Wednesday, October 26, 2022

LAST LEG FOR 2022 IN SOUTH AFRICA

 

First thing in the morning we drive into Cape Town and head to the bus carpark right beside the V&A Waterfront. Amazingly we can park here free for as long as we want. And we have a guard. Now it’s tourist time! As usual we start on the hop on/hop off bus to give us a good overview and so that John has a chance to look around properly. I always get that chance as passenger! Spend all morning driving this magic city, lunch at the waterfront, then out to Table Mountain to join the huge queue to get on the cable car. Unfortunately, it is school holidays this week so the queue is ginormous (later we discover the wait was 6 hours with a total of 5600 people going up in one day! Holy moly!!) We give it a miss! After a big day we head back to our campground – we cannot camp in the city or we will get wheel clamped. In the morning we return to our parking spot. A walking tour through the brightly painted Bo Kaap area before another attempt on Table Mountain. This time we jump the queue. At the top the misty tablecloth is in place. We wait, finally deciding to descend. About a metre down the view is magical. Love that the interior floor of the cable car slowly rotates allowing everyone a great view.  Back at the truck we drive up Signal Hill for more stunning views, before heading out of this amazing city. We can see why South Africans flock here to live.

Back on the road again we head towards Paarl and find a great little campspot at Black Pearl Wineries. Wake to a cold grey day and head through the old Dutch city of Paarl and on through more wine growing regions surrounded by lovely jagged mountains. Pass through the lovely town of Franschhoek (also famous for its wines), up a magic pass and back down to the coast at Hermanus. This seaside towns’ claim to fame is the whales that swim close by. And golly they are so close they are practically surfing into the beach. We wander the waterfront getting lots of glimpses, although very few decent photos. Sadly, they don’t breech here – maybe it’s too shallow. John drags me away and we follow the coastline of Walker Bay all the way to the fishing port town of Gansbaii where there is a municipal campground right on the beach. A great chance to walk to the local pub for seafood.

We head off on another glorious day exploring more coastline. Eventually drive through the 2 towns of Struisbaai and L’Agulhas to get to the Southernmost point of Africa at Cape Agulhas.  As magic as the beaches are we head inland through Swellendam, the third oldest town in Africa, where we find rows of lovely old Dutch buildings. After lunch we head on to Barrydale to follow Route 62, with a detour through the stunning Seweweekspoort Pass. Finally, at Calitzdorp we head out to the hot pools for the night. The water looks a bit murky but the temperature is perfect. Another long soak in the morning before we head off again. A must do of course is to visit one of the towns distilleries before we return to route 62.  Before long we head through the stunning Swartberg Pass, climbing up from the lush valley up a huge mountain and through yet another red rock canyon. It’s a pretty narrow road and we get a few glares from oncoming traffic, even though we are under the weight limit of 7 ton. Then on to the old town of Prince Albert and eventually back down the equally stunning Meiringspoort Pass on the main sealed road.

Sunday morning, we head to Hope Church in George and are relieved to discover the service is in English not Afrikans. Then back along the coast stopping at the glorious Wilderness Beach for lunch, before heading to catch up with Susan & Brian in Knysna. We met them in the Central Kalahari Desert driving an Isuzu Camper like ours. A lovely afternoon and evening chatting and dinner out on the waterfront. After a long breakfast we reluctantly leave. It would have been lovely to stay longer but we are on our final countdown now and still have more new friends to pop in and see.

We head off, following the route suggested by Brian.  We follow more lovely coastline and do a few magic drives off the main road. The first to Natures Valley, then to the lookout over Bloukrans Bridge, and finally Storm Rivers National Park.

In the morning we head back to the main road and on to Humansdorf, and then out to Cape St Francis. There is a cute little fishing port here where huge boats head out to catch chuka (or squid as we know it) and export it worldwide. We eventually leave the coast at the large city of Port Elizabeth. From here we head inland to Addo National Park. John is rather “animaled” out but I have convinced him we should visit, the sweetener being that entry will be free with our Wildcard. It is a huge park but we still manage to spy loads of elephants. They are smaller and pinker (due to the reddish dirt they have been rolling in!) There is a great animal hide where we can sit and watch them drinking a mere few metres away.

Early the next morning we head into yet another National Park (poor John!). This time Mountain Zebra National Park. Lots of zebras which are actually quite different with a pouch under their necks and brown patches on their noses. As a bonus we spy a cheetah who is too lazy to bother doing too much.  John drags me away and we continue northwards, finally stopping at Onze Rust Camping in Colesburg for the night. The town is full of quaint old Guesthouses as it is roughly halfway between Cape Town & Joberg.

Our next destination is Kimberly, and rather than take the longer main road we take the direct route over back roads. Some gravel and some potholed, but it is a pretty drive with lots of farming and a scattering of scruffy old towns all with large settlement areas. Then back to the main road and into the city of Kimberly. Our destination is the largest hand dug hole in the world - the De Beers Diamond Mine site.  There is an excellent mining museum, a walk down a mine shaft, a chance to wander through a street of restored buildings relocated from all over town and of course the huge hole itself. Before we leave town, we hunt down a few of the  lovely old mansions here. Then later that evening we stop at the campground at Christiana where the owners let us stay free beside the boat ramp on the lovely Vaal River.

Today we continue north east to Parys where we stay with Lorna & Searle who we met at Augrabies & Kgalagadi National Parks. They have a lovely sprawling home on a huge block of land. Its great chatting and finding out so much about life here in South Africa. We head off by midday back to Joberg.

It is Saturday, so driving into the city is pretty easy and the motorway system here is excellent. By 3pm we reach Peter’s lovely home on a secure golf estate in Joberg. We met Peter & Carrin in the Kgalagadi in Botswana and spend a lovely afternoon & evening with a group of their friends. Amazingly we discover they too met Searle & Lorna in the National Park and are meeting them in a few days. And the next afternoon Julie & Terry, who we met with Peter & Carrin when in the Kgalagadi Park, pop in unannounced. What an incredibly small world. While here John gets a chance to visit an exclusive private collection of gorgeous vehicles (well so I heard – I opted out fortunately as he was there for hours drooling!)

Our time is running out and we need to sort out all our stuff, pack bags and finally head to the airport on Wednesday for that long long flight home. In 6 months, we have clocked up well over 30,000 kms and toured Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana & South Africa. We are really looking forward to seeing the family soon, especially the grandkids, Sammy, Toby, Emmie, Mia, Luna, Brooklyn and Brammy.

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