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CAPE ROUTE 62 IN THE PRESS

The road less travelled – Port Elizabeth to Cape Town

2010-04-28

Route 62 First published in SA Inbound Jan/Feb/Mar 08 issue The road less travelled - Port Elizabeth to Cape Town. Text Matthew le Cordeur Route 62 might be an unusual way to get to Cape Town, but "trust me it's worth it" my friend says as we start. We're tired of the traffic-congested road that runs along the coast and want to experience a little more of the country's diverse culture. Route 62 is also said to be "the longest wine route in the world", but enough talk of merriment. Based on America's Route 66 in its socio-economic dependence on tourism, The Eastern and Western Cape tourism initiative is rapidly growing as one of the country's more original holiday destinations. It is known not only for its wine and brandy, but also for its outdoors activities, fruit industry and natural wonders such as the Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn. We start our journey in the Eastern Cape city of Port Elizabeth, 850 km from the Mother City and soon find ourselves venturing up the Langkloof (long valley) about 50 km away. This section tunnels its way between the Tsitsikamma and Outeniqua mountains on the one side (which in turn look down on the Garden Route towns of Plettenberg Bay, Knysna and George) and the Baviaanskloof - a vast wilderness - on the other. About 10 km off the N2 highway is Kareedouw, a self-described jewel of South Africa. It is also the official start (or end if you are travelling from Cape Town) of Route 62. Driving through Riebeek Street we pass the famous Rensilfier factory that prides itself on making furniture the old-fashioned way. Continuing our journey we find ourselves beneath Peak Formosa, the highest point of the Tsitsikamma Mountains overlooking Joubertina. This classic town has all the amenities which make it an ideal place to stay the night. We are there when the apple orchards are in full bloom, though we missed the annual festival that celebrates the occasion, and find ourselves at a self-catering guest lodge with a large piece of fillet on the barbeque. Joubertina's butcher sold me his secret sauce along with the beef, and I can say for certain that it was the best fillet I have ever tasted. The following morning we visit Kouga Wilderness. We swim in crystal-clear pools and stare in bewilderment at Bushman rock art, and eat tasty picnics sourced from various shops en route. It's a great place to stay, with chalets and camping space to suit every guest. The reserve borders the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area which has 270 000 hectares of unspoiled natural mountains and rivers. It offers activities such as hiking, abseiling, 4x4 routes, kloofing and mountain bike trails. About 200 dams in the area are filled with bass and trout, making it an ideal spot for fishing enthusiasts. Small shops supplying local specialties are important to look out for on Route 62, but they become addictive. Bottles of Kouga brandy hide safely under my car seat, while bottles of wine, jam, olives and quail eggs sit patiently as gifts in my cooler box as we journey closer to Cape Town. Exceptionally beautiful aspects of Route 62 are the road passes. Built by legendary engineer Thomas Bain in the late 1800s, these roads are propped up against the steep mountains by ingenious masonry. Diverging off Route 62 at Avontuur for a short affair with oysters, we drive down Prince Alfred's Pass to Knysna. A visit to the Outeniqua Trout Lodge halfway down the pass is a must, and make sure you try their pickled trout. The pass gets tighter as you descend and there is one corner so scary that a traveller has written ˜jy loer nog" meaning ˜you're still peaking" on the rock edge. The fascinating Swartberg Pass to Oudtshoorn is said to be one of the world's most spectacular. As we enter Oudtshoorn we decide to spend a night in the capital of the Klein Karoo. We venture out to see two of the area's most famous sights. The Cango Ostrich Farm is a perfect spot to come into contact with these inquisitive birds, and we each take home an egg as a souvenir. Then we explore the Cango Caves, with the breathtaking underground halls and formations of stalagmites and stalactites. We missed out on Oudtshoorn Ballooning, which flies you up into the clear skies at dawn to reveal the true splendour of the Klein Karoo. When you get to Calitzdorp about 50 km outside Oudtshoorn you have to take a walk down Queen Street. The buildings are spectacular, the coffee and cakes delicious and the gardens a place of tranquillity. Visit Hennie Cloete's Succulent Garden and try some of Rose of the Karoo's food. They might even persuade you to stay the night. A further 50 km on under the split peak of Towerkop, is Ladismith. It is evident that the town is a centre for many outdoor activities such hiking and other more extreme sports. 80 km on we arrive in Barrydale, with a typical Klein Karoo sunset welcoming us for the evening. We get comfortable in Barrydale Karoo Hotel, ideal to help prepare you for the hustle and bustle of Cape Town the following day. I had been waiting the whole road trip to visit the infamous Ronnie's Sex Shop, though not for reasons that you might be thinking. Just outside Barrydale on Route 62, this restaurant and pub became a hit because of its name, but it's actually a misnomer. The name was given to the shop by Ronnie's mates as a joke, but the outcome was that almost all travelers stop to have a look (and it now it seems to leave their signed underwear there). Back behind the steering wheel (with my garments still where they ought to be) we make our way to Route 62's traditional starting point - though our finale - Montagu. The spectacular mountain passes, vineyards and orchards of this town remind us of all those we have seen, each so impressive in its own right. Montagu is a place of promises, a place where we are able to look up and say: Route 62, we'll be back. Text box If you are an arts enthusiast get down for the week of 21 -29 March 2008, for the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, or travel in Spring in September when the Langkloof's orchards are in full blossom.

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