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Drive Cape Town to Port Elizabeth Safe and Easy?

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We are planning a trip to SA next Feb. and at this time have come up with this plan
3 nites Boulder Beach
(to rest after our long trip from Canada and to explore the area at our own pace)
3 nites in Cape Town
Winchester Mansions
Do all the tourist type tours
Rent a car and take a days drive to Knysna
3 nites Amanzi Island Lodge Knysna
Explore the area for next 2 days
Drive to Port Elizabeth Airport to drop off car. Be picked up for safari at Pumba
2 nites Pumba safari (good TA reviews and price is well within budget)
Fly home with a 3 nite stopover in Amsterdam before making it back to Canada.

Our biggest question is the car rental. One, we have never driven on the "wrong side". Two, I have read that renting outside North America can sometimes be tricky with hidden fees. From what I have read so far this drive seems safe and easy, am I right? Is there any reason we should not do this? Any suggestions on renting the car? For the most part we are booking this trip without help of a TA. We are a married couple in our mid 50's.
Thanks to all

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    Laurelie -

    We made that drive this past August with our 2 teenagers. It's not a problem at all. Good tarred roads, plenty of petrol stations, really not difficult at all.

    We rented from Alamo and did not have any problems. There will be a one way drop off fee, but it was not out of line. Interestingly, there was much less red tape in the car rental process there than in the US.

    One last note...the Dunes Guest Lodge in St. Francis Bay is an outstanding place to stay in that area if you haven't secured your lodging yet.

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    Hi Laurelie!
    My husband and I (both in our 50s) have driven from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth on three different occasions (on our way to Addo usually) - most recently in August 2007. It is a safe and easy albeit long (728km) drive. On our latest trip, we left Cape Town before dark at 7am and arrived in PE at 5:00pm, with a brief stop in Plettenberg Bay for a picnic lunch on the beach.

    We are Canadian and have no difficulty driving on the "wrong" side of the road in SA. We are always surprised at how easily we adapt. For the first couple of days, one of us drives while the other ensures that we stay on the correct side of the road, particularly at intersections, which are a bit tricky at first.

    We have always rented our vehicles from Avis with absolutley no problem. We book directly online (from Canada) and receive a confirmation promptly by email. We are always expected, our vehicles are ready for us, and we have had no difficulty with hidden fees or the vehicles. Canadian Avis could learn a lot from SA Avis! They are far superior!
    Robin

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    Thanks Robin
    We are also from Canada. What do you think of me booking this trip mostly by myself on-line? That is what I usually do. Also do you remember how long it is from Cape Town to Knysna? We thought we would have the hotel pack us a lunch and stop somewhere nice. How about suggestions for that?

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    Hi again!

    We book all of our trips to South Africa and Namibia ourselves online - cars, parks, B&Bs - everything, and have never had a problem. Botswana is a little bit different - it is difficult to book camping sites at the national parks directly in that country, so the people who rent us the 4x4 do our bookings for us.

    Below is our itinerary (the part of our trip from Cape Town to PE) that I had typed up prior to our trip. I do a lot of research ahead of time and write up very detailed itineraries. It will give you mileage etc. and the places we stopped. The atlas page references are from Map Studio's South Africa Road Atlas (www.mapstudio.co.za) which I ordered online from them. I give further details of the places listed in the itinerary below it.

    Cape Town to Port Elizabeth (728km)

    Head east on the N2 over Sir Lowrey’s Pass to Swellendam (220km). (SA atlas 2-3) Stop at Peregrine at Grabouw for snacks. From Swellendam, continue east on the N2 through Heidelberg and Riversdale to Mossel Bay (120km from Swellendam). (SA atlas 4-5) Mossel Bay is 4 hours from Cape Town. Continue along the N2 for 66km to the N12 turnoff to George. George is half way to Port Elizabeth. Continue 12km east on the N2 to Wilderness (10 minutes) and then 21km further to Sedgefield. Continue east 12km on the N2 to Knysna. Knysna is just over half way and would be a good place to stop for lunch. Continue east for 33km to Plettenberg Bay. Stop at Old Nick Village, which is on the N2 just past Plettenberg Bay. Continue east from Plettenberg Bay for 55km to Storms River. Continue east 111km to Jeffrey’s Bay and then 75km to Port Elizabeth. (SA atlas 6-7)

    A few comments on the itinerary:

    Stop at the top of Sir Lowrey's Pass to enjoy the views of Strand and False Bay.

