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South Africa driving route advice needed. Is the Transkei dangerous?

South Africa driving route advice needed. Is the Transkei dangerous?

Dec 26th, 2010, 08:36 AM
  #1  
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South Africa driving route advice needed. Is the Transkei dangerous?

We have one month to spend in South Africa after almost 4 weeks in Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda on safari. We'd like to rent a car and drive the following itinerary and would like your opinion on our destinations, number of days, safety concerns and if we're missing any great stops along the way.

Arrive Jo'Burg, spend 3 days.
Drive to ???? for an overnight or a couple of days.
Drive to Sodwana Bay National Park for scuba diving/snorkeling and MKhuze Game Reserve for birding, spend 4 days.
Drive to Durban for overnight to rest from driving. (We're not committed to Durban.)
Drive through the Transkei on N2 to East London. (We were warned not to stop in this area because it is dangerous, but an 8 hour driving stretch is too long for us. Is there a stop along this route that is scenic, interesting and safe?)
Drive to Port Elizabeth, spend 2 days.
Drive to Knysna, spend 4 days.
Drive to Arniston, spend 2 days.
Drive to Hermanus, spend 2 days.
Drive to Cape Town, spend 6-10 days.

Your advice and suggestions are greatly appreciated.
adifferentvista is offline  
Dec 26th, 2010, 09:35 AM
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We have driven from Durban to Cape Town along the N2 through the Transkei and, while we certainly never felt in any danger, you (assuming you are white!) should be prepared to feel a tad out of place. Below is the description I sent to family and friends after our self-drive - it may give you an idea of what to expect. Robin

Leaving Durban around noon, we admired the gorgeous beaches that this stretch of the coastline is famous for. Just over 150-km south of Durban, where the highway leaves the coast and moves inland, we left the province of KwaZulu-Natal and entered the Eastern Cape, where another fascinating leg of our journey began. We traveled for 300-km through Transkei, the former homeland of the Xhosa. During apartheid, this area was a dumping ground for Xhosa who weren’t of any use to the Republic. Today, it suffers from overgrazing and underdevelopment and, like the former Zulu homeland, is a desperately poor region, with communal land and rondavels dotting the landscape. There is no electricity, and water is hauled great distances from communal pumps. The only transportation is by donkey cart or minibus taxi. The most noticeable difference between the two former homelands was that, unlike the Zulu rondavels, which were grey or brown, those of the Xhosa were brightly coloured, with pale pink, baby blue, and mint green the colours of choice. They gave this rural area a bright, cheery feel, despite the poverty. Once again, pedestrians streamed along both sides of the highway, children in school uniforms and women in long, brightly coloured skirts, often with horizontal black stripes placed at varying intervals, the Xhosa trademark. Most women had their heads covered with scarves tied at the forehead. Young boys sat in empty wheelbarrows at the side of the highway, waiting to meet the minibus taxies which carried their mothers home from the nearest town or market. Those mothers who weren’t fortunate enough to be met would make their way slowly along the highway, huge parcels on their heads and in their arms, and babies on their backs. Other children used wheelbarrows to transport water from the community pump to their homes, no easy task once they left the tarred highway. Animals wandered onto the road. We swerved around an elderly women and her donkey cart, which straddled the centerline of the busy highway, with a donkey that was stubbornly refusing to budge. We passed through several towns that were the sorts of places you hope to pass through rather than visit - bustling, crowded, dirty centres that serve the vast rural communities which surround them. Their best assets were their humourous names, such as Collywobbles and Hole in the Wall. Again, few whites live or travel in this region, and we drove all afternoon without seeing another white face. The two-lane highway, although the main thoroughfare between Durban and Cape Town, was a nightmare. It was narrow and winding and ran along the high inland plateau, with the result that we would no sooner climb up and up to the top of the plateau than we would find ourselves plunging back down again through one of the endless river valleys. The going was slow, with the result that we barely made it to our accommodation before darkness fell. We spent the night in Umtata, the former capital of Transkei, and not a place you would wish to be wandering after dark. The main street was in total chaos when we arrived, with hordes of people, animals, cars and minibus taxis scattered about, and none of the robots working. Laura’s only comment was to ask if there were any other white people in Umtata. She was road-weary, tired of being stared at, and in need of a good night’s sleep.

The next day we continued through the former Xhosa bantustan towards Cape Town, wondering if that narrow, unfenced, winding section of the highway would ever end. The terrain was very dry, and we passed several grass fires which the local people were trying to beat out with loosely bound bunches of grass. Women sitting by the side of the road sold corn-on-the-cob, which they were cooking over an open fire in a three-legged cast iron pot. Children sold oranges and cabbages. We felt welcome but very out of place. We arrived at our next destination, Addo National Park, mid afternoon, relieved to know that we were spending two nights there and would be free of the highway for a while. We were still almost 1000-km from Cape Town.


