4x4xplore African Adventure
|Wednesday 3 August Pre-event formalities. Collection and scrutineering of vehicles; registration, documentation and briefing, Table Bay Hotel, Cape Town. (You can of course arrive earlier if you wish, and get the benefit of our special hotel rates.) Evening get-together at a traditional fish restaurant.
Thursday 4 August Day One: Cape Coast and Winelands. 'From the send-off at Cape Towns famous Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, we take a dramatically scenic route via Chapman's Peak to the Cape of Good Hope, then visit a charming penguin colony. We drive through the historic naval port of Simon's Town and past False Bay to pause for a light lunch and a stroll at the picturesque old wine town of Stellenbosch. Then we pass through famous winelands and cross the Franschoek Pass before our first brief taste of the Western Cape's smooth gravel roads brings us to our overnight at the luxurious new Western Cape Resort. Day's run 262km/164mi.
Friday 5 August Day Two: Meeting of Two Oceans. After a pause to watch for the great whales coming right inshore at Hermanus, minor roads take us to the attractive historic village of Elim, then on to Cape Agulhas, Africa's southernmost point, where Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. You can pause for lunch at the attractive oceanfront Arniston Hotel, before opting to take a quiet highway to the old town of Swellendam and the fine Drostdy open air museum, or good gravel roads across a hand-operated river ferry (delays possible). Then main road to overnight at the new Diaz Strand Hotel, Mossel Bay. 470km/294mi.
Saturday 6 August Day Three: Ostrich Country. Inland across the mountains to Oudtshoorn, where we take a brief tour of the fabulously vulgar houses of Victorian ostrich-feather milllionaires, before optional visits to an ostrich farm and/or to the Cango Caves, South Africa's finest show caverns. Then it's over the spectacular gravel Swartberg Pass to the colonial village of Prince Albert and a light lunch at its fine period hotel. The return route is through the dramatic Meiringspoort gorge and down the narrow old Montagu Pass to George, where a further option is to visit the excellent railway museum - but beware, you can't do this and the ostrich farm and the caverns! Main road to our overnight at the sumptuous new Pezula Resort, Knysna. 374km/234mi.
Sunday 7 August Day Four: Knysna Rest Day. Play golf or enjoy Pezula's other facilities, discover Knysna's charms, or just chill out.
Monday 8 August Day Five: Through the Baviaanskloofberge. Back inland over the scenic Prince Alfred's Pass for a day's run, mainly on gravel roads (some rough), through the remote and spectacular Baviaanskloof; or if you prefer you can just mosey along the lovely Garden Route coast to our overnight halt at a hotel beside the Indian Ocean at Port Elizabeth. Main route 384km/237mi, coast route 259km/161mi.
Tuesday 9 August Day Six: Elephant Heaven. A good visit to the Addo Elephant National Park, where you'll get close to much more than just elephants, then there's a a break at the Zuurberg Mountain Lodge before a run across remote and little-used upland roads to our arrive at our hotel, the Katberg mountain lodge, in time for a couple of hours' activities - or take an easier main road option. Main route 291km/181mi.
Wednesday 10 August Day Seven: The Southern Drakensberg, A day exploring the minor roads and forgotten mountain passes of this superb and little known area. As it's winter and we're climbing higher (up to 2,113m/6,930ft), the peaks could be snow-covered and there may even be snow and ice on the road, although the day should be bright and sunny. We overnight in the unspoiled little community of Rhodes, itself a National Monument, where the townspeople promise us a special welcome in the small old hotel and other traditional guest houses. 350km/218mi.
Thursday 11 August Day Eight: The Gate of Paradise. A day of even more impressive mountain driving. From Rhodes, there's a fearsome climb to the ski centre of Tiffindell (and South Africa's highest through road - 2,688m/8,817ft), followed by the magnificent vistas from Lundean's Nek Pass. There's an abrupt step back in time as we enter the independent country of Lesotho, isolated from South Africa by its mountainous terrain. Our run past little African villages takes us through some spectacular scenery (including the Gate of Paradise pass), before we descend to the total contrast of Maseru's luxurious casino hotel, the Lesotho Sun. 345km/214mi.
