July 21, 2015 by DAVE JACK
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.
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.
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.
Then the day ends with the ride to Port Elizabeth and for our stay overnight at Summerstrand.
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.
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.