ROAD TRIP – Sodwana Bay (2)

Hanover (Northern Cape Province) to Golden Gate Highlands National Park (Free State Province)

Welcome to our road trip of December 2021. We are travelling by car across South Africa (from the west coast → north coast → KZN south coast → back to the west coast). The distance we will cover, will be around 5,000km (3,106 miles).

Our main purpose for this trip, besides seeing places we have not seen before, is for Berto to scuba dive in Sodwana Bay and then to be a little more adventurous … diving with sharks in the ocean in Umkomaas on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal. We hope to share lots of pictures to show you our beautiful country.

Accommodation – Day 2 & 3:

Golden Gate Highlands National Park – Glen Reenen Rest Camp (outside Clarens, Free State Province)

Today, our plan was to drive to the province of the Free State – basically in the middle of South Africa. We have booked two nights inside the Golden Gate Highlands National Park and are looking forward to experience this amazing landscape for the very first time.

We had a super nice breakfast at New Holme where we stayed last night. At around 8:30 we were back on the road … today we have to drive close to 600km (372 miles) to reach our destination for the next two days.

Just after we left New Holme, we saw these three horses walking in the field (we were sure they belong to the farm where we stayed last night)

We had to drive on one of the main highways in South Africa, the N1, once we left New Holme. Fortunately, this was only for 80km before we took another back road with almost NO traffic – pure bliss!

The N1 highway between Hanover and Colesberg

Very soon we found ourselves on a lovely back road that passed by the famous Gariep Dam. The Orange River feeds the Gariep Dam (built in 1971) and is the largest storage reservoir in South Africa.

On a back road in the Free State Province

Although one might often think that the Free State is a flat province, there is actually unlimited outcrops of sandstone mountains – sometimes over 200m high. We have seen many of these mountains on today’s road.

Sandstone mountain on the back road
Another sandstone mountain in the distance

When we got close to Bethulie, we went looking for a petrol station where we could refill our car with fuel. We had to turn off to get to this small town and we drove past the Bethuli Dam … it was such a peaceful scene with some cows grazing on the banks of the river. We just had to stop and take some pictures.

Just after Smithfield we had the option to continue our drive on another highway (N6) to the capital of the Free State, namely Bloemfontein. There was however also an alternative route to Wepener on the R701 – much shorter, but on a dirt road! We did not even need to think about this and turned the car in the direction of the dirt road 😁.

A dusty dirt road from Smithfield to Wepener

The dirt road continued for about 80km … we could see the evidence of recent rain, because there were quite a lot of standing water next to the road. It was probably not the smoothest of rides we have done before on a dirt road, but it was certainly beautiful.

The road we came from – we are now back on the tarred road again
Water streams next to the road

Back on the tarred road, we had to dodge potholes continuously for almost 200km! The dirt road we just travelled on, was almost in a better condition than the tarred road. But at least the scenery next to the road was stunning. We passed towns with beautiful names, such as Hobhouse, Ladybrand, Clocolan and Ficksburg.

We saw more and more sandstone mountains
Stunning sandstone mountain

And then, after a difficult drive between potholes for almost two hours, we finally arrived at the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.

Although the road was not as long as yesterday, it was a challenging day with the bad road surface. We were more than happy to arrive at the Glen Reenen Rest Camp in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. We will be staying here for the next two nights in what is called a rondavel (an African-style hut).

Our rondavel at the Glen Reenen Rest Camp

We had such amazing views over the Maluti Mountains – a true highland habitat and home to a variety of mammals (such like black wildebeest eland, blesbok, oribi, springbok, zebras and birds).

Views of the Maluti Mountains from our rondavel
Warm shades merge with the cool mountain shadows towards the evening

After driving more than 1350km (838 miles) in just two days, we felt it was best to rest for one day before we continue our road trip to the north coast of South Africa. But (once again) before the end of the day, we had to enjoy a beer next to the fire.

Tired after a long day on the road
Time to relax next to a fire in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park

We are hoping to do a short hiking route tomorrow … but we heard rumours of heavy thunderstorms. We’ll see what tomorrow brings – and we’ll see you there as well.

54 thoughts on “ROAD TRIP – Sodwana Bay (2)

    1. That’s what we love about South Africa – those wide open spaces! And you’re absolutely right John … the surprises waiting for you on a road you don’t know, that’s always great! Thank you for coming along. Take care, Corna.

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  1. Ek het nou al reeds genoem hoe lief ons vir Golden Gate is en ek kan nie eers meer met al my vingers en tone die kere tel wat ons in Glen Reenen oorgeslaap het nie. Die plekke is baie na ons hart. Daarom sal ek eerder kommentaar lewer op Bethulie en omstreke. Ons het na ons Desember 2020 vakansie oor Ventersburg en Bethulie teruggekeer. Sulke lieflike landskappe, en die brug oor die Oranjerivier net buite Bethulie was n gesig om te aanskou – dit is waarskynlik die langste brug in die land. Op Bethulie het ons n badkamer gesoek by die vulstasies maar nie een was oop nie. Ons moes maar by die polisiestasie gaan aanklop vir hulp (of verligting). Tien-teen-een ook die vriendelikste polisie personeel in die land hoor. Van daar het ons ongelukkig die fout gemaak om die N6 te volg Bloemfontein toe. Wat n nagmerrie. Die roekelooste bestuurders wat jy aan kan dink, in hul dosyne. Julle het reg gekies om die grondpad te volg.

