November 6, 2015 by DAVE JACK
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.
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.
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
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.