drive after drinking wine samples.

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Above, the beauty of the mountains overlooking Hermanus at sunset.

On one of the days we were in Hermanus we took an “outride” to Gordon’s Bay and travelled the road between Rooi Els and Gordon’s Bay, the road known as Clarence Drive. I have travelled the French Riviera on a Harley Davidson and can tick it off as “been there – done that” but Clarence Drive between Rooi Els and Gordon’s Bay, for me, never gets to the “done that” stage. I just never tire of the scenery which is just superb. Even if one is just visiting Cape Town it’s one of those “must do” drives. A tip though. Travel it FROM Rooi Els to Gordon’s Bay as it is even more spectacular in that direction.



After spending a couple of days in Hermanus where we were able to also enjoy such things as the weekly Saturday morning craft market we made our way towards the Garden Route.

A brief stop in Knysna at the Waterfront for a coffee and on our way again.


Our next really lovely place to stop was after we had passed Plettenberg Bay and that was at Storms River Mouth which sits in a National Parks Reserve and is simply stunning.

A restaurant virtually on the rocks being watched by the “dassies” whilst soaking in the beauty of the mouth is something very special and sadly something which many South Africans don’t know, yet when we were there tourist bus loads of overseas visitors enjoying the beauty of what we have to offer.


After lunch and we pushed on north to Port Elizabeth for a stop overnight at one of the many really good guesthouses the city has for its visitors. A superb dinner in P.E. and the end of another fabulous day.

Leaving Port Elizabeth we headed along the N2 to Grahamstown, the home of Rhodes University and about an hour and a bit away from P.E. and we found ourselves a lovely little coffee shop where we indulged in extremely tasty cakes with our coffee.

Grahamstown is one of the many towns in South Africa that has a magnificent old church in the centre and which actually splits the main street.


We left Grahamstown and headed to Queenstown on the R67, a road I have not travelled previously and it took us out into the countryside and we were able to appreciate the true beauty of that part of the world. We travelled up the Nico Malan Pass which, until that day, I didn’t know existed and at the top of the pass we pulled over into one of the numerous “lay-byes” where one can safely stop and it was absolutely lovely. Difficult to believe that all around South Africa there were cities where people were frantically going about their daily chores.


A little further the lazy little Klipplaat River made its way to the Waterdown Dam, again something I didn’t know existed. This dam was built in 1958 and is an earth-fill type dam that supplies Queenstown with drinking water.


After leaving Queenstown it was the turn of the Barkly Pass between Queenstown and Aliwal North and again the scenery is quite spectacular as we gazed in awe at the rock formations on the pass.



A petrol stop in Dordrecht with another lovely old church in the town centre.



After Dordrecht it was on to our overnight stop at Aliwal Lodge on the banks of a very dry Orange River that is desperately wanting the summer rains to start

riverside lodge

From there made our way to Bloemfontein.   A petrol stop in Reddersburg where we had one of the best cups of coffee I have ever had at a small shop called Makkie’s.  If you are ever in Reddersburg, do yourself that favour. The coffee is superb.

From Bloemfontein an easy ride home to Johannesburg on the N1 and it’s wonderful to see the extent of the roadworks being done in the Free State to improve our major roads. We didn’t travel a single road that was not in excellent condition and certainly on motorcycles made for very pleasant riding.

So there it is. A photo collection of a trip certainly worth doing. It took us a total of 11 days including our two days in Hermanus and a total of just 3750km from start to finish and certainly another very good reason to Holiday at Home.











A couple of years ago I found myself in Hermanus towards to the end of whale season and for the first time I watched, not one, but two whales breach four times each and they were not a lot further than about 400 metres from the edge of the bay and it was one of those sights that will stay with me forever.

To see two creatures weighing around 20 tons each lift themselves out of the water is simply amazing.

With this memory I spoke to a few of my Harley friends and suggested that we should take a ride to Hermanus to see the whales so we’re going to be doing this in October and as it was my idea I had the job of organising the ride, a ride that would be a touring holiday so if you are wanting to see the whales it’s not too late to make the arrangements.

What I will do in this blog is to take you through our trip from Johannesburg and back again because we are certainly not simply going straight to Hermanus and back.

Day one we’ll leave Jozi for a longish ride on a motorcycle and head to Gariep Dam where we’ll stay at de Stijl Hotel that sits up on the hill above the dam and where all the rooms look out over the dam. It’s early in the rainy season so hopefully the dam will be full enough to make it look spectacular.


Gariep Dam is fed by the Orange River and not too far south of Gariep on the road to Colesberg you cross the Orange River. Not difficult to see why the Voortrekkers called it orange. That’s exactly what it looks like.


From Gariep Dam day two will take us to Beaufort West to overnight there. Just 400kms but a leisurely day with stops in plenty of places.   One of the main places to stop is at Three Sisters just 90km or so before we get to Beaufort West. In this photo the “three sisters” are clearly seen although the “sister” on the left is just in the photo.


