The Ultimate Road Trip to the Eastern Cape

Pizzeria Pizzarella overlooking Kariega beach Kenton On Sea

Every journey should be a personal adventure, but it’s often difficult to truly escape our busy lives. One of the best ways to do so is by taking a road trip with no set plans for where you’ll spend the night. Discovering new places brings a sense of excitement because you never know what you’ll find. It’s also a way to reflect on your life’s journey. We found that an Eastern Cape Road Trip offers just that. In this post, I’ll share our ultimate Eastern Cape road trip and highlight some of the best attractions you will want to experience. Discover why the Eastern Cape is the perfect destination for a scenic road trip in South Africa.

Couple with Jack Russel on an Eastern Cape road trip with their Motorhome
Our Eastern Cape road trip

Why An Eastern Cape Road Trip

The Eastern Cape Sunshine Coast is one of the most beautiful parts of the Country and should be included in any South African road trip planner. For adventurous road-trippers who like the exhilarating thrill of unusual gems waiting around each corner, the windy roads will make your Eastern Cape road trip like no other. Nguni livestock and animals freely roam the beaches, green hills, and roads, and colourful beehive Xhosa houses known as u Ngquphantsi add to the Eastern Cape’s beauty.

The Eastern Cape’s 800 km long unspoilt coastline boasts the world’s best beaches, cliffs with cosy bays, and abundant marine life in its sparkling blue ocean. In addition, wild forests with exquisite fauna and flora, stark deserts, and snow-capped mountains. Besides, its stunning scenery, friendly locals, and many nice places to visit put an Eastern Cape road trip on top of the best road trips in South Africa.

Gauteng to the Eastern Cape Road trip

On an early morning in November, Johan, Dashuri and I embarked on a road trip from Pretoria to Eastern Cape Province in our “Wandering Nomad“. At first, we wanted to take a less travelled road along the Lesotho border to reach the Wild Coast. However, due to the terrible conditions of the roads, we had to take the N1 (national highway) via Bloemfontein.

The driving distance may vary depending on your route and Map of the Eastern Cape. For instance, if you travel from Gauteng to Eastern Cape via the N1, the distance you’ll cover is approximately 892 km. Whatever route you plan to take, an Eastern Cape road trip promises an unforgettable experience, besides you cannot afford to miss one of the best road trip routes south africa.

Recommended Pitstop

We took frequent breaks during our Eastern Cape road trip, especially with Dashuri. We highly recommend making pitstops at the Shell Ultra City in Grasmere and Kroonstad.

Their spacious, grassy picnic area provides ample shade, and Dashuri was thrilled to stroll around, making his mark.

Gauteng to Eastern Cape Man Pitstop walking with his dog at a grassed picnic spot
Johan is taking Dashuri for a walkie.

Hidden Gems of the Free State Province

With vast horizons of golden fields where cattle and sheep graze and open blue skies, the Free State Province boasts spectacular scenery and the Maluti- and Drakensberg Mountains.

Experience the great outdoors Spectacular scenery on Road trip through the Free State Province #van life South Africa

Known as the geographical heart of South Africa, the Province is also famous for abundant adventure activities and hiking trails.

About 56,5 kilometres from Kroonstad, we passed the small town of Ventersburg before we got to the City of Roses, Bloemfontein.

Continuing on the N6 that leads to the historical town of Reddersburg, that whisks us onto the national route to East London.

Towns in Free State Province, South Africa


After midday, we arrived at the rural farming town of Smithfield, known as a thriving arts community for wool production and cattle farming. In contrast with Smithfield South Africa, Smithfield in the USA is famous for producing Smithfield Ham. After that, the N6 led us to the cattle-farming town of Rouxville.


Unfortunately, the Free State town of Rouxville became deserted after the Boer War when all the residents were called for military service. It was getting late, and we were eager to reach Zastron.


Nestled at the foot of the picturesque Aasvoel Berg, Zastron overlooks the Maluti Mountains in Lesotho and is the ideal stopover en route to the East Cape Coastal region. Also known as The Eye of Zastron, the area was once home to the nomadic San people and is a nature lover’s paradise. We spend the night at the pet-friendly Mountain View Resort before we continue our Eastern Cape Road trip.

