Friday, January 25, 2013

Travel update - South Africa Trip

For over the past 10 years, my parents have been living in rainy London. After much debate and consideration, they finally decided to move back to sunny SA.

I finished writing exams in November 2012, and then headed out to JHB to help them move down to Hermanus.

Our roadtrip to Hermanus started off from my brothers place near Midrand, and was broken into 3 segments:

Day 1: JHB to Gariep Dam - Freestate
Day 2: Gariep Dam to Maatjiesfontein - Great Karoo
Day 3: Matjiesfontein - Great Karoo - Hermanus

As a kid, I always thought how boring and ugly driving through the Freestate was, a typical attitude of "Are we there yet Dad?"
But being older and hopefully wiser, I have a new found love and respect for the vast and dramatic beauty of South Africa. I am so amazed at the beauty of our country, from the dusty flat lands in Freestate to the Karoo, really everything has it's own unique beauty.

Day 1:JHB to Gariep Dam - Freestate

the classic Orange Free State landscape, dry, flat and dusty. and who could miss the old nostalgic "windpomp" classic!
We also encountered several road stops for roadworks.
We decided to stay over at the Gariep Dam Forever Resort. It's a old Aventura Resort, which offers chalets, camping and restaurant amenities. Chris and I stayed here 5 years ago, but it has since then gone down a little, and needs some serous upgrades. We stayed in a 2 bedroom chalet, which had a little kitchen and living room, it's not a bad option for a overnight while on route to Cape Town. It was cheaper than some of the very expensive B&B's in the area.

The Forever Resort at Gariep Dam
 Day 2: Gariep Dam to Matjiesfontein - Great Karoo

Day 2 was another long day of travel. We left Gariep Dam in the morning and continued on to the Karoo.

The Karoo really has it's own stark beauty. It is riddled with history from the boer war and much of South Africa's Afrikaans heritage.
Along the way you'll see endless landscapes, with little desert bushes and kopies (little hills). It's also a big sheep and lamb farming area.

We came to a little town of Laingsburg. It's made history in  January 1981, when the Buffels river flooded due to heavy rain, killing over 100 people.

Phoning around trying to find accommodation for the night, we were referred to a Hotel called "The Lord Milner" Hotel in Matjiesfontein. It's about a 15-20min drive from Laingsburg.

What an experience! There is nothing in Maatjiesfontein except the hotel and a railway station. This place is steeped in history, from the Boer War times,which you can read about:

The Hotel is old and Victorian, and one of the staff members, who has been there for over 40 years, does a 5 minute tour on a old London Red Bus. Very entertaining.

The hotel is old, so creaky wooden floors and drafty doors are part of the character. I would say it could do with an upgrade, but for myself and my Mom, both history lovers, well, it was right up our ally.

It has traditional hotel rooms, out door chalets situated in the gardens, a pub, restaurant, as well has a railway museum, post office, chapel etc. It really is a special and unique place. It even has a tree with a plaque, that Helen Zille planted.

The very old chapel on the hotel grounds, very ghostly (-:
Day 3: Matjiesfontein - Great Karoo - Hermanus

The last day of travel was a easy and pleasant drive all the way to Hermanus.

The beauty of the Cape never ceases to amaze me. As you enter the Hex River Valley, and start winding through the mountains, I am in awe of the beauty that unfolds.

We stopped in Paarl for some lunch and coffee. I just love the feeling you get from the little towns in the winelands. That Cape Dutch charm never gets old.

We arrived in Hermanus in the afternoon. We stayed at the Hermanus Beach Club, which had it's own ups and down. I wrote a review on trip advisor if you are interested in more detail:

The walking path next to the beach at the Hermanus Beach Club is really stunning. This was where I enjoyed my morning run and exercise routine, such a treat.

Hermanus is really one of the most amazing places in South Africa. Famous for it's whale watching, it's a popular tourist destination to both local and overseas folk.

We managed to sneak in some drives while there, and drove up to Gansbaai for the day to see even more whales. A trip up into the Hemel en Aarde Wine Valley is also a lovely treat.

That famous African sunset that never gets old....
South Africa will always have a special place in my heart and soul.

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