From the same road trip:

Few whites live in the rural areas in the northern and central Drakensberg and, when we stopped in Bergville, an unattractive, chaotic town, with tatty department stores, noisy markets, and streets strewn with people, animals, bakkies, and litter, the locals looked at us as though we had beamed down from another planet. Laura asked if she was the only one feeling terribly out of place. Robert stood out like a sore thumb as he waited in a long line of blacks at the local ATM. With rare exception, the people smiled and waved as we passed. In town, they seemed particularly pleased when we greeted them in Zulu. It would certainly be understandable if the Zulu bore some resentment towards visitors like us who fly past their homes in our air conditioned vehicles, while they struggle to survive. If they do, it wasn’t evident to us. We found them hospitable and friendly, and the tales of crime, hostile locals, and shocking roads, which are often associated with the rural areas around the northern and central Drakensberg, greatly exaggerated (well, except perhaps for the roads!). We had the feeling that we were experiencing one of the most unaffected cultural experiences available to visitors in South Africa and we were all the richer for it.
canadian_robin is offline  
Dec 26th, 2010, 12:24 PM
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Robin - that's a very nice, informative report. Very interesting observations.

adifferentview - I know you will have just spent a month on safari, but you are traveling near two great national parks - Hluhluwe and Addo. I would try to visit both. Could you fly to Durban (or Richards Bay is closer but more expensive to fly to) and rent a car there, do the KwaZulu Natal part, then fly to Port Eliz, rent a car and do the second part? The flight goes through JNB and sounds silly, but only takes 4 hours (5 hours from Richards Bay) on SAA. Then I'd add the extra time in KwaZulu Natal, like Kosi Bay, St Lucia, Hluhluwe and Ndumo (known for its birds).

The diving/snorkeling at Sodwana Bay sounds amazing. We'd love to do it when we're there in June.

There are ocean front accommodations in Garden Route national park at Storms River. High on our list.
christabir is offline  
Dec 26th, 2010, 10:18 PM
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Robin and Christabir: Thank you! Wow! Great info from both of you. Love the idea of flying between Durban and Port Eliz. And thanks for the additional park suggestions. We are furiously working on the details. If you have any thoughts on mid ranged places to stay near the parks or along the route, we'd appreciate them. Thank you.
adifferentvista is offline  
Dec 27th, 2010, 04:28 AM
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Lots of B&B's in St Lucia itself, Anna's, Stokkiesdraai, Serene Guest house etc. to mention but a few. Flying between Durban and PE is probably your best bet, but you will miss a cultural experience that few get to experience, beautiful countryside and some real African towns to pass through. If you do drive then a stop over in Coffee Bay is worth it, beautiful scenery and rural SA on the sea http://www.sa-venues.com/attractionsec/coffee-bay.php.
I have blogged about the trip we did through The Transkei last December http://kimssouthafrica.blogspot.com/...den-route.html.
kimssouthafrica is offline  
Dec 27th, 2010, 09:29 AM
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I agree with Christabir that Addo Elephant Park is a great overnight stop between PE and Cape Town. We have visited twice and are returning in 2011. It is a favourite!

http://www.sanparks.co.za/parks/addo/

Storm's River Mouth (part of Tsitsikamma National Park) is also a favourite - the oceanettes are so close to the ocean that, when we stayed, I was awake half the night, convinced that a large wave would wash us from our beds out into the sea. The park also has some lovely hiking along the cliffs overlooking the ocean.

http://www.sanparks.co.za/parks/gard...er/default.php

Both Storm's River and Addo would make great stops between PE and CT. Robin
canadian_robin is offline  
Dec 27th, 2010, 09:45 AM
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Kim - I agree driving that stretch would be nice, but in this situation long distances aren't really an option. That's why I thought the flight would be easier.

adifferentvista (sorry I got that wrong before) - Look into Hilltop Camp in Hluhluwe. We are staying there in June. The park may have prevented the extinction of the rhino. It's a national park and the accommodations are pretty reasonable.

We chose to stay in the Zululand Rhino Reserve instead of Mkhuze, in part because the WWF is involved with relocations of black rhino there. The birding is not as good, though. Lots of KZN parks. The website is awful but has all the info even if hard to find. If you get the SanParks Wildcard, entrance to many KZN parks is free.

These two websites will help:

kznwildlife.com
sanparks.org
christabir is offline  
Dec 27th, 2010, 09:54 AM
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Back in 2004, we had 5 weeks in SA, which we self-drove.
Our itinerary gave us 2.5 weeks from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth.
We flew from PE to Durban.
And then spent the next 2.5 weeks from there, via St Lucia, up through various parks and Kruger, to Jo'burg.
From there we flew on to a non-self-drive trip in Botswana.

Worked really well for us.
Kavey is offline  
Dec 27th, 2010, 04:09 PM
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adv - This is the 3 week trip we have planned for June 2011. It might be helpful:

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...afari-2011.cfm

Consider Richards Bay instead of Durban. It's 2 hours closer than Durban.

Kavey - we are doing a similar trip. Did you do a trip report?

Sorry - I messed up with referring to Kim/Robin backwards. Just know both of you have great insights and are always appreciated. I'm doing this on an iPod, and it's hard to navigate as it's so small.
christabir is offline  
Dec 28th, 2010, 12:50 PM
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Hmmm, I can't remember, I think I did for part of it, can't remember how far I got, I might even have managed the whole of S Africa bit... I'm notoriously bad at finishing them...

