Africa trips

Trip to the Eastern Cape - Including Baviaanskloof and Nature's Valley

Overlanding Trips

Trip to the Eastern Cape
March 2012
Peter Taylor

We left Wellington on a Tuesday afternoon in March and went up Bainskloof on our way to our first overnight stop at De Rust just outside Oudtshoorn. We were going to meet some fellow VW Syncro Kombi owners there and go on a saamtrek to Baviaanskloof and surrounding areas. We wasted a bit of time in Oudtshoorn trying to find a garage with low sulphur diesel and I still cannot believe that a town the size of Oudtshoorn does not have 50ppm diesel available when a little holiday town like Yzerfontein has.

We got to De Rust after dark and Leon was already there with a fire going. He was braaing bobotie flavoured sausage that he had bought somewhere on the way to De Rust. When we eventually got around to tasting it, it turned out to be very nice.

Baviaanskloof

Chris arrived sometime during the night and Steven arrived early the next morning,
Baviaanskloof

and Verine chatted up some of the locals.

Baviaanskloof

We headed straight out of De Rust into Meiringspoort and our first stop was Herrie se klip where C. J. Langenhoven had chiseled the name of his well known imaginary elephant on a rock. Had that been you or me, we would have been fined or jailed but write the South African National Anthem and they make the stone a national monument!

National Anthem Monument
The next stop was the waterfall a short distance from there.

Waterfall

Waterfall

Very impressive and well worth a stop. In fact the entire Meiringspoort is hugely impressive. I had never been through Seweweekpoort Pass until last year and I had always expected it to be more spectacular than Meiringspoort but I think I still prefer Meiringspoort now that I’ve seen them both.

We turned right at Klaarstroom and headed for Willowmore on a lovely gravel road.

Klaarstroom road

Up ahead I saw that the other guys had stopped so we all pulled over and Steven and Chris were helping a tortoise across the road. As I got out the car I heard a strange hissing sound and thought it was something in the bush behind my car but as I walked past the car to go and have a look I heard it was coming from my rear tyre! Mmmm, here we go again. Just what I needed.

Road

I got out my puncture fix kit and found that my tube of solution was dry. Chris had borrowed a tube from the only shop in Wolwefontein a few months earlier when he was traveling through this way and had subsequently bought two tubes, one to replace the borrowed one and one for himself so the blue bird of happiness was smiling on me. I put in one plug but that wasn’t enough and had to put in another one next to it to shut it up.

We stopped in Willowmore and some of us stocked up on some supplies and what not.

Willomore

On the road to Steytlerville we had a lovely tail wind and while some of us recorded a fuel consumption of 7.8 l/100kms some others tried to break the land speed record and clocked 160kph! Leon radioed Steven to tell him that he saw a puff of white smoke come out the back of Steven’s Kombi a short distance from Steytlerville. When we got into town Steven discovered that the water level sensor had popped out on the water reservoir bottle and the white smoke was actually steam. BTW Steven wasn’t the holder of the land speed record; he was traveling at a normal speed. (Just in case you were thinking that that’s why the sensor popped)

Broken down

Steven couldn’t get a sensor or a plug to fit in the hole and decided to limp back to Oudtshoorn and do some running repairs at his brother’s place while the rest of us went on to our rendezvous with some more Syncro guys at Mvubu camp in the Addo Park near Kirkwood.

While we were in town I saw Chris pop into the local bottle store so I walked over to join him and the guy behind the counter was telling Chris that he had some close to expiry date Black Labels which he would let go at a good price. Chris being an ex SAB employee knew that this wasn’t too much of a problem in a can so he bought a case. Not being one to let a bargain pass me buy I decided to buy some as well. He even had some old Castles which I gladly took off his hands. And so in our small way we helped this poor man out of his bad stock situation.

On the way we stopped at Wolwefontein where Chris returned the borrowed tube of solution and he only got through half of the story about the local railway station master who was seriously injured when crushed between two trains. He apparently then trained (excuse the pun) a baboon to change the signals on the railway lines! Luckily we had to move on as we were running late and we haven’t heard the rest of the story yet.

Wolwefontein

We got to the gate of the Addo Park where Louwtjie was waiting for us and after some mass confusion we managed to convince them that we were the party that had booked the Mvubu campsite and were part of the other three Syncro’s that were already there.

A lovely drive through the Eastern Cape bush led us to the Mvubu campsite and we arrived as the sun was setting.

Mvubu campsite

So in total we were now 7 Syncro’s, ok 6 Syncro’s and a 4motion. Louwtjie had come up from George, Barry and Darrel had come down from KwaZulu Natal and Tim had come all the way from Gauteng. Steven had gone back to Oudtshoorn and would join us again the next night in Baviaanskloof and Ian was going to join us in the morning from Port Elizabeth.

