R62 – so much to do and so much to see….
We spoke about doing it, we planned it and finally we set the date and we were off…R62 here we come….
Our excursion lasted 4 days and 1200kms of travelling time. I would like to share some of our experiences and interesting places to visit along the way.
Our first town we passed through was Worcester. About an hours drive from Cape Town is a glorious town, Worcester, nestled in a golden valley with a selection of hidden gems. Worcester Wine Route has 10 superb wine cellars, three olive estates as well as KWV House of Brandy, this being the largest cellar of its kind in the world. Some 120 copper pot stills are found under one roof. Enjoy a cellar tour and brandy tasting. Visit Kleinplasie Living Open-Air Museum, the only open-air museum where farming life is portrayed through live demonstrations and exhibitions. Domestic activities like candle and soap making, milling and baking and witblits making are demonstrated daily. There is also a shop, tea room and restaurant attached to the museum. Church Street contains several fine buildings, most of them dating from 1840 – 1855. Visit Worcester Museum and if you an art lover then Hugo Naude House and Jean Welz Art Gallery should be added to your list. An attractive feature of Worcester is the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden originally established in 1921. This may then be a welcome stop if you want to stretch your legs after a long drive. The garden specialises in plant species from the arid areas of Southern Africa – its collection of succulents is considerable. Why not try your hand at a round of golf, visit the Big 5, go gliding, biking or hiking. This is a well deserved stop over to experience fantastic wines, excellent cuisine and world famous Boland hospitality.
Situated about 10 km from Worcester on the Robertson road, guests are greeted by one of the valley's most well known landmarks. The farm stall, overflowing with its plump orange pumpkins, sets the scene for a 'magical' winelands experience. Pumpkins are also specially grown on the farm for the farm stall that can be purchased for decoration or to eat. On the “stoep” is a cosy corner where tea or coffee and rusks can be enjoyed. You can purchase divine jams and preserves as well as baskets, dried fruit, wire works and other products.
We then follow the R60 to Robertson known as the “small town with a big heart”. Robertson has grown into one of the most attractive Cape winelands towns. Victorian buildings, jacaranda-lined streets, rose boarded vineyards, columns of red and yellow cannas as well as bright bougainvilleas all form the backdrop to this delightful town. Boasting over 50 wineries that produce Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cap Classique (bubbly) where does one begin to visit, taste and purchase! Accommodation is plentiful and restaurants are not a problem as you are spoilt with so many choices. Sample olives and olive oil, cheeses, coffee, wines and brandy from this culinary destination. Other activities include: boat trips down the Breede River, horseback riding, mountain and quad biking, skydiving, game drives, hiking trails, wellness, golf and picnics. This town has so much to offer so a definite destination to spend at least two full days to appreciate all that is on offer. Sadly we leave Robertson behind as we have to hit the road again….
We now on our way to Montagu, our first town where we will stay over for the night. We enter Montagu through the Cogmanskloof Pass which is stunning and very scenic with its majestic mountains all around you. Once voted Village of the Year, not only for the gorgeous views, beautiful architecture and excellent Hot Springs - but also for its homeliness and hospitality of the people that set them apart from the rest. There are many scenic walks, nature trails and mountain hikes in and around Montagu. The healing waters of the magical hot springs have kept them famous for well over 150 years. You will find over 45 different cellars offering some of the finest wines money can buy in Montagu. There are also really picturesque river boat cruises on the Breede River such as The River Goose and Viljoensdrift and more than one tractor trip to take you up into the mountains for the most scenic views and best experience of your life! We decided to stay at Guano Caves that is about 5 minutes outside of Montagu. We chose the family camping experience and booked into the tented houses (there are other options available). The staff were great, the accommodation really good (tent has everything you need), there are animals to feed, tractor rides to go on, horse riding, a park for the children and of course the cave to visit that is filled with bats. There are 4 pools of which 2 are really warm, once you in you don’t want to get out. Unfortunately we only stayed one night and never got the full experience, but will definitely go back! Guano Caves comes recommended!
