THE THREE CAPES TRIP II (2012)

When we finished our first Three Capes Tour last year, we decided to do another one in 2012 and fill in some other places we want to experience. Some others, we just wanted to experience again because we love it there. In order to remain as objective as possible, I will not wax lyrical about any one place, but rather I will tell you what it feels like doing the trip and experiencing the sleepover place. I can however say that there was not one single place that we did not enjoy.

Sometimes the road was a bit long and other times the weather was not ideal, but chances are good that you will experience better weather than what we experienced, which will make the trip even better. Although we are comitted campers, we sometimes "upgrade" to brick-and-mortar dwellings, especially when we have washing to do, or the weather looks menacing. There are permanent, weatherproof accommodation in all these places available, so there is no need to run and buy camping equipment if you want to take the tour.

We hope the information you read here will help you with designing your own itinerary or you can just fall into the circle at any point. Also, if you need further info, you can email me at pieter@linx.co.za

Golden Gate Highlands National Park

The trip between Pretoria and Golden Gate should ideally be started early in the morning, since it is never good to get caught in traffic in the Gauteng area. Another reason is that one wants to be at Clarens and Golden Gate quite early because that is where the fun is. A good relaxed meal in one of the restaurants in the town of Clarens between the mountains before going on to the Golden Gate National Park and settling down for the night while it is not yet dark, is the ultimate. It is always better to unpack or make camp while the sun is still shining. Luckily the road is tarred right up to the cultural village.

On the way we stopped at the Harrismith Spur where we had a great lunch and met the owner Hennie who made sure we get only the best.

Golden Gate Highlands National Park is famous for the Dinosour eggs discovered in the sandstone deposits that form the main features of this beautiful area, its wonderful Ribbok hiking trail and we discovered, the Basutu Cultural Village, which surprised us with the luxury of their accommodation and the view over the game-filled plains between the sandstone mountains. We had our traditional braai outside the rondavel watching the sun set over the sandstone mountains before bedtime.

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Forever Gariep Resort

One passes through and near quite a number of typical Free State towns along the route to Gariep, one cannot help but to notice the results of great numbers of people leaving the countryside for the cities, with the inevitable result of neglect and the absence of new investments in the small towns of South Africa leaving the traveller with little reason to scout the towns for interesting places to visit.

We wanted to sleep over at a new place called Tussen die Riviere (Between the rivers) but we reached their closed gate where a notice board gave notice of a washed out bridge and vague directions to the camp. It was getting late, so we decided to rather go on to Forever Gariep Resort where we knew we will get good aaccommodation.

Forever Gariep resort is a large resort that is extremely busy during South African school holidays, but calm and peaceful during off-season times - a very good place to stop and enjoy the little town near the resort and the food offered by the "hotel on the hill" before going down to unpack and make camp. We were almost alone in the well-equipped camping sites and enjoyed a very relaxing and peaceful braai next to the dam before hitting the sack for a good night's sleep.

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Mountain Zebra National Park

The next morning we hit the Road to Mountain Zebra National Park traversing an arid part of South Africa, getting drier as you move further into the Karoo. Towns like Colesberg, Middelburg and finally Cradock are all mainly dependent on agriculture, ensuring no large-scale pollution takes place in these areas, making it a healthy area to enjoy a holiday in nature. The road is tarred right up to the camp and getting there is easy.

After booking into one of the beautifully situated mountain huts, we made a fire in the fireplace, since it was getting more than just a little bit chilly, we braaied in the fireplace and enjoying one of South Africa's good Shiraz wines that we so love before going to bed.

Mountain Zebra National Park is a very beautiful park with good camping and other accommodation. Game viewing is easy since the park is mostly characterized by wide open plains allowing for easy observation of the many species being protected here. Here you can also go on guided hikes looking for the collared Cheetas, which are the largest predators of the park.

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Addo Elephant National Park

The route to Addo Elephant National park leads south towards the coast with the flora turning slowly to species adapted to wetter circumstances. There are no towns between Cradock and the park, so make sure you stock up in Cradock.

Addo Elephant National Park is fast becoming one of South Africa's largest parks with recent expansions into coastal and inland mountainous areas. Apart from the well-known facilities at the main part of the park, there are now facilities at the Kabouga mountain section as well in the form of a nature camp and a hut.

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Storms River Mouth National Park

From the "old" part of Addo Natioanal Park, the route goes south through the park and out at the Colchester gate, past Port Elizabeth and the famous surfing beach of Jeffreys Bay before reaching the Tsitsikamma Section of the Garden Route National Park and Stormsriver Mouth camp.

Stormsriver Mouth is famous for the Otter Hiking trail, which starts here as well as for the beautiful views over the ocean from the different accommodaton and camping sites that's being offered here. This is also a popular place for adventure tourists who like a wide variety of adventures.

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Bontebok National Park

The road to the Bontebok National Park runs past Plettenberg Bay and Knysna which are also wonderful places to spend time at, and nobody can blame you if you spend a few days here as well. We however, already spent time there during our 2011 Three Capes Trip, so we moved on faster and camped over at the already known to us, Bontebok National Park before moving on to the West Coast area that was a main target of ours. Our intention was to get to know the new coastal area of the Namakwa Narional Park, which looked very promising to us.

The Bontebok National Park is a good stopover for one or even two nights if you would like to do a hike or two. There is also a very nice picnic spot and very good, natural swimming in the river.

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West Coast National Park

The road from Bontebok National park to West Coast National Park is for a long distance on the scenic Cape Route 62 where you pass many a beautiful place and also a lot of very enticing holiday places and opportunities which you can explore passing through this area.

