A newbie Off-roading Adventure in the Northern Cape

This time last year, we hopped into a 4×4 for a road trip adventure to explore the Northern Cape, while flower spotting at the Namaqua National Park and its surrounds. The whole area is rugged terrain and you need a 4 x 4 to travel through the area. Our trusted city hatch back would not quite manage. So, we borrowed my father in law’s jeep for a week of exploration.We explored sand dunes in a 4×4, lived on the wild side when the diesel at a stop we made before a long stretch was sold out and froze our bums off in a stone hut. All part of what makes road trips epic.

I wrote about part of our experience for an in-flight magazine earlier this year but also wanted to share more of our adventure here.

Noup - Anchor

Anchor at the foot of Noup where we spend our first three nights.

Noup

Our base for the first couple of nights was a place called Noup. Noup is hidden on the seemingly deserted space between the small mining towns of Kleinzee and Koingnaas.  It is made up of sea facing ‘huts’ that used to be where diamond divers stayed in the mining heyday. When the diamonds dried up, the huts were used as facilities for tourists.  For the most part, the original state of the huts remained the same. That is, they are uniquely built, basic stone huts with an indoor fire place and bathroom.

Noup

Noup huts overlooking the ocean.

The things that I loved: I loved that the hut was right on the beach and you could hear the heaving of the ocean throughout the night. The staff were so friendly and helpful (shout out to them for telling me the best exact 4G hot spot) and also sorted out the dishes in the morning. It has all the items you would need for a decent meal prep and the interior decor is colourful and charming.

Noup - Far Side

Interior

The things that irked me: We went in the early days of Spring which is still chilly. There were loads of blankets and hot water bottle provided which was great. I thought the fire would make the whole space cosy at night. It did not. No matter how much wood you used, the room felt like it remained just below warm and on a freezing cold night, that kind of sucks.

Noup - Far Side Int

The doors are rather low, which didn’t actually bother me because I’m not that tall, but Steve scraped his head going through one of the doors. It looked very sore and needed a plaster. After that he hit his head two more times, I don’t know I guess he just wanted to make sure it was still low?

Although the website used the words basic, rustic and ‘untouched mystique,’ that turned out to be a bit much for me. As I watched the fire burn down, I discovered (well, I probably always knew this), that I likely don’t like rustic so much. I reckon, I am more a fan of “largely rustic or rustic chic.” Qualifiers are important, people!

Not beach Vibes

Although it was clearly still winter. A part of me thought there might be an opportunity to be go to the beach. So, I packed my swimming costume – It was not that kind of vibe!

 

On the second day of our road trip, we joined the Sand dunes  and Shipwreck run Namaqua Coastal Expeditions and Rodville Adams. When I first called Rodville to enquire about the Shipwreck 4×4 tour, my main question was: “we’ve not really (ever) done that much (any) 4×4 driving, so how hectic is the route?” He said not to worry, it is a fairly easy route with only a few very sandy patches which he could talk us through.

When the day came he armed us with some brief 101 tips, deflated our tyres and armed us with a walkie talkie. While testing the walkie talkie, I thought I would resist the temptation to sign off with “over” after each interaction. I did not. He laughed but I’m pretty sure he’s “over” guests cracking that joke!

Small fishing boat.

The tour is about a 4 hour drive. Along the way we hear about the history of the area including abandoned buildings from when the mine was still open to a farm house and wells still standing from the 1920s. We jump out along the way to chat about the wildlife and sturdy vegetation. Then it takes us to various boat and shipwrecks that are reminders of how temperamental the ocean can be and it might not always want us there!

Noup - The Piratiny (2)

The Piratiny shipwreck – A 22 year old steam ship that ran aground in June 1943, due to bad weather, 
on the rocky coast at Schulp Point, 32 km north of Hondeklip Bay. Local legend has it that
the Piratiny was hit by a German torpedo.

