We travel regularly and have found that a good trip requires considerable planning to make it enjoyable. One needs to factor in things like distance, time, fuel and rest stops as well as any appointments that need to be met.
On a recent trip, we had booked a tour of the SALT telescope just outside of Sutherland and to our dismay had a puncture in full view of the telescope which required quick work to ensure that we got there on time. Happily, we did and are now working on a trip planner for future use! So what have we learned.
Well in the first place plan your destinations and look at the daily mileage as well as the types of roads – we have many gravel roads where one has to reduce speed. If you want a bit more adventure get out of your comfort zone and leave the highway, there is much to be said for exploring small towns and those delightful finds off the beaten track. There is also something to be said about leaving the crowds behind. Always take a set of maps- you never know when you lose cellphone signal and cannot access a navigation app.
Our trips have taken us to some unique spots, Kenhardt, Sutherland and Kimberley in the Northern Cape. Mapungubwe in the Limpopo Province, Little towns in the Eastern Free State and places like Nieu Bethesda and Graaf Reinet in the Karoo. South Africa is a wonderful country to explore.
Look at activities in the area, we are all keen photographers so we look for landscapes, interesting towns and buildings, quirky little shops as well as items of historical value. Visiting old cemeteries also tells you a lot about the history of a town and makes for some great photographic opportunities – use the magic of early sunrises and sunsets for beautiful pictures. Mountains and rivers present great opportunities for photography as well as activities to canoe or tackle the rapids in a rubber duck. There are also so many great 4×4 trails open to the public. Well run, hospitable where many offer fine accommodation – try it, you will never look back. Do some research on the season and the weather, we visited Sutherland in summer, it was warm but not unpleasantly so, in winter though it records the lowest temperatures in the country – that may be what you want to experience. One thing we always try to avoid is peak season, we don’t do crowds. If leaving South Africa ensure that you have all the necessary red taps sussed out – no one wants to get stuck at a border post because an item of officialdom was neglected. Pack light and take all the necessary items such as a first aid kit, recovery equipment, tyre repair kit, fire extinguisher and suchlike. Also, ensure that your jack and tyre changing tool are accessible and work. We recently had an incident where we were unable to fit a spare tyre as it was a different size to the main tyre and the jack did not have sufficient reach- we now take a section of roof timber to use as a jacking plate which gives us additional lift as well.
Always be flexible and relaxed – top up fuel regularly and that includes stopping for a bite to eat and stretch your legs, rotate drivers if travelling far. On our last trip, we covered 3800 km in 5 days. Then stop and smell the roses, drink coffee, visit the local stalls and eateries, partake of the local cuisine and take home great memories. We have a vast country with so much to see, do and enjoy – get out there in the all-terrain spirit.