Roadtripping South Africa | Part 1/3
My road trip around the Western Cape Garden Route…
What was set to be a simple holiday in South Africa to visit family, evolved into a road trip that soon became a journey of nostalgia, a discovery of sorts into the background of one side of family forgotten. The trip takes me from the lovely town of George in the Western Cape and along the garden route through the Swartberg to Prince Albert and back down through the mountains again to Cape Town stopping along the way. To the average traveller, the landscape may seem a little harsh or dull, particularly that the region is experiencing its worst drought in 100 years. But to someone with a creative streak and an eye for colours on a palette, the ranges of burnt sienna and yellow ochre with some orange, green and blue thrown in, make for an unforgettable experience. The colours remind me of a well known South African landscape artist, Erik Laubscher, who was a mentor as an art student.
Booking the Trip
Book the essentials and keep your options open. When planning your flights, book the shortest international flight for e.g. London → Johannesburg direct rather than London → Cape Town. There are significant savings to be had by doing this and then book your connecting flight via the domestic airline websites in the local currency. More often than not, the company you are booking with uses these airlines for connecting flights anyway.
After a bad experience with SAA (South Africa Airways) in the past with flight delays and blatant lies by customer services, I decided to give them another go and booked my return journey from London to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg/Gauteng. The airline has been experiencing some financial difficulty but according to the new CEO, the turnaround starts now and there will be some streamlining. I sincerely hope that the national airline manages to hang in there and not have to sell itself off much like SwissAir did.
It’s comfortable and you can upgrade for a little more to a bulkhead seat which gives you more legroom. I then booked with Kulula from Johannesburg to George and Mango on return. It’s always said that return flights are cheaper ultimately but I didn’t find this the case and booked the two different airlines. All in all, I probably saved myself in the region of £800. I booked a car rental from George airport via RentalCars.com (portal for car hire companies) only because it was the cheapest but then got stung on a charge for dropping off the vehicle at another destination, about £60. I don’t seem to remember any of the other major car hire companies charging for this. I recommend taking out insurance as it is quite common to find that drivers are not insured — the traffic police are actively cracking down on this.