Local Getaway

A quirky ladies' road trip: 3,100km of fun on the Cape's back roads

Ilse Zietsman and her adventurous companions took the long route from Paarl to Mossel Bay, with much wine, laughter and braaiing along the way

15 November 2020 - 00:03 By Ilse Zietsman
The road from Pofadder to Onseepkans.
The road from Pofadder to Onseepkans.
Image: Ilse Zietsman

I once read that “Using a travel consultant is like drinking a great bottle of wine. You may never know all the love and attention that went into creating the trip — but you'll definitely taste it.”

Sometimes a great bottle of wine, or more than one, becomes the travel consultant, as was the case when three accidental tourists (as we coined ourselves) decided to embark on a road trip. To be more specific, on a road trip that would lead us down as many gravel roads as possible.

It all started on a Sunday afternoon over too many tipples. We already had a lunch booking at Wolfgat in Paternoster but we hadn't been planning on driving anywhere else. We could just as well head north the next day, we semi-slurred whilst a road atlas was found at the back of a cupboard. Not having much in common — apart from a love of cooking and wine — we had to plan this with a modicum of caution.

Lise Beyers aka MadamBraai was the designated driver. She wanted to braai next to the road whenever she felt the urge. She also wanted to buy lots of wors along the way and traipse into myriad butcheries.

Jolanda Prinsloo aka Jollies didn't care where we were going as long as we were going somewhere. With the logical mind of a business analyst she drew up various documents about what to pack, how many kilometres we would be covering each day and how much wine we would need to last us for 11 days.

I went along for the ride — and the fun there was to be had. I opted for the back seat, where I could read to my heart's content when I felt like it.

Lise unearthed a sponsored SUV, the Renault Koleos Dynamic 4 x 4. It seems Renault quite liked the idea of three footloose and fancy-free women taking on the hinterland of the Northern Cape.

Upon departure, the driver grumbled a bit about my luggage but it was only a mock charge. There was more than enough space. Jollies pretended to move some bags around a bit and we were ready for take-off.

From left, Lise Beyers, Jolanda Prinsloo and writer Ilse Zietsman at the start of the trip.
From left, Lise Beyers, Jolanda Prinsloo and writer Ilse Zietsman at the start of the trip.
Image: Ilse Zietsman

DAY 1: Paarl to Langebaan

The less said about our first night at a friend's house in Langebaan the better. Before it all went pear-shaped we had a sundowner at Pearly's, Langebaan's oldest restaurant, overlooking the lagoon.

DAY 2: Langebaan to Paternoster

A day for eating, not for driving. We'd booked lunch at Wolfgat, World Restaurant of the Year 2019, before the pandemic. It is a world-class experience in an idyllic setting. Great bokkom butter too!

From there it went a bit downhill with a night at the Panty Bar. The collection of “honeymoon panties” strung along the ceiling was started in 1974 by the owner Johan Carosini. There are too many to count even if not a single drop has passed your lips.

DAY 3: Paternoster to Doringbaai

It felt good to hit the R399, albeit a bit bleary-eyed. Day three held the promise of sightseeing and scenic driving.

We strolled down Bokkomlaan in Velddrif, where more than a whiff of salted dried bokkom hangs in the air, whizzed through Dwarskersbos and waved to a train before we drove into Elands Bay for Bloody Marys on the lawn of the Eland's Bay Hotel with a view of the ocean.

We knew the pier at Doringbaai was awaiting us so, after a quick harbour photo session at Lambert's Bay, that is where we headed. You will search far and wide to find a better place to sip sauvignon blanc than at Fryer's Cove under the gaze of the black-and-white Doringbaai Lighthouse.

At sunset we headed for our self-catering accommodation, where MadamBraai braaied boerewors and Jollies made braaibroodjies. MadamBraai entertained us with tales of how she'd braaied for 365 days of the year in 2015. All documented too.

DAY 4: Doringbaai to Pofadder

We left at the crack of dawn because there was a lot of gravel road to be covered.

The first of many imposing church photos was taken in Lutzville. This was soon topped by the NG Kerk in Nuwerus, designed by Gerard Moerdyk, the architect who also designed the Voortrekker Monument. There might even be a slight resemblance once you know who the architect is.

At Bitterfontein, we crossed the N7 to take the R358 to Pofadder. We cruised merrily for 268km on a good gravel road.