The farm on which they are situated and the nearby railway siding are also named Three Sisters but I have tried, without success, to find out who it was who named the three sisters. What we do know is that the Cape Colony’s railway system saw the main line pass the dolorite formation in 1881 on its way to Kimberley and a small station was built there but I can’t find who actually named the Three Sisters.

 From Beaufort West on the third day we’ll ride straight down the N1 towards Cape Town through Laingsburg that was devastated in 1981 when heavy rains caused the river through the town and which is usually no more than a trickle came down in a raging torrent.

It’s on the Cape Town side of Laingsburg that we find the fascinating little town of Matjiesfontein with its equally fascinating Lord Milner hotel.   This tiny village, on the fringe of the Great Karoo, was founded in 1884 by legendary railway man, James Douglas Logan. The double-storey Milner Hotel was built in 1899 by James Logan, in the early stages of The South African War. The hotel was used as a military hospital during the conflict with British forces and the hotel turret was then used as a lookout post.


It’s certainly worth a stop for lunch. At the Laird’s Arms you can enjoy a pint and a pub lunch in the atmosphere of a bygone era while enjoying the entertainment provided by the regular honky-tonk pianist. The Lord Milner Hotel is, incidentally only about 1km off the N1.

After lunch take a wander through The Transport Museum that has old vintage cars, trains and bicycles within a private garden and courtyard setting.

 After Matjiesfontein, we head south towards Cape Town and close to Worcester we turn off the N1 and onto the R43 that takes us to Hermanus through Villiersdorp and Theewaterskloof to Hawston and then Hermanus.

 We’ve decided to stay at Sandbaai about 6Km from the centre of Hermanus at Mountain View Manor Guesthouse.


And after a long day in the saddle we’ll be looking forward to seeing this sunset as we relax and unwind.

SANBBAAI SUNSETAnd of course, what we are going to Hermanus to see.


The plan is to take a whale watching boat trip. Two and a half hours up close with these amazing animals. By the time we get there many of them will have their young and hopefully we’ll get to see the young up close and personal too.


On one of our days in Hermanus we are going to take a ride from Hermanus to Gordon’s Bay but along the coastal road and then from Rooi Els to Gordon’s Bay to ride Clarence Drive which is one of the most stunning drives I have even seen and that includes parts of Europe I have ridden. It’s one of those roads of which I never get tired.


After we say goodbye to Hermanus we head off up the Garden Route with our first stop at George for the night. A wonderful view of Mossel Bay on the way to George as we start the Garden Route proper.


The morning we leave George we then head further along the Garden Route. At the top of Kaaiman’s Pass is the spectacular view over Dolphin Point.

dolphin point

Then it’s on to Knysna with the beauty of the Lagoon and the Heads where the Lagoon opens up to the sea.


 A little bit further we get to the holiday mecca known as Plettenberg Bay.


 Then we head towards Port Elizabeth but first a stop at Storm’s River Mouth which is truly spectacular and a spot in South Africa not known to many South Africans.

storms river mouth

Then the day ends with the ride to Port Elizabeth and for our stay overnight at Summerstrand.

SUMMERSTRAND The next morning it’s the ride through to Queenstown and whilst some good scenery it’s the day after we leave Queenstown that everyone will be thinking about.

From Queenstown we head towards Aliwal North but it’s the route we’re taking that is going to make it special. Two stunning mountain passes. Very scenic with quite a few twists and turns.

The Barkly Pass and Cala Pass which, as I write this in July, are both closed because of snow and are closed “indefinitely” so a lot of snow falling on the passes.

The Barkly Pass in the summer is spectacular with the green hills common in that part of the Eastern Cape.



The Cala Pass equally pretty but it has some severe climbing with a climb of 300 metres over its distance of 5.8km with some tight twists and turns.


 After the beauty of the passes it’ll be down into Aliwal North for our stay at the Riverside Lodge on the banks of the Orange River.

 riverside lodge

 When we leave Aliwal North we’ll do the gentle hop to Bloemfontein and then the next day along the N1 back to Jozi.   A total of around 3500km in the 10 days and a total cost including fuel in an a fuel efficient vehicle, of around R16,000 per couple for a wonderful HOLIDAY AT HOME. Cheaper than two return air tickets to most European destinations.

And we will have seen some amazing stuff.


In previous blogs I have spoken about guesthouses as my first choice in accommodation and it occurred to me that at no stage have I explained my reasons for this so in this blog, I will do my best to explain why it is that I think that guesthouses is the way to go when travelling in and around South Africa and with school holidays happening this might give people who hadn’t planned to go on holiday, the opportunity to think about it again.

I have come across people regularly who have visions of having to share a bathroom with the owner of the B&B or with other guests and 25 years ago this may well have been the case but the guesthouse industry in South Africa has developed over the last 20 years or so, leaving behind the situation, in most cases, I have just described. What generally used to be the case is that the kids had grown up and left home and suddenly there were a couple of spare bedrooms in the house and the decision was taken to open a B&B. Shared facilities very often with the owners and for many people this is still the idea of what a B&B is like – but is it?

Not at all. The guesthouse industry in South Africa has in most places in the country developed into a very different type of accommodation to that of 20 or more years ago.