Mountain View Resort

Natural landscapes surround the Mountain View Resort, which offers a spectacular view of the mountains. It is rated as one of the best Resorts and camping Sites in Free State Province.

Zastron Campsite Camp South Africa overlooking the Mountains

The campsite has a decked area with barbeque facilities and clean ablutions with hot water.

Dashuri ran around in the spacious Camping area and happily played with his ball. Then, we sat around the fire, enjoying the fresh mountain air while having a braai.

Later, we went to sleep with the sound of crickets and looked forward to returning to this special place in the Mountains one day.

Inland Towns in The Eastern Cape

Aliwal North to Jamestown

After a good night’s sleep, we had Coffee and rusks before heading towards the farming town of Aliwal Noord, located on the banks of the Orange River. We stopped to refuel and enjoy breakfast at the Riverside Lodge overlooking the Orange River. About 60 Km South of Aliwal North, we passed Jamestown, and 42 Kilometers further, we entered the Penhoek Pass. The high-altitude Penhoek Pass traverses Stormberg, forming part of the N6 National Route.


We travelled on the Penhoek pass to Queenstown, now officially Komani, between Cathcart and Sterkstroom’s small towns. For those who are into history, the Thomas River Historical Village is between Cathcart and Stutterheim City.


Not only is Hogsback home to one of South Africa’s best and most challenging trails, it is a natural paradise you won’t want to leave.

Transkei inland colourful huts

Road Trip along the Eastern Cape

Wild Coast Meander

The Picturesque Wild Coast is a paradise initially established for the Xhosa people of South Africa. Also known as the Transkei, it now forms part of the Eastern Cape province, with borders stretching from the subtropical KwaZulu Natal in the North to East London in the South. Here is our experience meandering the Eastern Cape.

Being one of the gateways to the Wild Coast Beach resorts, East London is the ideal town for last-minute shopping before heading out to the Wild Coast. Unfortunately, heavy rain prevented us from exploring some areas as we would have liked. Pondoland is the heartland of the Xhosa people and one of the most beautiful places on Earth, between the Mtamvuna and Mtata rivers. The area is also home to the MPA, Marine Protected Area, which conserves marine ecosystems and populations of marine species.

Coffee Bay

The small village of Coffee Bay is located on the Wild Coast with about 258 people and is known for its breathtaking coastline, serene natural surroundings, untouched beaches, and tranquillity. Coffee Bay is safe and famous among backpackers and hikers exploring the Wild Coast. Besides the freshest seafood, the best things to do in Coffee Bay, besides hiking, are Kayaking, surfing, fishing, and exploring nearby villages. Although you might not find any coffee trees, the town derived its name after a shipwreck lost its cargo of coffee beans near the coast of Coffee Bay in 1893. Check out this fantastic 5-day hiking trail on the Wild Coast.

Port St Johns

Port St. Johns, South Africa, the laid-back tourist town of Port St.Johns, is famous for its natural environment, fishing, snorkelling, diving, and hiking.

The untamed wilderness of the Wild Coast offers incredible views of the dramatic coastline, jagged cliffs, and sheltered bays surrounded by rolling green hills.

If you want to try your luck at fishing, ask the locals for directions to the best spot. You will likely meet other like-minded people from different cultures in the Transkei. 

Nguni Cattle at Port St Johns Beach

Situated about 8 km south of Coffee Bay, the famous Hole in the Wall is a large, unique rock structure with a substantial detached cliff and a giant opening carved through its centre by the ocean waves. If you’re feeling energetic, I recommend the three-hour hike from Hole in the Wall to Coffee Bay. You’ll be rewarded with the most beautiful scenery during the trek as you walk over craggy sea cliffs along the spectacular beaches.

Wild Coast hikes are among the best things to do in the breathtaking central Wild Coast region of South Africa. Click the link below for more information, prices, and books.

Haga Haga

When you arrive at Haga Haga, you immediately experience peace and tranquillity—declared a conservancy area, protecting the indigenous Cape clawless otter and Blue duiker. The best Haga Haga accommodation depends on your preferences. If you are looking for Wild Coast self-catering accommodation or Transkei beach cottages, the Haga Haga Resort also offers self-catering accommodation.

Morgan Bay

The seaside hamlet of Morgan Bay is a peaceful and scenic holiday destination. Located less than an hour’s drive from East London on South Africa’s Wild Coast. Blessed with picturesque sea cliffs, Morgans Bay offers a mile-long beach, a safe swimming lagoon, and a nature reserve.

