The thing with a road trip is that there are always surprises… these sometimes include a curve ball or two but there are always some incredibly memorable moments! This is a brief account of what we called our #GreatCapeEscape which saw us traverse the mighty Drakensberg Mountains from KwaZulu-Natal and the Freestate into the Eastern and Western Cape. What became evident on our journey was the incredible beauty and diversity of South Africa and the wonderfully abundant stories of conservation, culture and people.

We had a fair distance to travel, so left Durban in the dark… the golden glow of dawn greeted us as we headed up Olivier’s Hoek Pass, the sandstone mountains of the Golden Gate National Park were resplendent in the early morning light and the fields of sunflowers punctuating the landscape smiled on us as we travelled through the Freestate. Life was most certainly smiling on us as my husband managed to talk his way out of what would have been a sizeable fine – be sure to check that your vehicle license is valid (huge oops!!)- and managed to secure a temporary licence for our vehicle (albeit an Eastern Cape one).

This curve ball dealt with, we continued on towards Graaf Reinet and our first stop, the MOUNT CAMDEBOO PRIVATE GAME RESERVE in the Great Karoo. Being later than expected, we were both surprised and delighted at the concerned phone call we received from Jaunita, enquiring if we were ok, she laughed and commiserated with us about said ‘delay’. This level of personal service was experienced at every level. Read more about Mount Camdeboo HERE.

The long open road continued and wide arid spaces of the Karoo finally gave way to rugged mountains, the Hex River Valley, Du Toitskloof Pass and the Huguenot Tunnel- finally revealing the fertile valleys of the winelands surrounding Wellington, Paarl, Franschhoek and finally our destination, Stellenbosch.

STELLENBOSCH is an historic town, founded in 1679 by Simon van der Stel, Govenor of the Cape Colony; it’s a student town, a town with a vibey cafe culture and one that is central to the Stellenbosch Wine Route. Our visit was not just about wine, although it did play rather an important part- as wine does in this region. We took time to stroll through the oak-lined avenues bordered by water furrows, we visited the ‘Moederkerk’ and the Village Museum, strolled across Die Braak (village green), had a coffee at Schoon’s De Companje and popped into Oom Samie Se Winkel for some old-style trading store shopping. Clearly we needed more time, but the wine farms of the region beckoned.

Our experience included a visit to ROZENDAL– vinaigrier extraordinaire as well as wining and dining at HOTEL VERDE  located near Cape Town International Airport… and no, we didn’t have a plane to catch, I just wanted to introduce my hubby to what is considered ‘Africa’s Greenest Hotel’. Read more about Hotel Verde’s commitment to responsible tourism HERE.

Another Cape Town hotel that’s moving towards being sustainable is the Cape Dutch styled WINCHESTER MANSIONS. Read about our Winchester Mansion stay HERE.

The ELGIN VALLEY, located in the picturesque Overberg region, is an easy drive from the city centre via Sir Lowry’s Pass, making it ideal for a day trip or weekend away. We spent the weekend at the wonderful WILDEKRANS COUNTRY HOUSE,  hiked along a short section of the GREEN MOUNTAIN TRAIL, dined at THE POOL ROOM on the Oak Valley Estate and the HICKORY SHACK, sipped gently wooded Chardonnay whilst overlooking the lush vineyards and orchards of the ALMENKERK wine estate, heard the story of how Brian and Marion Smith, of ELGIN RIDGE, chose to follow their dream, tasted ‘real’ craft cider at WINDERMERE FARM and experienced an adrenalin adventure at CAPE CANOPY TOUR – read more about our Elgin Valley experiences HERE.It seemed a lifetime since we had left KZN, yet we were only halfway through our journey… and what an incredible journey it had been- from community, conservation,history and adventure to hotels and hospitality… wine, food and fabulous coffee.

Read Part 2 of our #GreatCapeEscape HERE