This is the second time we've driven Route 62 and I think it was even more spectacular than the first. We drove in the opposite direction as we were heading from Cape Town towards Port Elizabeth. We started in Worcester and finished in Oudtshoorn with the Cango caves and we took the Robinson mountain pass back to the coast. We spent the night part way in Barrydale in the interesting and quirky Karoo Art Hotel. I don't want to say too much about it as I have written about it before (you can read my previous post here), but I thought I'd share my photos from this trip...
Route 62, named after the famous Route 66 in the US, is a stunning road that runs parallel to the Garden Route from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town. On our last visit to South Africa, we decided to drive the Garden Route from Port Elizabeth to George and then joined Route 62 from Oudtshoorn to Worcester before we left for Somerset West and the Winelands.
We took the Outeniqua Pass from George, which takes you on narrow winding roads through the Outeniqua mountains, which were really incredible! The Outeniqua pass is a relatively modern road, but there are a lot of passes to choose from, so you can join wherever suits you!
Our first stop was Oudtshoorn, which is the ostrich capital of the world. Driving through Oudtshoorn with it's wide, tree-lined streets, jacarandas and vintage houses feels like you have stepped back in time... which is pretty much how we felt for the rest of the journey, in a good way! The people are friendly, the landscape is beautiful and it is altogether a much slower pace of life.
Our next stop was the Cango Caves, which you can explore with a guide. We had the option of a standard or an adventure tour. I did the standard and Chris did the adventure which involved crawling though and climbing up loads of narrow passages. I was quite pleased with my choice when we left the caves and saw all the articles of the people who had got stuck and had to be rescued by the fire service! Chris enjoyed it though... and if you like caves it is a really impressive and well worth the stop.
For a lot of the way it was really hot and dry... completely opposite to the garden route. We drove past countless vineyards; through sleepy Calitzdorp (which is the home of pink port in South Africa... unfortunately it was a Sunday and everything was closed!); stopped at Ronnie's Sex Shop, a little bar on the side of the road that you would miss if you blinked. It is run by Ronnie, a crazy old, well-travelled man, who seems to be permanently drunk. Despite being in the middle of no-where, the stop has become very popular and the bar has autographs, bras, t-shirts and business cards everywhere you look. It is worth a stop for a nice cold beer and a chat with Ronnie!
When you reach Barrydale, the scenery changes again, from hot and dry land to green mountains and colourful fruit trees. This area is known for its vineyards, orchards, peach and apricot trees, rock climbing, hiking trails, hot springs, art galleries and bird sanctuaries... it is a photographers paradise!
We stayed in a small peaceful cottage on someones land, where there were also a few rock climbers camping in the garden. We went out for dinner to a little art gallery/ cafe down the road for some home-cooked stew and some of their own wine. Down the road was Leidam Bird Sanctuary, which you can't really miss if you are staying in Montagu. You can hear the birds before you see them... hundreds of Herons, Egrets, Cormorants, Ibis, Weavers etc. I am not a bird watcher (I got the names from the little viewing deck!), but you can't help be fascinated by all the birds in this small space.
With all it's beauty and diversity I can't recommend Route 62 enough! I will definitely be returning next time I am there!
When I was growing up I heard of the Garden Route many times, but had no idea what it was. I imagined it was just a tour of some beautiful gardens. My dad hitchhiked there many years before and said that it was beautiful and that one day he would take me. Unfortunately he never got to do that, but on my last trip to SA, I was lucky to finally visit. It was a privilege to show Chris this beautiful part of my country. Following our stay at Pilanesberg, we flew to Port Elizabeth and drove the Garden Route to George. I think it actually finishes in Mossel Bay, but we wanted to drive Route 62 too, so we decided to leave Mossel Bay for our next visit and cross the Outeniqua Mountain Pass to Oudtshoorn.
As soon as we left Port Elizabeth and joined the Garden Route, the scenery changed dramatically and we knew we had arrived. As it was Chris's first time in South Africa he kept pointing out how different the landscape was every time we visited a new place. We'd gone from my grandparents' house in Mpumalanga in the mining town of Kriel, to the hot dry bush in Pilanesberg, and now to a luscious green oasis. Each time it was like arriving in a new country. You drive along a smooth wide quiet road for hours with mountains, forests and vineyards on one side and dramatic gorges, rocky shores and sandy beaches on the other. We did it over a couple of days, which was fine, but involved a lot of driving. I'd really like to go back one day and spend 1-2 weeks there just lazing on the beaches, hiking through the forests, drinking wine and just soaking it all in. It really is a stunning part of the world.
We stopped all along the way to take photos, go for little walks and just take in the scenery. First was Storms River Gorge, which you can view from a bridge above. It is huge! We drove a little further along where you can enter the Tsitsikamma National Park and walk along a series of suspension bridges to see the river mouth. A little further was Bloukrans Bridge, the world's highest commercial bridge bungee (216 metres above the Bloukrans River). After standing on the Storms River bridge, which rattled every time a truck drove past, I had no hope of ever convincing Chris to do the bungee with me, and I'm too scared to do it on my own, so I'll have save it for the next visit!
We stopped in Plettenberg Bay for lunch. It has miles of beautiful beaches and there were young surfers everywhere we looked! They all piled into South African taxis with their surf boards to get to and from the beach, which after growing up in South Africa was unusual, yet pleasant to see. I don't know if it has changed now, but in Hillcrest it was very separated... white people would never catch taxis, it was considered too dangerous and you would stick out like a sore thumb. But here everyone piled in together, it was great! We had an amazing Mozambican lunch before heading to Knysna.
We stayed in Knysna for the night in a lovely guest house. We had our own wooden apartment set among the trees. Everyone we met here was super friendly. We went out for a cocktail and there were a lot of backpackers out drinking too, and then had an incredible seafood platter for dinner. This is something we used to have as a treat growing up and I have not really seen anywhere else since I left South Africa. It was so good!
The next day, we explored Knysna. They have a lovely little waterfront, and the area is known for its oysters, so has several oyster bars. We drove up to see the Knysna heads, which are two dramatic sea cliffs at the entrance to the Knysna lagoon.
Our last stop was Wilderness beach, where we dipped our toes in the sea before heading to George and then leaving the Garden Route to join Route 62.
This really is one of the most beautiful road trips! There are so many other things to do if you spend a bit more time in the area - national parks, hikes, shark cage diving, surfing, bird watching, camping - the list is endless and depends on what you're into. I'm so glad I finally went and found out that it is not just a series of pretty gardens!