Did you know?
An ancient fossil fish, the Coelacanth, was first discovered in East London
The Friendly N6 route between Reddersburg in the Free State and East London in the Eastern Cape whisks you into a world of mountains, Basotho and Xhosa cultures, sprawling sheep farms and a coastal city that keeps the only known remaining Dodo egg in one of its museums.
If you found yourself in the small town of Reddersburg back in the 1880s, you would have been advised to keep a civil tongue. There was a bylaw against profanity, and if the good burghers of Reddersburg heard you cursing, you had eight days to leave town. Today, a more tolerant Reddersburg sports some very interesting remnants of the South African (Anglo-Boer) War.
Down the Friendly N6 route in Smithfield you will meet a charming network of artists, B&B owners and restaurateurs who always welcome out-of-towners in their midst.
Rouxville is pure Karoo in spirit and architecture. The evenings and early mornings are the best times to visually sample Rouxville – soft light makes magic with sandstone.
A small but worthwhile diversion from the N6 route takes you to Zastron, where you will find San engravings, in the shape of what appear to be dolphins. There is also a resident colony of Cape vultures in the area.
Continuing along the N6 route, you come to Aliwal North. This is a good place to base yourself for trips into the mountains. Going south, you drive between the majestic Maluti Mountains and the fringes of the Great Karoo through historic towns like Stutterheim and Queenstown.
And then you're in East London, one of the best-kept coastal secrets in South Africa. Something about the unspoilt nature of this amiable city takes you back to a more innocent era. Which is what an N6 tour is all about.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Free State Tourism
Tel: +27(0)51 411-4300
Eastern Cape Tourism
Tel: +27(0)43 701 9600
How to get here
The route runs between Bloemfontein and East London, both of which have airports and excellent car-hire facilities.
Best time to visit
This route has its attractions all year round. Be warned, though, that the Eastern Cape part of the route traverses high country and mountain passes are sometimes closed in winter because of snowfalls.
Around the area
This route takes you through lovely wildlife reserve areas, and the birding is magnificent. Some of the towns along the route also boast intriguing museums.
By far your best bet is to hire your own car. It will allow you to meander at will and stop for as long as you like in towns that appeal.
Length of stay
This route is made for ambling so at least 3 nights along it, more if possible.
What to pack
In winter, pack really warm clothes.
Where to stay
There are charming and rustic guesthouses and B&Bs in all of the towns along the route. The bigger cities such as Bloemfontein and East London boast accommodation options ranging from luxury hotels to budget hostels.
This is sheep farming country, and you can get good deals on knitted wool and mohair items in most of the towns along the route.