Cape Town, Karoo to Johannesburg (2016)

Adventurous drive from Cape Town to Johannesburg.

Hiking and golfing in Cape Town and Stellenbosch

On Saturday we hiked up Lion's Head in bright sunshine and fresh wind. The crowded track definately limited our pleasure. There was a trail-running-competition going on and groups of paragliders were making pilgrimages up the mountain with their luggage, so we had to constantly stop and dodge, which is not always safe on the sometimes narrow path. The rescue helicopter was on duty to retrieve a runner who had crashed. Nevertheless, the panoramic views were magnificent. You can see why Cape Town is one of the most desirable places to live in the world. The rich and beautiful and many others prefer the promenade and the beach of Camps Bay. Of course we could not miss out.

Sunday and Monday were reserved for physical exercises in the form of golfing in Summerset West and Stellenbosch. Start: 7:20 am. with a 50 minutestraveltime our nights were short. The subsequent wine tastings, among others at the winery of Ernie Els, were the well-deserved compensation.

Capetown Maultaschen

Because Gaby had left to "Schwabenland" and probably for other reasons, Sabine and Talitha decided to delight us with "original Schwäbische Maultaschen". I stayed out of the cooking, because many cooks not only spoil the broth, but probably also the Maultaschen. A wise decision. The "Herrgottsbescheisserle" as the dumplings are also called, were delicious. 

In the Wild West

After the many people in Cape Town, we are drawn back to solitude. The section Cape Town - Namibia is still missing in our travel album, but we can't do it during this vacation. We limit ourselves to the section Wild Coast National Park and the coast to Langebaan. The distance is about 120 km one way.

Langebaan itself is a quiet town that only awakens from its slumber during the high season. The main attraction is the Weastcoast National Park, which starts just on the outskirts of town.

The town also boasts a very top-maintained Gary Player golf course. What impressed me most was the strong wind. It already blows strongly in the morning, freshens up around 10 a.m., and increases to gale force in the course of the day. Playing golf becomes an adventure. When I asked if it was always this windy here, I was told: "Except for 2 weeks a year. But during those 2 weeks in February, it gets unbearably hot." As feared, our golf-scores were poor!

We found lodging through Airbnb in a wine and olive estate. The owner, Rodney, is from Sommerset West (near Cape Town), where he works in the wine business. We couldn't figure out exactly what he does. He has retired to Langebaan and produces wine and olives there as a "hobby" and markets his products himself. Anyway, the local restaurants all carry his wines. Together with his estate, he has build 3 appartments for vacationers like us. We felt very comfortable and learned a lot about South African wine and olive production.

Finally, we visited the restaurant Strandloper, which is modeled after a pirate camp and was considered an absolute insider tip. Toes in the sand, a drink in hand and freshly caught sea fish and seafood on the plate. What more could you want? Meanwhile, however, there are many "insiders". The place was completely booked with more than 100 guests.

Sailcloth walls protect against the wind, fishing nets and palm roofs provide shade, cooking is done in the traditional way only on open fires, a mussel shell serves as cutlery. Ten courses are served and if you are still not full, you can have as much more as you want. 

We visited the national park twice. Thanks to our Wildcard (annual pass for all state national parks) it was no problem. The only bigger animals we saw were ostriches, and several snakes crossing the road. The landscape is densely overgrown with fynbos, which blooms colorfully in August/September and then attracts many visitors. Now there were only isolated blossoms to be seen. Interesting that there is a bathing beach at a lagoon and fishing, diving, boating is also allowed there. Rather unusual for a national park.

The photos are a bit jumbled. You'll have to figure out for yourself which photos belong to which part of the text.

Through the Karoo to the North - Matjiesfontein

As mentioned above, we didn't quite agree on the return route to Johannesburg. We wanted to get over the 1500 km of driving in a (hopefully) entertaining way. After visiting the west coast, we quickly eliminated the coastal route. North of Langebaan there is practically nothing to see and the west-east route from Uppington to Johannesburg we already knew. So these routes were ruled out. On recommendation of Allan, who was born in Kimberley, we actually planned to pass Kimberley with a look to the museum and the "Big Hole". The first stop on the way north should be the town of Beaufort West. Beaufort is the largest town in the Karoo and borders the Karoo National Park, which we also wanted to visit.