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    1. Wat ‘n mooi storie van die polisiestasie in Bethulie 😊! Ons het daardie lang brug gemis (het wel ‘n bordjie ‘erens’ gesien, maar ons het seker ‘n ander pad gery). Ek’s nou baie bly ons het die N6 gemis … alhoewel die grondpad nogal rof was (te danke/te wyte aan die onlangse reen), was dit so mooi en ons was die enigste motoriste op daardie pad! Golden Gate het ons harte gesteel met sy skoonheid – selfs in gietende reen was dit ‘n skouspel!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Marion! The Maluti mountains are surely magnificent (we will have LOTS of pictures of these amazing mountains in our next post). And yes, we loved our rondavel – exactly what we needed on a day when the rain came down in buckets 😉. I hope that day of opening our borders to overseas travellers, will come again soon …

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    1. Jy’s reg Aletta, elke provinsie/streek het beslis sy eie bekoring. Die Vrystaters was vriendelik oral waar ons was (en het selfs verskoning gemaak vir die toestand van hulle paaie 😊). Sal baie graag weer wil teruggaan Golden Gate toe – daardie mooie plek het my hart gesteel!

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  2. Sorry to hear about the bad road experience, especially since it was a really long day. But I can see that the beautiful, vast vistas along the road more than made up for it. The sandstone mountains are amazing, and remind me of Monument Valley in the US. Minus the desert of course. Your digs are once again superb.

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    1. Yes Leighton, the roads towards the end was pretty bad … but soon forgotten when we arrived at the Golden Gate Highlands National Park! What a lovely place – we should have stayed there for longer! Loved our little rondavel – such a unique place to stay in the beautiful Maluti mountains.

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    1. Haha, yes maybe that wasn’t the best photo to describe the ‘busy’ highway … but I remember there were a couple of trucks and cars 😅. Oh, I loved our stay in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park – the mountains and scenery were just unbelievable beautiful!

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      1. Goodness me!! It may look (almost) similar in the main cities here in South Africa (Cape Town & Johannesburg) … but on the long stretches outside of the cities it’s not that bad. Well, I will not complain again 😉.

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    1. Oh, I would love to visit Peru one day! Ah, the weather … always unpredictable … but you have to make the best of each situation 😉. Thanks, we are certainly enjoying our trip at the moment. Thank you for reading, take care. Corna 🌸

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    1. South Africa has so many straight and long roads (especially through 3 of the provinces we are travelling). It seems I don’t really have an idea of heavy traffic (reading the comments from the bloggers in the UK 😉) … I have taken a picture of the ‘traffic’ close to Durban which I will post later (but I think you will still be laughing at me)!

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  3. Doesn’t it give you a feeling for how enormous our planet is, when you see those wide open spaces? It reminds me a bit of Utah and Arizona. I took my Dad on some bumpy roads there! The name Maluti made me nostalgic. South African Airways named their 747s after mountains and Maluti was a 747 SP. It was the last one of it’s kind, apparently and is now in a museum. I used to make load and balance sheets for it. Beautiful place and lovely name.

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    1. We love those wide open spaces … and yes, you’re absolutely right … we have indeed an enormous planet. And how amazing that some places in one country looks almost the same as in another country! I did not know that “Maluti” was one of our planes … but I can understand why, it is such an amazing mountain range! I will have to look it up to see where it currently is – that will be an interesting story!!

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  4. The landscape, so wide open, looks dry; hope those beautiful horses are ok. I hope your fire danger is low out there in the middle of the country. We worry about that here in the mountains. And then… your destination for the night looks so green! The hut looks cozy; you’ve done well, Corna!

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    1. The first area we drove through, is one of the driest areas in South Africa and people are very vigilant regarding any wild fires. I’m sure the horses were fine – they had a guy trailing behind them, so I think he just moved them from one spot to the next (and was actually on the farm itself that I took the photo). Oh, that hut in the Golden Gate Highlands Park … amazing and we loved our (short) time there!

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      1. Ons het nou wraggies van die een see tot by die ander see gery … en pragtige berge en plekke tussen-in gesien! Ons is nou in Umkomaas (nog ‘n klein kus dorpie) en weereens, die mense is so vriendelik en doen moeite om toeriste te verwelkom! Ek is ook ‘n “paar dae agter” met die skryfwerk … maar ai, dis dan so lekker om op die strand rond te loop 😄.

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    1. After the drive through potholes (which I suppose is part of a road trip ☺️), we were amazed with the stunning scenery at Golden Gate Highlands National Park! Thanks for enjoying our trip with us. Enjoy your weekend 🌸.

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