THE DESTINATION IS THE JOURNEY
15 drives in South Africa you must do!
SOUTH AFRICA IS CAR-MAD COUNTRY. WE LOVE LITTLE CARS, BIG CARS, FAST CARS, OLD CARS AND BAKKIES. LUCKILY, THE COUNTRY ALSO HAS SOME OF THE BEST ROADS AND ROUTES TO DRIVE. TAKE YOUR PICK FROM TIM BRINK’S SELECTION. T he road trip is a South African staple; from a Sunday morning drive, to the year-end journey to visit family, this is a country that likes to keep moving. With a vast network of tar and dirt roads, South Africa is a motoringenthusiast’ s paradise. With a wide variety of landscapes and ecosystems, there truly is something to suit every taste, and we have the cars to match.
THE DRIVE Panorama posing Location Mpumalanga 60-150 km/2-6 hrs
If it weren’t for the potholes, Mpumalanga would offer the best driving experience in the country. Still, the Panorama Route is a party on wheels, with breathtaking scenery and twisty, demanding mountain passes that will test you and your car equally. Start in Sabie (with some famous pancakes) and wind your way past Sabie Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Mac Mac Falls to God’s Window, Blyde River Canyon, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and, eventually, the Lowveld. There are stop-offs everywhere to keep bored travellers’ whistles wet. Don’t miss Long Tom Pass; it’s 21 km of driving nirvana.
This route is perfectly suited to BMW’s X5. It has all the power for altitude driving, all the space for rowdy travellers and their cooler boxes, and big fat tekkies for those pesky potholes. And you will blend in perfectly when you stop in Dullstroom.
THE DRIVE Chapman’s charge Location Cape Town 60 km/2 hrs
After sipping on your third flat white checking out the Camps Bay scenery and the gorgeous beach across Victoria Road, buckle up for a one of the most scenic seaside roads in the world; through Oudekraal (don’t forget to check out The 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa nestling on your left with it’s pristine position and view) and over Suikerbossie to Hout Bay, where you will find the craggy twists that are Chapman’s Peak. Relax here – this is a gentle Sunday offering, not a racetrack substitute and there are cyclists, runners and dassies everywhere – and don’t forget to whoop in the tunnelled section before dropping into Noordhoek Farm Village for further caffeination before heading back the way you came.
An Mustang, vintage or new. The whole point of this route is to be seen, and nothing is more visible than a noisy V8.
THE DRIVE Bungeeeeeee! Location Bloukrans 150 km/5 hrs
Leave Plettenberg Bay heading towards Port Elizabeth and up to the Crags. Turn right to Nature’s Valley and enjoy the twisty, pocket-racer-perfect roads that the congested N2 avoids. Grootrivier Pass is twistingly terrifying (for your passengers), but a hoot if you’re behind the wheel. You still have Bloukrans Pass to come, where the road is not in great nick, so wringing the neck of the GTI the first time is not recommended. Either head back to Plett the way you came, or along the N2. If you haven’t quite satisfied your inner adrenaline junkie, stop off at Bloukrans Bridge for the world’s highest bungee jump – 216 metres with a rubber band tied to your ankles.
Volkswagen’s Golf GTI Clubsport is a master of many trades: as fast as many a sportscar, but with room for your three best mates. The perfect holiday car.
Route 62 Location Karoo and Eastern Cape 850 km/2 days Make a trip of one of our best-kept motoring secrets. Start in Cape Town and make Barrydale your first lunch stop, before heading to Oudtshoorn for the night (and Jessica’s for dinner), via the timeless Seweweekspoort Pass, where you will unleash your inner racer. Day two takes you down Langkloof – miles and miles of open-road bliss, with plenty of coffee stops before you hit the bustling metropoli of Kareedouw and Humansdorp. Finish your outward journey with a surf in Jeffrey’s Bay, and then head back again along the Garden Route, and realise why the other way is better.
Jaguar’s F-Pace SUV will keep your surfboards safe at thrilling speed on the freeway, and slightly sideways on the gravel of the ‘Poort. And it has room for everything you need. You might even be tempted to come back via Baviaanskloof.