On the way, we stopped in Matjesfontein, since we hadn't had breakfast yet. The town is actually an open-air museum and consists only of a 200 m-long main street, along which the historic buildings from the founding period around 1884, including a café and a hotel. The famous Blue Train stops here and was announced for this day, but only for the afternoon. No sooner had we parked our car when we were greeted by a stocky gentleman in top hat and tails who introduced himself as a tour guide, tourism manager, entertainer and hotel manager. He offered us a free guided tour, which we gladly accepted. Very entertainingly and humorously he brought us closer to the history of the place. Finally, while we were waiting for our breakfast, he played a few songs on his old piano. Among other things, he imitated Ray Charles and borrowed my sunglasses for it. Sabine sang along diligently.

Karoo National Park - Beaufort West

After about 5 hours (including the small detour to Matjiesfontein) we reached the Karoo National Park. It was established in 1979 to protect a 46,000 ha dry area of the Great Karoo. The landscape is extremely rough, rocky and above all very dry. There are 64 species of mammals living here, including rhinos. Unfortunately, we did not see any. We had to be content with ostriches, various antelopes, zebras and turtles. The subsequent drive over the De Jagers Pass compensated for this with breathtaking views.

We spent the night in Beaufort West, at the Cape Karoo Guesthouse. The rooms are originally decorated and spacious. The large garden invites you to relax. The main house is a historic building designed by Sir Herbert Baker in 1902

We had met the owners in Ballito at Herbies, where they spent a short vacation. They were very happy about our unexpected visit and we had to promise to give them earlier notice next time so they could prepare us a proper braai with Karoo lamb specialties.

Parys - an unexpected surprise 

We abandoned our plans to drive via Kimberley when we heard that the annual flower festival was to be held on Sunday in the small village of Parys (pronounced Paarise). Since there is also a Gary Player golf course in the Country-Estate there, we decided to take the Bloemfontein - Parys route. 

Parys stretches along the banks of the Vaal River and, according to the visions of its founder, was once supposed to become as dazzling as the French capital. As is well known, this did not happen and today Parys presents itself as a tranquil little town with a lot of historic buildings, lovingly restored and maintained. Many artists have settled here and present their products in stylish little galleries. During the flower festival, the entire city center is closed and it was no longer possible to get an overnight stay. Therefore we had to go to Potchefstroom, 44 km away. In the accommodation there we forgot a very good bottle of Ernie Els wine in the fridge. We had selected and bought the bottle at the Else winery as a special souvenir. Too bad! Hopefully the cleaning staff will appreciate the taste.

The golf course and the associated estate are located on an island in the Vaal River. Naturally, water hazards are omnipresent. The heavy rains of the last few days had caused the river to swell to a raging torrent and the bunkers were still partly under water. After hole 13, the course was closed due to the danger of thunderstorms. We had hardly reached the clubhouse when a thunderstorm with hail and lightning, typical for this region, broke loose. 

As part of the festival, there was a nice parade on Sunday, which we were happy to take part in.

Finally: Golf and City

From Parys we drove directly to Johannesburg. We had set the sat nav to "shortest route" beforehand, which gave us an unintentional round trip through the city center. Fortunately, it was Sunday and the traffic kept within limits. So we got to "enjoy" a sightseeing tour, which we would not have done voluntarily.

Today we enjoyed the rush-hour on the six-lane city highway during thunderstorms. The almost usual serious accidents with minibuses added extra "spice". 

We stayed again at the "Sleep Eezy Cottages" in Benoni with Lawrence and Moira. It was good that we were able to get tee times at the 3 top golf courses. Glendower (venue of the BMW Open) and Royal Johannesburg (Joburg Open) we played yesterday and the day before. Finally, we were able to get tee times at the Serengeti Golf& Wildlife Estate (2009 designed by Jack Nicklaus). Here the Swede Hendrik Stenson had won the SA Open in 2012. The excellent course layout (parkland design with lots of sand and dunes) was matched by the ambience and service. After the round, we were even served a freshly tapped, ice-cold beer in the locker room. Despite the beautiful course, my golf performance was once again rather modest. The Veith-Merdian-Open was clearly won by Sabine.

Now it's time, car returned, luggage checked in and the last Rand squandered. 

That's it.