We love road trips. The cameras are ready and driving is shared and we visit new, out-of-the-way places getting to taste new foods and sleep in new places.
Our trip around the Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal was planned awhile back. My better half is the ‘route expert’ so guest houses were found to tie in with where we wanted to stay.
Leaving Johannesburg at 4.30 am, we managed to get to the outskirts of Johannesburg as the sun was coming up, and with a crescent moon still visible, the royal blue of the horizon was incredible and very hard to capture as we zoomed towards Bloemfontein (Bloem) in the Free State. The roads were quiet, smooth and we made good time, enabling us to grab a quick breakfast at the local Steers in Bloem, refuel and move on to Bedford in the Eastern Cape, en route to Cape St Francis.
We were celebrating birthdays so we needed nice surroundings throughout the trip: comfort, good food and great scenery was the required agenda.
We took the longer more scenic route to Bedford, long roads surrounded by the most amazing hills, trees, dams and blue blue skies. We went through Adelaide – and we want to go back to explore – just before we hit Bedford, and Cavers Guest House.
An old farm house belonging to Scottish settler days; very grand, huge rooms, well turned out and overlooking the most amazing English-styled garden with a pool. Surrounded by the farm life of sheep and land we felt extremely happy to be here and spending an overnighter in Bedford in grand style. Bedford is not a big place, barely a blimp on the map but it has a burgeoning arts and craft industry along with its infamous annual flower and garden show – we want to come back here as well.
But let’s move on to dinner: coming from Johannesburg to a small town where the main restaurant only opens in the evenings for six or more people we decided to have dinner in. Not being a lover of lamb it often never occurs to me that it may be on the menu, and it was. But Rozanne, the owner, rustled up some sausage for me instead. The dinner was just a treat beyond our expectations. Home cooked. Fresh garden vegetables, all very beautifully tasty and gobbled up. The desert was the piece de resistance a small orange pudding with orange liqueur delicately infused with fresh cream.
Off on the road the next morning to complete our trip down to Cape St Francis, where a bed and breakfast, Lyngenfjord House, was chosen purely for its vantage point of overlooking the bay. Their hospitality was incredible. They supplied maps, and advice as well as Erin, the daily fixer-of-all-things, bringing a gift of champagne on ice for my other half’s birthday. We went to Chez Patrick for the birthday dinner, took our own Solms Delta wine and enjoyed local fine dining. The service was discrete yet attentive, beautiful glassware and crockery.. and a great view over Port St Francis at sundown.
After two days of walking the dunes and the watching the whales whale-on by, off we went to Port Alfred via Port Elizabeth for a little gamble at the Boardwalk. The Eastern Cape is so beautiful, long white beaches, good roads along the coast (in the main) and great welcomes.
The welcome by Dale at the Kowie River Guest House was so warm. He was so charming. He was lovely. We were knocked over by the design and décor of the place. Situated on the banks of the Kowie River the vista was breath-taking, but the rooms and lounge were equally breath-taking, all the latest modern facilities in a very clean, and under-stated design. Gorgeous. Gorgeous. Onto the sundowner cruise in his cruise boat up the river for two hours: sunsets, wildlife, birdlife, greenery, wine snacks… to die for. Breakfast on the terrace, despite the wind and rain remained delicious and chilled-full. Personal service. Good food. Beautiful crockery, glasses, napkins, linen. We gotta go back there!
Overnight and onto Port Edward via Mthata, which took much much longer than we expected due to bad weather and hilly and winding roads. I had always wanted to stay at The Estuary Hotel, ever since I saw how the estuary met the Port Edward beach. We arrived exhausted, starving and late. Heading straight to the dining room, I was a tad disappointed by the slightly dilapidated ambiance. However we had a most lovely dinner and some great wine and then eventually rolled the car down to the room and moved in for two nights.
Extremely generously sized rooms – I had asked for a sea facing room – and the view was what my heart beated for – the evening lights, the crashing waves and the trickle of the river as water-met-sand-met-water. Beautiful. Again this hotel was chosen for the vista. They gave us local touring spot info, and we looked for somewhere to go for my birthday lunch – Beaver Creek Coffee Farm was it! A light lunch, and it was really delicious with some vino and a white chocolate mousse fudge cake to wish-you-weren’t-overweight for. A sprinkle around the little shop after lunch gave us liqueurs, jams and, of course, coffee to come away with. Outside the rows of coffee bushes grew, and grow they have into a, excuse the pun, beavering experience of house blends for local and international markets.
There were teething problems at The Estuary, new management, refurbishments, staff needing to be up skilled. Our one or two gripes were not left unattended to, even upon getting back to Johannesburg there were emails apologising and explaining the situation with a wish to welcome us back – and we will go back. They handled themselves with great professionalism and courtesy to us.
Road trips, ah road trips, so good for the soul, the Nikon’s, the waistline but particularly for the brain food they deliver. The excitement. The exploration. Eyes wide open folks… now where are my car keys 🙂