South African Wild Coast coastline

Walk over the cliffs from Morgan Bay will take you to Double Mouth Nature Reserve and the ever-popular Bead Beach (Treasure Beach).

Morgans Bay is also where the 17th-century Portuguese shipwreck sank, and Carnelian Beads, Money Cowries, and shards of broken Ming Porcelain scattered amongst the shells.

Bird lovers will enjoy the immense number of waterbirds in the Inchara River estuary and walk to Kei Mouth.

Morgan Bay accommodation options

Chintsa or Cintsa

The Coastal hamlet of Chintsa, or Cintsa, situated at the mouth of the Chintsa River, is recognised as one of South Africa’s prime coastal destinations. One can explore the indigenous forest with its unspoilt sandy beaches, captivating dunes, and spectacular lagoons. Cintsa is also a favoured fishing spot for locals and holidaymakers alike. Close by, within walking distance, is a Pet-friendly restaurant where we had some Fish, prawns and chips.

Cintsa offers a variety of recreational activities. In addition, the place offers an abundance of birdlife and Game at the nearby Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve. We spent a few days at the peaceful, secluded Rendezvous Beach Resort. Close to the beach and within walking distance from Cintsa East and Cintsa West amenities. 

Yellow Sands Resort

Next on our Eastern Cape Road trip was the Yellow Sands Resort, where we spent a few days. Camping at Yellow Sands Resort is incredible, and we look forward to returning soon.

Whether you go swimming or admire the bottlenose dolphins frolicking in the water, Yellow Sands promises an unforgettable experience.

Visit the nearby Areena Quays Resort to watch the sunset from their sundeck while sipping a cocktail.

The fully licensed Areena Quays Restaurant, situated right on the banks of the Kwelera River, serve excellent food and is famous for its hamburgers.

After a few days at the Yellow Sands resort, we continued our Eastern Cape road trip—this time, down the Sunshine Coast.

Sea-view from our Yellow Sands Campsites East London
View from our Yellow Sands Campsite

Sunshine Coast Eastern Cape Road Trip

The spectacular Sunshine Coast derives its name from the fact that this part of the country boasts the most sunshine hours. Its diverse topography includes endless stretches of unspoilt beaches, indigenous coastal forests, and staggering dune fields.

Port Alfred Marina

The Sunshine Coast provides the perfect tranquil escape from the pressures of everyday life. Furthermore, the province boasts more insects, birds- and animal life per cubic metre than any other biome.

Explore a world of diversity in several game reserves and at the third-largest national park in South Africa, Addo.

Port Alfred

Situated on the banks of the Kowie River, The seaside town of Port Alfred is renowned for its harbour and fishing at the Kowie River.

Port Alfred beaches are ideal for surfing and fishing. We camped at Medolino Caravan Park, the best Caravan Park in Port Alfred.

Windguru Cannon Rocks

I only discovered the place when a friend told me about the tiny seaside village of Cannon Rocks, a renowned kiteboarding and fishing mecca near Kenton on Sea.

Cannon Rocks, known for being one of the best kite surfing in South Africa, also offers a swimming beach and impressive dunes for Sandboarding.

Other attractions include the unspoilt, uncrowded beaches, the coastal dune fields, premier surfing, nature trails, and scuba diving excursions.

Look at Kiteboarding South Africa, Kitespotters guide, and go to Weather Cannon Rocks for Cannon Rocks Weather forecast.

Windguru Cannon Rocks - Man Kite surfing at Cannon Rocks surfing
Sunset Cannon rocks

Cannon Rocks Hiking Trails

There are two Cannon Rocks hiking trails. The short Cannon Rock hiking trail is 7 km long and takes you through the forest, along the coastline, and to the beach.

Secondly, there is the longer two-day trail, which includes one book through Addo Elephant Park.

Spoil yourself and book a full-day Addo Elephant Park Game Safari.


With its white sandy beaches, the quaint Village of Boknes and Boknes Beach is worth a visit. Boknes is famous for fishing at the Boknes River mouth and kite surfing. While at Boknes Eastern Cape, visit Babsie’s cafe on Boknes Beach. Babsie’s restaurant is famous for its tasty jaffles.