The map showing the route from Paarl to Mossel Bay.
The map showing the route from Paarl to Mossel Bay.
Image: Siphu Gqwetha

At Kliprand an old Firestone sign swivelled on the roof of a one-door, one-window building with two petrol pumps of yesteryear guarding the front. An abandoned play park on the edge of town caught our attention. In the middle of nowhere, MadamBraai unpacked her braai grid. A roadside braai, ek sê.

We were booked into chalets in Pofadder instead of the Pofadder Hotel due to a misunderstanding, but that didn't dampen our spirits.

DAY 5: Pofadder to Kenhardt

On the spur of the moment, we decided to drive to Onseepkans, a monitoring border post on the banks of the Orange River. The sightseeing theme of the day continued: pink oil drum donkeys and hundreds of number plates plastered all over Die Pienk Padstal; a naartjie gin tasting at Die Mas in Kakamas, a waterfall and daisies grazing everywhere at Augrabies Falls National Park and enamelware shopping at Ouma Miemie's Farm Stall in Kenhardt.

A warm bed and true plattelandse hospitality awaited us at the local yokel Kenhardt Hotel.

DAY 6: Kenhardt to Prieska

As Wikipedia so aptly describes it, “In SA, the term Putsonderwater is used to indicate a far-off place, similarly to Timbuktu”.

A small church, built in 1957, stands all forlorn near the ghost town of Putsonderwater.
A small church, built in 1957, stands all forlorn near the ghost town of Putsonderwater.
Image: Ilse Zietsman

Putsonderwater is not just a far-off place, it has become a ghost town — it is completely abandoned, except for one resident — or two if you count his cat Dorothy as well — who camps out in the old general-dealer building. Bertie Swart has pitched two tents under the roof of the old shop and he is not intending to leave any time soon.

We spent the night on a pistachio farm in Prieska.

DAY 7: Prieska to Orania

In need of fortification before entering Orania, we found a bar in Hopetown.

Then we did it: we drove to Orania. Through the streets and up to the koppie where the likes of Paul Kruger and Hendrik Verwoerd look out over the dusty town. We ordered craft beer and skaapstertjies at Zebra Restaurant — “Die Trop Ding”.

No matter how many times we asked for directions, we couldn't find the Koeksister Monument. Finally someone told us it was in for repairs. Not even Wynand Boshoff of the Freedom Front Plus, who solved the riddle for us, knew where it had gone. We dined and slept at the Orania Oewerhotel.

DAY 8: Orania to Vosburg

We didn't find a bar in De Aar; instead we explored De Aar junction. This train station has 110km of railway track and 29 railway lines, I read after our visit. It's quiet these days though trains still pass through.

At the Karoo Country Inn in Vosburg (072-974-7915) two boerboels made a cameo appearance as barmen. We slept soundly knowing these two were guarding the hotel as their second job. Not that much happens in Vosburg, a delightful hamlet with friendly people and a church with a pulpit that resembles the bow of a ship.

In the 1980s you could buy a house in Vosburg for R1,500, a friend Whatsapped when he saw where we were roaming.

DAY 9: Vosburg to Oudtshoorn

The complimentary moerkoffie at the inn in Vosburg perked us up, followed by breakfast at the opulent Lord Carnarvon's Guest house, coffee in Loxton, and a pink gin at Klaarstroom Hotel.

Driving through Meiringspoort never fails to impress, and then we arrived at De Zeekoe Guest Farm just outside Oudtshoorn on the R328.

At De Zeekoe each of us had our own stone cottage with a stoep and its own braai — we chose to braai with MadamBraai though. As the sun set, we settled on the patio and enjoyed the view.

DAY 10: Oudtshoorn to Mossel Bay

We had an early start in order to enjoy the Five Shy Meerkats experience — this turned out to be very informative thanks to our passionate guide JD Glinister. The meerkats are cute as buttons too!

Alas, there was only one more sleep to go. After breakfast at Cafe at The Rose in Calitzdorp and some wine tasting at Boplaas, we opted for the last gravel road of our trip.

We drove through the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve on fairly rugged terrain all the way up to a plateau overlooking deep ravines. Passing Van Wyksdorp, we found one last bar just outside Herbertsdale, The Nut House Pub.

Our last night was spent in Mossel Bay, where we had the good fortune to stay with
a friend.

On Day 11 we headed back to the Boland to pick up our normal lives again. We covered 3,100km from start to finish. We're planning the next one. #Supportlocaltourism