The Border shipwreck – A 285-ton British motor coaster that ran aground in dense fog at high tide, at Naas Naas Point south of Kleinzee, on Tuesday, 1 April 1947. The 20-year old ship lost her
rudder and damaged her propeller. It carried cargo for the copper mines and teams of donkey carts were eventually used to transport her cargo across the sand dunes to the nearest road, approximately 2 km away.

 

Although it was our first time driving in this type of terrain, we did quite well. Followed the basics which were “keep the momentum” and “Put your foot on the accelerator.” The drive was relatively easy, that is until it wasn’t.

At some point in the trip, Rodvilles’s voice crackles through the walkie talkie, “guys, this part is a little bit tricky, so wait there and I will guide you through.” We stop the jeep at the top of a dune. Ahead of us, the sandy trail we have been following takes a sudden plunge before quickly rising to the top of the next dune. Rodville appears at our window and provides some brief instructions of how to tackle this. I don’t remember all the instructions because I was giving Steve a look that said hey, you’re listening right? Don’t look for nothing! However, I also nodded with understanding, so we don’t seem too city slicker.

Team to the rescue!

 

We take the plunge with a team of spectators watching our every move. Through the radio, I hear Rodville saying “put foot, Put foot.” In case Steve missed that I also start shouting “Put Foot.” But, as it turns out, shouting “put foot, put foot” won’t always get you to the top of the dune. The next thing I know, one of the guides is digging us out the sand with a spade. They then grab a rope and pull us out… backwards. So we need to do this again.

The second time around, I opted for rooting “go, go, go” until we were stuck again. We made it out the next try or it could have been the one after. It was fun and nerve wrecking at the same time. We message my father in law a picture with a picture of us chassis deep. He responded: “Oh, the shame.” Which we agreed with between raucous laughter. It’s all good though, the next time we will be intermediates.

 

Pristine Beaches

Tour: Sand dunes  and Shipwreck 

Rodville Adams runs Namaqua Coastal Expeditions which organises local adventures tours such as surfing, hiking, shipwreck and sand dunes tours. You can book a seat in his vehicle or navigate the terrain behind him in your own 4×4.

Cost: At the time we went it was R250 per person.

Noup Sign

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48 hours in Port Elizabeth

One of the lovely things about friends and family moving away, is that it gives you the task of visiting places that you may possibly give a miss on an another day. A friend of ours recently moved to Port Elizabeth (PE) – the friendly city – and it’s the reason we drove those extra kilometres through the garden route for a brief 48 hours.

Morning view of the harbour and beach from the apartment.
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Wild Flowers and Glamping on the West Coast

The Western Cape is still experiencing a drought and while there are still water restrictions, we’re no longer obsessing about buckets and rushing outside to catch the last drop for use later. Now when it rains, we lazily peek out the window and remark, “oh lovely.” Heavy storms have been minimal even in the last rainy season. Of course, on the day I decide to spend the night in a tent, the clouds would burst and the worst storm in the are would happen. Yep, that’s me.

After the storm

Late last year, we welcomed the warm seasons with a road trip and glamping experience at the Wild Flower Camp near Hopefield. The weekend focused on birds, flowers and nature on the banks of the Berg River. I’ve spoken about my “love” for camping on the blog before and possibly ranted at other places. This time though we would be glamping and I thought, “surely I could manage that. As it turns out, I could… well, mostly.

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The Valley of Desolation

The first long distance trip that I remember was when I was eight years old and drove down to Cape Town with my family. We listened to the Quincy Jones album “back to on the block” so much that we knew all the words by the end. We stopped for loads of junk food (and peeing) and it was a long drive. My dad was so over it by the time we arrived in Cape Town, that he flew my brother down to drive us back home.

On the drive back, my mom made my brother stop off in the then Transkei (Eastern Cape) to visit her friend and a national park. It was great. That’s because mom knew how to road trip. You need music, a good temperament, food and stops. Stops maketh the road trip!

 

 

Bird Watching - Camdeboo park

Camdeboo National Park game viewing and bird watching.

