I never quite understood my parents when they said , “stop worrying about getting to where we are going, and enjoy the experience of getting there”
Throwback to a time before we had the massive toll roads between the major cities across South Africa. A time when heading to Durban or Cape Town took a lot longer than it does now.
In retrospect, we were fortunate as kids, whilst my friends were whisked off to Europe to go skiing, or to the US, Florida and Disneyland, my Father insisted we see our own country South Africa, before visiting others. Yes, we were insanely jealous at the time, but do I regret it now, NO WAY.
The road to Cape Town was a two lane road with rest stops at regular intervals, here we would pull over and unpack meals my Mom had prepared for us. Cold chicken thighs, eskort pork sausages and hard boiled eggs washed down with Ricoffy – sugar already added, or orange juice. ( All still firm favourites, bar ricoffy). Snacks, to keep us going inside the car involved, liquorice all sorts, sparkles, short bread biscuits, and of course a healthy supply of biltong.
With the roads being so narrow, traffic would back up quite regulary, particulary over the Easter and Christmas holiday rush. It was here, at these snarl-ups, as my Dad would call them, that our adventure started. My Dad would look for the first way to exit the main road and bypass the congestion, sometimes a paved road, more often than not a farm road or dirt track. This involved us as kids, opening and closing numerous farm gates, and keeping an eye out for any rocks, ditches and more importantly animals on the road.( Thinking back, it may have been intentional, it kept us very busy, and very quiet)
As the toll roads were added, and time to travel the distances shorter, hopping in the vehicle pointing the wheels and heading for our destination became the norm. With the service stations now replacing the rest stops, we no longer packed food or stopped more than absolutely necessary. Farm gates, dirt roads and small towns no longer a part of the journey. Travel suddenly became something you just did, to “get there”.
Fast forward to present day ( A few 100 years, as the kids in my family tell me), and a challenge issued by Ford South Africa.
“Take the slow route from Joburg to Cape Town. Use as little paved road as possible.”
The result: 2300 km of driving, over four days, with only 155 km on tar (or in most cases, a short drive over a piece of tar), between The City of Gold and the Mother City using the gravel district and service back roads.
Day 2 took us over phenomenal passes and via the back of Gariep Dam on to Noupoort and then Nieu Bethesda and Ganora Guestfarm
Day 3 saw us heading out across the Karoo via Sutherland and on to Tankwa tented camp.
Our fourth and final day took us via Clanwilliam through the farm and wine lands to Meerendal Wine Estate.
This experience has reignited our passion for travel across South Africa, and we now understand that
“travel is all about the journey, the destination an end to a fantastic adventure.”
Here are a few things we learnt
- A decent vehicle is essential. We were fortunate enough to have the new Ford Rangers Quite honestly I never want to travel any other way. The capabilities of the Ranger, Wildtrack and Raptor are mind blowing.
- Always have a spare tyre
- S Roads or Service Roads are public roads. Use them. ( Even if there is a gate, press the button, some are electric), or open ( and close behind you) and drive. It will open a whole new South Africa to you.
- We never want to use a major highway again
- The cost of our 4 day trip was not much more than driving the Toll Road and paying tolls. Yet it was far more rewarding.
- When crossing over the “middle mannetjie” ( gravel island) in the middle of a dirt road, dont accelerate just coast over. When you accelerate rocks shoot up from the right hand side wheels and that’s when your back left tyre is punctured.