2-1/2 extra days in S.A.

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Aug 22nd, 2005, 07:03 AM
  #1
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2-1/2 extra days in S.A.

Ariving in Johannesburg 9AM on 10/29. I need to be in CapeTown late morning on 11/1. We want to see Swartburg Pass and the Garden Route (our tour starting on 11/1 PM takes us around the Cape Town area for 2 days). Should we drive from Johannesburg down to Prince Albert thru the pass and onto the Garden Route or should we fly to Cape Town and start driving up north to The Swartberg Pass (maybe on N1) and back thru the Garden Route. I have a travel book but it doesn't give drive times. Also, is driving safe?. Any info or other ideas would really be appreciated.
chrisip is offline  
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Aug 24th, 2005, 04:58 AM
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Hello,

Since you only have 2.5 days, you need to choose between the pass and the Garden Route. You don't have time for both.

Last I looked, the Swartberg Pass was not tarred, which means you will spend a lot of time just moving through it. It also means that you need to be very careful about your car hire -- your car will most likely take some damage on an untarred road which may end up costing you a lot of money. Some car hire companies specifically forbid using their vehicles on untarred roads. This website has some good information about the pass:

http://www.patourism.co.za/swartberg%20pass.htm

The Garden Route is easily worth two days. It can be driven in one, but only if you don't stop, which would be a shame. If you do the Garden Route, i would advise flying to Port Elizabeth and driving towards Cape Town -- 2.5 days is not enough to do a round trip from Cape Town unless you don't stop. The best places to stop are probably the Tsitsikamma National Park and Knysna (Plett is rather touristy).

In general, driving on major roads in SA is quite easy and safe if you take the normal precautions (e.g. don't pick up hitch-hikers, etc). However, you probably want to avoid rural roads at night, not so much because of crime but because animals sometimes wander onto the roads and can be a serious hazard.

Hope this helps!

Cheers,
Julian
jasher is offline  
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Aug 24th, 2005, 07:27 AM
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2.5 days is extremely short to drive even one way on the garden route. It's about 3 hours from PE to Knysna/George/Plett, and another 6 hours or so to Cape Town.

What are you doing the rest of your trip? Are you doing any safari? What do you like to do? If you like to hike, Knysna area with Tsitsikamma is very nice. We also went to Addo Elephant park and had a great time, even accounting for unbelievable game viewing we later had in Botswana.

Judy
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Aug 24th, 2005, 12:35 PM
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Chrisip,

May I suggest that you forget about driving from Jhb to the Swartberge. It is much to far a drive to want to do considering that you only have 2.5 days at your disposal.

You seem to be making the Swartberge a priority and so you should because it is a really extraordinary experience. Taking this into account the following is what I would suggest to you:

Arrive in JHB and immediately catch the first flight to George. Hire a car in George and travel on to Oudtshoorn where you should book into a place of stay.

In terms of where to stay may I suggest you look at:

Montana
-------
http://www.montanaguestfarm.co.za/accom/index.htm
Great guesthouse with wonderful hosts. Outstandingly fitted out with all
that you will need.

Mooiplaas
---------
http://www.mooiplaasguesthouse.co.za/
Wonderfully comfortable and friendly guesthouse as well as working ostrich farm. Hosts are one of the most hospitable couples that you will ever find.

Both these venues are well located to visit the Swartberge which I
suggest you do on the day following your arrival.

My suggestion is that you have dinner at your guesthouse that evening as
both thae above venues are special in this regard.


30 October.
===========
Travel over the Swartberge towards Prince Albert. Many people do this
journey in 1.25 hours however in my experience if you travel the pass
qualitatively taking in all its magnificent scenery and rock formations
it should take you about 3 hours. Spend time in Prince Albert and
amongst others go take a look at the golf course. Dont laugh as it is
quite an experience to see a Karoo golfcourse with putting greens laid
out in asphalt and driving ranges being represented by Karoo bushes. Seeing that you will be in Prince Albert on a Sundy may I suggest that you go to the Swartberg Hotel for lunch purely becasue that would be where all the locals go to lunch on a Dunday due to the hotel offering a special Karoo buffet lunch. While at the Swartberg Hotel dont miss visiting the "Prince of Africa" gift shop so as to look at all the different mohair products originating from the region

Travel back to Oudtshoorn via Klaarwarter,`the incredible Meiringspoort (Meirings Canyon) and De Rust. Dont travel to quickly through Klaarstroom or De Rust as you might miss these towns completely . Make a point of stopping at the waterfall in Meiringspoort and take your costumes with you so as to be able to swim in the waterfall rockpool (wonderful experience)