One of the most popular attractions is the Diaz Cross Memorial, a provincial heritage site. One can walk to the Diaz Cross, located about 3 km across the beach from the Boknes-lagoon. The walk should take about 45 minutes to an hour.

Boknes Eastern Cape Boknesstrand Eastern Cape
Boknes Beach
Babsie's Cafe at Boknesstrand
Babsie’s Cafe at Boknesstrand Beach

Kenton on Sea

I can understand why Kenton on Sea is known as one of the best holiday destinations in South Africa. We love the clean, uncrowded, natural beaches with peculiar rocks, dunes, clear-water pools, and sea life. The Pristine Kariega Beach, with its white sand and crystal-clear lagoon, is safe and offers plenty of space, and one can’t help but fall in love with the spectacular Kenton on Sea.

Pizzeria Pizzarella overlooking Kariega beach Kenton On Sea
Pizzeria Pizzarella overlooking Kariega Beach, Kenton on Sea

The view from the famous Pizzarella restaurant is mind-blowing. It isn’t easy to decide what to choose from the Pizzarella menu. We had breakfast at Pizzarellas, which offers a spectacular view over Kariega Beach. Overlooking the pristine Kenton on Sea Beach, Pizarellas serves delicious Pizzas, freshly baked bread and pastries, and a range of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. They are also ideally situated for watching the sunset.

Shelly beach Kenton on Sea South Africa beach with its Aquamarine water Eastern Cape beach

Bushmans River Mouth

The beautiful Busman’s River Mouth is east of a northeasterly flowing tributary of the Tugela River from Kwa-Zulu Natal. It is 32km long, making it the second-longest navigable river in South Africa. The small town of Bushmans River derives its name from the river and is known for its beautiful beach and river activities.

The 6 km moderate Beach walk from Bushman’s River mouth to Diaz Cross takes about 1.5 to 2 hours. We thoroughly enjoyed 3 nights of Camping at Cannon Rocks. After that, we continued our Eastern Cape road trip further down the beautiful Sunshine Coast.

Kidd’s Beach

About 28 km from East London, we stopped at the small coastal resort of Kidd’s Beach on our way to Port Elizabeth.

The trendy beach is famous amongst families with small children, with a safe beach and sea pool.

There is also a cosy restaurant on the beachfront to soothe your taste buds.

Port Elizabeth

The beautiful city of Port Elizabeth’s new Xhosa name is Ggberha. PE is also known as the Windy City due to the occasionally strong South Easter that blows along the Algoa Bay Coastline.

Woman and dog took a walk on the beach near Chintsa River
Dashuri and I walked on the beach.
Man and his dog playing in the sea at The Willows, Port Elizabeth
Johan and Dashuri at The Willows Beach, Port Elizabeth

Being the largest city in the Eastern province, Port Elizabeth is connected to the Country by flights, rail, and motorways.

Blue Horizon Bay, Sardinia Bay, and Schoenmakerskop are among the less developed areas in Port Elizabeth.

With over 40 km of coastline and warm water, PE attracts many beach lovers and sports enthusiasts.

We spent a few nights at the impeccably Pet-friendly Port Elizabeth Campsite, The Willows Caravan Park—our campsite had a spectacular view over the ocean. Beautiful chalets and self-catering accommodation in Port Elizabeth are also available at the Willows.

Another of the best places to visit in Port Elizabeth is St. Croix Island Marine Reserve, home to the World’s largest breeding colony of African penguins. To get to the island, one needs to take a charter. PE is known for its astounding Beaches in the Eastern Cape. Besides the fantastic marine life, St. Croix Island is a popular scuba diving site. Book an unforgettable Whale, Dolphin and Penguin Boat Cruise to avoid disappointment.

Jeffreys Bay Surfing Mecca

Host of the most famous surfing contests, The Surfing paradise Jeffreys Bay is listed as one of the five top surfing destinations in the World. But that is not all; JBay is also known for its long stretches of white sandy beaches. One thing is for sure: Jeffreys offers endless attractions and activities.

