We set off on a road trip in convoy with Leigh’s mum Brenda, up to Durban via Ugie, then back to Grahamstown and on to Plett where we stayed a few days with the Matthews family and finally to Cape Town, stopping to drop Bambi off at a safe and shaded caravan storage park near Somerset West.
The journey was lovely, despite a breakdown in Brenda’s car on the N2 leaving us needing to navigate the potholed roads of the northern Transkei at night: not quite as bad as driving in Morocco at night (something we did once and swore never to repeat again, as the roads were filled with animals, cyclists without lights and riders wearing black, cars with faulty lights and pedestrians in the middle of the road) as at least the road was quiet – but it certainly made us realize we were back in Africa!
Bambi’s first African adventure
It was wonderful driving through the Eastern Cape: troupes of baboons, flowering Eastern Cape Christmas trees, and lots of vervet monkeys and then on to the magnificent Maluti mountains where the butterflies were out in full force in the foothills of the Drakensburg.
We passed through Elliot, land of rolling hills and emptiness. We followed one of the new Heritage Routes, following in the footsteps of the Elliot 5 and seeing various safe houses and other key sites which shaped the history of the ANC along the way.
We stayed over in Ugie, just near Maclear. Ugie itself is a bit of a one horse town so we explored the surrounding area, driving to the nearby Tsitsa Falls. There had been a lot of rain in the area, leaving the dirt roads in a rather appalling state and we were very impressed by Brenda’s 2-wheel drive, handling terrain far more suited to a 4×4 (we hope that this was not what caused the later breakdown …)! Maclear is set in amongst boulder strewn hills which are quite magical, with fields carved up by barbed wire and stone boulder fencing.
North of Maclear, we turned off the main road (to avoid the rather notorious Umtata stretch through the Transkei) and entered a wonderful rural world of gorgeous green fields and lots of goats, cattle, sheep, horses and donkeys (unfortunately often on the road rather than in the green fields) and RDP housing.
Taking the road north, we eventually rejoined the national road, but before this wound through gorgeous forested areas, interspersed with more green fields populated by magnificent crested cranes. The further north we headed, the more luxuriant it became. We stopped in Pietermaritzburg to catch up with Hayley (Damon was up in Ethiopia) and then headed on to Durban the next day, getting back on the road as quickly as we could after trying to repack our ransacked vehicles.