Several people had told us the R56, between Elliot and Molteno, was badly potholed. As the Sunday Tribune had recommended the R56 as an alternate route to the N2 when travelling to the Cape, clearly this needed investigating.
The R56 starts in Pietermaritzburg (but can be joined at Kokstad by those travelling from Durban) then proceeds through Matatiele, Mount Fletcher, Maclear, Ugie, Elliot, and ultimately ends in Middelburg.
When we did the trip in May last year, we headed for Queenstown. This time, in November, I chose to drive between Elliot and Middelburg, but in the reverse direction.
This takes the traveller through Steynsburg, Molteno, Dordrecht and Indwe, and includes that section which seemed to leave some drivers checking their shock absorbers.
Far from a pot-holed horror of a road, I found road gangs had repaired much of the damage. Only a short section between Dordrecht and Indwe needed a bit of careful negotiation, as did the entrance to Dordrecht on the Molteno side. Perhaps, by now, even that has been rectified.
The scenery was soothing. Around the Dordrecht area, the farmlands were green and lush. It was particularly inviting after the dryness of the Little Karoo, and one of the greenest areas I travelled through. Clear, sparkling dams, and gentle rolling hills added their own touch to the peaceful kaleidoscope. Cattle grazed contentedly, while the sun shone benignly. It was soul stuff.
A church, with colourful murals, in the middle of nowhere, beckoned the traveller to stop. The town of Steynsburg looked like a good stopover spot, but I chose Molteno, where Olive’s Cottage – self-catering or B&B – was spacious, comfortable and well appointed.
Molteno, named after the first prime minister of the Cape, John Molteno, is where Ouma rusks originated. The town has an interesting building, dedicated to Queen Victoria, and built with funds raised by the town’s inhabitants.
The only blight on the landscape of the R56, to my mind, was Indwe, where plastic bags festooned the barbed-wire fences, and the town’s rubbish dump was an eyesore close to the road. It seemed this municipality does not set much store by the environment. Then I noticed large billboards, telling of the work of the local hospice, and others referring to health issues.
Maybe Indwe does not have money to be environmentally friendly as well as socially concerned, and has its priorities right – humans first.
Slightly ashamed of my negative thoughts, I continued on my way.