Road Trips SOUTH AFRICA – Into to the Mountains: How I got lost in the African bush…

This was probably the most adventurous road trip of my entire Africa adventure – and it sure wasn’t planned that way….;-)

After driving along the beautiful Garden Route and visiting Addo Elephant Park near Port Elizabeth (PE), it was time to head inland through the mountains towards Bloemfontein.

A young German friend was working as a horse trainer on several farms near Aliwal North, teaching people how to train horses humanely – and I wanted to do a story on her.

It all looked good on the map and the road quality was as usual excellent.

The scenery was gorgeous and very different from the past 2 weeks. More rugged and mountainous once you pass Addo Elephant Park.

Not many cars on the road – a nice, peaceful drive (or so I thought…..)

After about 2 hours, I reached the town of Cradock where a gas station had been promised though my tank was still pretty full.

Cradock, south africa

Google maps wasn’t as realiable as usual and I couldn’t find a gas station – nor was I really in the mood to stop already.

According to my gas meter I still had plenty left to get to the next towns and villages and so I kept on driving.

The highway turned into little, windy country roads (though officially still the highway) – very picturesque actually, and I enjoyed the drive.

into the bush to Aliwal north

After a while the scenery became more barren and turned into bushland and I reached the little town of Hofmeyr. Only a few houses, no gas station, no reason to stop – I kept on driving – and suddenly the so-called highway was a gravel road.

hofmayr South africa

You often hear this about South Africa, but so far the roads had been excellent. Very rarely a dirt stretch and usually not very long.

The signs still clearly showed the highway – as did google maps on my iphone – so I went ahead. After all, I had driven the infamous Dalton Highway (Ice Truckers) in Alaska all the way to the Arctic Sea. So a dirt road in Africa wasn’t gonna stop me….

oh well….

African Bush

The scenery was beautiful, but it was really remote now. No other car or house, still a dust road – we were getting deeper into the African bush, no doubt!

The road became smaller and smaller, more a dirt path now and often with heavy rocks in the way.

hofmayr South africa

I was seriously uncomfortable now!

Still, the signs were showing the highway, so I hadn’t done a wrong turn, this WAS the highway…

I had assumed that it would soon go back to paved and normal, but that wasn’t happening, and I had reached the point where turning around was no longer an option as gas would not have lasted as far back as Cradock.

So I kept driving as best I could as the road kept deteriorating into worse and worse condition.

hofmayr South africa

Mind you, this was not a four-wheel drive, so definitely not suited for this terrain, but my awesome Hyundayi rental kept plowing away and I will forever thank that amazing car!

Once again, the scenery was gorgeous, but I was more concerned with not getting a flat tire or other damage to the car.

At some point though I realized that worrying wasn’t going to help – certainly didn’t change anything – and I decided to enjoy the views and the experience, and make the best of it. Time flew much faster after that.

Interesting experience….

African Bush

and it wasn’t so bad….

African Bush

for the most part…..

African Bush

African Bush

After almost 2 hours – which seemed like an eternity – the road (still the highway according the signs) became a muddy field path with huge water puddles covering most of the path – even more fun without a 4-wheel drive….;-)

But……with some determination me and the little car got through without harm and suddenly were back on a regular highway.

Just like that!

I couldn’t believe it.

Needless to say I was incredibly relieved and began to smile at the situation – though I sure didn’t find it funny while I was in it.

I texted my friend since phone service was available again and complained what kind of a road she had sent me through.

Apparently, as it turned out later, there was another highway I should have switched to in Hofmeyr – though I don’t remember seeing any other road or choice of roads. Very strange….

Google maps had also pointed me this way, so not sure what happened, but don’t do that if you ever go that way….;-)

Apparently, I should have taken the little detour via Steynsburg – who knew….

It was certainly an adventure and the only time this happened to me on all my travels.

Live and learn!

I stopped for gas in the cute town of Burgersdorp and for a well-deserved coffee at this cool pub:

Burgersdorp cafe

“geduldig” – yeah…..patient……;-)

Burgersdorp cafe

On my final stretch to the farm, I was rewarded with a spectacular African sunset – especially luscious after a recent thunderstorm.

farm near aliwal north south africa


farm near aliwal north south africa

farm near aliwal north south africa

The farm was beautiful and my friend got ready the next morning to show me her training methods.

into the bush to Aliwal north

But…. – she decided to first take me out riding on 2 stallions…

into the bush to Aliwal north

….and hers happened to be quite rebellious that morning and threw her off soon after we started, injuring her badly enough to not be riding for a few weeks, though nothing life threatening or broken bones, thank God!

So that story didn’t happen – but I’m still happy I came this way and got to see this beautiful, lesser known part of South Africa.

It also allowed me to continue on another gorgeous mountain road to Durban a few days later (and no dirt roads there…..;-)

Continue here

More posts on Southern Africa

The Other Side of Durban

BOTSWANA: Maun and the Okavango Delta

BOTSWANA: One Man’s Mission to Erase Poverty….One Pre-School at a Time

A Visit with at the Local Village (Kruger NP)

ZIMBABWE: The Magnificent Victoria Falls Hotel

NAMIBIA: The Sand Dunes of Sossusvlei

AFRICA on SassyZenGirl

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  1. Gundi, that looks really scary! – I’m amazed how you kept your calm and got through those puddles in a rental car. You must be a really good driver! Fascinating story!

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