Initial Planning for November/December Trip

May 21st, 2019, 03:43 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 4,455
This was our most recent rental in downtown CT. The place had 2 balconies and indoor parking. Very nice accommodation in a central location from which we walked most places, with one caveat:
The neighbourhood is generally safe but it's on a lonely block with a walled religious property opposite. When one of us went out solo very late in the day, a guard came running after, to say not to do that.
This is typical for CT, I think -- stay where the crowds are and you'll be safe. The block next to ours was livelier and we were not concerned.
Another reason why we liked having a car in this exceedingly car-friendly city.

Here is a really hip place I have always wanted to stay (it was booked) in Bo Kaap, a traditional Muslim/ coloured quarter near downtown. Don't know about security there after dark but it is lively during the day with no sinister element:

I hope these links will open for you. I have lots of other listings from CT that I bookmarked for future reference (we will be there again in early December) but they may all suffer from the same defect ie that they are saved to a personal Air Bnb wish list that may be inaccessible to others.

Final note: Klein/Little Karoo is geographically and climatically different from "the Karoo" or Groot/Great Karoo. I recommend the Klein Karoo. My little exposure to the Groot Karoo suggested it's just too bare, flat and arid to be of much interest. Others here may want to correct me. (If you take the N1 to get to the Drakensberg, you will be traveling mostly through the Groot Karoo)

Here is a wonderful place we stayed in Oudtshoorn, one of my favourite parts of the Klein Karoo:
tedgale is offline  
May 26th, 2019, 05:17 AM
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Many thanks tegdale. The links did open ok and they are the sort of places we are looking for. Also, thanks for the tips re the Karoo. I am currently trying to finalise the Drakensberg portion of our trip and will then move on to the karoo and Garden Route/ Route 62 elements.
crellston is offline  
May 27th, 2019, 02:18 AM
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We are not climbers or hikers but we found the middle Drakensberg region a delight.
We stayed at the Champagne Castle Hotel in Cathkin Park and have very positive memories of this old fashioned resort.
It's large but not impersonal, conscious of maintaining a certain "tone" yet utterly unpretentious.
We had a large "mountain- facing" room with small balcony and all meals for a very favourable "60+" midweek rate which is available until Dec. 12 this year. We plan to return in early December.
If you're not keen on extreme sports, e.g. mountain hiking and zip lining, there are 2 very worthwhile attractions within minutes of the hotel: a raptor show and the Drakensberg boys' choir. The choir performs on Wednesday afternoons.
tedgale is offline  
May 27th, 2019, 02:27 AM
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I should have mentioned the food, which was a big attraction at the Hotel. Every meal was like a good hotel's mammoth Sunday brunch -- with lots of variety and a high quality of ingredients.
A well managed operation on a large scale.
tedgale is offline  
Jun 1st, 2019, 10:41 PM
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Thanks for all your help everybody. Have got my head down and finalised (more or less!) our itinerary which is as follows:

Durban 3
St Lucia (base for side trips) 4
Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park (Hilltop) 2
Umhulanga 1

Sani Pass 2
Giants Castle / Champagne Castle Hotel 1
Royal Natal NP (Thendele Camp) 3
Clarens-Wepener ( Maloti-Drakensberg Route ) 2

Hogsback 2
Addo NP 2

Garden Route-Route 62
Storms River/Plettenberg Bay 2
Knysna 1
Outsdhoorn 2
Prince Albert 3
Groenfontein Valley 3
Montagu 1

Cape Town, Winelands Etc
Hermanus 2
Franshoek/Stellenbosch 2
Simonstown/Peninsula 1
Cape Town 7

Some of the timings have resulted from my having to fit around availability in National Parks, notably Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and Addo which proved a lot more problematic than I had anticipated, even this far out. I was also surprised by how many places require at least part payment up front. Quite the opposite of what I have found on our travels in other parts of the world. I am going to have to make a lot of diary notes re cancellation periods etc. Usually we pretty much make it up as we go.

Tegdale, thanks for the tip re Champagne Castle Hotel. That is a good deal. I am trying to book but sadly they don’t seem to be replying to my emails at the moment( seems to be a common problem!) .

