Gamtoos Valley: Just Drive

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Every now and then it is necessary to just drive. No plan, no goal, nothing to do, no place to visit; just you, the open road and the landscapes around you.

A few days ago I had one of those “every now and then” days.

After another week of being in front of the laptop with writing, editing, sorting out admin and glitches in pajamas (my 8-5 professional attire) I filled a flask with coffee, got in the car and headed west, out of Port90 Elizabeth, on the N2 in the direction of Baviaanskloof.

As I got on the R331, the Cockscomb Peak – the Eastern Cape’s trump card to Table Mountain (in my opinion) – towered in mighty meters and defined lines above the wrinkly creases of the Great Winterhoek Mountain range.

Gamtoos Valley Cockscomb Peak

No plan, no goal, nothing to do, no place to visit; just me, the open road and the landscapes around me.

The quiet road sedated me into a slow pace and the landscapes serenaded my eyes; every bend in the road had a beat, every pothole struck a chord. 

The poetic lines of Diana Ferrus clung to the veld. An emotive verse roared in rhyme to our own; a soft whisper echoed through the Gamtoos Valley in honour of Sarah, daughter of the land…

“I have come to take you home
where the ancient mountains shout your name.
I have made your bed at the foot of the hill,
your blankets are covered in buchu and mint,
the proteas stand in yellow and white –
I have come to take you home
where I will sing for you
for you have brought me peace.”

An extract from Diana Ferrus’ “Poem for Sarah Baartman” – listen to the touching recital of the poem by the poet, herself.

The road continued through the valley; red aloe rockets reached for the sky and speckles of citrus lined up in orange and yellow.

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I went from one farm stall to the next where coffee, roosterkoek and the legendary “Patensie Chips” paraded in delicious letters on menus, and preserves filled shelves from floor to ceiling with figs, strawberries, apricots, onions, chillies, marmalade, prickly pear, quinces, peaches and a dozen more.

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Padlangs
Coffee Tolbos

By the time I reached Andrieskraal (the gravel road turn-off to Humansdorp just before Baviaanskloof) I was in a complete state of landscape-admiration.

On my left there was an orange tree plantation with the Cockscomb peak peeking between the rows of citrus and on my right crates with fruit were stacked; the prominent rocky cliffs leading the way to Baviaanskloof stood cautiously still and the liquid veins of the Gamtoos river stretched into the valley’s soil. 

It was enough.

A simple drive with nothing to do and no place to visit – a road with potholes, faded lines and grazing cattle, an unplanned trip through a misty valley with curvy landscapes, towering mountains and the smell of Fynbos.

Enough.

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We live in a day and age where we are ever so frequently occupied with the idea of doing things – a something – visiting an attraction, making this, showing that, looking for things to do, a must-see, a can’t miss, a new spot, a social-media-worthy shot, checking in here and checking out there, that we often miss the “enough”.

Every now and then it is necessary to just drive. Or walk. Or skate. Or cycle. No plan, no goal, nothing to do, no place to visit; just you, the open road and the landscapes around you.

Because when you do nothing you see everything.

And it is enough.

Just drive.

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Driving through Gamtoos Valley

In case you want to “just drive”, here are three routes from Port Elizabeth (with Greenacres as a starting point).

You can also drop by the following restaurants and/or farm stalls en route: Bravo (Loerie), Koekepan Farm Stall (between Loerie and Hankey), Tolbos (Patensie), Padlangs (Patensie), Le Chameleon (Humansdorp), Suikerbossie (Jeffreys Bay), Gamtoos Ferry Hotel (Gamtoos), Thornhill Hotel (Thornhill) and Crossways Country Kitchen (Van Stadens).

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Route 1 – 241 km

Take the N2 out of Port Elizabeth and get on the R331 just after Thornhill. Continue with the R331 past Loerie towards Hankey (where it becomes the R330). After Hankey it is the R331 once again, continue to Patensie and turn left at Andrieskraal on the R332, just before the start of the Baviaanskloof. The R332 towards Humansdorp is a dirt road (you won’t need a 4×4, but it is not the smoothest road). Continue with the R332 until it becomes the R330 and turn left on the R102 towards Port Elizabeth, go through Van Stadens Pass and take the old Cape Road (R102) into Port Elizabeth again.

(Follow the pink route).

Gamtoos Valley

Route 2 – 223 km

Take the N2 out of Port Elizabeth and get on the R331 just after Thornhill. Continue with the R331 past Loerie towards Hankey (where it becomes the R330). After Hankey it is the R331 once again, continue to Patensie until you reach Padlangs Country Restaurant. Turn back at Padlangs on the same road until you reach Hankey where you’ll get on the R330 (another dirt road) towards Humansdorp. Turn left on the R102 towards Port Elizabeth, go through Van Stadens Pass and take the old Cape Road (R102) into Port Elizabeth again.

(Follow the pink route and turn back on the same route until you reach Hankey and continue on the red route and then back to the pink route. Also look at Route 3 as an alternative after you’ve turned around at Padlangs).

Route 3 – 119 km

For a shorter drive take the N2 out of Port Elizabeth and get on the R331 just after Thornhill. Continue with the R331 and turn left (when you see the church’s steeple) onto a road with no name (according the Google Maps). Continue past Loerieheuwel and turn left, just after an old railway crossing (do not go up the hill). The nameless road will bring you next to the Gamtoos River where you’ll find the Gamtoos Ferry Hotel on your right. After the hotel, turn left onto the R102 towards Port Elizabeth, go through Van Stadens Pass and take the old Cape Road (R102) into Port Elizabeth again.

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Massive thank you to the cartographic blogging ninja, Di Brown, for measuring the distances and making all the pretty pink lines on the map!

If you haven’t listened to the poem by Diana Ferrus, do yourself a favour and LISTEN! Click here or just watch NOW:

South Africa Diana Ferrus: “I’ve come to take you home” Tribute to Sarah Bartmann

Projek :Gedig in beelde Suid Afrika Camera & assist: Menno & Xio Edit : Xio “I ‘ve come to take you home”

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