As much as it makes me anxious and slightly stressed, I’m a firm believer that when you get to the gravel, it’s a real road trip. Other signs include stopping at petrol stations in small towns with the gauge almost on empty, the necessity of padkos and the loss of cellphone signal.
Since I got a flat tyre not that long ago - on a brick-paved road - the nervous memory is clear, so jouncing, jolting and rattling along the stony, potholed dirt roads was a tad nerve-racking.
But we made it, in and out, in one piece; and it does make you more appreciative of tar.
Our roundabout road trip took us from Cape Town to Arniston - by way of Riviersonderend because someone didn’t take Google Maps seriously - before circling around to De Hoop Nature Reserve. Since we were more or less in the area, a quick 35km detour from Bredasdorp to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa, was a must-do.
Arniston is a gorgeous little piece of our country, and is also known as Waenhuiskrans. This translates literally from the Afrikaans as “wagon house cliff” and it refers to the famous cave on the outskirts of the village, where once upon a time, people turned their ox wagons around inside - something which raises more questions than answers.
It’s an easy walk to the rocky steps down the cliff, and then over the rocks to the cave.
It’s important - very important - to note that the cave is accessible only at low tide. Even so, you’re going to get your feet a bit wet so consider that when planning your wardrobe.
We got there a little bit after low tide and the incoming waves made me skittish as I hesitated at the entrance to the first cave. My friend had ducked through the opening at the back, which she claims opens up into the bigger, main cave. Luckily I don’t suffer from Fomo so I took her word for it.
The Arniston name comes from a tragic shipwreck in 1815 when the Arniston Transport sank during a storm. Almost everyone on board perished, including 25 children, and all because there was no marine chronometer for navigation.
The tense and dramatic story is related in the book in your room at the Arniston Hotel, in suitably flowery language, which we appreciated.
The hotel faces on to the ocean so we could watch first the moonrise, then the sunrise the following morning, from our private balconies of our interleading suites. Rooms either face the sea or the pool area, and are available in various sizes to suit childless travellers as well as families.
With the upcoming school holidays, this is a good destination to keep in mind as it has plenty to keep the little ones entertained, as well as excellent rates. Of course, the beaches and wild outdoors are there to explore as well.
We loved the underfloor heating, the excellent seafood in the bistro and good ribs from room service, and superbly relaxing treatments in the Ginko Spa. I almost fell asleep during my foot massage but caught myself just in time before the snoring began.