The West Coast National Park is a small park offering diverse accommodation, but not any camping. They have a fine restaurant offering traditional dishes of this area. It is worth your while to visit this park on your way to the Namaqua National Park.

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Langverwacht Guest Farm

While visiting a shop in Langebaan, somebody told us about a very nice game farm not far from Langebaan and we decided to go take a look at the place. We were very pleased with the weekend's experience at Langverwacht Game Farm. They have camping on grass, rooms and huts with a large thatched lapa with a bar and a huge fireplace - just the place to take your family and friends.

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Strandfontein

From Langverwacht Game Farm we travelled along the popular West Coast route towards Strandfontein. Along the way we passed Velddrif, Dwarskersbos, Elands Bay and Lambert's Bay to Strandfontein. Strandfontein is a small village with modern houses and many great camping sites where one can spend a few nights just to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet.

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Namakwa National Park Coastal Section

The road between Strandfontein and the West Coast passes through Lutzville, where you can stock up for the period you want to spend away from civilization. Near Koekenaap, you turn left towards the coast with a gravel road. There are a few gates to open and close, but soon you reach the ocean from where it is just sea, beautiful flora, squatters camping next to the ocean and wind. The road varies between deep sand, hard corrugation and smooth sand. I will not go there without my 4x4, but I am sure somebody with a 4x2 with diff lock may make it if he knows how to drive through deep sand with his vehicle.

Along the route one passes diamond mining operations before reaching Sout River. Further on one passes more evidence of mining activities that are being rehabilitated with the help of nature before reaching the lighthouse and soon after, the entrance to the relatively new Coastal Section of the Namakwa National Park, which is a wonderful place to be missed.

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Namakwa National Park

From the last camp at Boulder Bay one visit the Spoegrivier Caves on the way to Skilpad Wildflower Reserve, the Namaqua National Park and the Wildeperdehoek Pass to Springbok where you can sleep over in the Goegap Nature Reserve if you can reach their gate before 16hoo, otherwise there is a camp site nearer to town on the same road. Springbok is a good town to stock up at if needed.

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Die Mas van Kakamas

Actually, after the Namaqua National Park, we are aiming at Kgalagadi National Park, another not-to-be-missed place in Southern Africa and we actually just sleep over because the distance between them are too far for the leisurely pace we like to travel at, so we turned into the road to Die Mas (The Mast), where one can sleep over on the banks of the Gariep River. It is actually a very nice place to stay over for a night and one can camp under shady trees or stay in little huts. They also have a wine tasting where one can buy some of the wines that they produce there.

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Kalahari Guest House

From the Mast of Kakamas, we take the road past Upington to the Kgalagadi, but I always stop at Kalahari Guest House to buy biltong, firewood and meat for the rest of the tour and, because their camping and safari tents have such an unique and wonderful view over a shallow pan, I always find an excuse to sleep over at least one might. They are situated about 50 km past Upington and about 200 km from Kgalagadi, so serving as a nice halfway between Kakamas and Kgalagadi.

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Kgalagadi National Park

From Kalahari Guest House the road take tou deeper and deeper into the Kalahari and you start passing some salt pans and the dunes become redder. It is a good idea to refuel at the farmers co-op at Askham before going on to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, since their diesel is sometimes cheaper than those at the camps in the park.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park has a South African side and a Botswana side with the Botswana side somewhat "wilder" than the South African side, with the Botswana camps not fenced and frequently visited by lions and other predators. These camps have their fans who love the "wildness" and it is worth a try to visit there for a night or so. The park itself is open to everybody once through the gate. One only have to do the passport things if you want to leave the park into another country than the one you entered from.

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Kalahari Tented Camp in the Kgalagadi National Park.

This time in the park, we decided to go to one of the tented camps and could only get one night available in the Kalahari Tented Camp. It is situated near Mata Mata and situated on the southern bank of the Aub River. We enjoyed the view down on the river and the game watching from our stoep without the need to do any game drives. We tried again the following day to get another night in any of their tented camps, but to no avail - they were all full and no cancellations, and that not even in high season. Luckily, we are equipped to camp anywhere, so we went camping in Rooiputs on the Botswana side. Also a wonderful experience.

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Witsand Nature Reserve

On our way back, we actually stayed over at Kalahari Guesthouse again, but I will not write about it again for obvious reasons. The next day we drove to one of our other favourites. Witsand Game reserve which belongs to the Northern Province authorities and which have a strange=looking huge white dune of roaring sands. Apart from the white sands, it also have very nice huts and a beautiful camping area with tame animals walking around in the camp, with even a civet cat visiting us one evening, while a springbuck joined us where we camped under a tree and an oryx walking leisrely past us. We always like to have tame animals around us. It reminds us of Paradise.

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Mokala National Park

From Witsand we drove back towards the Free State, but decided to take a break and stay a few days at Mokala Park, another one of our favourites. Here we camped again in their campsites which have a little kitchen with separate gas stoves, fridge/freezers, solar heated showers and WC's. They also have a good bird hide as well as a few picnic sites in the Kalahari bush. This is also a good place to see some of the rare species of antelope. A real good place to visit.

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Aldam

Normally we would have done the trip from Mokala to Pretoria in one day, but we decided to find a good place about halfway to split the day's distance and postpone the going back to the city another day. We found Aldam on the map and took the road past Bloemfontein towards Ventersburg and Aldam. We were pleasantly surprised with our choice and decided to stay in one of their newly renovated bungalows. A real good place to overnight on the way to Gauteng. The next day we took a trip through the Willem Pretorius Game Reserve next door before taking the final leg of our trip home and back from an absolutely wonderful trip through the Three Capes of South Africa.

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