Surfer surfing at Jeffreys Bay

What to do in Jeffreys Bay

  • Visit the Nature Reserve for local wildlife and flamingos.
  • Explore JBay Surf Village for its wide variety of clothing and surfing equipment.
  • Visit the Seaside Forest
  • Go for long walks along the Blue Ocean.
  • Visit the Shell Museum.
  • Wacky Water Park.
  • Admire the surfers riding the waves.
  • Explore the beaches, looking for Seashells.
  • Happy Hippo Play Farm.
  • Visit the Fountains Mall.
  • Book a Game drive.

Adventure Activities in Jeffreys Bay

Horse riding in Jeffreys Bay

Only 10 km outside town is the farm Papiesfontein, which offers horse riding trails for novice and experienced riders.

Their 13km horse trail leads through coastal vegetation between the Gamtoos- and Kabeljous rivers. If you want, you can book a horse ride along the sea.

There are not many options for campsites in the area, so we camped at Jeffreys Caravan Park.

A rider on a horse riding on the beach
A rider Horse-riding on the beach
Ashton Bay beach Jeffrey's Bay

Paradise Beach and Ashton Bay

Ashton Bay is one of the Suburbs in Jeffreys Bay. The undeveloped Aston Bay and Paradise Beach offer a beach-town atmosphere with spectacular views over the ocean.

Paradise Beach stretches for kilometres, with a river mouth running into the sea, and is ideal for those looking for tranquillity.

You can swim in the ocean or rock pools and admire the sea life here. And remember to look out for dolphins, tortoises, bushbucks, and other small wildlife.

Marina Martinique in Ashton Bay separates Paradise Beach by basically the Seekoeirivier (Hippopotamus River) lagoon with beautiful water canals. With its meandering waterways, quaint bridges, and Caribbean-style houses, Marina Martinique is ideally situated amidst abundant bird and marine life, plus various small animals roaming freely. Its beautiful surroundings and safe environment make it an ideal place to live.

Where to Eat in Jeffreys Bay

Restaurant Die Walskipper Jeffreys Bay Restaurant

Walskipper Restaurant

Although there are a few excellent restaurants, we recommend the Walskipper, situated right on the beach at Ashton Bay.

Feel the sand under your feet while enjoying excellent seafood with a spectacular view over the ocean.

Best Takeaway Jeffreys Bay

The popular Vismandjie restaurant in town serves mouth-watering Fish and Calamari. In addition to takeaway meals, one can sit down. They also sell Sushi, fresh Roosterkoeke, and Cakes. Leaving Jeffreys, we continue our Eastern Cape road trip to Cape St Francis via Humansdorp. For off-road drivers, there is a shorter dirt road route.

Cape St Francis, South Africa

St Francis Bay makes one think you are somewhere on a Greek island with its Mediterranean-style houses and unique water canals.

St Francis, South Africa’s fishing village, is famous for its beautiful beaches, world-class Cape St Frances surf, and the Seal Point Lighthouse.

Chokka Industry St Francis Bay

The local Chokka (squid) industry is the heart of St Francis. Years back, anglers would catch a few chokkas to use as bait.

In 1980, a visitor from Spain showed his mates how to cook Chokkas, which became the delicacy we know today as Calamari.

Cape St. Francis Bay Eastern Cape
Seal Point Lighthouse Cape St Francis

Seal Point lighthouse

The historic lighthouse includes a small harbour resort and Village lying in a sheltered bay, providing safe anchorage for yachts and boats.

Now a museum, the Seal Point Lighthouse is only accessible with a guide. Previously, the Southern African Foundation used it to conserve Penguins and other Coastal Birds.

Hiking the Chokka Trail

If you’re into hiking, the Chocca Trail is one of the best Eastern Cape Hiking Trails from Oyster Bay through St. Francis. The Award-winning Chokka Trail covers the picturesque Eastern Cape coastal hamlets of St Francis Bay, Port St Francis, Cape St Francis and Oyster Bay.

Whilst hiking the 62 km Chokka Trail, one experiences things you don’t usually see, like the shy. Cape otters, fish hatches, shipwrecks, Khoi mids, and even graves. Inclusive in the Chokka Trail is visiting the Seal Point Lighthouse and Calamari tasting at Port St Francis. Moreover, one can also experience the waterways of South Africa’s little Venice on a canal ride.

How Many Days Is the Chokka Trail

The Chokka Trail is a four-day and three-night hike. One can also hike slackpacking, where one only carries a small daypack, or opt for a shorter trail. Chokka Trail Difficulty: Moderately easy, although crossing the dunes can be strenuous.

