We had met a fantastic local guy at Otters Bend Lodge who suggested a few fantastic things to do in South Africa, one of which was to drive Route 62. As famous as route 66 is in the states, the 62 is in South Africa. We sat down with our map and realized we could drive the 62 out to Jeffreys Bay, and hook onto the Garden Route for the return trip to Cape town.
We hit the road and were instantly rewarded with incredible scenery. The roads were quiet, meeting only a few cars in the several hour trip to our destination, Robertson. Along the way we stopped at Graham Beck Winery, which specalizes in sparkling wines. The sparkling wines used for both Obama and Nelson Mandelas inauguration ceremonies were from Graham Beck. Chris did a full tasting, while I tried a sip from each. They were all really nice, and we walked away with a rose and a pinot noir. We mutually decided that was the end of purchasing bottles as we were running out of room in our trunk!
When we arrived to Roberston and went to the backpackers the whole thing was booked out, so we were unable to stay there. The luxury of having a car meant it was not an issue, we would keep on to Montagu. We stayed at a lovely place called Des Bois which had fantastic campsites equipped with braai pits. We went to a local winery where they are famous for dessert wines, and I am confident the guy working there consumes more than he sells. We then visited the Montagu dried nuts and fruits store, that is very famous throughout SA. That evening we (successfully) braai’d up toastie sandwhiches and enjoyed a few bottles of wine.
The next day we set out early, with the goal destination being Oudtshoorn. We made a pit stop in Calitzdorp, a town famous for Port as it is a dry and arrid, perfect conditions for producing Port. We had lunch at the cutest little restaurant called ‘Die Handelshuis.’ When we arrived they were experience load shedding*, so the meal took a while as the generator was only capable of handling one appliance working at a time. We passed the time by reading the local newspaper, a very powerful tool to get an idea of what is going on within the country. We both tried a meat pie, Chris had chicken and I had steak, as we read on tripadvisor they were delicious. They reviews did not steer us wrong, they were heavenly. We splurged and tried the carrot cake and baked cheesecake, and both were irresistibly good. At the end of our meal a young teenager asked if we were heading to Oudtshoorn, and asked to jump in with us. He looked no older than 16 and pretty harmless, so we told him we would go do our port tastings then pick him up on our way back.
We went to Boplaas Winery where a very lovely chap did a free tasting for Chris of far too many of their products. He was very entertaining and engaging, we had a blast with him. We walked away with a 1995 Tawny Port, after vowing only days earlier to buy no more, but it was so delicious we had to have it.
We picked up our hitchhiker and headed towards Oudtshoorn. He was a very interesting guy and has great aspirations of traveling and going to school in Germany. Although we broke rule #2 of driving in South Africa, don’t pick up hitchhikers, we had great fun with him. We dropped him off and checked into Backpackers Paradise, a really lovely backpackers. I dropped off some laundry, and then we relaxed for the rest of the day.
The following day we had breakfast at Nostalgie, and enjoyed our meals so much we made reservations for supper. I had spicy chicken livers on potatoe paties, while Chris had eggs, sausage, hashbrowns and toast. The meals were great, and the decor was even better with our meals being served on old records.
We then drove the Swartberg Pass, a very famous route for its scenery. It was mostly on untarred road, and it was very reminiscent of the roads in South America. Specifically, it reminded me a bit of Death Road in Bolivia, which is terrifying considering I was the one behind the wheel! I enforced the ‘honk before going round turns rule’ that is rampant throughout South America, and we made it no problem. It was really spectacular, I recommend it to anyone who has a car!
When we arrived back to the backpackers it was packed with people and most of them were hard on the sauce for it only being 3 pm. We learned the bartender was going away to Switzerland for 2 months so it was a going away Braai/ party for him. There was three generations of people there, and each was making a potjiee, or pot, which is a tradtional South African dish made in a massive pot over the fire. They were all bickering back and forth over whose potjiee would be the best, it was entertaining to listen to the smack talk.
We walked the three blocks to Nostalgie for our reservation. It was $2.5 corkage fee so we brought a bottle of good sport along. I ordered bobotie, the national dish that is made of minced meat. Chris ordered the chicken shnitzel tower, and it was certainly a tower. My dish paired perfectly with the port, it was almost too rich of a pairing. The chicken schnitzel was also very well done. Each dish came with a side of 3 different vegetables and side of rice. It was too much food!
Load shedding happened just as we were leaving the restaurant, meaning we had a very dark 3 block walk back. (Say that 3 times fast). When we arrived back the group was still raging, and it was fun to sit back and watch. We ended up talking quite a while to a tour group leader from Cape Town who had lived in Canada for a long time. He told us the hardest part of living in Canada was that rules were truly rules. He said in South Africa the rules are more guidelines, and could be bent. He told us one story of when he was living in Whistler and was missing home so he wanted a braai. He went to the backyard and lit a fire, and within the hour the whole fire brigade turned up. It was forest fire season, so fires were banned. He of course, being South African, thought it meant “banned.” He said it was an interesting conversation, but he escaped without a fine.
We were able to sample the different potjie’s, and I must say the young guys biltong potjie was my favorite. Apparently very unconventional, but really delicious.
The following day we drove to Jeffreys Bay, a surf town with some of the biggest waves in the world. We of course don’t surf, it was simply the town that marked the end of Route 62 and the start of the Garden Route for us. We enjoyed the laid back surfer vibe nonetheless, and mingled for the afternoon with the other guests staying there. That evening we were enjoying some wine and chatting when a few new people turned up. We began chatting with them and realized they were musicians. We got chatting about Sixto Rodriguez, who is the reason we are in South Africa. After watching the documentary about him called ‘Searching for Sugarman’ (I highly suggest you watch it), where the opening scene has ‘Cold Fact’ playing as they drive into Cape Town, I was inspired to travel here. After chatting for a while I asked one of the guys if they were going to play music for us. He seemed a bit surprised, and said he would but it would be much later in the evening. I half expected him to bail, but he turned up later with a guitar and a free cd for me! As soon as he began playing I knew he was the real deal. His guitar skills were unbelievable, and his vocals paired perfectly. We joked someday he would be famous, and one of the locals leaned in and stated in South Africa he already is. We googled him the next day and he is a huge deal in SA, rightfully so. Check him out- his name is Albert Frost! (Matthew Morrison you would love him).
The next day we drove to Addo Elephant Park which is a self drive safari park. It was a really interesting experience compared to my safari in Tanzania. Our i20 seemed exceedingly small compared to the size of the elephants. It never ceases to amaze me how ignorant people are, they were driving their vehicles right up to the animals giving them no space. I was waiting for an elephant to stomp one of the cars. We had a very full day of driving, we drove almost the entire park, but unfortunately saw no lions or rhinos. Luckily, we have many more game drives ahead of us!
We relaxed for the rest of the evening once we arrived back at the backpackers, and hit the hay early as we were tired from the long day. The next day we awoke for sunrise to take it in and watch the early birds who were out catching waves. It was a spectacular morning. We then set out to start the Garden Route, which I will cover in the next post.
*Load shedding is when there is not enough electricity to meet the demand of all the customers. It is a scheduled outage to certain areas, usually several hours, to help balance that supply and demand. It is an effort to prevent a total collapse of the system. It is occurring throughout all of South Africa, and it is what was taking place when we arrived to Stellenbosch. Eskom, the countries power provider, has admitted as much as 7% of the nations power is stolen. Other reports suggest this number is more like 16%. Additionally, the locals have told us that many repairs, replacements, etc. have not been done and this also is influencing the load shedding. This is a major problem South Africa is facing.