Cape Road Trip: Criss-crossing the Karoo
Hanover is almost exactly halfway between Johannesburg and Cape Town on the N1. We stopped off at the Hanover Hotel for a cup of coffee and some wifi, both surprisingly good given the remoteness of the location. It’s one of those tiny Karoo towns with the potential to become trendy but has yet to be discovered. We went looking for a family member’s piece of land, our only clue being that it had goats on it. Despite the smallness of the place, we couldn’t find it.
On the Road
An erratic, zig-zaggy sort of a day. Made up for not finding goats in Hanover by coming across herds in main street of Middelburg (where we stopped to pick up supplies and found camping chairs). We encountered roadworks with lengthy stop-and-go sojourns between Hanover and Middelburg, potholes and roadworks between Graaf-Reniet and Somerset East.
This was the bucket-list place for me and while I wasn’t disappointed, I didn’t feel as though I wanted to overnight there. It was very quiet, obviously not tourist season. Unseasonably too, we seemed to have brought rain with us which blew through the town at one point, dampening the dust. We stopped at Village Inn and had the best scone ever, I think it was baked while we waited. It’s worth noting that you can now get to Nieu-Bethesda from the N9 on a newly tarred road, which we only discovered on our way out. We travelled in on a dirt road, scenic and accessible, but uncomfortable at times in our little car.
Overnighted at: Die Kaie
Located: On a farm outside Somerset East.
How we found it: “Camp and Caravan” and by ringing the owners. No road signage and the coordinates given in the book are inaccurate.
Directions: Turn onto the R335 just outside Somerset East. Drive passed the graveyard and an airfield, the farm gate is on the left hand side.
Road Access: Bumpy dirt road.
Amenities: Ablutions good albeit a little sooty from a recent fire in the thatch roof, attractive restaurant/bar area overlooking the Small Fish River.
Cost: NZD16 / ZAR160 for two adults
It was late and we were starting to panic by the time we finally found the campsite. There was nobody around and we checked in by remote control, the owner talking us through various procedures on the phone (ie. camp anywhere, use only the ladies ablutions because of the fire, leave payment in the guestbook, the dog’s name is Bubbles…) Our spirits rose when we saw how pretty it was, an oasis of verdant bush on the banks of a little river. What it lacked in humans it more than made up for with animals. There was an aviary with exotic talking parrots and a family of guinea fowls roosting on top if it, bunnies hopping around, a super-friendly dog, sheep in the distance (it’s a sheep farm) and buck coming down to the river for their evening drink. A bizarre experience - in a good way. It felt like we’d fallen into a storybook.
Evening soundtrack: frogs, crickets, night birds, things plopping in water, occasional sheep baa-ing, caged macaw screeching “hello”, Bubbles barking.
Highlight: So many: the relief at finding a place to stay, the oh-so-pretty location, the oddness of the whole experience, Bubbles the dog… most magical of all, the fireflies that danced around our tent when it got dark.
Lowlight: The tent flapping all night. No access to electricity (although there was some, we just couldn’t turn it on) which meant no morning coffee.
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