Friday 12 August Day Nine: The Roof of Africa. To get to the South African border post before it closes at 16:00, we have to make an early start for this long run, two-thirds gravel, across Lesotho's uplands, the highest mountains in southern Africa. Here tribespeople still live their traditional agrarian lives, relatively untouched by the modern world - this country was never colonised by white settlers. There's a good chance of seeing snow, although the day is likely to be sunny. We cross a succession of great passes, culminating in the highest point of the event, the Kotisephola Pass (3,250m/10,660ft), before reentering South Africa at the famous and precipitous Sani Pass, at whose foot we overnight at the comfortable Sani Pass Hotel. 336km/209mi.
Saturday 13 August Day Ten: Along the Drakensberg Wall. The main range of the Drakensberg is a great wall of rocky peaks and pinnacles, which may well be snow-capped in August. We cruise northwards parallel to it, detouring into blind valleys to see the most spectacular sights, including bushmen's cave paintings at Giant's Castle and the museum depicting these at Didima, near Cathedral Peak. Overnight at the superb Drakensberg Sun Hotel, where there's a lecture on tomorrow's batllefields. 329km/206mi.
Sunday 14 August Day Eleven: The Zululand Battlefields. A day of remembrance, visiting the lonely windswept battlefields where Zulu fought white coloniser, and where the Boers fought the British Army: Spioen Kop, Ladysmith, Rorke's Drift, Isandlwana, and the amazing bronze wagon laager memorial at Blood River. Overnight at the Stilwater motel, near Vryheid. 348km/218 mi.
Monday 15 August Day Twelve: Across the Kingdom of Swaziland. We take scenic asphalt roads across another of Africa's smaller independent countries, pausing to buy good quality souvenirs and to experience a fascinating recreation of tribal life at Mantenga. Back in South Africa, we continue through pleasant hills to overnight at the Sabi River Sun resort, Hazyview. 480km/300mi.
Tuesday 16 August Day 13: Jock of the Bushveldt Country. Today is a day of options. You can chill out for most of the day at the Sabi River Sun, perhaps enjoying a round of golf or one of the many other activities; you can take a four or five hour tour into the southern part of Kruger National Park; you can go early to our next overnight just 50km away, the exclusive Sabi Sands private game reserve, to arrive by 3:00 p m, in time for the late afternoon game drive; or you can take our roadbooked route around some of the area's scenic spots: the Long Tom Cannon and the picturesque pass named after it; the attractive old mining town of Pilgrim's Rest, now an open air museum; and the sights of the Blyde Canyon area, like the Three Rondavels, Bourke's Potholes, Berlin Falls, Lisbon Falls and God's Window. Overnight in one of Sabi Sabi's three splendid game lodges. Roadbooked route 435km/270mi.
Wednesday 17 August Day 14: Rest Day on a Big Game Hunt. We leave our vehicles behind and are taken by tracker guides for early morning and late afternoon game drives in Sabi Sabi's own open 4x4s to seek the Big Five - lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo - not to mention giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and many varieties of deer. Overnight in Sabi Sabi game lodge.
Thursday 18 August Day 15: Drive through the Kruger. Perhaps after another dawn game drive, we leave Sabi Sands in our own vehicles and enter Africa's biggest and finest wildlife reserve, the Kruger National Park, spending up to seven hours travelling slowly along the network of asphalt and gravel roads. Then there's an hour's quick drive to overnight at the lovely hilltop Coach House country hotel in the beautiful Tzaneen area. 355km/220mi.
Friday 19 August Day 16: Into Botswana. After a short loop around the Tzaneen area, we have a long drive on fast roads across open country to cross the Limpopo into a remote corner of Botswana - real Africa! - before moving on to overnight at the Thapama Hotel in the country's second largest city of Francistown. 700km/438mi.
Saturday 20 August Day 17: To Victoria Falls. A long run on Botswana's fast, straight asphalt roads brings us to the banks of the Zambesi and the ferry into Zambia. Despite the distance, we should arrive at our overnight halt of Livingstone in mid-afternoon, in good time to stroll to the great Victoria Falls, and maybe drive round the adjoining nature reserve, or even take a microlight flight.. Overnight at the luxurious Royal Livingstone Hotel. 561km/351mi.
Sunday 21 August Day 18: Across Chobe National Park. A very early start as we retrace our steps to the ferry back into Botswana, then almost immediately enter the great Chobe National Park, which we cross slowly on the rough and sandy park tracks - it's advisable to travel in pairs or threes. Overnight at Riley's Hotel in the tourist centre of Maun, jumping off point for both Chobe and the Okavango Delta. 442km/275mi.
