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Trip Report South Africa self drive, March 2015

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The main reason for our most recent trip to South Africa was to visit various members of both our families. This was our ninth trip to this beautiful country. We went a bit off the beaten track and did not do all the 'must do' things that others might be interested in but I still would like to share a few experiences with you all.

From Johannesburg we drove down to Fouriesburg (3 hrs. drive) in the Free State. This area is not well known among foreign visitors but is really very much worth a visit. Nearby Northern Lesotho, The Kingdom in the Sky (organized 4 x 4 day trips are highly recommended), the Golden Gate National Park and quaint Clarens are but a few.
Driving South via the Drakensberg Mountains to Durban may take a few days but the roads are in very good condition and there are dozens of choices when it comes to exploring the Drakensberg.

I just want to mention that we had a super meal at The Ginger Pig in Fouriesburg. Their lamb shanks come highly recommended!

From Fouriesburg it was an easy drive to Bloemfontein where we stayed with one of my cousins. We visited the recently renovated Boer War Museum which gave us a whole different outlook on that terrible war between the British and the Afrikaner Boers at the beginning of the 20th century.

A self drive through the Great Karoo had been on our wish list for years and that's what we did. We enjoy farm stays because it gives one a chance to connect with the local people and to learn more about their way of living. Of course the Karoo is famous for it's high quality lamb which is exactly what we sampled when we stayed at Badsfontein, a sixth generation Merino sheep farm in the heart of the Karoo, 12 miles from Murraysburg. http://www.badsfontein.co.za/.
Owners Susanna and Izak van der Merwe could not have been better hosts and the accommodation offered on the farm is like a home away from home! Lovely home cooked meals, a glass of quality South African wine, good company. What more could one wish for? Through the stories they shared with us we learned more about what life in the dry, at first sight inhospitable Karoo is all about. As Susanna mentioned: "In the nothing is everything".
At Badsfontein "Karoo cuisine" cookery courses are regularly organized.

We travelled on to Beaufort West and to the Karoo National Park. We stayed at country house Lemoenfontein on the outskirts of town, which was very comfortable. http://www.lemoenfontein.co.za/
Should we ever decide to go back to the Karoo NP though, I think we will opt for the SAN Parks self catering accommodation. http://www.sanparks.co.za/parks/karoo/
Being travelers from overseas we did not have all kinds of self catering and camping gear so we wrongly assumed that self catering accommodation was not for us. However, as we soon found out, there is a perfectly nice restaurant very near to the cottages so we could have stayed there after all.

Our next stop was Stellenbosch where we stayed for three nights. We know that area quite well but every time it holds new surprises. As we prefer smaller scale guesthouses to larger hotels we can recommend the following: Malans Guesthouse http://malansguesthousestellenbosch.co.za/
where one goes back in time to the Victorian age. (with pool)
Villa Grande http://www.villa-grande.com/ - Both are of very good quality with friendly staff.

Apart from visits to various wineries these are a few suggestions for things to do:
Must see:
Plan at least half a day for a visit to the stunning gardens at Babylonstoren, about 20 minutes from Stellenbosch. http://www.babylonstoren.com/ - it will be next to impossible to get a reservation at their main restaurant but an al fresco, informal lunch in the garden is also recommended. Bring good walking shoes and a hat and enjoy!

One of the oldest, best preserved wineries in the area: Vergelegen Wine Estate, Somerset West. The camphor trees in the garden were planted in 1700. The house itself is in an impeccable state, the gardens are lovely for a stroll. On a sunny Summer day have a picnic under the camphor trees. More formal: restaurant Camphors.

Restaurants:
Oppiedorp in Dorp Street (website under construction),
Guardian Peak restaurant - superb view. http://www.guardianpeak.com/,
Mont Marie restaurant http://www.montmarie.co.za/,
Bukhara Indian restaurant http://bukhara.com/
Clos Malverne http://closmalverne.co.za/

On a rainy day visit Verbatim bookshop on 158 Dorp Street.

In Cape Town we stayed with family and later on we spent a few days at Sundown Manor, Seapoint. http://www.sundownmanor.co.za/
A lovely, small scale guesthouse. Initially chosen for it's proximity to where our daughter lives.
Highly recommend it for the following reasons: lovely staff, great service, central location (between V&A Waterfront and Camps Bay).

We had a lovely informal family lunch at the Round House, overlooking the ocean: http://theroundhouserestaurant.com/
Enjoy a day at the beach in Camps Bay. We had lunch and dinner at Blue's: http://www.blues.co.za/,
overlooking the beach.

Maybe not as authentic as the Italian cuisine we are used to in Italy but should you crave an nice, home made pasta dish, this is the place to go: Italian owned The Cousins Trattoria in Barrack Street, Cape Town http://thecousins.co.za/

We were joined by our son and his young family. After having spent one week in the Cape Town area we drove down to Mosselbay. En route we visited Swellendam, the third oldest town of South Africa.
We enjoyed a lovely Bobotie lunch at The Old Gaol Restaurant: http://www.oldgaolrestaurant.co.za/

Mosselbay - we stayed in a spacious, well furnished, comfortable villa (4 bedrooms, 4 en suite bath rooms) at the Pinnacle Point golf course. http://www.wheretostay.co.za/pinnaclepointlodge26
The Club house restaurant overlooks the spectacular coast. The estate is a car free zone but you are personally chauffeured to all facilities in a very friendly, efficient way. We were driven to one of the private beaches for sundowners and saw some spectacular sunsets.

We hope to have a chance to visit South Africa soon again. On our bucket list: a self drive from Johannesburg in an Easterly direction via the Drakensberg mountains to Durban. North to Sodwana Bay via Hluhluwe game park. From Durban to Cape Town via the Wild Coast. A self drive from Johannesburg South, hugging the western Lesotho mountains to East London. Should any of you have travel experience on these routes please share them.

Hambani Kahle!

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