Hanover to Golden Gate Highlands National Park
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:
Today, our plan is 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 seeing 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 cover close to 600km (372 miles) to get to our destination for the next two days.
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!
Very soon, we found ourselves on a lovely back road, running pass the well-known Gariep Dam. The Orange River feeds the Gariep Dam (which was built in 1971) and is the largest storage reservoir in South Africa.
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.
As we got closer to Bethulie, we decided it was time to re-fuel our car’s petrol tank again. We had to turn off to get to this little village and driven pass the Bethulie Dam … it was such a peaceful scene with some cows grazing on the bank of the river. We just had to stop and take a few pictures.
Just after Smithfield we had the option to drive on another highway (the N6) to the capital of the Free State, namely Bloemfontein. Or an alternative route to Wepener on the R701 – much shorter, but on a gravel road! We did not even need to think about it and turned the car in the direction of the gravel road 😁.
The gravel 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 gravel road, but it was beautiful.
Back on the tarred road, we had to dodge potholes continuously for almost 200km! The gravel road we just travelled on, was almost better 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.
And then, after a difficult drive between potholes for almost two hours, we finally arrived in 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 for the next two nights in a rondavel (a rondavel is an African-style hut).
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).
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 drink a beer next to the fire.
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.