Rambling Roger Houghton tucks in.
Rambling Roger Houghton tucks in.

Johannesburg - Firstly, I was amazed when driving from Pretoria to Cape Town in December to see that the road via Kimberley still remains the best-kept secret from travellers in South Africa, judging by the low traffic volume.

There were some years when there were extensive roadworks on this route; but no longer. There were potholes in Kimberley and a badly potholed main road through the centre of Bloemhof. Otherwise the road was in excellent condition; a very safe route and no traffic jams. And no tolls!

The AA recommended going from Pretoria via Ventersdorp (on a bypass) and Hartbeesfontein to join the N12. This junction was a few kilometres after Klerksdorp, so it avoids all the traffic in Westonaria, Potchefstroom and Klerksdorp. On this day, the route we bypassed included a road closed because of a sinkhole.

We overnighted at Kingwill’s Guest House in Victoria West, which provided quaint accommodation in period houses with a vast assortment of dinner dishes from which to choose. Interestingly, the chef weighed the plates to work out the price per diner!

Our return route started from The Wilderness, so we could not use the Kimberley road again. We went towards Oudtshoorn and then on to Graaff-Reinet via Willowmoore and Aberdeen. This road was also in excellent condition after recent road works.

This time we overnighted at the Prior Grange Guest Farm near Springfontein, which is about 100km on the Joburg side of Colesberg. This proved a novel and most enjoyable experience. It started with Blackie and Sheryl de Swardt, the owners of this working sheep farm, inviting my wife and me to join them and the other guests for sundowners at a novel, raised open-air pub. It turned out that my wife and I knew family members and acquaintances of several of the other guests!

What made the experience unique is that dinner and breakfast are served in your individual cottage. It was very wholesome and pleasant fare, with a choice of beverages. All at a fair price, making it excellent value for money.

I arrived at both overnight venues by surfing the ’net. The drive home from Springfontein took longer than I’d reckoned, because of lengthy and extensive roadworks all the way to Kroonstad. Thank goodness the Kimberley route allowed me to miss all this on the way to Cape Town!

A big disappointment on our extensive travels was the total lack of trains moving either passengers or goods on all our travels. South Africa once had the best rail network in Africa, and we saw many trains on holiday travels years ago. The trains provided reasonable and convenient transport for many families over the festive period. It’s a pity this is no longer the case.

On a good news front we didn’t see a single accident in our three weeks of travelling from Pretoria to Cape Town, Hermanus, Knysna, The Wilderness and back. Drivers’ manners seemed quite laid-back and courteous, despite the awful holiday traffic statistics that greeted us upon our return.

The cherry on the top for us was the marvellous weather we enjoyed for the entire three-week period. It was certainly a year to be in the Cape for the festive season.

Saturday Star