Today, a B&B or guesthouse in the vast majority of cases, will not have any shared facilities and also most (although not all) have rooms with its own entrance, so no walking through the owner’s living area whilst the owner is eating dinner or entertaining friends. In fact in the early days, one of the things that was used to differentiate between a B&B and a guesthouse was whether the owner had separate living areas, but in almost all instances that is a thing of the past although in some more outlying areas this may not be the case.

It’s not considered rude to ask the owner to be shown the rooms and dining areas before making a final decision whether to stay there or to find another guesthouse more suited to your needs. This is a perfectly normal request but don’t feel offended if in looking at the guesthouse, that you don’t have free reign of the guesthouse as some establishments have “guests” wanting to look at rooms and removed items whilst busy looking.

So what then are the other advantages of staying in a guesthouse? Firstly and one of the most important aspects is that in the majority of cases you are dealing with the owner at beat or a trusted manager. The guesthouse is a smaller business and the owner needs to be certain that the guest gets the very best service possible and the owner is, in most cases, very visible and very often lives on the same, premises but remote from the guest areas because that business of you staying there makes the difference between the owner being able to maintain a certain standard of living or not. The advantage here is that any problems can be addressed immediately and directly to the owner.

A major consideration in these times is of course cost of accommodation and guesthouses are usually a lot less expensive than a lot of hotels. Lower overheads so lower costs so the amount they need to charge you as a guest is lower. Let’s not forget that in most cases breakfast is included and many guesthouses will, on request, provide an evening meal of a home cooked dinner.

Guesthouses are increasingly installing free wi-fi following reports that this is a major requirement of guests, whether business or leisure and this is something else the guesthouse industry has done to keep abreast of, and in many cases ahead of, the overseas establishments.

I mentioned earlier the changes we have seen from those early B&B days in South Africa to where we are today. I have had people tell me what their objections are to staying in a guesthouse and I have yet to hear a single objection that can’t be addressed to the owners and immediately rectified. Many owners are in fact able to gauge what the guest wants on arrival. Does the guest want to interact with the owners. Many foreign visitors want to know more about the country and where they can visit locally, and tend to want to talk to the owners whereas many business tourists (yes business travellers are also tourists) prefer to be left alone and most guesthouses are able to identify the difference.


I remember many years ago travelling through Scotland and I had been told to look out for a board outside the establishment reading “Commended by the Scottish Tourist Board” and it was OK to stay there. Back in the old days no similar facility was available in South Africa but as the industry moved ahead and became more and more professional, so the facilities for guesthouses to have themselves “graded” or “approved” by various organisations. This too is something that the visitor should look out for. If the establishment has had the nod of approval from one of the bigger organisations there is usually a facility for an unhappy guest to give feedback to the organisation concerned and that organisation will then address it with the establishment.

At one time there were several Associations representing the B&B and Guesthouse industry but just one left and it has the ear of government and the Minister of Tourism and that’s the National Accommodation Association and they are passionate about maintaining a high standard in the guesthouse industry.


Whilst not all guesthouses are “approved”, the industry is moving that way, but as I said, whether “approved” or “graded”, you are within your rights to be shown around and you can make your own decision. This particularly applies in your smaller towns and not as much in your cities.

Something else worth checking is the extent of the insurance the guesthouse carries. The last thing you need, is to be injured and it’s the fault of the guesthouse owner and you find they have no liability insurance.

How do you find a guesthouse in a certain area? There are many websites that list guesthouses in South Africa but the one I always use is http://www.bnbfinder.co.za which lists several thousand guesthouses all around South Africa. Having said that, the listing is not an endorsement of the establishment by bnbfinder.co.za and it’s up to you to check that it’s what you want. The biggest advantage of http://www.bnbfinder.co.za is that each and every listed establishment carries at least R30m in liability insurance.

So there you have it. My reasons for choosing a guesthouse whenever possible. Cost, direct access to the owners and very often a true “home from home” feeling and experience.

You have nothing to lose and at the end of the day, it’s your choice after seeing the establishment but remember that if they are a bad experience, they wouldn’t be full a lot of the time.

If you have a good experience at a particular guesthouse, you are very likely to return as a guest in the future, an important aspect to the owner. In my case, I always stay in the same guesthouse in various parts of the country whenever I happen to be there and only a serious problem would make me change. As a result I am welcomed back as a friend, something seldom found in a big hotel.

If you haven’t tried it, give it a shot.


I write this at some 43,000 feet on a flight home after spending a day or two under two weeks in the UK.

The first thing people will tell you is that you mustn’t convert currency with the Rand having weakened to the point where it is, and I completely agree with them – but only to a point because it’s just not possible to avoid doing so with certain things. Go into a department store – any of the well-known ones – and it’s only natural to compare and in cases you could be pleasantly surprised if you look on the “sale rails” as the UK starts to leave winter behind and as we start to approach that time of the year.

