South Africa - West Coast, Cederbergs & Inland

We leave the Cape Town area and drive up the west coast. At the campsite in Gaanzekral we meet Verena & Wolfgang from Austria again who have been on the road for several years and who supported us so great when we had the problem with the rear axle at the beginning of our trip. We spend three relaxed days together, cook and barbecue and have a lot to tell each other. On the last evening we are joined by Yvonne & Rene, whom we already met at the Cape. With heavy hearts we say goodbye to each other and hope that our paths will cross again sometime.  

Paternoster is a picturesque fishing village with thatched and bright white cottages. From November to April, lobster fishing is the main source of income. However, this year at the beginning of March hundreds of thousands of lobsters walked onto the beach and some died there. The Ministry of Fisheries speaks of 500 tons. The surviving animals are being rehabilitated in an elaborate operation and returned to the sea. The cause is probably a lack of oxygen which is absorbed by the plankton and does not leave enough for the lobster. In addition, there is also the red algae which probably affects all shellfish and whose poison can also be dangerous for humans. In view of the situation, which we can not really assess, we give up with a heavy heart on the consumption of lobster and mussels that you can buy everywhere on the beach for little money. We spend the night in the Cape Columbine nature reserve five kilometers outside of town, between the rocks directly at the sea. A wonderful place for a nice campfire and the obligatory braai. (South African barbecue) 


Our northernmost stop on the west coast is Lambertsbay. There is the nature reserve Bird Island, only 100m from the village. This is one of only six Cape Gannet colonies in the world and the only one accessible on foot. You can get to within a few meters of the animals and watch for hours as they make their attempts to take off. First they push off with their feet and beat their wings wildly. When the edge to the sea approaches, the wing beats are doubled and then one rushes over the edge and hopes for enough buoyancy under the wings. A great spectacle that we have captured in a small video clip. Video Cape Gannet

In 2005 a group of fur seals attacked the gannets and killed over 200 of them. Shortly after, the whole colony fled and settled several kilometers away in inaccessible territory. For Lambertsbay's tourism, this meant a 65 percent drop. Someone came up with the brilliant idea of placing plastic booby dummies, made by a local artist, in the nests on the old breeding grounds. Only a few hours later the first gannets flew in and started to throw the supposed rivals out of the nests. Success came quickly and today more than 10,000 gannets live on the island again. 

Then we continue inland to the Cederberg Mountains. On the way there, we are once again hit by a defect. The compressed air line, which is responsible for the engine brake and the air suspension seats, bursts off at a T-junction. A makeshift repair, for lack of spare parts with insulating tape, unfortunately only lasts a few kilometers. We make it to the next bigger town, but as fate would have it, it's Saturday lunchtime, all garages are closed and the population is in weekend mode, i.e. the queue in front of the Liquor Store is correspondingly long. After several futile phone calls from a nice lady at the gas station, it was clear we had a problem. With the route ahead of us there are some mountain passes with 1000m to overcome and without a working engine brake this is not a good idea. The local campground is right next to the 18,000 inhabitant township and does not have a good rating especially for the weekends. The closest possibility is on a small farm, about 10km behind the town up the mountain, and we head for that. This turns out to be an absolute stroke of luck, because the farmer is also a trucker driver and knows right away what it's all about. He takes me into town to his buddy who not only has a construction machinery store, but also a T-branch for my air problem, made in Germany by the company Würth. In the late afternoon the problem is history and we enjoy relaxed the last sun hours of the day. 

In the morning we say goodbye to our friendly helper and drive over the pass to Travellers Rest. There we get a permit for the five kilometer long Seville Rock Art Trail. Here you can find rock paintings of the San, or Bushmen, who wandered around for thousands of years as hunter-gatherers and left paintings on cliffs and ledges that can be found in abundance in the Cederberg and Drakensberg mountains. The oldest are estimated to be up to twenty-seven thousand years old. A very beautiful hike in a great rocky landscape and highly recommended. 

In the afternoon we experience a temperature drop of almost 20 degrees within a few hours. We don't like that at all and decide to spend another night with our friendly helper, since we will pass by there again on the way back anyway. In the morning we continue into the Cederberg mountains until shortly before Algeria to a mango farm which is managed by Germans. The mango season begins only in a few weeks but the first delicious fruits are already there and Karin makes a few glasses of mango jam. The campground stretches more than a kilometer along the river and has more than 120 places. At the moment we are almost the only guests, but on weekends the Capetonians come here and then the place is fully booked. We enjoy the calm before the storm and pass the time with long walks and a few swims in the river.  The weather also plays along and the temperatures rise again towards 30 degrees. 

We continue via Citrusdal to the Hotsprings to The Baths. For our size there are only 2-3 places on the campground, but we have reserved as a precaution. The site is in the middle of citrus farms, because we are here in the center of lemon and orange cultivation. A good 100,000 tons are harvested annually and exported all over the world as juice, or unprocessed. Some up to 43 degrees hot mineral springs in beautifully arranged rock pools invite you to relax. With an outside temperature of 35 degrees, however, this is a dubious pleasure, but thank God they thought of a cold water pool because of Manni.  

In the next few days is long weekend. Many South Africans are on the road and the campsites are almost all fully booked. With effort and hardship we find a place on a farm near Tulpagh and meet there with Lucia & Wolfi which we have seen last at the Cape. Together we explore the area for one day. Tulpagh was heavily damaged in an earthquake in 1969 and subsequently restored in a reconstruction program in the Cape Dutch style and is now a listed building. The warm climate is ideal for growing grapes and at least 20 wineries are clustered around the town. We don't have to think long about how to spend the day and are spoiled for choice. Wolfi volunteers to be the driver, Karin navigates and Lucia and Manfred squeeze into the back of the pickup. The first stop is a champagne tasting at the Twee Jonge Gezellen winery, and as the lady pours, we doubt whether we'll ever get out of here again. 

