It’s finally December – the Friday of the months – and we all need a break. So why not bundle a few friends in the car and hit the road? Check out these road-trip guides: one from Cape Town and one from Joburg
CAPE TOWN TO THE CRAGS
From Cape Town, the road-trip options are endless. One could get on the N7 and head up the wonderful West Coast or take the extraordinary Route 62 through Ceres, Robertson and Barrydale. But in December, there’s no road quite like the scenic N2 up the Garden Route.
Set out from Cape Town early, and cross Sir Lowry’s Pass early enough to be on time for your pre-booked Cape Canopy Tour. Zip through the majesty of the Hottentots Holland Mountains from platform to platform, experiencing the thrill of sailing hundreds of metres above ground and at breakneck speeds (wear comfortable shoes for the hike back up).
Zip line done just in time for brunch, head down to Elgin but skip the queues at Peregrine Farmstall and opt for the superior home-cooked pie at Hoew Hoek Farmstall (028 284 9015) a few kilometres down the road instead. They’re seriously moreish, so make sure you grab one for the road (try the curry-steak filling).
It would be a crime to road-trip the N2 and not stop somewhere in the ‘whale capital of the world’. However, rather than braving Hermanus’ crowds, take a right at Caledon on to the R316 towards De Hoop Nature Reserve – it’s worth the slight detour. You’ll get front-row seats to some of the best land-based southern right whale-watching anywhere, plus there are eland, bontebok and other game roaming the reserve, too. Have lunch at the Figtree Restaurant afterwards.
Once back in the saddle, head back to the N2 and marvel at the Overberg’s undulating and impossibly yellow canola fields. Keep pedal to metal to make sunset at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve just past Mossel Bay.
Book a tented suite for the night, enjoy delicious dinner at the lodge and a big-four guided game drive in the morning before hitting the road again (keep an eye out for rare black impala and golden wildebeest.)
On the last stretch to The Crags near Plettenberg Bay, enjoy the scenic bends past Buffels Bay and Knysna’s lagoon (drive up to The Heads viewpoint if you have time).
The brave should definitely tick the highest commercial bridge bungee at Bloukrans off their list, while the more faint of heart could pay a visit to the relaxed forest setting of Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary.
Make your final destination AfriCamps at Ingwe, a beautiful farm with a number of glamping tents with marvellous views and plenty of nearby adventures – including kloofing, hiking and horse riding.
JOBURG TO GOD’S WINDOW
Again, the road trips one could do from the City of Gold are numerous and varied, but our favourite course meanders north-easterly towards the Sabie River. It’s important to cover most of the distance early, so that as much time as possible can be spent chasing the waterfalls and enjoying the other attractions of the Panorama Route.
Leave the Big Smoke before dawn and aim to have a hearty breakfast at Dullstroom institution Harrie’s Pancakes. From here, hit one of the most picturesque passes in the world, the Long Tom Pass – don’t hesitate to stretch your legs at the various postcard-pretty viewpoints. Thrill-seekers could also sign up for the Long Tom Toboggan, an exhilarating three-minute mountainside coaster.
Then it’s on to the first waterfall, Lone Creek Falls, where you could do a lovely walk through dense indigenous forest and have a sip of crystal mountain water.
Hungry? Make your way to the living museum (and national monument) that is Pilgrim’s Rest. This quaint little town is a veritable trip back in time, and will give you a good idea of what South Africa looked like during the Gold Rush era. Peek your head in at the famous Royal Hotel, and then settle down for a late lunch at The Vine, a great little historic eatery in the heart of the village.
The last waterfall of the day is also Mpumalanga’s highest and prettiest: Lisbon Falls. Do the hour-long hike to the azure pool at the bottom, and take a refreshing dip.
After a long day of driving, rest your head at one of three lovely self-catering timber chalets at Lisbon Hideaway.
The following morning it’s down towards God’s Window to enjoy the truly staggering panoramic view from 700 m above the sprawling indigenous forest. You will understand why it’s called God’s Window – it really is divine. Tuck into a breakfast of pap and wors at the Potluck Boskombuis (071 539 6773), and then make sure to visit the bizarre geological formations of Bourke’s Luck Potholes.
Of course, you can’t leave without posing for a few at one of SA’s most photographed views, Three Rondavels. The world’s largest green canyon and the country’s only true canyon, the Blyde River performed millions of years of surgery through the 1 000 m of quartzite on the eastern escarpment of the Drakensberg, and it makes for an astonishing sight.
Spend the night at Blyde Canyon, A Forever Resort, which has access to myriad wonderful hiking trails and viewpoints to savour this valley’s achingly beautiful vistas.
Subscribe to Club for more on style, life and savings.