Discovering the back roads in an OPEL MOKKA X

 

Breakfast at Nitida Wine Estate in the hills of Durbanville is a pretty good way to start the day.

It gets even better when you arrive in your 2006 Fiat Panda, and depart two hours later in a brand new Opel Mokka X.

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The vineyards at Nitida Wine Estate

No, sadly I did not buy a new car, but I did get to play with the new Opel Mokka X for 24 hours and travel along about 300km of scenic back roads, narrow passes and coastal highways.

For those who like and understand details that include words like torque, tortion beams and McPherson struts click here for all the technical specifications of the Mokka X.

 

The Western Cape has got thousands of kilometers of rural roads and we went exploring.

Bainskloof Pass.

Thirty kilometers of narrow, winding road hugs the Limietberg mountain on one side and follows the course of the Witte River on the other. This pass, now a national monument, was built in 1853 by the inimitable Andrew Geddes Bain. Gunpowder was used to blast away the rock and hundreds of convicts provided the hard labour. Steel rings bolted into the rock face can still be seen, this is how the convicts were chained while they worked.

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One of the viewing points on the pass

Ernest Page is a stunt driver and I was quite happy to let him take the wheel and negotiate the tight twists and turns of this pass. This is a man who “crashes safely” for a living and knows how to put a car through its paces.

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We never saw a leopard but it’s thrilling to know that they are there, somewhere

The Bain’s Kloof Pass has campsites, rock pools and day hikes. For more information visit Cape Nature

From Bain’s Kloof we travelled on the R43, crossed the Breede River and continued on the R46 to Tulbagh.

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Bridge over the Breede River

This quiet little town made headlines on 29th September 1969 when a devastating earthquake took nine lives and destroyed many buildings. Sadly one of the people who died in the earthquake was a young baby who to date has not been identified. The earthquake measured 6.3 on the Richter scale, the strongest quake recorded in South Africa.

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The approach to Bain’s Kloof Pass from the Tulbagh side.

Established in 1699 this town boasts 32 Cape Dutch buildings that are National Monuments, most of them found in the very picturesque Church Street.  Wines farms are plentiful around Tulbagh, chocolate tasting at Moniki is a must, and a visit to the Earthquake Museum while sobering, is a fascinating experience. Find more information on Tulbagh here.

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Moniki Chocolate in Tulbagh. Coffee and chocolate treats galore.

It’s my turn to drive on the long flat roads as we head towards Riebeeck Kasteel. We have established the road holding of the car on the pass,( excellent) but I want to test the brakes. This is a good excuse to floor it and the Mokka responds beautifully. I sort of control my urge to speed and gently brake, all seems good. The long dead straight section of road begs me to put my foot flat, so I obey. Then with a brief word of warning to Ernest I brake hard. No skidding, not even a quiver, the car slows really quickly and sits solidly on the road. I like this.

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Taking up the whole road because you can.

 

About two kilometers on, I use the brakes for real as we round a bend and are faced with a cow standing in the middle of the road watching the world go by.  I blinked, the cow did not, she just ambled over a bit so we could pass.

We then used the car as a model and played silly buggers for a while, shooting from all angles.The styling on the car is pretty sexy. Chunky and solid but with smooth lines and flowing contours.

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Gleaming in the middle of nowhere.

Our next leg stretch and car swap was at the Olive Boutique in Riebeeck Kasteel. Derek and Susan take olives to another level with their infusions. Well worth a visit, as is the rest of this little arty, foodie town. Find out more about Riebeeck-Kasteel here

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Olives to suit any taste.

Tummies full of olives we made our way to the Pleasant Pheasant Restaurant on the Allesverloren Wine Estate for an al  fresco feast, while the cars got a loving wipe down from the diligent crew.

As the sun dipped low in the sky we navigated the many detours to get to the coastal town of Langebaan and the Farmhouse Hotel, our spot for the night.

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View from my room

Cars got yet another wash, polish and refuel while we checked in and relaxed before feasting on seafood, true West Coast cuisine and fine wines. This hotel is a great little place, with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. An old school sweet shop, a slave bell and walking distance to the beach but tucked in a quiet street it’s a perfect weekend away spot.

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Waiting to tuck in to the prawn potjie

 

Suitable for families or romantic breakaways, this place is a must for beach lovers and sea- food aficionados.

