Going Somewhere Slowly
When visiting Oudtshoorn time should be taken to experience the natural beauty of the Klein Karoo. And what better way could there possibly be than driving at your leisure along back roads or visiting small gems alongside the main roads which might otherwise just be overlooked? There is no absence of choices if you have a day or two to explore.
1. Visit the waterfalls
With two magnificent waterfalls within less than an hour’s drive from Oudtshoorn, the question is: Which one? The answer is simple: Visit both. It can be done on the same day if you have only one day on hand.
Rust en Vrede Waterfall
To find this waterfall, follow the road to the Cango Caves until about 10 km before the entrance. Then turn right at the turn-off to the Cango Mountain Resort. The tar road turns into a gravel road just after the resort, but the road surface is good. A few kilometres further you will find the entrance to the Rust en Vrede picnic area on your left. After going through the gate, follow the narrow road to the parking area and then walk through an indigenous forest and over footbridges crossing the stream until you reach the tranquil surroundings of the waterfall.
After your visit to Rust en Vrede, continue driving along the gravel road which intersects with the N12 between Oudtshoorn and De Rust. Just after De Rust lies the spectacular Meiringspoort, with probably the best kept rest areas and ablution facilities in the province. At the largest of these you will find ample parking space, and after a short (but steep) walk up the side of the mountain, you will find the waterfall cascading into natural rock pools where most people jump in to cool off.
2. Pack your camera and embark on a scenic circle route
If you want to experience the beauty of the Klein Karoo in all its facets and also get to know its people, it will cost you only the fuel for a wonderful circular trip of a mere 200 km. This trip, which takes you from Oudtshoorn, through De Rust, Meiringspoort and Klaarstroom to Prince Albert and back over the Swartberg Mountain Pass, is breathtaking.
Leave Oudtshoorn along the N12 to De Rust where you need some time to browse the unique shops and enjoy coffee or breakfast. Then follow the road through the magnificent Meiringspoort and remember to turn off to Klaarstroom, the smallest village in the area just beyond Meiringspoort. Visit The Goods Shed and have a refreshment at the local Klaarstroom Hotel before continuing to Prince Albert. Be on the look-out for the turn-off to your left, a few kilometres after Klaarstroom, or you will end up in Beaufort West (which probably isn’t a bad thing either, because you are on holiday after all).
Prince Albert, with its interesting shops, art galleries, museum and well-preserved architecture, will take you to lunch. There is no shortage of places to settle down for a meal, after which you can embark on the best part of the journey – crossing the Swartberg Pass.
This magnificent pass winds its steep way up one side and down the other side of the Swartberg Mountains, and each turn brings a new, spectacular view. A note of caution: the road is narrow in places, so please drive slowly. Somewhere along the pass you will find a turn-off to Gamkaskloof, also known as Die Hel. Unless you have pre-booked and you are in a reliable 4×4, do not be tempted to take this detour.
It might seem like a short distance (according to the sign-post), but it will take you the best part of two hours to descend into the valley … and then you still have to wind your way back. (Rather plan this outing in a suitable vehicle and book to sleep over.)
Once over the pass, the road turns into a tar road and then Oudtshoorn is only about 35 km away. You will be just in time to light your fire for an evening braai if you still have enough energy.
3. Take the road less travelled to Calitzdorp:
Once you have visited all the wine cellars around Oudtshoorn, make your way to Calitzdorp where there is more wine to taste. But don’t rush to get there. Remember, you are on holiday. Instead of covering the 50 km between the two towns in 35 minutes along the tar road, rather turn towards the Swartberg Mountains onto one of the three side roads along the R62, and slowly wind your way to Calitzdorp through the foothills.
The first turn-off to your right is to Lategansvlei, only 5 km outside Oudtshoorn … the next two are further along the same road. Turn in and drive straight ahead – all roads lead to Calitzdorp eventually, as long as you always make sure the mountain range stays on your right. Along the way you will find interesting places where you can stop for coffee or enjoy local art, before you enter Calitzdorp’s main road right next to the cemetery two or three hours later.