If anyone has any accommodation suggestions for any of the above locations, I am all ears!
crellston is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2019, 06:02 AM
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1. Three nights in Prince Albert seems too much to me. There's not a lot to see outside the town itself, which is remote and located in fairly barren country. I would add at least a day to the preceding or succeeding stop.
We did Prince Albert as a day trip from Oudtshoorn -- that seemed quite adequate. We used the Meiringspoort pass route to get to Prince Albert -- spectacular.

Since you plan to travel from Prince Albert to Groenfontein, I assume you'll travel by the Swartberg pass. We have also driven the Swartsberg pass but it's the one pass I did not enjoy. The gravel road was just too rough (and there had recently been a huge fire, which meant we were driving through a wasteland of cinders)

Sidebar comment: From Oudtshoorn we also nipped down to the coast, on good roads via a picturesque pass, to Mossel Bay, where we did the cliff walk from St Blaise's lighthouse. You will probably want to see the Cango Caves when in Oudtshoorn.

2. Knysna and Plettenberg Bay are so close that I would not split my time between them unless you have a special reason for doing so.
We stayed twice in Plettenberg, at a hilltop self-catering flat in a development called Alkantmooi. If I were doing it again, I might stay somewhere more central. But it is a first-rate, well run property.

For me, the big attraction at Plett was hiking the Robberg peninsula -- one of the most varied and spectacular marine sites we ever visited. The hike to the suspension bridge at Storms River was a thrill but it did not combine the physical demands, the constantly shifting perspectives and the sense of solitude and union with nature that Robberg offers.

3. It looks to me like you plan to travel direct to Montagu without turning off at Barrydale to see the Tradouw pass, which IMO far excels the Montague pass (which is under extensive reconstruction, with long delays at the single-lane portions). Swellendam also has one of the best and nicest restaurants in SA, La Sosta, and plenty of old buildings. I would certainly not want to skip the town entirely. Overall, I feel the region likely merits more than an overnight stop in Montagu, en route from the Groenfontein area to the Winelands.
tedgale is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2019, 10:35 PM
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Thanks once again for your incredibly helpful suggestions Tegdale.

I will reconsider Prince Albert and lose a day there and probably add one to Outdshoorn.My plan was to head up to PA via the Meiringspoort pass and back via Swartzberg. Having researched a little more maybe I will go both ways via Meiringspoort - 1 in 7 gradients on gravel in a normal saloon doesn’t sound like a lot of fun! Maybe if we get upgraded to 4WD by Avis

Re the Garden Route, much as I don’t like backtracking, I think we will base ourselves in Plettenberg and strike out on day trips from there, maybe taking in Storms River on the way through from Addo. BTW the Robbensberg Peninsula looks stunning, don’t know how I missed that!

Thanks for the tips re Montagu pass traffic etc. I am now off to have a closer look at that area and maybe switch tins around a bit.
crellston is offline  
Jun 4th, 2019, 04:47 AM
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One thing to bear in mind RE mountain passes like the Swartberg:
Some SA rental-car insurance policies do not cover any damage that occurs when driving on an untarred road. It's rather absurd, since so many roads in SA are untarred. Anyway, that is their escape hatch and it's best to check the policy (if you buy coverage -- we rely on CC coverage) and plan your route accordingly.
Gravel in SA is not what we in N America are used to. It's often large, coarse and sharp.
Speaking of passes:
If you travel from Plett Bay to Oudtshoorn, you may be tempted to take the Prince Alfred's Pass between Plett and Uniondale. I researched this and decided it was just too rugged, though others have reported successfully negotiating this pass in a sedan.
Here is a commentary (there are lots of online reviews of the mountain passes and also LOTS of YouTube videos of them):
tedgale is offline  
Jun 6th, 2019, 08:10 AM
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Thanks for the warnings and the videos. For anyone else considering driving on gravel in SA, I checked the Avis Country specific T&Cs and there is no mention of not driving on untarred roads so I assume it is permitted. To err on the side of caution, I also checked with Avis UK who have confirmed to me in an online exchange, that travel on gravel roads in SA is permitted. My standalone annual excess insurance policy covers the excess as long as I abide by the T&C of the rental company, so I should be ok.

Now off to consider the next section

Having watched the videos you linked, I am comfortable with driving those roads which seem much the same, if not better than the roads we drove in South America, Asia, New Zealand. assuming good weather and no bush fires, I may well stick with Plan A.

Now off to consider, Barrydale, Swellendam and onto the Wine region - thanks once again!
crellston is offline  
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