Anyone remember if I did one and how I can find it with the crappy search engine?

Kavey is offline  
Dec 28th, 2010, 02:29 PM
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Kavey - I just clicked on your name and checked your trip reports. Nope, you didn't for your S Africa trip. Any highlights? When you went from KwaZulu Natal to greater Kruger, did you stop for the night somewhere? We are considering spending a night in Swaziland. Not sure yet.
christabir is offline  
Dec 29th, 2010, 07:19 AM
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Are you sure you want to spend 2 nights in Arniston? I spent one night there in April and I thought it was more than enough. It's a beautiful place but there's really nothing to do. We just went to Cape Aghulas.
mcbg1 is offline  
Dec 29th, 2010, 01:35 PM
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I definitely posted some of it, just can't find it with crappy search engine here...

Dang, I don't know how to find it...

Our itinerary was:

6 nts Cape Town
3 nts Franschhoek
1 nt Swellendam
2 nt Oudtshoorn
3 nts Knysna area
2 nts Addo
Fly to Durban
1 nt Durban/ Ballito
2 nts Umfolozi
1 nts Hluhluwe
3 nts St Lucia
2 nts Ndumo
3 nts Ithala
1 nt Kruger Berg en Dal
3 nts Kruger Olifants
1 nt Jo’burg
3 nts Savuti Camp
3 nts Jacana Camp
2 nts Tubu Tree
1 nt Gudigwa Camp
4 nts Little Mombo
4 nts Jacks Camp
1 nt Hilltop House, Windhoek
4 nts Wolwedans Dunes Lodge
Kavey is offline  
Dec 29th, 2010, 02:06 PM
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Kavey - So you drove from Ithala to Berg en Dahl? Did you go through Swaziland or drive around? Time was not an issue? That looks like a spectacular trip!!!!!!!!

Happy to see you went to Ndumo. We are visiting Tembe (we don't self cater), and will try a day trip to Ndumo. Not sure after I heard about this recent incident. Did you hear about it? Very disturbing for the birds, animals and park:

http://www.mg.co.za/article/2010-10-...invasion-crime

adv - sorry I stole your thread, but this is all very interesting. I am trying to finalize plans for June and Tembe just threw a wrench in the works.
christabir is offline  
Dec 30th, 2010, 12:49 AM
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We went through!
Let me go read my notes, gimme a sec:

OK, we left our chalet in Ithala at 8.30 am.

We stopped for a relaxed lunch at Peak Craft Centre, near Pigg's Peak (in Phumulani restaurant) and also did a little gift shopping there.

We got to Malelane Gate at 4.30 but then had to wait for quite a while in a queue to have our paperwork processed - chaos!

But we have plenty of time to get to Berg en Dahl.
Kavey is offline  
Dec 30th, 2010, 12:51 AM
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I didn't see that story on Ndumo. Not long after we visited Wilderness Safaris pulled out of the park - there were some issues regarding their concession and I think they decided it wasn't worth the trouble. I recall hearing more details but have long since forgotten...

The road from main road to Ndumo was worst road we've ever driven.
Kavey is offline  
Dec 30th, 2010, 07:58 AM
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Kavey, thanks for finding your itinerary. Would you do anything differently if you had to do it again? More or less time in any of your locations? You probably wanted more time every place, but you know what I mean.
adifferentvista is offline  
Dec 30th, 2010, 01:41 PM
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Pretty much spot on but I'd recommend accommodation outside Knysna town centre - the area is stunning but the town centre is cheap, tacky back-packer central.

The night in Ballito was to stay with a Fodors friend, if we didn't know her, we'd have stopped either in Durban itself for the night or somewhere on that coast, not necessarily Ballito, though it was pleasant enough seaside town.

Rest was perfect. Not masses to do in St Lucia but by this point we knew we'd need a little kickback time and we did. Wasn't warm enough to go in the sea during our May visit, but at warmer times of year it would be. We did a boat trip and some short wildlife sightseeing trips but also chilled in house and in town.
Kavey is offline  
Dec 30th, 2010, 04:07 PM
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Kavey - Thank you. I think we'll overnight in Mbabane between Kruger and Hluhluwe so we don't have to drive in the dark. It'll be dark by 5PM in June. Your experience really helped.

We'll ask at Tembe if the road is any better and if we'll have time to do it all. Ndumo sounds like a mess right now. It makes me a little sad about the deforestation - it has been compared to the Okavango. I'm thinking the road to Tembe won't be much better!

We have decided to arrange for a horseback ride through a game area in St Lucia and do the boat ride to see the hippos and crocs (maybe). I understand it's pretty, but not very accessible.
christabir is offline  
Dec 31st, 2010, 02:30 AM
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The route we took, the road that was bad did lead to both Ndumo and Tembe, I believe, though there may be alternate routes to Tembe and it may be better anyway.

We travelled in May/ June 2004.
Kavey is offline  

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