Garden Route & Klein Karoo
The famous Cape Route 62 is a tourist route connecting the Western and Eastern Cape. Not only is it the world’s longest wine route, a whopping 850km, Route 62 has also been named the world’s best road trip destination by CNN Travel, offering a scenic alternative to the N2 highway. The easily accessible towns along Route 62 all offer ample opportunity for discovery. From visits to wineries and game reserves, tribal art, cultural tours, museums and for the more adventurous, hiking trails and mountain climbing, 4×4 routes, canoeing, horse riding, fishing and caving. Route 62 is an exciting experience, even for the well-travelled. Stop for lunch at one of the diners in the town of Barrydale, nestled at the foot of the majestic Langeberg mountain range. This vintage town has quirkiness written all over it, an oasis with charm. It is here where you can find Diesel & Crème’s famous mouthwatering gourmet milkshakes. After a long day’s travel unwind in one of the region’s invigorating hot-springs, revel in luxury or relax in rustic tranquillity, a journey to the unexpected. As you follow Route 62, the natural beauty of the region’s mountains, fauna, rivers, valleys and plains are evident. The diverse scenery and vegetation changes as you make your way into the Karoo, a semi-desert area.
The iconic town of Oudtshoorn lies in the Klein Karoo (Little Karoo) bordering the picturesque Garden Route region halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha). Primarily known as the ostrich capital of the world, Oudtshoorn has quickly gained the reputation of being a cultural, heritage and adventure sport hotspot. Encompassed by unique landscapes, the town is centred between the awe-inspiring Swartberg and Outeniqua mountain ranges. The history and development of Oudtshoorn is inextricably connected with the growth of the ostrich feather industry from as early as 1860. Ostriches still form a vital part of the trade today; from tourism to agriculture. Come and meet the large flightless birds, ride an ostrich, buy ostrich curios and even sample the famous ostrich steak. There is nothing like a Karoo night sky. The clarity of the sky above Oudtshoorn is practically unparalleled, the Milky Way arcs over you like a giant swathe of smoke. Situated not far from Oudtshoorn is the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere and among the largest in the world. With an average rainfall of less than 150mm a year, Oudtshoorn is the ideal location for outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and exploring the wonders of nature in one of the nearby nature reserves. This town of wonders is sure to impress with its plethora of offerings and classic country lifestyle. Enjoy some of the local Karoo cuisines with a crisp chardonnay, craft beer or gin, admire the fauna and flora, or take a plunge in the world’s first crocodile cage dive.
A visit to Oudtshoorn is not complete without seeing the world-famous Cango Caves, Africa’s largest heritage show cave system and a spectacular underground wonder of the Klein Karoo. Some of the biggest stalagmite formations in the world set in Precambrian limestone (a time about 4500 million years ago). The spectacular dripstone caverns with their vast halls and towering formations is one of the world’s great natural wonders, sculptured by nature through the ages.
Cape Aloes (Aloe ferox) are in full bloom in the Western Cape and Karoo region. Apart from its skin-soothing and healing properties, it is also an immune system stimulant. European explorers, traders and settlers ventured around the tip of Africa and into Southern Africa where they encountered the Khoisan – the world’s most ancient people. The Khoisan had been using Aloe ferox as medicine for thousands of years. We know this because Aloe ferox is one of the few plants depicted in Bushmen cave paintings in South Africa, showing humans depicted alongside Aloe ferox, which indicates they made use of it. The first evidence of Aloe ferox being used commercially was in 1761. The story goes that a slave working for a farmer named Johannes Petrus de Wit showed him the age-old art of tapping aloes to derive the medicinal bitters or ‘lump’ from the plant – which is a most effective laxative. This was then supplied to the Dutch East India Company and exported to Europe. The Khoisan’s medicinal plant knowledge was part of their oral tradition. A demonstration of aloe tapping, using the same traditional method the Bushman used, can be seen when visiting the Allcare Aloe centre. The 400 species of aloe that exist in the world are indigenous only to Africa and Madagascar, with a few species in Yemen. Aloe, the world’s greatest plant.