Whilst you are unlikely to pick up bargains at ridiculously low prices, you are often likely to be able to buy clothes at about the same prices, or even slightly cheaper than at home. Quality is much the same but what does differ is style of the clothing, simply because the UK is half a year ahead of us so what you can buy off the sale rails as is last season’s fashions will be coming to South Africa in the coming season. Even then the style there is only six months ahead of us.

That is however pretty much where it ends. It is very expensive to eat out in London even if you are earning in pounds and most people in London will confirm that to you but even more horrendous if you are paying in Rand. A perfect example a day of two ago was a fifties style American diner with a fantastic vibe and décor and one of the best hamburgers I’ve tasted in a long time. Trouble is that there were five of us. Three adults and two children. The three adults each had a hamburger and chips and the two children a kiddies portion of the same thing.

The total bill was £55 which is expensive if you are paying in pounds but paying in rands it was just R5 short of R1000 – for five hamburgers and a few cokes!

We complain about our petrol price but in the UK, the cheapest I found was £1.12 a litre.

Accommodation is frightening. An average lodge is around £55 a night for a room. That’s not too bad until you include breakfast at £8.75 a person.

You will hear the argument that “but they are earning in pounds” but when you consider that a pretty average salary is between £25,000 & £30,000 a year and that’s before the taxman takes his share that’s not a huge amount of money. Transport around London is plentiful but travel an hour outside London by train and you are looking at around £26 return. That’s R520 more or less.

A friend of mine has a small two bedroom apartment in West Sussex and it costs £850 per month. Work that little lot out.

Bottom line is that I don’t think it’s a cheap holiday to visit the UK but I am not for a moment suggesting that one shouldn’t travel. Travel is good and it broadens your horizons but with our current exchange rate it’s not a great idea to overspend or to go into debt to holiday abroad.

Let’s look now at being on holiday at home. In my previous blog I spoke about the fact that we have a choice between a touring holiday and a destination holiday. Either way, your first saving is the better part of R25,000 on air fares for two people if you choose to fly economy class with any of the major airlines. By comparison, our low cost carriers from Johannesburg to Cape Town on a bad day will cost you R4,000 and that’s a really bad day.

Rent a small car in Cape Town for 10 days and it’s around R400 a day so now on airfares and car hire we have saved R32,000, give or take a Rand or two. Accommodation in Cape Town in an equivalent lodge to that in which we stayed for 10 days would cost you about R10,000, so now our saving is getting towards R40,000 but then you need to eat out and this is where the difference really is noticeable.

Apart from obvious things like our weather and the huge savings between holidaying in the UK and at home, one has to ask oneself “what is it that foreign tourists are seeing in South Africa that we South Africans can’t see?” What is it that causes them to rave about their holiday and how they would like to come back again?

I have travelled around South Africa a great deal and I have seen some amazing things but when I ask many South Africans if they have seen the things I’ve seen they look at me and ask “where’s that”.

I have often been asked if I have seen England’s Lake District and I have. I have been asked if I have seen the hills in the Highlands of Scotland covered in purple when the heather is in full bloom, and I have, I have been asked if I have seen the French Riviera, and I have, but I have also seen the road between Rooi Els and Gordon’s Bay and driven through Meiring’s Poort and any day of the week those two places alone are as beautiful as anything I have seen abroad.

I have seen whales breach in Hermanus and the flowers in bloom in Namaqualand. I have been to Sutherland and gazed at the clearest skies I have ever seen through a telescope. I have sat in a cave on the top of the Cedarberg mountains and had lunch there whilst staring out at the magnificence of the country. I have seen Huisriviers Pass and very few people I meet even know where it is. I have been asked, as someone who rides a motorcycle if I have been the Ronny’s Sex Shop on Route 62 and what it’s like they ask with a look of excited expectancy in their eyes.

It’s a pub!

This then is the country I call home and there are dozens of other places in South Africa that many South Africans have not seen – and dare I say will probably never see as they are spending a fortune holidaying overseas and leaving what we have to foreign tourists.

I said earlier that I was writing this at some 40,000 feet in a Boeing and I look through the window of the aircraft towards the east and I see something that is pure splendor.

It’s an African sunrise and I’m home.



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.

IMG-20141027-WA0009After 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.










Mention one of Africa’s biggest cities and most South Africans who don’t live in Johannesburg will tell you what a dreadful place it is, crime ridden and every road potholed where every car in the city is damaged after hitting one of these huge holes in the road.

Have a look at Johannesburg or Jozi or Joburg or Jhb closely and you’ll find something very different. You will find the financial hub of South Africa. You will find a city that has a “buzz” and where people are always busy “getting things done” as quickly and efficiently as possible. It’s very likely this latter aspect that frightens non-Jozi residents where they refer to the “rat race”, but let’s have a look at different aspects of Egoli – the City of Gold.


The history of Johannesburg goes back thousands of years to when it was inhabited byhunter-gatherer people. The Johannesburg area was the home to Bushmen (San) and Stone Age and over time migrants established and Iron Age Culture and was formally established in 1886 with the discovery of gold and the Witwatersrand Reef.

Below is the farm where gold was first discovered in 1886. 


