Cape Town to KwaZulu-Natal Road Trip: Highlights January 11, 2010Posted by baldricman in General.
Tags: cape town, christmas, cumberland, howick, midlands meander, new year, road trip, south africa
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you! A little late, I know, but seeing as this is my first post of 2010, and indeed my first in nearly 2 months, everything is a little late anyway. So this post might get a tad long…
My best (and yet insufficient) excuse for the lack of reading material for you, is that Wifey and I were visiting my family in Natal. And this time, to spice things up, we decided to retrace our steps, as it were, in another road trip. We drove up 2 years ago (I think it was), and enjoyed it just as much this time, as we did then.
We left on the 17th of December, close to sunrise, and headed out on to the N1 (for as short a spell as possible). When driving any real distance, our philosophy has for a long time been to avoid major routes (most notably the N1 and N2), and try to stick to the good quality back roads, as far as possible. In doing so, we enjoy near stress-free driving due to the almost complete lack of traffic, speed cameras, tolls, and roadblocks. But perhaps best of all, we get to explore and experience certain timeless parts of South Africa such as those Karoo towns that, much like their specialty apricots, peaches, and figs, seem to be drenched and preserved in syrups of unassuming heritage.
I am honestly quite sad that it took so long for me to begin to appreciate the astounding beauty of certain parts of South Africa, such as the Karoo, with it’s surprisingly green towns made all the more striking and memorable in contrast to the hot surrounds. Hot and arid and dry and boring…. or so I used to think, no doubt as so many people still do, tearing past in air conditioned cars, music blaring, terrified and panicky, in their race to get to the comfortable cool coast.
And then, there’s the Free State! My oh my, how unfounded childhood impressions last! The Orange Free State, after all, must be orange (my least favourite colour as a child, after brown) Boy, have my eyes been opened. In my opinion, nowhere else in the country will you find landscapes to match these pretty vistas of gently rolling hills, bright green in the sun, dotted with tall dark poplars and topped with strange sandstone formations.
On that note, if you haven’t paid a visit to the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, do yourself a favour, and take a drive through it as soon as possible. It’s not big, but boasts some amazing sandstone cliffs that positively glow at the right times of the day… The 3 pictures below were all taken within the park (like all pictures in this post, you can click on them for the full-size version – at your own risk).
Some people have shown mild interest in our specific route, so I have detailed it as best I can (largely from memory, with Wifey’s help) in a separate post over here.
But moving on… My parents and brother now live in the small agricultural town of Howick, where we joined them for about 2 weeks or so of great catch up time and relaxation. It was brilliant just spending some un-rushed time with them, and my two grandmothers, drinking copious amounts of tea, watching the cricket, and educating them in the subtleties of Settlers of Catan (check out Deems’ review here – the bugger beat me to it…)
For New Year’s Eve (and my Dad’s birthday), we managed to squeeze in a few days at our favourite holiday spot, the Cumberland Nature Reserve (just outside of Pietermaritzburg). I don’t really want to say to much about Cumberland, in case some of you take it seriously and start visiting there often. Selfish? Yes. Very. But I don’t care. I will, however, share some pictures with you, of this amazing little haven, that feels so completely secluded and undeveloped.