Eastern Cape Trip

12 – 27 February 2022

Day 1 – Saturday 12th Feb.

  • Early risers from Cape Town arrived in Heidelberg a little later than anticipated! 6 of us were already there having spent a night in a comfortable guesthouse.
  • From Heidelberg up the Gymanshoek Pass which was sadly gutted by fire, some still burning high up, sad to see much devastation.
  • Next pass Uitspan, where at the Gouritz River crossing a few guys managed a very welcome swim, the temperature showing 40 degrees.
  • Dave had a few problems with a pipe popping off but managed to fix it eventually.
  • The camp at Minwater lived up to its name.

Day 2 – Sunday 13th Feb.

  • An 8am start and quick shopping stop in Oudtshoorn; we travelled on some tarred roads today (R341).
  • Interesting stop at Toorswaterpoort, after a little altercation with the farmer who did not want us to park on his land! We had a long, tiring walk along the railway line, through a spectacular gorge alongside a river. What a pity no the steam trains trips go anymore. Appears it was used to go from Willowmore to Oudtshoorn (was still going in the early 2000’s).
  • Visited a hot spring – just a pipe coming out of the ground, but most of us wisely stayed in our cars after seeing Andy jumping around, his legs covered in mosquitoes!
  • We camped at Finchly Farm camp.

Day 3 – Monday 14th Feb (Valentine’s Day !!)

  • Left Finchley Farm camp at 7.30am; all day we drove back roads and lovely passes to Nieu-Bethesda; lovely camp, most of the housewives and a few gents got busy doing laundry.

  Day 4 – Tuesday 15th Feb.

  • A 6.30am start means getting up at 5am (Walter hasn’t gotten up that early for a very long time!)
  • Andy, Colleen, Val, Walter and Rob set off to climb Compasberg – 30 km away.
  • After 4 hours of steep rock scrambling and fabulous views (Walter stopped halfway to have a snooze and wait for the guys to come back), before we almost got to the top, the wind was howling and we thought it too dangerous to continue. Disappointing as it was, a hectic ascent, clinging onto rocks etc, but secretly Colleen and Val were happy to call it a day!
  • It was a quiet afternoon recovering in camp; Ken went for a cycle ride preparing for the cycle tour.
  • The group bombarded the local Pizza Restaurant and had a very enjoyable evening, walking back in the evening on the suspension bridge.

     Day 5 – Wednesday 16th Feb.

  • Nursing our aching arms and legs, we had a restful day in Nieu-Bethesda, visiting Helen Martins’ Owl House and the Brewery for beer tasting. And we got caught in the rain!

    Day 6 – Thursday 17th Feb.

  • We travelled to the Valley of Desolation and Graaff Reinet; drove through passes to Craddock and camped by a farmers house (Ardenza).

Day 7 – Friday 18th Feb.

  • We had an 8am start, stopping at Somerset East Museum. It has the grave of Ouma Dora Dotyi Jacobs who died in 2013 at the age of 122!! She only started taking blood pressure tablets when she was a 100 years old!
  • Passed through very scenic passes to camp at Ford Fordyce. Basic camp, no shower only a long drop toilet. Some lovely hikes to do – will have to return!

 Day 8 – Saturday 19th Feb.

  • We had a 7.30am start through beautiful forests and trails leaving Fort Fordyce. Drove through Mpoku Nature Reserve, again over spectacular passes.
  • THEN down the Katberg pass – a real 4×4 track, which everyone except Val enjoyed!!
  • We arrived at Hogsback to camp at Swallowtail camp, a lovely campsite which is up for sale.

 Day 9 – Sunday 20th Feb.

  • Hiking day – yippee! A 10 Km hike to Madonna & Child waterfalls, Bridal waterfalls, the Big Tree (which is common yellowwood, 38 m. high with a diameter of 2.71 m).
  • 2 snakes were spotted at the camp today.
  • A sign outside points to the word famous Cliff bath so armed with our costumes later, we went to investigate! Surprise! It is an actual bathtub fixed to the cliffside with obviously outstanding views but no water in it.

 Day 10 – Monday 21st Feb.

  • We had a 3 km hike along the road with Sarah, the camp dog, whom everyone in town appears to know! The Eco centre which we wanted to visit was closed, so onwards we went to the labyrinth which was located in the grounds of a restaurant. Some of us decided to treat ourselves to milkshakes, coffee or scones, cream & jam! We then walked to the view site – amazing views!
  • Movie night – what a treat with a screen set up by Laurence and Mandy, complete with popcorn and chips to watch their fantastic footage of the Orange River trip – thank you Laurence and Mandy!

Day 11 – Tuesday 22nd Feb.

  • It was an 8am start; lovely trip through the Great Fish River Nature Reserve, (we stopped at Double Drift Fort) to Grahamstown.
  • Stayed in an interesting Backbackers camp in an old brick factory, tall chimneys in place, apparently made so tall to divert smoke away from town, the owner showed us the tunnels where the bricks were made, now filled with beds and mattresses / furniture as they had parties there previously. Camp has lots of potential but is, unfortunately, a bit run down.

Day 12 – Wednesday 23rd Feb.

  • A thick mist greeted us on awakening, so it was a mad dash to dry out the tents before we left at 8am.
  • It was a good drive with a very rewarding lunch stop at a 4 star Zuurberg Mountain Village were some of us enjoyed great scones, ice cream and sandwiches at a most reasonable price while having a great view!
  • During the very hot day, we arrived at Mvubu camp (Addo bush camp) with one shower and one loo! 

Day 13 – Thursday 24th Feb.

  • It was an 8am start to Darlington 4×4 trail in misty and rainy conditions; views were unfortunately limited.
  • One ostrich decided to chase Dave’s car – it sprang out of the bush and would not get off the track!
  • Val and Walt had a bad puncture with a piece of wood piercing the sidewall; with help from fellow travellers the wheel was changed and off we went.
  • The end of the trail after six and a half hours was at Darlington Dam.
  • We camped at Citrusoewer River camp.

Day 14 – Friday 25th Feb.

  • 8am start with Dave and Joyce off to PE to have a C.V. joint replaced; Laurence and Mandy set off for home. So then we were only 6 cars.
  • A hectic pass past many acres of citrus orchards, outstanding views again with a lunch stop at Groot River.
  • We camped at Bhejane, by the river; we had just set up when we had a huge thunderstorm with very large hailstones making some dents in Walter’s car!
  • The thunderstorm cleared up quickly and we enjoyed a lovely braai sitting around the boma.

Day 15 – Saturday 26th Feb.

  • With a 9 am start, it was a pleasant drive (but hot) to Price Albert; unfortunately Ken had a puncture but Ivan was able to fix it on the car.
  • It was a nice camp but too hot to move.
  • Our last supper was at a bush pub, enjoyed by all except Colleen who had the tiniest lamb chop ever seen. Most guys had spare ribs, which were really good.

Day 16 – Sunday 27th Feb.

  • And so we have come to the end of a really amazing 2 weeks, efficiently organised by Andy and Colleen. Thank you so very much!
  • Love the Eastern Cape, will need to go back!

Group of fellow travellers:

  • Andy & Colleen,
  • Laurence & Mandy,
  • Dave & Joyce,
  • Ken & Shona,
  • Trevor & Ronel,
  • Walter & Val,
  • Rob
  • Ivan