Did you know?
Kareedouw displays a statue of an axe-wielding woodcutter to celebrate its local forestry industry.
The less-travelled part of Route 62 lies in the Eastern Cape, just south of the famous Baviaanskloof, part of the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas World Heritage Site.
This great road trip is, really, all about the people and the mountain setting they live in.
Beginning at Uniondale, we will slowly meander down Route 62, cross the N2 near Humansdorp and drive north on the R330 to villages like Hankey, Patensie and Loerie. Along the way, we will skirt forests, cross rivers and go through little settlements with their own ways of life. It will feel, at times, like a Hobbit’s journey because of the stunning natural surrounds and the friendliness of the people who live there.
Uniondale, where a well-known ‘ghost’ is said to wander the roads, lies tucked into the Kamanassie and Kouga mountains, and is an old-time Little Karoo town that could be an outtake from the 1950s. It has a peaceful pace and a good infrastructure of guest houses, restaurants, coffee shops, pubs, and even a dinner theatre.
One of the big outdoor attractions around Uniondale is to go walking in the Kamanassie mountains with a guide in search of ancient San rock paintings.
After a day spent exploring the area and staying overnight, we leave Uniondale and continue east on the R62. We drive to Joubertina, known as the ‘Big Apple’ of Route 62 because of the local apple-farming operations.
We lunch at a place called The Sweaty Dutchman in Kareedouw, 45km east of Joubertina. The iconic product of this town is a drink called karrie – honey beer. This delicious drink was first made by the Khoikhoi people, who found the succulent karee tree roots high up in the mountains. Every March there’s a Karrie Festival in Kareedouw, where this drink is brewed and celebrated.
The local church steeple proudly displays a copper rooster, and the butcher of Kareedouw unashamedly claims to make the finest boerewors (sausage) in all of South Africa.
The next morning at the town of Loerie, we find ourselves deep in citrus country under the Cockscomb peak of the Groot Winterberg. If you’re into locomotives, then Loerie will interest you, in particular the turntable used to swivel a 60-ton locomotive through 180 degrees.
We lunch at the Koeke Pan farm stall on the way to Hankey, where we pay tribute to the late Saartjie Baartman (a Khoikhoi woman exhibited as a freak attraction in Europe in the 19th century), whose memorial stands on a hill overlooking the town. Baartman was an exhibition item in Europe until her remains were finally returned to South Africa in 2002.
We visit a craft project in the local township, where indigenous jewellery is being made. Hankey is also nationally famous for its traditional dance and theatre groups, and performance art based on Khoikhoi culture.
Over in Patensie, we indulge ourselves at the Tolbos farm stall, which is good restaurant and tourism information centre. The cakes are locally produced and delicious, so tuck in.
That night we sleep in the Baviaanskloof in one of the old converted farmhouses, cook up a storm on the outside braai and relish all the different fruits and delicacies we bought along the way. With maybe a touch of honey beer to lighten up the evening...