Explore the Eastern Cape on ONE tank of fuel

If I had to describe my one-tank-journey with the Isuzu KB300 it would be: ONE bakkie, ONE tank of diesel and ONE heck of a road trip… and lots of leftover diesel because the fuel consumption of the manual Isuzu KB300 D-TEQ LX 4×4 far exceeded my expectations. Given its size and power I would have never believed you if you told me that one tank could give me + 1000 km.

The trip took me over a mountain pass, to a 153-year-old inn, to following the back roads to Grahamstown via Riebeeck East, to the biggest Pineapple in Bathurst, to the Sunshine Coast’s dunes, beaches and shipwrecks, to more back roads and more incredible landscapes in the Woody Cape/Alexandria area to driving through big 5 territory in Addo Elephant National Park.

Here is a breakdown of the one-tank-journey and suggestions of where to go, what to do and where to eat and sleep along the way. 

One-tank-journey: How far can you go on one tank of diesel in the Isuzu KB300?

Port Elizabeth to Ann’s Villa (via Zuurberg Pass)

Distance: 148 km

Detours and stops on the way to Ann’s Villa

Zuurberg Mountain Inn: Stop at Zuurberg Mountain Inn and grab a nibble and a drink. There are also hiking trails and guided horse rides in the vicinity of Zuurberg Mountain Inn which fall under Addo Elephant National Park. There are different trails, from one hour (R235 per person) to five hours (R350 per person). For more information, click here.

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Things to do at Ann’s Villa

At first glance, Ann’s Villa might look spooky, especially when the wind howls, the floors creek and a sheep stares at you from a distance. This 153-year-old coaching inn used to be the hot spot back in the day for those passing through thanks to its shop, blacksmith and bakery. To this day you can still view the shop and get a tour of the Blacksmith museum (R20 per person, but if you’re staying over you can enter for free).

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Where to stay?

Ann’s Villa is the only accommodation you’ll find at the northern foot of the Zuurberg Pass and if you’re looking for accommodation that’s a bit different – and a tiny bit spooky – stop and stay over. The rate is R270 per person per night and you can either stay in a room at the Villa building itself or in the old school building (both self-catering). Ann’s Villa is not only reachable via the Zuuberg Mountain Pass, but also via the R335.

Where to eat?

Ann’s Villa is self-catering, so it would be best to go prepared and braai or cook in the fully equipped kitchen (the nearest shop to Ann’s Villa – that I know of – is 50 km away in Riebeeck East).

Take note

The first few kilometers of the Zuurberg Pass can easily be done in a normal car, but the road conditions can also change after heavy rain. It is best to go in a high clearance vehicle. Whatever vehicle you choose, just remember: as slow as possible, as fast as necessary.
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Ann’s villa to Port Alfred (via R400)

Distance: 147 km

Detours and stops on the way to Port Alfred

There are quite a few interesting places en route to Port Alfred if you take the R400 from Ann’s Villa to Grahamstown. The R400 is a well-maintained dirt road and it offers beautiful mountain and landscape views and chances are high that you’ll see a variety of animals – from bush buck to giraffe – on the R400 due to the bordering game farms/reserves.

Riebeeck East: Stop in the little town of Riebeeck East even if it is just to marvel at the beautiful old church and to soak in the peaceful atmosphere.

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Grahamstown: With more than 40 religious buildings in Grahamstown it is no wonder that it got dubbed “The City of Saints”. If you find yourself in Grahamstown during winter be sure to check out the National Arts Festival (usually during the last week of June and first week of July). Otherwise, grab a bite at the legendary Mad Hatters Coffee Shop, visit the Provost Prison, stop at one of the churches (it is so easy to find it if you use their towers as a navigational aid), send a letter from South Africa’s oldest letterbox and visit a museum because you’re bound to find something interesting whether you’re a history buff or a literature fundi.

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Bathurst: The Big Pineapple of Bathurst is the biggest man-made pineapple in the world and houses displays of the pineapple industry (yes, you can go inside the pineapple) and it also sells pineapples, pineapple products and gifts. Spend some extra time in Bathurst by visiting the one of the oldest licensed pubs in South Africa, Pig and Whistle Inn, go to the agricultural museum and Bradshaw Mill, stop by a farmer’s market on a Saturday, visit one of the art galleries/studios and stop for proper English tea at one of Bathurst’s oldest houses, Morley House Tea Garden. If you have an extra night available, stay the night.

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Things to do in Port Alfred

Port Alfred has enough to keep you busy for more than a day or two but it is also the type of location that plays right in with your desire to put your feet up and relax. Go on a boat ride up the Kowie River (or get a canoe and paddle), go horse riding on the beach, swim at Kelly’s Beach and soak in the fresh ocean air, visit the Courtyard for Greek treats, fresh flowers, second-hand treasures and gifts and visit the Little Brewery on the River for locally-made craft beer.

Where to stay?

There are numerous hotels and guesthouses in Port Alfred, and I’ve only stayed at two places so I would suggest you find the best fit for you and your pocket. But if you really want to spoil yourself then head to the Royal St Andrews Hotel (and for an extra spoil, book a heritage room). 