THE DRIVE Call me Clarence Location Hermanus 21 km each way/2 hrs
Recently rebuilt, the ribbon of tar from Gordon’s Bay to Rooi Els is a dream run for an experienced petrol head. Smooth tar, crazy corners, upsdowns-flying-arounds – Clarence Drive has it all. But, it really does demand concentration and restraint, no matter how talented you think you are – the retaining walls are low and the sea wet. Cars don’t like getting wet. Unless you have access to 007’s Lotus Esprit. Make a day of it by heading through to Hermanus, or just drive the road to-and-fro. Weekends are busy – natural speedcontrol measures in the form of sensible road users everywhere – so a weekday run is the dream. Unwind and recover at a choice of beautiful accommodation options, like Mosaic Private Sanctuary.
Toyota’s 86 is perfect – light, moderately powerful and nimble. A driver’s car that rewards skill over a heavy right foot.
THE DRIVE Bright city lights Location Cape Town 35 km/2 hrs
Head up Kloof Nek Road from the Cape Town CBD and turn left to the cable car station, following the ribbon of tar to its very end. Find a spot to park and just soak up the view across to the Cederberg in the north and the Hottentots Holland Mountains further south. Heading back past the cable car, cross Kloof Nek carefully and head up to Signal Hill to spy on the multimillion-rand houses below before descending into The Glen and Camps Bay for sundowners. If it is already dark, this drive is doubly good – just don’t contemplate stopping to make the most of it; the boogieman roams here preying on courting couples.
Cape Town in summer is cabrio city, and this route keeps you away from the Southeaster. Roll the top back on the Fiat 500C and you have the best of both worlds – the sun on your shoulders and the ability to find parking in Camps Bay
THE DRIVE Flat … not Location Free State Various/2- 6 hrs
So the Free State is flat. That’s what we learned at school, right? Not around Clarens, it isn’t, as the hippest village south (only by three hours) of Hillbrow nestles up to Golden Gate National Park, the Drakensberg and Lesotho. You can either head south into the park – with quiet roads and crazy scenery (and a vulture restaurant) – or north towards Ladybrand via Ficksburg (eat some cherries), Fouriesburg (pop over the border to Lesotho and make it an international weekend) and Clocolan (hit the gentle 4x4 trail). And then head back to Clarens for good food and craft beer.
Here is one country drive where Maserati’s new Levante SUV might not draw gawkers, and its power and luxury make the trip from Jozi a breeze. Boot space? Plenty. Stockpile that craft beer.
THE DRIVE In-Sani-ty Location Lesotho 20 km/all day
South Africa’s gnarliest drive is doable in a normal bakkie, but a 4x4 is really the tool of choice as you climb 1 300 metres in just 9 km of loose, rocky “road”. You will need passports and you will need to stop at the highest pub for a beer, before coming back down even more gingerly than you went up. This is a proper adventure. Bring survival equipment and snow gear in winter. There will be plenty of bikers and cyclists to keep you company, on the way up and back down; smile and wave from your air-conditioned comfort.
Africa’s toughest off-roader is the understated Toyota Land Cruiser 70 series. They look out of place in Sandton, but they will get in anywhere those other Land-vehicles get.
THE DRIVE Four passes Location Franschhoek 160 km/3 hrs
Leaving Somerset West, start with Sir Lowry’s Pass and turn left through Grabouw to enter the unheralded Viljoen’s Pass, which takes you up through the orchards and onto a stark plateau, before dropping into the Villiersdorp valley. A left turn after the dam bridge takes you on a fun, fast stretch to the foot of Franschhoek Pass, 15 km of driving heaven. A leisurely lunch in Franschhoek and on to the Franschhoek Motor Museum, where you will find nearly 200 cars you’ll want to take home, but can’t afford. The final squirt over Helshoogte Pass needs to be controlled and there is a permanent camera as you enter Stellenbosch.
There is only one car for this route: a Porsche 911, new or old. The grunty flat-six and the svelte handling are almost custom-designed for Franschhoek.
THE DRIVE Get a grip Location Boland 140 km/4 hrs
The Cape has more on offer than a flat mountain and the sea. Look inland, just 50 km, and explore some derring-do mountain passes and lush green valleys peppered with brilliant farm-stall lunch spots. Head out of Paarl and up Du Toitskloof Pass – 20 km of tight, narrow, exciting driving, and then take a right to Rawsonville, and double back up through Slanghoek Valley, ending up over Mitchell’s Pass in Ceres for refreshments. The trip back is over the impossibly pretty Bainskloof, which is twisty and bumpy and best suited to an ox wagon, or a tightly-suspended sportscar. Filling-rattling stuff, but thrilling as the engine echoes in the ‘Kloof. The Ferrari California T means you only have to choose one buddy for the trip, so you can concentrate on the joy and power.
