Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Touring: Western Cape, South Africa

There are hundreds of ‘Great Drives’ along spectacular coastline in many places around the world, but one of my most memorable is the drive from Hermanus, along the coast of the Western Cape, to Capetown.


In 2002 I headed a North American press group flying in to Capetown for the press launch of the Bentley Arnage T saloon. We stayed at the quiet, secluded and luxurious Grand Roche Hotel in Paarl, close to South Africa’s wine country. This hotel is beautifully decorated, but also very understated and comfortable.

Hotel Grand Roche

After a brief pit stop for breakfast in Frankschoek, we followed the R45 to Villersdorp, joining the R43, and Route 2 to Caledon. We took the R316 and the R320, to Stanford, and then made a detour to the fabulous Grootbos Private Nature Reserve for lunch, and a chance to get up close and personal with some wildlife, including a couple of very curious Ostriches.
Grootbos Private Reserve

Then the driving changed from hilly terrain dotted with eucalyptus tress, and open sweeping roads, to a winding, scenic drive along the rugged coastline.

As we crested the last hill before joining the coast you look west towards False Bay. So named because many early sailors heading for Capetown, mistook the sweep of this bay as the Capetown Harbour, thus the area a few kilometres offshore is littered with shipwrecks from centuries past.

Cape Point

Had they sailed just a few more miles further out to sea they would have rounded Cape Point, and the spectacle of Table Mountain would have confirmed they’d arrived safely in Capetown.

Capetown and Table Mountain

Today the road edges around the base of huge cliffs under the Kogelberg Nature Reserve. Following the R44 past Betty’s Bay, Pringle Bay, we leave the coast at Strand to head for Stellenbosch.

Bentley Arnage T near Kogelberg Reserve
Stellenbosch is the true heart of the wine district hereabouts, and also a university town. It’s a cosmopolitan centre with great restaurants and hotels. We then turned north for a fabulous, mountainous drive along Helshootge Road, to rejoin the R45 and return to the Grand Roche. Then it was time for cocktails, and the inevitable ‘Presentation’ of the new car, with all its associated technical details, sales forecasts and the Q&A.

Hotel Grand Roche

The ‘business’ end of any launch event is a small price to pay for the chance to drive in far-flung and exotic locations all over the world. More about some of the other Bentley ‘Great Drives’ in future posts.

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