After the discovery, the population of the city exploded, and Johannesburg became the largest city in South Africa. Today, it is a centre for learning and entertainment for virtually all of Africa a far cry from how it started in 1886 and developed by 1890 when this photograph was taken.


Johannesburg was initially controlled from Pretoria, the government capital of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republijk (ZAR) or Transvaal Republic and people came in huge numbers of the country and the world, including the UK, Europe and the USA.

Because of efforts to control the resources, tensions developed between the foreigners and the ZAR government and ended in the South African War (1899–1902). The British government applied scorched-earth techniques which included the burning of crops and killing of livestock. Thousands of Africans and Boer women and children were forcibly moved from their land into concentration camps where it’s estimated that around 40,000 died.

In 1902, ZAR was annexed by the British Empire and the Peace of Vereeniging was signed. The South African War left most of the Transvaal population homeless, poor and destitute leading to urbanization, cheap labour and the huge control of mining rights by foreigners.

During 1910, Lord Milner, governor of the Union government which was part of the British Commonwealth instituted Land Alienation Acts which resulted in many rural blacks being forced to leave for Johannesburg looking for employment in the mining industry.

After the National Party took power in 1948, it established the Group Areas Act and forcibly moved black population groups out of inner Johannesburg areas, such as Sophiatown to the newly developed Soweto, and acronym for South West Townships and which has become a city within a city.


The discovery of gold resulted in mining and financial companies opening and a need soon for a stock exchange and The Johannesburg Exchange & Chambers Company was formed by a London businessman, Benjamin Minors Woollan on 8 November 1887. By 1890 the trading hall became too small and had to be rebuilt but this too was outgrown. Trading then moved into the street. The Mining Commissioner closed off Simmonds Street between Market Square and Commissioner Street by means of chains.


In 1903, a new building was built for the JSE on Hollard Street. It was a storey building that took up an entire whole city block bounded by Fox and Main, Hollard and Sauer Streets.

After 108 years, the open outcry system of trading was changed to an electronic system on 7 June 1996.

In September 2000, the Johannesburg Securities Exchange moved to its present location in Sandton and changed its official name to the JSE Securities Exchange.



Whilst there are many very good schools both private and State funded or partially State funded, it is the two universities that are probably the best known learning institutions in the city and amongst the best in the country.

The older of the two main universities is Witwatersrand University (Wits) and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and formerly called Rand Afrikaans University.

Both universities offer a huge variety of courses leading to degrees in many subjects.



“There is nothing to do in Joburg” is what one often hears from “non-Joburgers” but nothing could be further from the truth.  A trip into Soweto will take you to such places as the Hector Pieterson Memorial that shows the build up to the Soweto uprising in 1976 where the young Hector was the first person shot and killed by the police.


Also in Soweto you’ll find the only street in the world that has the houses of two former Nobel Peace Prize winners, Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  Those two houses are in Vilakazi Street in Orlando West.

Vilakazi street

Restaurants and plenty of them are in Soweto from your traditional “shebeen” serving local food to upmarket restaurants appealing to “white” pallets but with a mix of traditional and western food to suit everyone.


A little way outside Soweto is the Apartheid Museum where visitors spend hours looking at South Africa’s history.


Johannesburg boasts some of the finest shopping in the world and can certainly compete with the best in the world in terms of fashion from exclusive boutiques to the clothing chain stores to satisfy more modest taste and there is hardly any area in Johannesburg that doesn’t have a “mall” and in addition to clothing there are restaurants serving dishes from South African foods, steak specialists to foods from virtually anywhere in the world.  Italian, Greek, Chinese, Thai, Sushi and everything else the heart desires.

An aerial view of Sandton shows just how it has developed since those early days of the beginning of the nineties when development started.


A very popular venue, particularly on a restful Sunday afternoon is Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton with its restaurants, and visitors both local and international with photographs being taken all the time of the giant statue of Madiba.


It is virtually impossible to cover all that Johannesburg has to offer in one blog so do yourself a favour and make this city a place to visit whether you are a South African or one of our visitors from abroad. There really is a lot more to Jozi than just our magnificent O R Tambo International Airport.






A different approach to our “holiday at home” this time, in that where we are going is pretty much a day trip although with no problem at all one could easily spend more time there.

In May 1921 one man with a somewhat crazy idea saw his dream of a foot race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban become reality and at the end of May 2014 we will see the 89th running of the Comrades Marathon.

That man in 1921 was Vic Clapham

Vic Clapham

It’s the road followed by the runners that I want to share. Not the race itself despite being a lifelong passion of mine. The “down run” starts outside the Pietermaritzburg City Hall which still claims to be the biggest red brick building in the southern hemisphere. Originally built in 1893, the Pietermaritzburg City Hall was badly damaged by fire in 1895 but rebuilt to its former glory in 1901.

The city hall organ is one of the largest pipe organs in the southern hemisphere. It has 3806 pipes ranging in size from 11 metres down to the thickness of a knitting needle.

If you look carefully at the photograph of the Pietermaritburg City Hall you will see towards the bottom right, the permanent structure that marks the start of the first Comrades.