Baviaanskloof

After the normal lengthy greetings, introductions and tyre kicking we set up camp and had a lovely evening.

Baviaanskloof

The next morning Ian and Herman arrived and some of us lazed around the camp while the others went on a 4x4 trail through the bush.

Baviaanskloof

That afternoon we left Mvubu and all headed into Kirkwood to get some supplies and then some of us went through Uitenhage to Hankey and Patensie and then on to Bruintjieskraal at the eastern entrance to the Baviaanskloof wilderness while the others went to the VW museum. We stopped at the biggest sun dial probably in the world and adjacent to it is Saartjie Baartman’s grave and a poor attempt of a toposcope. When we got to Bruintjieskraal Steven was already there waiting for us. He had gone all the way to Oudtshoorn, got a new level sensor (yes Oudtshoorn had stock), fitted it and found that nothing else was wrong and came through Baviaanskloof from the western side and met us at Bruintjieskraal. At Bruintjieskraal there were 9 of us in total making it a very nice Syncro gathering.

camp

That night Chris made one of his famous potjies like the one he made at the Houthoop on our last Syncro saamtrek up the west coast some time ago. It was nothing like that one though but just as nice. Some people lent a hand wherever they could while others just stared blankly into the fire nodding in agreement every now and again.

camp

drissle

The next morning dawned overcast with a very light drizzle now and again.

And the rest of Chris’ pot was enjoyed once again by all of us.

pot

This is where we bid the Syncro guys farewell and we headed off towards Bathurst and part two of our holiday while the rest of them went through the Baviaanskloof to Doringkloof.

We stopped off at Boknesstrand and Boesmansriviermond to see what they looked like

Boknesstrand

and then on to “Hay Hurst” in Bathurst where we spent two nights with John and Cecile.

Hay Hurst

Hay Hurst was bought as a ramshackled mess by John and Cecile and renovated by John a few years ago to what is arguably the best spot in Bathurst. The famous Pig and Whistle Hotel (1831), Hay Hurst (1835) and Morley House, all in the main road were built by the same builder but that’s another story entirely which hopefully I will get around to documenting sometime.

On Sunday 25th March we continued our journey up the coast and stopped off at Kidd’s Beach and Christmas Rock to have a look-see.

Kidds Beach

Kidds beach

We wound our way through East London, past the old Grand Prix circuit, past the only estuary harbour in our country, through the city and out the other side and as we were trying to navigate our way as close to the coast as we could we turned down a little road that ended up in Cintsa East. Here we found a very nice caravan park which was totally deserted and we had the whole place to ourselves.

camp

The weather turned sour and we realized that we were not going to be able to braai and so we headed for the only jol in town; The Barefoot Café, where we had a magical evening, but not before we indulged in a little Cintsa-character-building-exercise!

coffee

The Bar/Café was started by two surfers that were too lazy to work and they thought the hours would suite them very well for those early morning surfs or those not so early mornings when they were hung over. I think they got the recipe right because the place has been going for a few years now and still has that “good vibe” going.
good vibes

vibes

After a very entertaining evening (that’s one of the surfer dude owners in the blue shirt) and a good meal we had to run like hell through the rain to get to the car and as we were driving into our very own caravan park the heavens opened and we had a torrential downpour of note. Unfortunately we parked under a wild fig tree because it was right at the ablution block and we were bombarded all night by over-ripe wild figs on the roof. The next morning we had to hose the car off because it was covered in vrot figs. What a mess! Luckily it was still wet and soggy.

coffee

Yip, that’s coffee!

Cintsa East beach looking at Cintsa West and the rain has gone.

We took a little gravel road to the right as we were leaving Cintsa which took us through a village called Tainton and it was a good appetizer to the Transkei roads we would get later on.

Baviaans

baviaanskloof

We then turned back down towards the coast on the Haga-Haga road and turned left to a sleepy little holiday settlement called Marshstrand which has a huge lawn area in front of the houses and then some lovely flat rocks with the most amazing patterns.

patterns

camp

As you drive up the hill out of Marshstrand there is a little road that turns to the left and it takes you down to a lagoon which is then the east side of Haga-Haga. There I spotted a very rare species with a peculiar head covering which was almost completely camouflaged by a piece of drift wood. I was able to get a pic of it with my cell phone.

haga

This is Haga-Haga with the Hotel on the extreme left on the waters edge.
HagaHaga

And this is from the deck looking back with Marshstrand around the corner where the tall trees are.

