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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Great Farm stalls for a Road Trip pit stop

Packing a nice lunch with all your favourite tasty goodies for a long road trip is always a great idea. You know what is also a good idea? Stopping at local food stalls along the way. The food is fresh and locally sourced, it feels like part of your destination and you are helping small businesses thrive. Wins all around. Our trips usually start in Cape Town and up the garden route. These are some of the best farm stalls to stop for lunch, coffee or stretching on your road trip. 

Open road – The joys of a road trip.

 

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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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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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Free State loving

Road Trip!

A weekend trip to the Free State is the gift that keeps on giving. Whether it’s a day trip to enjoy the antique stores in Parys or camping along the Vaal, it’s always a fun, easy trip outside Jozi. This time we really put foot and headed down to Clarens for a weekend. A picturesque small town with a busy town square, tasty homely restaurants and a great views. (I feel like I don’t want use the word “picturesque” but it actually does look like a one of those landscape pictures your mom has in the lounge).

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Traditional Weddings, Rural beauty and That One Aunt

It’s the early hours of the morning. We are deep in the Eastern Cape Province discovering how cold it can actually get there at night. Although we’re wrapped up tight, the cold surreptitiously coaxed its way through our tightly woven blankets and mercilessly punches us. Curled up in a ball, the rustling sound of a body catches my attention. I awake to hear my cousin whisper, “Psst…Thanks for making me go back into the house to fetch a blanket.” I hear this and chuckle inwardly. Loathe to move and lose my warm spot by laughing out loud, I make a mental note to have a good laugh at him in morning. We were actually warned about how cold it was but we thought “It’s early December, how cold could it possibly be, right?

WRONG!

Weddings in our family always involve a road trip at some point. Our family is born and bred in South Africa’s cultural melting pot of Johannesburg. So no one seems to ever be dating a fellow home-grown Joburger. So, family weddings have taken us to Tzaneen, Pietermaritzburg, Durban, Lesotho and now Mhlanga.

Dordrecht Wedding

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Photos: Dawson’s Game & Trout Lodge, Mpumalanga Wedding Celebrations

The season of weddings is upon me. It’s that  phase of life when suddenly all your peers are getting engaged and it’s weddings galore. The good thing about my friends is that they love to travel, so they’re either living in interesting places (and fell in love there) or planning a destination wedding.  This usually means one thing: “road trip!”

Earlier this year, it was a weekend wedding getaway to  Dawson’s Game & Trout Lodge in Mpumalanga. About a four-hour drive from Johannesburg, it’s an idyllic, quiet space in what seems like the middle of nowhere. There’s plenty of space for hiking, a spa and of course a well stocked dam for fishing. After spending a whole day just relaxing by the pool  and watching the planner spin her magic, I decided to go for a walk. It was a little muddy and I may have been attacked by some shrubs here and there (not the best idea if you were going for the scratch free leg look at the wedding).

The night was fabulous, the rooms stunning and the friendly staff were fantastic. I would caution against driving there at night though. Unless, driving extremely slowly on freakishly foggy roads are and ghost stories are your thing.

Who knew I’d look be looking forward to the next trip?

 

 

Note: The gorgeous rooms are also equipped with a large inviting fireplace. Romantic, winter getaway? Yes, please.