Then bright and early we headed onto the R62 to Oudtshoorn. We passed the towns of Barrydale, Ladismith and Calitzdorp. In Barrydale you can choose between their eclectic mix of restaurants from pizza and hearty homefare to Karoo cuisine. Shopping in Barrydale on Route 62 is an adventure with more and more distinctive little shops popping up selling a range of goods from local produce to handmade products such as handwoven pure cotton rugs and beautiful once-off handmade jewelery. It’s a lovely little town to stop and explore.
Inbetween Barrydale and Ladysmith you pass the famous Ronnies Sex Shop. Nothing like it sounds…just a restaurant called “Roadkill Café” and the bar is filled with underwear. We enjoyed some delicious bobotie, hamburgers and refreshments, stretched our legs and met Ronnie himself before heading out again – an entertaining stop and perfect place to stretch your legs.
Ladismith is the centre for a prosperous farming community producing fruit (export grapes, apricots and plums), milk (for two cheese factories), wine, flowers and mutton. There are even some ostriches around! Ladismith produces about a third of South Africas apricots. Visit the Ladismith “Wijnhuis” that opened its doors in 2011 for some wine tasting and sales. A variety of white and red wines as well as pot-stilled brandy are produced, several of which have won awards in recent years. Part of the building is used as a restaurant and a gift shop. Hiking, horse riding and the nature reserves are some of the options on offer in Ladismith.
Calitzdorp is known as the “Port” capital of South Africa. Die Krans and Boplaas offer muscadel-type wines that are well worth tasting! What to do? Visit Die Bosvarkie for a unique experience, wine tasting, walk the historical Queen Street, 4x4 routes, visit the succulent garden, art galleries and museums…so much to do so little time. Calitzdorp restaurants and places to eat cater for every taste bud. Its cuisine offered ranges from traditional to exquisite international fare.
Then the last leg of the journey for today, Oudtshoorn. We book into a fabulous Guest House called the Yotclub…don’t get confused as there are no yachts here but you can do some excellent bird watching and perhaps spot an otter or two. It has beautiful gardens and rolling lawns and a lovely blue sparkling pool for those hot days. The rooms are stunning and the breakfast to die for – like a 3 course meal with home baked hot bread being served. Sadly again only one night again and we on the road. I would recommend this accommodation in a heart beat!
Now we off to town to stock up as we head off to Gamkas Kloof or Die Hel (the abyss). We have been warned to stock up on fuel and supplies because once you in “Die Hel” there is nothing (and believe me there is nothing!!!) But we first stop at the Cango Caves and take an hour tour through the caves, price has become pretty steep over the years, but still something to see if you have not as yet visited. Then we start our “great trek”. We head off onto the Swartberge that provides a 200km long barrier between the Little and Great Karoo. It is one of the more spectacular mountain massifs in Southern Africa. The Swartberg Pass, that has untarred roads wind to the summit 1 583 metres above sea level in steep zigzags and sudden switchbacks, with breath-taking views at every turn. We get to the top and its so cold and the wind is blowing gales. You feel like you on top of the world! Then the road heads down again until we reach the Gamkas Kloof turn off and we start our amazing journey through winding dust roads. The mountains are majestic and the flora abundant, forming part of the floral kingdom. Eventually (after about 2 hours driving) the road heads straight up and as we turn the corner the valley can be seen down below. We told it’s a 1000metre drop into the valley. I had to close my eyes all the way down, the roads are so narrow and only one car can really fit at a time. The Valley features the Gamka River, camp sites, picnic sites, several historic houses and outbuildings, a school, a cemetery, and old norse watermill, a landing strip and a curious history. Baboons are plenty and we are warned to lock up when leaving our accommodation as they “break in” and steal the food. We stayed in Sankie Marais House, this being a four-bed roomed restored traditional cottage fully equipped as self-catering accommodation and it can be booked through Cape Nature. We used the Dover stove to make our “potjie” and to keep the house warm, as it was very cold. Red wine and good food saw the end to a lovely day well travelled!
Morning came and so did Cape Town, what a long drive back with toilet pit stops and a quick lunch in Ladismith…stunning sunsets over Robertson ensured that our trip ended on a good note!
It was a super route but you do need plenty of time to explore and see everything. We unfortunately missed out on a lot…but now know that next time we need more days with more time to experience the route R62….and further…