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A Natural Wonder Road Trip (First Leg)

Author: Jason Snyman
Date: 2018-02-20
There is so much natural beauty to behold in South Africa. Why travel abroad when you can road trip? We map out or favourite destinations.
Ah, the road trip beckons. South Africa has an unfair amount of tourist attractions, and many of them are entirely natural. They were there, long before you and I. Travel in our beautiful land is so much more than just the seeing of sights. It changes us. There occurs, upon the open road and between the mountains and across the rivers and in the forests and among the people, a deep and perpetual transformation. An adjustment in our idea of living.
Lisa St. Aubin de Teran said; “Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.
So many of us have caught ourselves stuck and stranded. We go through all our lives walking among people of our own kind, who share the same opinions and beliefs and crisis. This sense of wanderlust takes hold, and in an attempt to flee from the monotony of our existence we cast our eyes out as far as we can see. We often look abroad for hope, while most of us haven’t even seen a quarter of our own country. We decided to map out a route from Cape Point, all the way up into the wilds of the Kruger National Park. A +/- 2870km journey comprising of at least 36 hours on the road. Somewhere along the way, you'll find yourself again. And so, your adventure begins…  

Cape Point

Coordinates: 34°21′26″S 18°29′51″E We begin our road trip in the south-east corner of the Cape Peninsula, which reaches out into the Atlantic Ocean like a giant claw. Cape Point is a scenic promontory featuring lofty stone cliffs, beautiful bays and beaches, rolling green hills and valleys full of fynbos. We kick off our road trip in what is the holy grail of botanists and bird-watchers, who endure gale-force winds at the end of the earth for the chance of spotting something rare and beautiful. Declared as a Natural World Heritage site, Cape Point offers much more than visually striking scenery. Though, let’s be honest here. Ancient mountains and sheer cliffs jut out from the ferocious sea surrounding you. Plants which thrive on fire fight against the winds. Above land you’re encircled by a multitude of wildlife, and below the ocean’s surface, you’ll find the great white shark. What more could a person need? No place in Africa is more in touch with the raw power of the elements.  

Table Mountain

Coordinates: 33°57′26.33″S 18°24′11.19″E The flat-topped mountain forms a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town. It draws so much attention that, according to experts (i.e. myself) the mountain is the leading cause for Mother City traffic jams and accidents. Table Mountain is one of the new 7 Wonders of Nature. It is little surprise then, that it has become one our most significant tourist attractions. Flanked by the impressive Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head, visitors are able to get to the very top of Table Mountain via cable car or hiking. Of course, lately, it is advised to avoid the latter unless you’re in a large, well-organised group. The mountain-dwellers will relieve you of your fancy new Nikon.
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Paarl Rock

Coordinates: 31°43'60"S 18°55'60"E Paarl Rock is formed by bulbous outcrops that make up the Paarl Mountain, and has been compared to the grandeur of Australia’s Uluru, or Ayers Rock. Formed around 600 million years ago, gradual weathering has slowly exposed and fashioned the rounded boulders which, today, distinguish the picturesque town of Paarl at the foot of the mountain. In the heart of the Winelands, the view from Paarl Rock is absolutely breathtaking, and is a popular destination for rock-climbing and hiking enthusiasts. The surrounding reserve is home to a variety of exciting trails, fishing opportunities and an endless variety of bird species. The Cape Winelands in general (Paarl, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, etc.) are not to be missed.
*By the way, many people have mistaken Cape Point for the southern-most tip of the African continent. If you’re eager on seeing the real southern-most tip, after visiting Paarl Rock, make your way down to Cape Agulhas next. This is where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic, and with the right set of eyes, you can look out onto the horizon and almost see where one becomes the other.

Cango Caves

Coordinates: 33°23′34″S 22°12′53″E Moving further away from Cape Town, the Klein Karoo offers many beauties to behold, and is worth exploring. The showpiece, though, is found at the foothills of the Swartberg mountain range near the town of Oudtshoorn. The Cango Caves is one of South Africa’s most popular, most famous tourist attractions. The Caves are home to some of the biggest Precambrian limestone stalagmite formations in the world. In a series of dripstone caverns, opening up into vast halls, you’ll find towering stalagmite formations with a variety of quirky names. Among these are the Glass Flower Fantasy, the Bridal Couple and the Hanging Shawl. Cleopatra’s Needle, standing nine metres high, and the magnificent Van Zyl’s Hall are some of the main attractions. Definitely worth getting a little dirty for.

A Natural Wonder Road Trip (Second Leg)

From the mountains to the forests. Our next leg takes us from the Klein Karoo, all the way down to the Garden Route coast. This is one of the most visually stunning areas of South Africa. South Africa is fortunate enough to be absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to tourist attractions, both natural and man-made. From Cape Point to the Klein Karoo alone, you'll find much to do along the way. It is highly recommended that you take in as much as possible, while you're there. If you would like to swing by Hermanus en route to the Cango Caves, why not? The sleepy little town has been recognised by the World Wildlife Federation as one of the best whale watching destinations in the world. If your road trip has you passing by between August and November, you'll probably get lucky and see the whales moving about in Walker Bay. It is advisable to tackle your road trip in stages, resting along the way. Take the time to explore and appreciate everything you can. Backpackers in and around Cape Town are a great way to meet like-minded and interesting people. Take up a chalet in the Hartenbos ATKV. Alternatively, rough it out with a number of great camping sites. Every single town has something to offer. Henry David Thoreau once wrote, it is 'not until we are lost that we begin to find ourselves.' So, go for it. If you're not really sure where you're going, any road will get you there.
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