Jo'burg to Cape Town

Old Dec 17th, 2004, 04:30 PM
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Jo'burg to Cape Town

My wife and I are planning a trip in May 2005 along the ast coast in a hire car and would be interested in any comments with particular reference to:
- how many days should we allow for a leisurely trip
- what are the "must see" features along the way
- what can we avoid
- are hotels/ motels available along the way and is it wise to book in advance
- are there any security/ safety issues we should be aware of
Skicouple is offline  
Old Dec 17th, 2004, 07:29 PM
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Hello Skicouple,

Since it will be the southern hemisphere autumn, it would be more ideal if you were to start this trip in the south and work northwards. That would help you to stay ahead of the onset of the cooler weather that, on average, would be progressing northwards from the south.

In theory you could do this trip in, say, 4 days if you didn't stop to look at anything. You could drive: (1) Cape Town to, say, Storms River Bridge, (2) SRB to East London, (3) EL to Durban, (4) Durban to Johannesburg. However, that would be far from ideal.

It would be much more ideal to follow Selwyn's itinerary for Cape Town, the winelands, Hermanus and the Garden Route in the following thread:

Taking up from where Selwyn has left off, you could drive from Port Elizabeth to Grahamstown, a place that is of some historical interest, and then on to East London. The coast to the north of East London is very wild and beautiful, and there are some wonderful hiking and camping trails. When I was little, my family used to park in one spot on that section of coastline and spend a whole month there, so the question of how much time is needed to do that trip at a leisurely pace is a very elastic concept.

If you travel north from there, you get to the province of KwaZulu-Natal. The port city of Durban is an interesting place, and is worth a couple of days.

If you travel westwards from Durban, you go through the undulating hills of the Midlands and arrive at the Drakensberg, a mountain range on South Africa's border with Lesotho. The Drankensberg is a beautiful place to hike. Again, the question of how much time to spend there is open to debate. It could be a couple of weeks. At a minimum, the area deserves a couple of days.

Going northwards and northwestwards from Durban, there are a number of wildlife parks in KwaZulu-Natal. Some of them are less expensive national parks that one can visit on a self-drive basis, and others are private reserves where one stays in a game lodge and is driven on morning and evening game drives by a guide.

From KwaZulu-Natal one can drive inland to Johannesburg. Alternatively, one can keep driving, either through the country of Swaziland or around its western side, to the South African province of Mpumalanga.

There more game reserves await one. There is the 2 million hectare Kruger National Park (less expensive, self-drive) and the several private game reserves that are contiguous with it on its western border (Sabi Sand,Timbavati, Manyeleti, Thornybush, and so on).

As one leaves the low-lying game reserve area, one climbs an escarpment and, if one wishes, one can linger for a day or two in the scenic area areound Pilgrims Rest, Blyde River Canyon, Bourkes Luck Potholes, Bridal Veil Falls, God's Window, etc.

Finally, one reaches Johannesburg.

As I said before, the coastal drive from CT to Jo'burg can be done in, say, 4 days. It would be easy to stretch it to 6 weeks, if you really did justice to each area through which you passed.

I'd be surprised if you had 6 weeks at your disposal. Most people who make enquiries here don't have that amount of time, so they are forced to make choices.

Most people opt for Cape Town, maybe they include the Garden Route as well, and then they fly to the Kruger National Park area for a safari. I would say one would need 2 weeks to do that.

If you have 3 weeks at your disposal, you could do CT and the Garden Route, fly from Port Elizabeth to Durban, pick up another car, and drive Durban - one of the KwaZulu-Natal game reserves - Kruger area - Johannesburg.

Hotels and motels are available, and that is not a busy time of year, so I think you could wing it. However, if you wanted to stay in the more charming guesthouses that people at this forum know about, you'd be better off getting reservations, especially in the more heavily visited areas like Cape Town and the more popular wildlife viewing areas.

As to safety and security issues, it's true that South Africa has a high crime rate. Get the advice of Fodorites or local people on the ground as to where you should stay when you're in the cities. Catch cabs at night.

When you're in the smaller country towns you mostly should be okay, as long as you're prudent and use common sense.

South Africa does have its rough edges, but its violence is not particularly aimed at tourists in general or at Americans in particular (in case you're American). On the whole South Africans are very friendly.

Hope that helps to give you an overview.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Old Dec 20th, 2004, 08:41 PM
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Thank you for your considered and informative response.
Skicouple is offline  
Old Dec 20th, 2004, 09:28 PM
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You ask about safety and that is why I mention this ...

I would be very cautious about driving from Grahamstown to East London and then onto Durban. In the areas close to East London and on the KZN South Coast (from Port Shepstone)should be fine, but the "wilds" of the Eastern Cape - although beautiful - is IMHO the most dangerous area to drive. To put it into perspective, we have a male field rep based in Port Elizabeth responsible for the E Cape area and for safety reasons we do not have him call on places like Umtata/Bisho. There have been too many instances of reps being car-jacked and run off the road etc. And the roads are also in poor condition.
I don't want to appear alarmist, like anywhere else in the world be prepared, don't put yourself in unecessary danger and you will have a lovely holiday.
My suggestion is that you rather fly from PE to Dbn if possible.
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Old Dec 21st, 2004, 12:12 AM
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I don't know about the safety aspect, but from what I hear the road from East London via Umtata to the south coast of Kwazulu Natal is atrocious. Check the map and if you have the time you could take the "scenic route" around Lesotho from Port Elizabeth or East London to Durban. This would take you through part of the Karoo which also has it's own beauty particularly at dawn and dusk.
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