Travelling Trough The Tankwa Karoo
by Minouw Coetzee
2 years ago
This Easter weekend my fiancé and I decided to take a well-deserved break. We packed our bags, strapped our crates to the front of our Fortuner and headed out on a five-day expedition through the Karoo, we took the N7 towards Springbok and then took the Wilderness District turnoff towards Algeria.
We entered the Cederberg Nature Reserve and made our way to our first stop which was the Stadsaal Caves, truly a must see along this route. Be sure to stop at reception if you want to enter the caves. The admission permits are R60 per person after which they supply you with the code for the combination lock to enter the gate. There are two parts to the Stadsaal Caves. One is the bushman drawings and the second the actual caves. Walking around the caves it reminded me of a time well past and the size and beauty of it is truly something to behold.
From there we carried on through the park heading over the Katbakkies Pass towards the R355. Travelling through the park we were delighted as it was pouring with rain, this made the scenery truly beautiful to behold. On our way we saw an interesting looking “padstal” on the R335. It has flags from the road all the way to the building, we decided to make a pit stop and met the friendly folks at the Tankwa Padstal, a must on the way to the Tankwa Karoo National Park, they have lovely treats on offer and I left with a bag full of old school Wilson Toffees to enjoy on the drive.
As the sun was setting we reached our first overnight stop which was the Langkloof campsite. It is about 10 km from the Tankwa park office. There are only two campsites at Langkloof and it made for a peaceful stop on our first night away from home. Both sites are equipped with hot water, a small kitchen, bathroom and shower. The hot water made for easy dishwashing and we left refreshed and relaxed. If you don’t have a rooftop tent like us they have also made small shelters to camp under.
We spent our second day driving through the park. The first rain of the season had fallen the day before, about 19mm so the park looked amazing and there were many puddles to splash through which made for a muddy and fun experience. We stopped at the Oudebaaskraal dam and made hamburgers for lunch on our skottel braai, the view is amazing, do it!
After lots of exploring and enjoying the wildlife the park has to offer we headed towards our overnight accommodation at the Gannaga Lodge on top of the Gannaga Pass. The pass is something special, make sure you don’t give it a miss when travelling through the region. Something to note is the fact that there is only one lane make sure you have a 4x4 to make it up the steep slopes. Everyone at the Gannaga Lodge was extremely friendly and we spent the afternoon lounging at the bar. In the evening the owner/chef treated us to the most amazing “Boerekos” I have had in a long time (Almost as good as my mum’s). Don’t give it a miss without at least trying some “Skaapstertjies”.
The third night we were sleeping in Sutherland so we decided to drive in a loop through Middlepos, Williston and Fraserburg. It's sad to see places like Fraserburg that's not on the main tourism routes struggling to attract more visitor, that said there are attractions such as the Pepperpot and Die Kliphuis. Williston, on the other hand, is a very colourful town, we were very excited to stop at “Die Vleende Piering” but it was closed for a wedding. We will be sure to stop there next time.
On our way out of the town we stopped and made some boerie rolls, this is always something we really enjoy and prefer to sitting in a restaurant. You truly experience the countryside in all its glory.
We then made our way to Sutherland, it’s a quaint town with much to see, filled with ample guest houses with the most interesting names, we had a chuckle as we explored. In Sutherland, we stayed at Blesfontein guest farm. The turnoff is about 7km outside Sutherland on your way to Matjiesfontein. After the turnoff, it's about another 15km to the farm. The family we met at the reception were very friendly and if you don’t mind staying over somewhere that’s not all that glamour-is be sure to visit them. The owner does stargazing with the guests every evening and we enjoyed seeing stars up close for the first time. He is extremely knowledgeable and this made for an awesome experience. The farm also has a lookout point from which you can see all the way to the Cederberg, it is equipped with stone tables, we made breakfast there, no open fires of course :)
On the 4th day, we took the road to Matjiesfontein as we were sleeping in the Seweweekspoort pass at a camping spot entitled SeweweeksPoort Accommodation. On our way to Matjiesfontein from Sutherland we turned into what we thought was an ordinary “padstal”, turns out we couldn’t have been more wrong! Parking at the entrance we were greeted by a grey-haired man with a beard that stretched almost all the way to his bellybutton. We had unknowingly stumbled upon one of the most delightful experiences of our trip. The man who greeted us was named “Oom Tjol” and the dog by his side “Skollie”, loosely translated into English “Tjol” is a friendly word that means “Silly” or “rubbish”. In a sentence, you would use it: “You are speaking tjol”, he is one of the loveliest and most entertaining people we met on our trip! Inside his “padstal” he has a small bar and since I wasn’t driving oom Tjol was happy to offer me a double brandy and coke (which turned into two) while he told us all about how he came to be there and what his plans are for his property and stall in the future. He has been featured in Weg! Magazine and on the Via Channel on DSTV, don’t travel along this road without making sure to stop at Oom Tjol’s. He offers braai facilities (bring your own meat) and fantastic conversation.
After leaving oom Tjol’s we stopped in Matjiesfontein, this has always been one of my favourite destinations on the N1 towards Lainsburg. Matjiesfontein was founded in 1884 by the legendary and energetic Scottish railway man, James Douglas Logan. The village established itself as a fashionable Victorian health spa, and is now well known for its splendid historical buildings and a peace and timelessness that is rare in modern-day South Africa. We had lunch at the pub next to the Lord Milner and as always, it didn’t disappoint. If you have never visited Matjiesfontein I suggest popping into the historical museum as well as having a look at the vintage trains and cars that are on display.
We drove on the N1 trough Lainsburg and after a long trek and some bumpy dirt road we reached the Seweweekspoort accommodation Campsite, it is a lovely oasis on your way before the pass. The campsites are shaded, you can take a walk up the “koppie” to watch the sunset and had there been more rain this season the campsite would have had a lovely dam to swim in. The ablution block is very tidy and we had a truly enjoyable stay.
On our last day, we drove all the way through the Seweweeks Poort towards Ladismith and took the Route 62 via Worcester back to Cape Town. I had never driven through Seweweekspoort and was amazed by the beauty that surrounded us as soon as we entered the region, towering cliffs around every corner and lush vegetation made Seweweekspoort on of my favourite drives on our trip. There are many camping as well as picnic spots along the road and next time we will definitely camp there. Driving back on the R62 we also stopped in Barrydale which is always a fun experience. We suggest Diesel and Cream, they have the best milkshakes around.
Heading back to Cape Town, I was sad our trip had come to an end but was glad to have had such a rad experience traveling through the Tankwa Karoo, when you have some time off be sure to take a drive through.