Today was a long driving day. We left MZ at 7:30am after pumping up our tyres (we drop the tyre pressure for 4×4 routes and gravel) and refueling – which was a very slow process not because the pump was slow but more so the process of the operator. Filling up 2 cars simultaneously was beyond his ability or seemingly thought process. When I suggested it as an approach it slowed down things further. Fortunately K decided to test her window washing skills which when I sent a pic to her father he replied with “has she been photoshopped in?”
We had an 8 hour drive ahead of us as we left the Eastern Cape (and Karoo) and headed to Kwazulu-Natal. The route took us through small Eastern Cape towns of Cradock, Tarkastad, Queenstown, Cala, Elliot, Lady Frere, Maclear and then into KZN taking us through Mount Fletcher, Matatiele, Cedarville, Underberg and then finally to Himeville.
The road is interesting for a number of things. Firstly, the route went from drought stricken Karoo to lush KZN cattle farm land. The contrast was remarkable in one day. Secondly, you have to play dodge-em with goats, sheep & cattle. They just seem to be wandering all over the road. On one occasion I had to slow down from 100km/h to basically a stopped position otherwise we would have had a sheep attached to the front of the Beast. Mrs G told me they encountered a sheep lying down in the middle of the road. It took 8 hours of vigilant driving.
Thirdly, the towns are mini-traffic jams. We don’t know if it was simply because it was Saturday and end of month or always like this. But as we hit Lady Frere we had our first taste of it. Despite there only being one small section of the centre of town there was a traffic jam (even Google maps had it marked in red!). That is because it seems you can simply park or stop wherever you want, whenever you want. You wonder what is going on and just when you think it is time to depress the hooter (honk horn for the Americans reading the blog), someone would open a door and climb slowly out and then have a conversation with the driver and do that for a minute or so and then finally close the door and amble off. That wouldn’t necessarily mean that the car would drive off at that point – sometimes it would remain stationary for another few minutes and then suddenly pull off at a very slow rate. Take this and repeat through multiple towns and that was part of the driving experience today.
Fourthly, the speed limits and signposting were a non-stop amazement to me. At one point we hit the town and it never marked the speed limit down from 100 km/h but the sudden appearance of a speed hump made for a very quick slow down. No signpost of a speed hump to be seen at all. At one point, there were two speed humps a few meters apart and the 40 km/h sign and warning about the speed bump were between the two speed bumps! It was also not uncommon to have speed signposting of 60 then about 100 meters on, 80 then a further 100 meters on back to 60 again. That also repeated itself multiple times through the day.
We stopped for lunch at Maclear. The only option being KFC. It was a newly built one (or so it seemed). Fully electronic ordering and delivery process. Fully manually operated by people that clearly didn’t know they had an automated process. After you placed your order you would expect that the order would appear to those making them up (which I am sure it did) but you actually had to give your slip to the lady at the counter who then shouted out the order through the hatch instead. Unfortunately we lost 5 minutes as we didn’t understand this process thinking that the automated system was doing it’s job. We did all eventually get our food though at least.
We arrived at Himeville and more importantly our hotel which is the Premier Sani Pass (https://www.premierhotels.co.za/hotels/kwazulu-natal/sani-pass/) at around 4:40pm. The views from the rooms are incredible as they stretch over the Southern Drakensberg. It was heavily overcast (having rained a little on route) but just when H & Mrs M went out for a run, the heavens truly opened and it bucketed down. They came back relatively quickly though was still totally drenched. The picture above is the view from our balcony of our room.
The hotel is a resort with golf course, putt putt, indoor and outdoor swimming pool, tennis court, soccer pitch etc etc. Lots of things to do. It does make us want to come back at some point and just spend a few days relaxing here. We had the buffet dinner which was pretty impressive including oxtail, lamb chops, turkey, stir fry of your choice, make your own pizza and most importantly for me – pap & tomato sous (something I love but hardly ever eat it as it isn’t getting made at home). There were a lot of other things but I didn’t bother to waste my effort on salads and soup and the like. When we left after dinner they were doing after dinner bingo (by popular demand it seems!) and Mrs G kindly pointed out the full days activities which we had missed (see pic!). Everyone was really torn about staying for the bingo but the call of our beds won the contest.
Finally, but not unimportant, we added another lifer today while driving (how impressive is that) and the birding tally to 57.
Tomorrow is Sani Pass day and after driving for 8 hours today I want to get to bed now (H is already asleep as I type this).
P, K (for washing the windows), H (for staying awake the whole 8 hour drive today – at one point all the other 3 were asleep), S & C