Best time to Hike the Chokka Trail

The best time to hike the Chokka Trail is between March and November, although one can experience four seasons in one day.

St Francis Bay to Oyster Bay

We left Cape St Francis and took the gravel road towards Oyster Bay’s pristine Eastern Cape Coastal Village. Oyster Bay is 22km southwest of Humansdorp and 14km west of St Francis Bay.

Besides being a nature lovers’ haven, the region is well suited to dairy farming. I soon realised here I could forget almost immediately all my woes.

Horses on green farmland Eastern Cape road trip to Oyster Bay

Eastern Cape Road trip to Oyster Bay

The Coastal hamlet of Oyster Bay is situated on the Sunshine Coast between St Francis Bay and the border of the Tsitsikamma coast. It is home to the famous Oyster Bay Wind Power Station and the largest wind farm in South Africa. The 60 turbines span 3,700 hectares of farmland and produce enough renewable energy to provide electricity to approximately 115,000 households.

Sunset at Oyster bay Eastern Cape South Africa

Best Things to Do in Oyster Bay

Oyster Bay derives its name from the extinct Oystercatcher bird. She is also known for its long, vast stretch of secluded beaches, impressive dunes, and wetlands.

The region is rich in history, with archaeological finds and shipwrecks such as the Niagara of 1870, the British Duke of 1888, and the Suffolk of 1900.

Oyster Bay has a vast coastal and marine biological diversity, which can be best experienced by hiking the Chokka trail. We also experienced spectacular sunsets at Oyster Bay Resort.

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Road trip with best friend
Eastern Cape Road Trip
Jack Russel running sand dunes with a ball in his jaws

Eastern Cape Tourist Attractions

Game Reserves on the Eastern Cape Road Trip

Lalibela Game Reserve

The beautiful Lalibela Game Reserve is 91.6 km from Port Elizabeth and 93.8 km from Port Alfred. Its diverse fauna and flora span five ecosystems and are home to the Big Five and predators such as cheetah, hyena, lynx, and Jackal.

Addo National Park

Greater Addo Elephant Park is 58 minutes from Port Elizabeth, the third-largest National Park in South Africa. Its habitat is large enough for more than 600 elephants, buffalo, lions, clack, Rhinos, and Game. Hundreds of bird species also take advantage of the grassland and coastal area in Addo Park.

A Nature reserve is any designated area to preserve its fauna and flora and may have Wildlife. In contrast, Game reserves have wild animals living in their natural habitat. Check the details and price for one of the unforgettable Addo Elephant Park Game drives.

Cape St Francis Nature Reserve

The beautiful Cape St Francis is home to the following five nature reserves:

  • Cape St Francis Nature Reserve
  • The Seal Bay Nature Reserve
  • Seal Point Nature Reserve
  • Irma Booysen Flora Reserve
  • St Francis Field Nature Reserve
Rock Hyrax Cape St Francis Nature Reserve

These named sanctuaries are rich in animal, botanical, and endangered coastal dune forests.

Home to animals such as bushbuck, grysbok, duiker, porcupines, bushpigs, otters, mongoose and monkeys.

All of these reserves offer a variety of hiking trails for novice and experienced hikers, taking one through the coastal account.

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  1. Thank you, glad you’ve enjoyed the article.

  2. Annie Dyer says:

    Wow that is absolutely amazing!! Best travel blog ever!!!

  3. Thanks for the comment. You guys will love the Wild Coast.

  4. Baie dankie ek waardeer die typ wat jy afgestaan het om te ‘comment’ en ja dis so waar ons land is pragtig, ons is bevoorreg.

  5. We are going to Morgans Bay soon and after reading your post I can’t wait.

  6. Miemie wat n belewenis … so mooi omskryf en sulke waardevolle memories wat jul saam opbou … jou post is beautifull… dit laat n mens sommer lus kry om die pad te vat … Ons land het sulke mooi weggesteekte dorpies met die mees awesome vriendelike inwoners … Ons wag vir jul volgende avontuur….

  7. Great! Thank you for taking the time and for your support. I appreciate it a lot. 🙂

  8. Willie van Zyl says:

    Mimmie and Johan I followed your every step of the route. You brought back many childhood memories.
    I will definetly repeat your route one day