Pmb City Hall

Most people believe that the city got its name from two famous Voortrekker leaders, Piet Retief and Gerrit Maritz but there is another thinking that it was named after Piet Retief alone. Retief’s middle name was Maurits and there is therefore some who think that the city started off as Pieter Maurits Burg – but who knows? However in 1938 the city fathers took the decision that the second part of the city’s name should honour Gert Maritz. Interestingly, history tells us that neither Retief nor Maritz ever actually got to the city. Retief killed by Dingane and Maritz died of an illness in the Estcourt area.

We leave Pietermaritzburg and make our way onto the “old road” which until the new highway was built carried the traffic to Durban. Perhaps one of the most famous, or is that notorious, landmarks on the road must be “Polly Shortts” which has been the undoing of many a runner. Polly Shortts is named after a farmer who lived nearby, and whose help was often sought when, after heavy rain, the road up the hill became muddy and impassable and one can imagine that when you consider almost 2km of an extremely steep hill in the days before tarred roads that Mr. Shortts’ tractor was needed.

Not too far after Polly Shortts we dip down to a little river and we find the Tumble Inn and in the days when Comrades started at 6am it was not uncommon to see spectators having dragged double beds onto the route and would be watching the race as the runners went by. Naturally very warmly dressed as at that time on a winter’s morning very “fresh” in that part of the world.

Tumble Inn Teapot is situated on a Stud Farm in Ashburton. It’s a quaint little farmhouse offering a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy a timeout with the girls, a quick snack with hubby or a get together with the moms group! It sits at the bottom of a little hill that runners in the “old days” used to incorrectly call Mkondeni which is actually a suburb of Pietermaritzburg. The modern runner calls it “Little Polly’s”.

Nothing much to see as we climb up through suburbs to reach the N3 and the turnoff to the Lion Park and apart from the game that obviously include lions you will find elephant and various antelope and certainly worth a visit.


But let’s move along the road back onto the Comrades route as we head to the highest point between Pietermaritzburg and Durban at Umlaas Road and on through to Camperdown and then to Cato Ridge and then onto the “old road” proper.

Along what is known as “Harrison Flats” and the turnoff to Nagel Dam and into the start of the Valley of 1000 Hills but for a better view of the Valley we need to travel a bit further.

Nagel Dam

On from the turnoff to Nagel Dam a few kilometres further we reach the Entambeni School for the Disabled who have long been recipients of part of the charity from Comrades. The children are out in numbers at the side of the road cheering the runners on race day.

Another couple of kilometres and we get to Inchanga Hill. At the top more fantastic views this time towards the N3 down far below with scenic KZN in the background and ahead lies the little village of Drummond that is the half way in Comrades. That comes alive on Comrades day as hundreds of spectators gather to see the runners and that dreadful gun the signals the half way cut off time.

But Drummond hasn’t always had its tarred roads for runners to use.


About a kilometre on the Durban side of Drummond is a view site with possibly the best view of the breath taking Valley of a Thousand Hills. The Valley of 1000 Hills is one of those few holiday destinations that has something for everyone. Unspoilt nature, wildlife, magnificent scenery, wining and dining, and warm country hospitality just a half an hour’s drive from the centre of Durban. The area is named after the thousands of hills which tumble down to the mighty Umgeni River, which flows from the Drakensberg Mountains to the Indian Ocean.

valley of 1000 hills

The old joke goes about sending mother in law for a one week holiday on each hill! Unkind and old but still used by many a downtrodden son in law.

This is also the spot where you will find the Comrades Wall of Honour featuring the names of many runners who have travelled this road.

Then on into Botha’s Hill and some famous landmarks, probably the best known is the old Rob Roy Hotel that has now become a retirement home and one can but envy the views that the residents have with a different view over the Valley of 1000 Hills.

Not much further along the road is one of KZN’s most famous boys’ school, Kearsney College that excels in virtually every area. The classroom and the sports fields.

kearsney college

Again the boys have to spend their time looking at and running through the fantastic scenery offered by this part of South Africa, in a province often regarded as having not much to offer.

Down the valley and into Hillcrest which about 30 years ago was no more than a village that has exploded into a good sized town offering everything from shopping to accommodation and it is from Hillcrest that one travels to get to the stunning Inanda Dam the second stage finish of the famous Dusi Canoe Marathon.

Leave Hillcrest and make your way through the leafy suburb of Winston Park and through into Kloof (heaven help you if you don’t pronounce it “Clue-oof” if you visit KZN). It is here in the Old Main Road that hundreds of spectators set up their areas to watch the race and cordon them off the day before Comrades to see the runners come through. The braai and beers forming as important a part of the day as do the runners.

Then of course there’s Kloof Gorge, not far from the centre of the town and certainly worth a visit. Again a little known beauty spot in the province and on the “Old Road to Durban”.