In the evening book yourself in for dinner at Jemimas. Even though the
restaurant is under new ownership it is still a very special place to dine. If Jemimas is closed on Sundays (this could be a change that the new management might make) then have dinner at Jemimas on the Saturday and at your place of stay on the Sunday. You MUST book for Jemimas if you decide to dine at the restaurant.
http://www.eating-out.co.za/member_d...p?MemberID=346

All in all a wonderful day

Do not worry about dust roads and hired cars. I know of no car hire
companies that will restrict you to travel over the Swartberge and what
is more the bad road is highly exaggerated. I have travelled the pass on many 20 occasions with visitors and believe me I know what it entails to travel over the Swartberge. Another suggestion is that it would be handy for you to obtain a book on the Swartberg by Helena Marincowitz
called "Swartberg Pass - Masterpiece of a brilliant Road Engineer" This is the the story of how the Swartberg Pass was built and what it is about today. If you book yourself into Montana or Mooiplaas you can ask your host to buy the book for you before you arrive so that you have it when you cross the pass. Trust me the contents of this book will make the pass come alive. It is a very thin book and a very easy read.

Now heres the snag....

If it is raining I would NOT suggest that you cross the pass, as a
matter of fact the authorities might do so for you anyway by closing it down to traffic. I dont think that rain will be a problem in late October BUT low clouds could well be a problem and even though the locals travel the pass if there is a cloud on the top of the pass my suggestion is that you DO NOT do the drive as it is truly very dangerous
in that you wont be able to see oncoming cars.

31`October
==========
On this day I would travel back to Cape Town via Route 62`which is a
very special 380km drive to Cape Town via towns like Calitzdorp,
Ladysmith, Barrydale, (Stop in at Ronnies sex shop outside Barrydale - A wonderful surprise awaits you ) Montagu, Worcester and Paarl. The drive will take you the best part of a day.

Please note that I am not suggesting that you visit the Garden Route in
the form of places like Knysna, Plett, etc purely because it is impossible to do this on a two day drive.

If you want any further advice please feel free to ask via this board as
I am sure that many Fodorites, especially Jasher who is a great source of information, and my own self will do their best to help you make your journey a perfect expereience.

Enjoy your Swartberg journey as well as your stay in Cape Town. I am sure that you will not regret visiting my fabulous country and city.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa
Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
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Aug 25th, 2005, 03:17 AM
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Hello,

ArthurSA obviously has a lot more experience than I do in travelling in SA, but I still think it would be wise to read the fine print on your car hire agreement (always a good idea anyhow).

While no care hire company will specifically forbid particular places/roads, some of them do take issue with using their vehicles on unpaved roads, and I know people who have been charged for damage even though they had the Super Cover as it didn't cover damage from using unpaved roads.

Cheers,
Julian
jasher is offline  
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Aug 25th, 2005, 03:35 AM
  #6
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 686
Huh?!

Actually probably not, Julian, unless you're prepared to go back several decades to count my road miles, and/or credit my daily schlep to/from w**k.

But as I haven't posted in this thread, my guess is you meant to say Selwyn? #-o
ArthurSA is offline  
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Aug 25th, 2005, 03:54 AM
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Hi Jasher,

Selwyn, not ArthurSA here.

I agree with you about insurance companies and their insurance clauses not covering gravel roads HOWEVER the claim they make is that that the car should not be taken over roads that are not suitable for certain cars. An example of this is that if you are going to go bush-bashing on a safari (hope you never do this as it destroys local fauna and vegetation indiscriminately) or on a bad roaded farm this would effect you. How the car hire insurers would prove that you were on a bad road I dont know however there are many dust roads in SA that dont fall into this category and without a doubt the Swartberg is one of the roads that are deemed to be safe to drive on in all kinds of cars.

I also have to agree with you when you say read the small print especially with car hire companies. I have just contacted 3 of these companies and asked them about their policy with regard the subject. All quoted the abovesaid to me. When I asked how they would prove that the car was on a gravel road two of the companies said they did not know how their policy works in this reagrd while AVIS told me that their insurance would only not pay out if the car broke down on a gravel road that would not be deemed as suitable and had to be towed in from this spot thus proving that the driver was on a bad road. All in all everything still seems vague however coming back to the Swartberg Pass road it is graded by the local municipality at least once a quarter and is deemed as a pretty good road. I certainly have found it to be a very good one at all times.

Another factor in the car hirers favour is that if the Swartberg road is in bad state the municipality close down the pass entirely. This has to be a factor that stands on the side of the car hirer if anything goes wrong while travelling on the open road. Bear in mind that locals use the road for daily transport from Prince Albert to Oudtshoorn as it cuts a huge distance of travelling out for them by having to skip the Meiringspoort route. Thus the road is well travelled on a daily basis by all vehicles.

In a nutshell I would advise any visitor to SA to certainly be careful when it comes to travelling on gravel roads in a hired car however not to be perturbed about this at all while travelling over the Swartberge.

Hope this helps.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

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