Haga Haga

From here we went back up the R349 past an airplane and a train which are standing right next to the road on the way to Morgan Bay. We drove through Morgan Bay, past the hotel and took a little track to a beautiful camp site at Double Mouth. The views from the hill above Double Mouth camp site really take your breath away. That is the camp site in the trees below.

trees

coast

double mouth

Coming back from Double Mouth, this is the view of Morgan Bay with the hotel right on the shore.

double mouth

Double Mouth

Just beyond the hotel is yet another lagoon with a lovely campsite right on the waters edge and we made camp here.

camp

g

Oh yeah! That’s the life. That’s us there on the point below.

beach

Looking back at Morgan Bay in the late afternoon.

Morgan Bay

It doesn’t get much better than this!

Camping at morgan bay

The next morning we drove to Kei mouth which is very close to Morgan Bay and I forgot to go back to the airplane and train resort to look around there. It looked interesting.

We bought some things at a very reasonably priced spaza shop, had a quick look around the little dorpie of Kei Mouth and then . . . . . . . . . . Tara ! ! !

Kei Mouth

The sounds of “Don’t pay the ferryman” were jingling through my head. The dude in the blue shirt desperately wanted a lift from us and even ran after us for a long time as we headed off up the Transkei hill on the other side. Note the ferry’s steering wheel.

Farryman

Typical classic Transkei landscape followed,
Transkei

Transkei

This poor guy had a bad case of double spiked horn vision.

cow

And eventually . . . . . . . Mazeppa Bay.
The hotel,

Mazeppa Bay

Mazeppa Bay

Mazeppa Bay

the island,

Mazeppa Bay island

the swing bridge,

swing bridge Mazeppa Bay

the most amazing views,

Mazeppa Bay

the cocktails,

cocktail at Mazeppa Bay

and my all-time-favourite , , , , , , the puncture!

Puncture

We had a super time here staying in the self-catering units on the first night and then we decided to lift our status to dinner, bed and breakfast the second night. The weather was a bit cloudy to overcast with intermittent rain which put a bit of a damper on our stay but we still enjoyed our time relaxing around the hotel and walking over the rolling hills and beaches.

From Mazeppa Bay we headed straight up to just east of Butterworth, onto the N2 and down to East London. I could feel something wrong with the wheels when we were on the tar road and I stopped in East London to have a look and saw that I had tread separation on the left rear wheel, steel belt threads peeping out at me on both rear inners and the right rear was busy going flat!

To cut a long and expensive story short, by the time we got to the second tyre shop, the right rear was nearly flat and we eventually drove away with gleaming new tyres.

new tyre

We popped in at Hay Hurst in Bathurst again and had a very entertaining evening with John and Cecile and a friend of John’s, Henri who was visiting from Knysna. Henri handcrafted all the lights at Hay Hurst for John.

John

John

The next morning we were off again down the N2 and the weather was getting worse. We pulled into the Wolf Village near Storms River but it started raining and it was nearing closing time so we gave that a miss. Beautiful animals though, maybe next time.

When we got back on the N2 the heavens opened again and visibility was virtually down to zero. We just managed to make out the Tsitsikamma Village sign and knew then that our turnoff was near. The Storms River Mouth sign beckoned in the driving rain and we turned left. The rain was still pelting down when we got to reception and we had to run through rivers of water to get to the office and their computers were down. They told us to pick a site and they would sort it out in the morning.

Being school holidays the campsite was fairly full but no one was to be seen as everyone was huddled under their shelters. No point in us sticking around to try and make a fire, oh no, we headed for the bar and restaurant.

Good thing we did because no sooner had we finished eating when the masses starting arriving because no one could braai and the place became overcrowded.

Next morning dawned bright and sunny,

and we went through the old Bloukrans pass and met up with some more of my in-laws.

We explored Nature’s Valley, the camp site and the forest walks,

Nature's Valley

had something to eat in Plett and then cruised through to the Wilderness where we spent the night at the Back Packers near the Ebb & Flow camp site. What a super place and Verine even had some company. There was a pair of Knysna Loeries in the trees all around us so I guess they must have had a nest there somewhere. It was absolute paradise.

This is the best photo I could get.
Knysna Loerie


The next morning we did the usual touristy thing through the Wilderness stopping at the view point at the Kaaiman’s mouth, and at the bridge a little further into the pass where there is a lovely picnic place on a little beach right on the water’s edge.

Kaaiman’s mouth,

Kaaiman’s mouth,

From there it was straight home along the N2 until Swellendam and up to Ashton, Robertson and Worcester.

What a lovely holiday


This trip report was compiled by:
Peter Taylor
Wellington
073 922 9339