Kloof Gorge

After Kloof, it’s the drop down Field’s Hill into Pinetown. A town that in the sixties was a quiet little family type town but that over the years has boomed and as one travels through the centre of the town and reach the Municipal Buildings one will find the stumps and bail on the commonage between the Pinetown Civic Centre and the Library alongside Old Main Road to commemorate the founding of the Pinetown Cricket Club in 1878, when the first match was played there.

pinetown first cricket pitch

Leave Pinetown and it’s up and over Cowies Hill where at the top there is a fantastic view back over the town. Cowies Hill has always been a very nice suburb of Pinetown with lovely houses and gardens. A sought after suburb.

Then it’s into Westville. Westville is an area near Durban and is some 15 km from Durban itself. Formerly an independent municipality governed by a Town Council, it is now part of the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, which also includes Durban. The town was laid out on the farm Westville (named in honour of Martin West, who was the first British lieutenant-governor of Natal) and it was formed in 1847. It developed from a settlement of German immigrants who arrived in 1848, and was proclaimed a borough in 1956.

Leave Westville and you are at your destination in Durban after you have seen some of the most beautiful parts of South Africa. A part of the country that thousands of runners who live the dream of a man who started this magical experience called The Comrades Marathon in 1921 have experienced.


It’s estimated some 300,000 runners have travelled this Old Road to Durban or from Durban over the years since 34 hardy souls set off to create history from outside the Pietermaritzburg City Hall on 24 May 1921.


After a stop in Knysna we continue on our trip along the Garden Route to get to Mossel Bay which as I said previously for me the end of the Garden Route although officially is isn’t.

The entire route from Knysna to Mossel Bay is a scenic paradise and the next town one comes to is Sedgefield which proudly claims to be “The Slowest Town in South Africa” and as you come into the little town a large board tells you this.


Not a great deal happens in Sedgefield and apart from one or two eating places not much to stop for unless you are fascinated by vintage and veteran cars.  As you travel from Knysna, not long after you enter Sedgefield and on your right hand side is a fascinating “motor dealer” specialising in old cars and when last there I spent a very happy hour or more looking at everything they had on display and all the while battling to keep my credit card hidden in my pocket.  The temptation was great though.


After dragging myself away from the beauty of some of these old cars (both American and European) we make our way further south being aware of all the speed cameras on that road which are actually a benefit in slowing you down to look at the scenery.

Next we get to Wilderness with its lovely beaches where you’ll find people enjoying walks along the white sand. Lots of eating places as well as accommodation along the entire stretch between Knysna and Wilderness if you want to spend a day or two in that area.


After Wilderness we climb Kaaiman’s Pass that was badly damaged by storms some years ago but which has now been rebuilt into a better road than it was before the damage.  The highlight of Kaaiman’s Pass is the viewpoint at the top overlooking Dolphin Point. Turn slightly to you left and the miles of white beaches of Wilderness I was talking about.


A short stop there to take in the splendour of it all and our journey continues until about 10kms before the town of George and a left turn off the N2 and you can work your way down to Victoria Bay. A cosy little bay offering a nice beach, surfing and snorkelling as well as accommodation. Victoria Bay is certainly worth more than one day if you want to sit and stare at the ocean with a good book. Relaxation!


Back onto the N2 and not far and you get to George which is the hub of the area with large shopping malls plenty of restaurants and accommodation.  If “city life” is your “thing” it’s certainly worth stopping in George. The town sits below the Outeniqua Mountains and whilst no views of the sea, the mountains are equally spectacular.

George is also home to the famous Fancourt Golf Club that has seen some of golf’s big names playing on its magnificent greens and fairways.

George is also served by a small but efficient airport that was upgraded before the World Cup in 2010 and has flights in and out on a regular basis by more than three airlines and basically to destinations all around South Africa.

On the other side of the N2 before we head further south you will find such gems as Herold’s Bay and Oubaai, playground of some well-known people but let’s get back onto the N2 and head south.

The settlements of Klein Brak and Groot Brak and are on your left before you get to Mossel Bay but it’s the views that are fantastic.  You come around a corner and in front of you in the distance is Mossel Bay but it is not only Mossel Bay that you are seeing. You also see the entire coastline from where you are all the way to Mossel Bay. Places to stop and photo opportunities as you travel towards these towns and it certainly is worth the stop for a while.

After soaking in the scenery we set off again heading for Mossel Bay and all it has to offer in the way of rest and relaxation and at the right time of the year some whale watching although seals and dolphins and be seen often.


Accommodation in Mossel Bay?  Plenty of it from a couple of hotels to many of the more personal and intimate guesthouses in the area.  One of my favourite places to stay is in Reebok and high on the hill overlooking the bay but not too far away from the sea to be able to have a good view of dolphins and whales when they come to visit.


One of the things that I have found in Mossel Bay is the friendliness of the people who live there, whether you are in a guesthouse, a restaurant or even a shop. To me Mossel Bay is a real “get away from it all” as long as you enjoy any of the festivals held there, ranging from motorcycle rallies to cultural events. It’s one of the few places in the country I know about where one can experience real Afrikaans culture and cooking!


Before you leave Mossel Bay and head off to wherever it is you are going next, there is one trip you must do. It’s a circular drive of around a little under 200kms and if you do it correctly it is an entire day’s outing.

