During South Africa’s Covid-19 lockdown one of my Facebook friends related how he had played “home-office Wheel of Fortune” by repeatedly swivelling his chair, lifting his feet off the ground, and taking note of where the chair stopped. Statisticians — and possibly psychologists — may be interested to know that he ended up facing the window 43% of the time, the cupboard 31%, and the door 26%.
Let’s just say that the enforced quarantine will have spurred a wanderlust, a great eagerness to shake off the cabin fever and rediscover the great big outside world. Leave suburbia in your rearview mirrors and rediscover the joy of a road trip with Steppenwolf’s immortal lyrics running through your head (or your car speakers): “Get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway, lookin’ for adventure and whatever comes our way”.
Here are a few ideas:
1. ROUTE 62
The Western Cape’s Route 62 recently made it onto a list of the top 15 Most Instragrammed Road Trips in the world, in research conducted by British company Click 4 Reg. It collected 15 of the best-known roads and trips around the world and then judged which were the most Instagrammed by analysing the number of hashtags for each road trip.
The snaking, scenic road that stretches for 248km from Oudtshoorn to Ashton in the Klein Karoo joined other iconic stretches including the US Route 66, which topped the list.
Much like Route 66 that forms an east-west artery across the States, the Cape’s Route 62 provides an inland link between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The route passes through farming towns such as Calitzdorp, Ladismith, historic Amaliënstein, Zoar, and the fruit-growing and wine-producing towns of Barrydale, Montagu, and Bonnievale. It includes the famous Ronnies Sex Shop, a pub and restaurant that has become a regular pit stop for bikers, tourists, and local farmers.
Route 62 also has some twisty mountain passes to delight driving enthusiasts, including the Cogmanskloof Pass connecting Asthon and Montagu.
2. PANORAMA ROUTE
The Panorama Route is a scenic drive along the Mpumalanga Escarpment that centres around the spectacular Blyde River Canyon, the third-largest canyon in the world.
The route winds through towns like Graskop and White River, and includes the highest tar road in SA: Long Tom Pass between Lydenburg and Sabie, which reaches 2 149m above sea level.
The region’s 19th-century gold rush history can be experienced in Pilgrim’s Rest, a former gold-mining town that now houses a national museum.
Meandering through mountains and forests, this road trip offers soul-cleansing views. If you have Castrol GTX running through your veins, upping the pace on these winding roads will get your adrenaline pumping and test your driving skills.
3. KNYSNA SIMOLA HILLCLIMB
Many motoring events were cancelled due to the coronavirus, but fortunately so far, the Knysna Simola Hillclimb isn’t one of them. This annual gathering of gravity-challenging sports cars has been postponed from May to the third quarter of the year (date still to be announced). It’s the perfect opportunity for petrol heads to get together for some high-octane socialising.
Taking place over three days, it’s one of the country’s premier annual motoring and motorsport lifestyle events — and worth the drive whichever corner of the country you’re coming from.
The crème de la crème of SA’s sports cars, driven by some of the country’s best, will be racing up the 1.9km uphill course at the Simola Hotel.
Add a couple of days to your trip to experience the Garden Route, a picturesque 200km stretch of the N2 highway between Mossel Bay and the Storms River Mouth. It’s SA’s best-known road trip for good reason. Find out more at Speed Festival.
4. WATERBERG MEANDER
Pile the family and the binoculars into the SUV and experience the beauty of the bushveld just a couple of hours north of Johannesburg.
The Waterberg Meander stretches from Marakele National Park in the southwest, to Wonderkop Nature Reserve in the northeast of Limpopo Province.
The Waterberg Biosphere Reserve is all large areas of unspoilt wilderness and open spaces, all of which can be explored on foot, on horseback, or in a vehicle. The open savannah and rolling hills have a wild beauty, and there are a number of game reserves where one can experience close encounters with wildlife.
• From the May edition of Wanted, 2020.