    Grabouw is the commercial centre of the largest fruit-producing area in Southern Africa. Grabouw is known as “the place in South Africa where all the apples come from”. Be certain to stop at The Country Orchard, on the left side of the highway at the turn off to Grabouw, to stock up on dried fruit, fruit rolls (the fig rolls are particularly good!) and jams. They also have a lovely bakery and a coffee shop - so it is a great place for morning tea.

    From the Country Orchard, continue east on the N2 to Peregrine, one of the oldest and best pad stalls (farm stalls) in the region - try the springbok and kudu droë wors (air-dried sausages) and koeksisters (disgustingly-sweet, deep-fried dough soaked in honey or syrup - but something you have to try once - very traditional!). Peregrine is just a little further east of Grabouw on the N2 on the right hand side of the highway.

    Knysna suggestions:
    It's been three years since we visited Knysna, so some of the following may no longer exist or no longer be recommended. I have taken it from our 2006 itinerary and I have not updated the info - contact info may well have changed! You will need to do your homework and research each of these places/things, but at least it will give you some ideas. We didn't do all of these things - they were just ideas of things we could do during our three days in Ksysna.

    1. Visit Brenton-on-the-Sea, an endless stretch of sand west of Kynsna – head west on the N2, take the Belvidere turnoff and head to Brenton-on-the-Sea. Is an exceptional beach. The town of Belvidere is very upmarket – visitors aren’t permitted to drive but you can walk around the town! Stop at Crab’s Creek in Belvidere on Belvidere Road, telephone 044/386-0011. A fun tavern right on the bank of the lagoon. Great view! Get an outside table and have a pint of prawns - very popular!

    2. Visit Noetzie Beach, 11km east of Knysna off the N2. Beautiful little beach surrounded by castles. (The beach is quite close to a township, so there are often young children from the township on the beach. We loved it but it might make some people uncomfortable.)

    3. Visit the Kynsna Oyster Company, bottom end of Long Street, Thesen’s Island, Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday, 9am to 3pm, for farm tours and tastings of oysters and mussels. No reservations for eating, but need to book a tour.

    4. Take the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe steam train from Knysna to George, the top attraction on the Garden Route. Book with Kontours, telephone 082569/8997, who will pick you up in George and return you to the Knysna station, to avoid traveling back the same way, which would take the whole day. ** Be sure to sit on the left for the view of the coast, and sit near the front to avoid exhaust fumes. The Station, Remembrance Ave. at the Waterfront, telephone 044/382-1361. Duration 3 hours. Leaves Knysna in summer Monday to Saturday, at 9:15am and 2:15pm, and in winter, Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 2:15pm. Info@online-sources.co.za

    5. Drive to the top of the cliffs on the eastern head, where there is a lookout, called Bar View Lookout, with great views.

    6. There is excellent swimming on Leisure Island, which you can access from George Rex Drive. The best bathing spots are along the southern shore of the island, particularly the western section along Bayswater Drive. **Swimming is only good at high tide! Also get a great view out to sea through the gap between the Heads.

    7. Visit the Knysna Forests in Diepwalle. From Knysna take the N2 east for 7km. Take R339 north from the N2 for 16km before taking turnoff to Diepwalle. The Forest Station is 10.5km after the tar gives way to gravel. Diepwalle is one of the last pockets of indigenous forest – ancient yellowwoods, stinkwoods, and ironwoods. Are 3 excellent circular hikes (red, black and white elephant markers), all 7 to 9 km. The red is the best because it has the most water, but also the most popular, so avoid weekends. Has a picnic site near a mighty yellowwood.