Leave Mossel Bay and head up Robinson’s Pass to Oudtshoorn. Robinson’s Pass is very pretty with some very good views but not well known to many. Viewpoints for those photo opportunities on the way up the pass which has very few tight bends.

Over the top and you start to get views of Oudtshoorn in the distance and at the right time of year the wild proteas are in bloom (illegal to pick the flowers) and the pass is fantastic.


Down into Oudtshoorn where there is plenty to choose from in the way of restaurants. If you decide to start this circular route in Oudtshoorn instead of Mossel Bay there are literally hundreds of guesthouses and if you enjoy the arts the Klein Karoo Nationale Kunstefees  (KKNK) takes place at the end of March.

Starting and finishing in Oudtshoorn can also be a good idea if you want to take in the Cango Caves I spoke about in an earlier blog.

Leave Oudtshoorn to complete the circular drive and it’s back to George leaving curious ostriches behind as you drive out towards the Outeniqua Pass with spectacular views and plenty of rest spots for those photos.


Down into George and back to Mossel Bay and the route is done.

If you have never been to this part of the country spend a day here or rush through it and you are not doing it justice and losing out on one of the nicest parts of South Africa


Possibly one of the prettiest and most scenic parts of South Africa has to be The Garden Route and although it is generally regarded as including Oudtshoorn which is about 50km inland of the coast, it’s the coastal part of it that holds particular attraction for me. It’s the part from Storms River to Mossel Bay that is the section I like and if you ask many people who have travelled the N2 in the direction of Cape Town if they have been to Storms River Mouth they will describe the bridge on the main road where there is a petrol station and various places to buy “goodies” or have something to eat, but that is most certainly not Storms River Mouth and if you are on the N2, slow down for a couple of hours and go down to the mouth. The turn off is about 10kms on the Cape Town side of the Storms River Bridge I have just mentioned.  Travelling towards Cape Town you turn from the N2 and make your way down a narrow twisty road to the mouth with its chalets and caravan park for those who want to take in the beauty of the mouth for longer than just a couple of hours.   02IndianOceanviewTsitsikammaNPStorms[2] If you’re feeling peckish, sitting virtually on the rocks, is a very pleasant restaurant where you can satisfy those hunger pangs and take in the raw beauty of it all.  Those who have travelled the N2 between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town and have not taken the time to go down to Storms River Mouth have missed one of South Africa’s most rugged and raw places of beauty.  Next time you are on that stretch of road don’t, whatever you do, miss it.


Tear yourself away from Storms River Mouth and back onto the N2 in the direction of Cape Town and the next town you get to after passing a few resorts alongside the river, is Plettenberg Bay, a very popular holiday destination, particularly over Christmas for visitors from all over South Africa but in particular many from Johannesburg wanting to unwind and catch their breath after a busy year. During holidays the beaches are full of people soaking up the sun and wanting that tan they can take home to show they had a good holiday. 250px-Plet_Bay Plettenberg Bay hosts one of the largest seagull breeding colonies along the South African coast at the mouth of the Keurboom’s River. There are many sea birds in the area including the endangered African Oystercatcher living along the shores.


The Robberg Peninsula is home to a large Cape Fur Seal colony, seals can often be seen in the surf off Robberg Beach. Great White Sharks, attracted by the seals, can also often be seen from the high ground of Robberg Peninsula. Southern Right Whales as well as other species of whales are common in the bay during their breeding season from July to December. Plettenberg Bay also has three species of dolphins that visit the bay throughout the year. A distinctive flower-shaped sea shell called a pansy shell is endemic to this part of the coast, and is used as the symbol representing the town.


Plettenberg Bay has plenty to offer in the way of accommodation with a couple of hotels and dozens of guesthouses ranging from modest to top of the range and some very good restaurants where you can spend a relaxing evening after a day on the beach.

Next stop on the N2 is Knysna with its famous lagoon on which you can travel in one of the boats, some offering meals, and most with a pub on board. At the far end of the lagoon you’ll find the “Heads” that opens into the sea but only the most experienced sailor would consider going through the Heads.


The best views of the Heads, if you are a little apprehensive about going close on the lagoon, is to drive out to the Heads to one of the restaurants where once again very relaxing and with lovely views of the entrance to the lagoon through the Heads from where this photograph was taken.

They say there are only two speeds in Knysna. Very slow and stopped and this makes it the ideal destination for those wanting to get away from it all but who don’t want to lie and fry on the beach.  Relax at one of the local coffee shops or take in the goods on offer at one of the curio shops in the town.   The big attraction in Knysna though, is the Waterfront with its little shops and places, both big and small, where one can sit down to have a meal, all the while looking out over the lagoon and the feeling you get is that there is not a problem in the world.


What about accommodation in Knysna though?  It’s estimated that there are over 200 guesthouses in an around Knysna and with that sort of competition one can get extremely good accommodation at extremely reasonable prices. Not far away, if you are wanting the beach you will find beaches that are not as busy as the beaches further up the coast but almost as good. So let’s stop over in Knysna until next week when we move further south towards Mossel Bay and more of the beauty of the Garden Route.


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