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Where to eat?

If you fancy something fancy, go to the Thistle Restaurant and experience fine dining at its best or go to the Highlander Pub (both at Royal St Andrews Hotel), for a Port Alfred favourite you need to step into The Wharf Street Brew Pub and there’s also an Ocean Basket situated right on the Kowie River.

Port Alfred to Cannon Rocks (via R72)

Distance: 39.7 km

Detours and stops on the way to Cannon Rocks

Great Fish Point Lighthouse: Even though this detour goes in the opposite direction, it is worth it. About 30 km north of Port Alfred on the R72 you’ll see the turn off to Great Fish Point Lighthouse; from the turn off it is less than 5 km on a dirt road before you’ll reach the lighthouse. The dirt road is well-maintained but do take caution in rainy conditions because it looks like it can easily turn into a slippery slide. The lighthouse is one of the smallest lighthouses in South Africa at a height of only 9 meter and the views over the ocean will leave your jaw on the floor.

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Kenton-on-Sea, Boesmans and Boknes: Before reaching Cannon Rocks there a few seaside towns on the Sunshine Coast that will wave you closer. Kenton-on-Sea, between the Kariega and Bushmans estuaries, offers visitors the chance to explore the secluded beaches, there are cruises up the river, horse trails, fat bike safaris and if you want to live a bit on the wild side you’ll be pleased to know that there are numerous reserves in the area – such as Kariega Game Reserve and Sibuya Game Reserve – which offer game drives for day visitors. Boknes is the quiet sister village loved by many fishermen. You can also explore the dunes and walk to Diaz Cross (3 km from the parking lot) where Bartholomew Diaz erected a memorial in 1488. It is also South Africa’s oldest European monument.

Things to do in Cannon Rocks

Cannon Rocks is a small seaside town and when it comes to activities it blends in with what is on offer in the Kenton-on-Sea and Boesmans area. Don’t miss the shipwreck at Kite Beach (best to view it during low tide) and while you are there, watch the kite surfers.

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Where to stay?

If Cannon Rocks is your final destination, stay over at the Cannon Rocks Holiday Resort which offers camp sites as well as chalets starting at R510 for two out of season. This resort won the 2017 Lilizela Tourism Award for the best 5-star caravan park.

Where to eat?

Roes Restaurant is situated in Cannon Rocks, right on the beach and has been called a magical find. Kenton-on-Sea also offers numerous choices such as Homewoods Restaurant, The House Kitchen and Cellar and Bushmans Bar & Grill. The chalets at Cannon Rocks are self-catering if you want a diy-meal.

Cannon Rocks to Port Elizabeth (via Woody Cape road)

Distance: 136.9 km

Detours and stops on the way to Port Elizabeth

Woody Cape: The back road from Cannon Rocks towards Alexandria is one that will have you stepping on the brakes multiple times to just take in the beauty around you. Imagine rolling hills on one side with grazing cows and the ocean, dunes and waves on the other side. Woody Cape is also home to the Alexandria dune field that stretches over 80 km with a width of up to 5 km in places; it is the largest and least degraded coastal dune field in the southern hemisphere.

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Nanaga Farm Stall: Pies, roosterkoek and pineapple juice. Need we say more?

Addo Elephant National Park: Visiting Addo Elephant National Park is always a treat but after the rain the park is looking exceptionally lush. Grab your binoculars, charge the camera’s battery and enter the park for R68 per day per adult. You won’t be disappointed. 

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Where to stay?

Since this is the last day of the road trip you won’t stay over but if you want to extend your trip I highly recommend that you stay a night in Addo Elephant National Park. You can camp, get a chalet and even stay in Nyathi where you can get your own swimming pool (yes, a private pool). There are also self-catering huts available at Woody Cape (which forms part of Addo Elephant National Park.

Where to eat?

Stock up on snacks at Nanaga Farm Stall – their pies and roosterkoek are their claim to fame – or have a braai in the middle of the national park or eat at the Park’s restaurant.

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That’s a wrap!

The distances covered between destinations during this trip are short and you can easily make it a weekend or long-weekend trip. But there is also enough along the way to keep you busy for longer if you want to make it a week-long trip. The Eastern Cape is your oyster. Go explore!

Here are a few facts about the trip and the vehicle:

Distance from destination A to B to C to D and back to A: 471.6 km.
Total distance (including detours): 668.7 km.
Duration: 4 days, 3 nights.

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Vehicle Model: Isuzu KB300 D-TEQ LX 4×4 (manual).
My average Fuel Consumption: 10.9km/l.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 80 liter.
Distance I could still travel on same tank of fuel: 205km (but possibly more).
Just a side note: I had an average of 11.4km/l at 120km/h but due to all the dirt roads my average speed for this trip was 49km/h.

Want to see what other trips I’ve done with an Isuzu?

Eye on the road, eye on the Isuzu.

Getting a taste of the Wild Coast.

Gamkaskloof: Going off the grid.

Snowy Swartberg Pass.

Diesel and dust in Baviaanskloof.

 

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