Monday 22 August Day 19: Rest Day in the Okavango Delta. The great Kavango River comes out of Angola but never reaches the sea, sinking instead into the sands of Botswana, where it creates Africa's largest and richest expanse of wild wetland. Although this is the dry season for local rainfall, the Kavango's flow is at its highest. Options for sightseeing include game-spotting flights by light aircraft or helicopter, and fly-in or drive-in day trips by mokoro (two passenger dug-out canoes). Overnight Maun.
Tuesday 23 August Day 20: Through the Caprivi Strip. The longest day of the event in terms of distance is this run on fast straight roads westwards across Africa, taking us into Namibia to the gates of the Etosha National Park. We overnight at a luxury game lodge (Mokuti, Mushara or Aoba). 983km/614mi.
Wednesday 24 August Day 21: Across Etosha National Park. A whole day to wander in Etosha, one of Africa's finest wildlife parks - close animal encounters guaranteed! . Overnight at the Etosha Garten or Onduri Hotel in Outjo, a quiet country town 98km from Etosha. Direct route 261km/163mi.
Thursday 25 August Day 22: Damaraland and the Skeleton Coast. A day spent on Namibia's legendary gravel roads, among the finest in the world, through one of the driest regions on earth, with the option of an exciting 4x4 trail across bizarre landscapes. Sights to see include petrified trees, rock carvings and paintings by early man, the great seal colony at Cape Cross, and curious coastal fishing settlements. Overnight in the top class Swakopmund Hotel, converted from the former railway station of this German colonial town. Main route 575km/359mi.
Friday 26 August Day 23: The Namib-Naukluft National Park. 4x4 trails take us to the strange sights of this desert wilderness: lunar landscapes, a 1,000-year-old plant, 19th century German soldiers' graves, a rock arch, and of course the wildlife: ostrich, springbok, gemsbok, quiver trees, birds and lizards. Overnight at a luxury desert lodge near Sesriem. 508km/318mi.
Saturday 27 August Day 24: Sossusvlei Dunes and the Southern Namib. Make a dawn start to see the fabulous Sossusvlei dunes in the cool morning light, then head south on fast gravel roads through superb scenery, pausing at the strange Duwisib Castle, built in 1909 by a German aristocrat. We overnight at Lüderitz, a characterful old German port and diamond mining town, in the new waterside Nest Hotel. 651km/407mi.
Sunday 28 August Day 25: The German Heritage and the Fish River Canyon. Before leaving the Lüderitz area, we breathe the wild Atlantic at Diaz Point, and take a guided tour at 10:00 of the nearby ghost mining town museum of Kolmanskop. At Aus, you can pause at the poignant remains of a WW1 prisoner of war camp and nearby well tended war graves. Then there's a long run to the spectacular Fish River Canyon, one of the world's top five, and overnight at the Canyon Hotel, Keetmanshoop. 627km/392mi.
Monday 29 August Day 26: To the Flowering Desert of Namaqualand. A long main road road takes us back into South Africa and across the fertile Orange River valley to the little town of Okiep, with its preserved Victorian Cornish beam engine which pumped water from the local mines. One of South Africa's annual miracles is the great flowering of the Namaqualand desert, which starts in earnest in late August - our route takes us through some of the finest flowering landscapes. The day ends at the wine-growing centre of Vredendal in the Olifants River valley, Overnight Vredendal Hotel. 527km/328mi.
Tuesday 30 August Day 27: Wuppertal and the Cederberg. We travel into the beautiful Cederberg mountains, visiting the tiny, remote and unspoiled pioneer village of Wuppertal. From here, a 4x4 trail takes us to see some fine rock paintings, before crossing a spectacular series of mountain passes to bring us down to Ceres, South Africa's fruit-growing capital. Overnight at the traditional Belmont Hotel. 323km/202mi.
Wednesday 31 August Day 28: Through the Mountains to Cape Town. We visit the historic little town of Tulbagh before crossing the spectacular Bain's Kloof Pass to Wellington, and on to the Atlantic at Bloubergstrand, and a fine view of Table Mountain across the bay. From here, it's just a short journey back to our finish at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Tonight there's a memorable farewell party at Boschendal, one of the Cape's finest and most historic wine estates. Overnight at the Table Bay Hotel. 194km/121mi. Total distance 11,352km/7,055mi.
Thursday 1 September Return cars to docks and fly home; or stay on a while if you prefer.
The above programme represents our plan as at 15 March 2005. It is provisional, and is subject to amendment.