THE RIDE THE DRIVE The last outpost Location Kwazulu-Natal Various/hours or days
Leave the Durban coast behind with it’s perfect beaches and iconic Oyster Box Hotel temptations and head west, into rural KZN, for a medley of craft shops, restaurants, activities and adventure that will appease even the grumpiest travelling partner. The Karkloof Canopy Tour is a must, as is a visit to Kamberg for some fly-fishing. Golf can be fun, too, with the right company, and the courses here are unpretentious – they welcome some well-mannered fun. Pack the mountain bikes and ride in the foothills of the Drakensberg, or hike up to the Amphitheatre. Adventure abounds on a classic SA road trip.
Pack picnics, cousins, girlfriends and even a dog into the huge new Mercedes-Benz V-Class. A cracking sound system, comfortable seating and power to burn make it the ultimate road-tripper.
THE DRIVE Weekend special Location Cradle of Humankind 120 km/a morning
Crank Ma Brr to 11 and head out through Krugersdorp and the Cradle of Humankind to the quaint town of Magaliesburg for the most popular wheeled jol in Jozi: the breakfast run. You will spend the morning being gobbled by superbikes and Harleys, but that is cool. Resist the temptation to join in (and everyone lives); just enjoy the spectacle. Breakfast? Well, we recommend you leave a little later than the masses, so the roads are a bit quieter (in your direction) and the Angels have eaten their fill by the time you get there. Make it a brunch run.
Haul out the other Honda, a spirited Civic Type-R, wind down the windows and you will enjoy the drive just as much, but without that embarrassing crack showing.
THE DRIVE Karoo cranking Location Karoo 170 km/6 hrs
From your cutesy Prince Albert cottage, head out and through Meiringspoort – a gem drive nobody ever talks about. You will cross the Groot River 25 times in less than 20 km, as it (and you) carve a route through the once-impenetrable Swartberg. Visitor centres are usually boooooring, but stop at this one. The ‘Poort conquered, head for Oudtshoorn and make your way over the scary – 25 km up, all gravel with great views and even greater drops on your left – and then take it easy as you head back into the Karoo to Prince Albert.
The only car we would want to tame both the swoops of the ‘Poort is a Subaru WRX. Grippy and grunty (and cool).
THE DRIVE Kom ons brei Location Northern Cape 500 km/many days
Head out of Cape Town in early spring for a road trip of note – to the Northern Cape and the festival of flowers. This is not a luxurious trip, but it’s a good excuse to spend a few days chilling and pretending you care for nature. Head for Niewoudtville, to start, and seek out Protea Motors and its insane motorbike museum (see, not just daisies) and then just enjoy the peace, spend a couple of nights and interact with the tourists.
Borrow a vintage VW Kombi, chuck a mattress in the back and pretend you are retracing the steps of David Kramer and his rooi veldskoen. Explain the historical importance of this trip to your new Swedish friend Ingrid.
THE DRIVE Free ride Location Limpopo 165 km/3 hrs
Swop zebra crossings for zebras crossing the road. It’s big-sky country north of Gauteng. Actually, it’s big-everything country! Gear up for spectacular scenery changes from the heart of Pretoria with its urban architecture, mall culture and great retreats along wide open roads with tunes pumping, before reaching game-reserve territory. You can cover the distance from Menlyn to Waterberg in under four hours and watch the grey turn to green. Final stop can be a choice of game reserves; new on the block is 57 Waterberg Lodge.
To prove the local notion that three litres a bakkie doth make, bring your VW Amarok 3,0 TDI V6 and crush.
A night’s stay at The Last Word Franschhoek To enter go to womenonwheels/WIN
A night’s stay at Oaklands Country Manor To enter go to womenonwheels/WIN
A night’s stay at De Hoek Country Hotel To enter go to womenonwheels/WIN
A night’s stay at The Oyster Box To enter go to womenonwheels/WIN