At some point we get hungry and change location. In the Montpellier winery, a wedding is taking place in the picturesque garden, but the restaurant is open and serves delicious pizzas to the wine tasting. This does not quite fit together but it was nice anyway. Around 17:00 is generally closing time at all wineries and we make our way home. After this exhausting day we go to bed early.

The next day we part ways again and continue our journey east. We are now entering the great Karoo, a plateau with an east-west extension of about 750 kilometers. Our destination is the Karoo National Park and until then it is 400 endless kilometers on a dead straight road in a steppe-like landscape with a few hills. Beautiful for the eye but exhausting to drive. But if you think, great, you can surely go anywhere off the road into the wilderness, you will be bitterly disappointed. The route is fenced in throughout and if a path goes in to the right or left, after 50m there is a locked cattle gate. In the health- and vacation resort Matjesfontein we make lunch break. The town is situated on the Johannesburg-Cape Town railroad line and has been a national monument since 1970. Edgar Wallace and Rudyard Kipling have already stayed at the Milner Hotel. We definitely ate a very tasteless burger there and can only hope that Edgar Wallace was not served it. Otherwise, he might have sent the hangman of London there. We are not allowed to spend the night on the huge hotel parking lot and so we drive a few kilometers further to Laingsburg and find a nice place for the night at the golf course. 

In the Karoo National Park we book two nights and drive a small loop of 10km where we do not see much wildlife, but discover a picnic area that has a very nice pool which we note for tomorrow as a relaxing destination. There should also be 15 lions in the park and in the morning we go shortly after eight on the way to the big 45km loop. Hardly we have driven a few hundred meters but actually three lionesses stand directly in front of us. We can hardly believe our luck. The animals feel not disturbed by us and stay a good hour in the vicinity of our car. 

For the next two hours we drive the scenic route and see some zebras and other wildlife, but generally the scenery predominates. In the early afternoon we head for the picnic area with pool and spend the rest of the day there. 

Shortly before Britstown we arranged to meet Ebi and Elke on a farm. With Ebi we were in the wine region on the road as he was alone for a few weeks. Now his wife Elke is back from Germany and they are on their way to Namibia. Unfortunately, the weather changes and our barbecue evening literally falls into the water. But we are not impressed by this and move without further ado into our car and spend a humid and cheerful evening. 

Auf unserem weiteren Weg nach Osten liegt Kimberley. Hier wurde 1869 der erste Diamant gefunden was einen Diamantenrausch zur Folge hatte, ähnlich dem Goldrausch in Kanada in 1896. Die Diamanten wurden in kleinen Claims von hunderten von Suchern im Tagebau abgebaut. So entstand das wohl größte je von Menschenhand gegrabene Loch. Im Laufe der Zeit wurden dort über 2700 Kilogramm Diamanten gefördert, was 14,5 Millionen Karat entspricht. Von einer Aussichtsplattform kann man sich das Loch mit einem Durchmesser von 1500m und einer Tiefe von 240m sehr gut anschauen und im angeschlossenen Minenmuseum bekommt man einen Eindruck von den ungeheuren Strapazen die die Menschen zu dieser Zeit auf sich genommen haben.

Not far from Kimberley we spend the night at Kandirri Game Farm. On the grounds there are giraffes, zebras, antelopes and much more. The highlight, however, is a lion enclosure. There you can see two lionesses, a lion, and as an attraction a white lion, up close and at night you can hear the "kings" roar. Just in time for sunset, three giraffes come by. 

We are still crossing the great Karoo on endless dead straight roads and now need a few days of rest. We find this at a nice campground in Ladybrand where we just fit through the gate. 

After a few relaxing days we continue to the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The campground is located at 1800m and the evening sun makes the yellow and red sandstone formation shine in a golden light. After sunset it gets very cold. The area invites to hiking and in the morning at nine o'clock we start to climb the summit of Wodehouse at over 2400 meters. A beautiful round trip of 13km with some climbing in steep terrain and fantastic views. On the remote mountain meadows we even see the rare white-tailed wildebeest and after a good 6 hours and 500 meters of altitude we are back at the car.  

The Draksen Mountains are the largest mountain range in southern Africa and there is also the Royal Natal National Park. Just before it is a golf resort with a campground and a magnificent view of the so-called amphitheater, a rock massif 5km long and up to 500m high. The whole thing is framed by three three-thousand meter peaks and in the middle the Thukela River falls in five cascades over 900m into the depth. We use one day for a nice hike in the park. We walk the Gorge Trail which leads 7km to the entrance of the gorge. But then we have to walk back the way we came. In the evening we sit on our terrace with a view of the mountains, make a campfire, grill and enjoy the surprisingly warm temperatures. Tom Cruise is checking out the location for Mission impossible 8 and for the next days many helicopters and airplanes are supposed to be in the area. Tom unfortunately sees nothing of us and we nothing of him, but how should he know that Manni & Karin are just in the area. 

Then, unfortunately, outdoor is over. We step on the gas and drive all the way to Johannesburg. Near the city we pass some of the huge townships. At traffic lights there are very motivating signs like High Crime Area, Beware of Hi-Jacking, or Danger, Smash and Crash Area. It makes you a little anxious when you have to stop at a red light. We go to a backpacker hostel for a few more days where we camp on the meadow and can prepare the car in peace for seven weeks of break.  

This is the end of our first 3 months in South Africa. Our son Felix is getting married in May and we can't miss this event. Therefore we have to interrupt our trip for a few weeks. From June 1st we will be on the road again and will report further. Until then, enjoy reading and looking at the pictures. 

Our Route - January to March 2020 - 4900 km

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