    8. Take a sunset boat trip on the tidal lagoon with John Benn Ferry, is a double-decker ferry – bar on board – will venture through the heads, weather permitting – is a 90-minute trip, telephone 044/382-1693 – they offer lunchtime and sunset cruises. Or try Springtide Charters, Knysna Quays, telephone 082/470-6022, www.springtide.co.za. Operate a luxury 50-foot sailing yacht – cruises the lagoon and goes through the heads if the weather permits. Can have 3-hour sail with snacks (R290pp); sunset cruise with oysters, snacks and sparkling wine (R390pp); continental breakfast with bubbly (R380pp), or dinner (R750pp) on board. Maximum 12 people.

    9. Shop at the waterfront in Knysna – African Attitude (at the Waterfront), Bush Pig (outlet at the Waterfront or go to studio) and Metamorphosis (12 Main Road – souvenirs from recycled materials!). Main Street also has crafts and woodwork shops.

    10. Visit the Featherbed Nature Reserve on the western head. More than 100 birds and 1000 plants! Tour is 4 hours in total. Take ferry over to the reserve on western head. Ascend the head in a 4x4 for wonderful views of the lagoon and ocean. Then guides will take us on a 2km hike on the Bushbuck Trail to see coastal flora, caves and cliffs. Can have an optional meal at the Tavern, where the focus is on seafood. Then ferried through the narrow entrance at the heads and then returned to mainland. (If you don’t eat lunch, you have to wait for the others before being ferried back to the mainland!) Rivercat Ferry daily departures from the Municipal Jetty, Remembrance Avenue off Waterfront Drive, at 10am – also at 9am, 11:15 and 12:30, depending on demand. Telephone 044/382-1693.
    Note that we did this tour and were disappointed - it was very crowded - too many people!

    The one shop you must visit in Knysna is www.feathersgallery.co.za - it is excellent and we brought home several items from that shop.

    Hope this helps! Robin

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    Thank You So Much Robin!
    All that info is wonderful. I am going to file that in my trip folder, then research everything. This trip is starting to come together nicely. I only wish it wasn't a year away!
    Laurel

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    We did this drive over several days in 2007, making leisurely overnight stays at Tsitsikamma National Park, Jeffreys Bay, Hermanus, Franschhoek, Port Elizabeth, as well as a several night stay in Addo National Park.
    The roads are excellent in South Africa, particularly on the coast of Eastern Cape. As I recall, petrol stations only accept cash, so keep this in mind as you drive. ATMs are easy to come by.
    There are a few breifly windy, steep parts of the drive where you can get stuck behind big trucks. It wasn't dangerous, but a little frustrating and slow going at times.
    We rented a car through Auto Europe (picked it up at the Port Elizabeth airport), which is a discount consolidator, meaning that while we booked over the phone through Auto Europe, on the ground we actually dealt with major car rental companies, like Hertz and Budget (we also rented a car in the Kruger area on an earlier part of the trip). The rental was very straight forward, like renting a car in the US or Canada. Though our "inclusive rental" included insurance for collison and theft, we decided to pay a few dollars more each day for a little extra insurance, which covered something like windshield and tire insurance, because, as I recall, these were not covered by the basic collision and theft insurance (I'll post details later, if I can find the actual contract with specific details). So, you might want to ask what exactly your insurance will cover.
    Also, I would suggest renting a car with a trunk, and not a hatchback. We felt it would be more secure. South Africans we met advised us not to leave anything on the seat within view, but to pick things in the trunk or on the floor at our feet while driving around Cape Town. Things were much more relaxed on the Eastern Cape.
    Both cars we rented (in both the Eastern Cape and Kruger) were medium size Japanese cars (Toyota Camrys, I believe), the trunks of which easily fit two large suitcases and few smaller bags.

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    Not only are the roads good, the drive is well worth while with plenty of accommodation options as well.

    I used to be a sales rep in that area and traveled the road extensively. You wont be popular if you drive on the right hand side of the road though!!

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