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Hiking in the Majestic Drakensberg Mountains

I started hiking as a recreational activity while I was in university. Before that it was one of those mandatory activities that you could not get out of at school, despite very colourful and creative excuses on my part. To me, the fact that I was a pedestrian at the time was my “weekly contribution” towards a healthy lifestyle and I wasn’t really looking for added extras. 

Over the years, that feeling has changed and my attraction for hiking in the wilderness, or even closer to home, has grown. Even so, it had been a long time since my last hike.This year I decided to change that and kill two birds with one stone by going hiking and doing so in a place I have never visited before as an actual destination as opposed to a drive through– the Drakensberg.

Hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains – Incredible views all around.

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Camping – My Relationship Compromise

Camping was never my thing (and to be clear, it still isn’t). It was one of those experiences that I liked to see locked in a cupboard with the other things of the past labelled “do not do that again.” This particular experience, however, doesn’t seem to want to stay in its place. I don’t have any deep-seated sociological reasons about why I don’t like camping, I’ve really only gone camping a handful of times and I just don’t like it. Despite that, it is my relationship compromise – I can commit to one night without complaining, provided the loo is not dodgy. That’s how I discovered the Bontebok National Park.

bontebok-national-park

Beautiful morning picture of the campsite along the river with the chalets in the background.

 

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Cool. Insanely. Awesome – The Great White Lions of Timbavati

We sit quietly on our game truck and watch in awe as the lion duo commandeer the road, owning their space calming and purposefully. We are on an early morning drive and spent some time tracking the lions. We caught them at that time of the morning when you really couldn’t be bothered with visitors and yet there the knock goes anyway. We stare intently, amazed at this opportunity to see these great lions in the wild.

lions-brothers

Matsieng and Zukhara are white lion brothers living in the reserve.

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Chasing Waterfalls in Mpumalanga

A couple of years ago, while paging through a travel magazine I came across a stunning picture of the Lisbon Falls in Mpumalanga and became obsessed with taking a trip up there to see for myself. Each time we’d start planning a trip I’d throw Lisbon Falls in the mix but it never seemed to pan out…until late last year when the coin toss was finally in my favour. I was beyond excited.

The drive to Mpumalanga has a mystical feeling to it and I love driving through there. The roads hug the rolling forest hills, meticulously lined with pine and eucalyptus trees. Each curve on the road reveals another angle of amazing views as you make your way up and down the winding valleys.

Valley View.JPG

The view outside our backpackers

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Tracking Wild Dogs in Zululand

It’s 4 am on a cold morning and I’m on an early morning game drive (I seem to be making a habit of these cold morning rides). I made sure that I was dressed warmly and have tightly wrapped the blanket, provided by our friendly Rhino River Lodge ranger, around me but the cold still seeps through. So, I sit extremely still and try meditate for the duration of the 50 minute drive to the northern part of the reserve where we will be tracking wild dogs with Wildlife ACT.

As cold as I am, I’m also very excited because we are camping, hiking or just driving in a reserve that is said to have wild dogs, we always joke about this being the time we see them. We joke because we know how extremely lucky we would have to be to spot one. The African wild dog is the second most endangered wild dog and there are less than 550 left in South Africa. This time the odds are largely in my favour, leaving my friends green with envy.

Rhino River - Water Hole

A view of a watering hole while on a game drive Rhino River Lodge in Zululand.

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Road Tripping with Travel Massive!

Last month, I was out on the road exploring more of South Africa. This time on the Travel Massive Road Trip powered by Ford South Africa with 9 influencers who also love travel in South Africa as much as I do. It was actually a bit daunting for me because as some of you know, I’m not generally listed under the “people person” category but this year I promised myself I would step outside myself more and so, I just jumped into the fire.

Road trips are always loads of fun and (s it turns out) even better when you don’t need to justify random stops, explorations for interesting sights or bush pee breaks. Our route took us from Constitutional Hill to Durban up the KZN Northern Coast, through Mpumalanga and back to Jozi.

Ford Con Hill

Packing our gear on a very early morning at Constitutional Hill. Photo by fellow traveler Chantelle – Kzara Visual Concepts

 

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