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After a great night’s sleep and a huge breakfast we hit the coastal road back to Nitida and said a sad goodbye to the Opel Mokka X.

Starting at R317 000 the Opel Mokka X is certainly a car I would consider if I could just find that other R300 000 lying around somewhere.

This is what I liked about it. Remember I’m not a petrolhead, motoring journo or a boy.

Styling. Great colours, yes, seriously. The gold was my favourite followed closely by the red. Bright, funky and fun.

 

Interior. Classy, not fussy or overly bright and flashy. As one who needs glasses for reading, I loved the large touch screen display that does everything from navigation to radio, and Apple Car Play that allows all your phones functionality to be accessed via the  on board display.

Being a shorty I liked the variety of adjustments that can be made to the seats, in particular the length of the seat and then being able to adjust the steering column for the perfect driving position. This car is very comfortable for long distance driving.

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Safety. The Mokka X has an innovative lighting system called Adaptive Forward Lighting LEDs. Efficient and clever, these lights adjust to suit your surroundings, dim automatically when oncoming traffic is detected and even adjust for dynamic cornering for the best possible visibility.

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Space.  The boot is spacious and would easily accommodate all the luggage required for a family of 4 heading out on a roadtrip.There is nothing cramped about the interior of this car and there are plenty of spaces and cubbyholes for stashing drinks, maps and bits and pieces.

Overall. A very comfortable drive in a stylish looking vehicle. It sits well on the road, is responsive without being sporty and making you want to travel at 200 km / ph. The  on board display is great as it meets the needs of today’s driver, and the intimate relationship they have with their mobile phones, while the lighting is a welcome safety and energy saving feature.

For more detailed information about the specifications of this car and to book a test drive visit the Opel website. 

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Thank you to General Motors South Africa, Opel SA and all the team for hosting me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The West Coast. Going for gold

I am  finding it difficult to define the West Coast.  

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The WestCoastWaySA routes all start in Blaauwberg with the iconic view of Table Mountain, the ocean, beaches and seaside living cafes, eateries and sun loving activities showing urban living at it’s very best.

Turn around, and with Table Mountain at your back head north, either on the N7 or the coastal R27 into the heart of the West Coast.

The landscape is one of long straight roads, often flat, sometimes undulating for miles, always offering either a shimmer of mountains in the distance, or the endless yellow of farmlands that contrast so beautifully with the huge sky. Skies that are so brightly blue they seem fake, at other times putting on a show of black clouds that create a dramatic ceiling over your head, or delicate wispy white puffs that move and change as you watch them.

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Look left or right and you are bound to see tractors raising clouds of dust, wind pumps creaking in the breeze and farm stalls on the side of the road tempting you to stop for something homemade.

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On the coastal route, sand dunes and hills covered by fynbos or renosterveld form a band of colour between the road and the sea. Long left turns lead you to stony beaches, white sandy bays, sheltered coves and wild, windy fishing sites.

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The best known towns are possibly Darling in the interior and Langebaan on the coast, but this region has a myriad of small towns, all with a very individual flavour. There is nothing generic here and I really hope it stays that way.

Tiny mission villages lost in time look up at the same starry skies as seaside resorts and small towns built around the agricultural communities and fishing industry.

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Like any industry tourism has its buzzwords, the latest being the following.

Slow living, referring to a more balanced lifestyle, with a strong focus on food, locally sourced, fresh, seasonal and cooked the old fashioned way.

Authentic experiences ,in a nutshell means avoiding tourism icons and living more like a local somewhere off the beaten track or in a residential neighbourhood rather than a touristy area.

Responsible and sustainable tourism looks holistically at the industry and strives to promote community participation, environmentally friendly practices and ensure long term success. Think job creation, education, conservation, recycling, water and energy efficient, cultural development and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Food.  It’s a “thing”.  These days food is much more than what you eat when you are hungry. Food is in capital letters, it is a massive industry that is hugely photographed, consumed and televised.

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So here’s the “thing” about the West Coast. They are on trend, and have been before any of this was a trend. On the West Coast you just do live slowly, eat well, recycle, conserve resources and get on with your life. The buzzwords are, and always have been their lifestyle.

Being remote, any experience here is authentic because they are not on anyone’s bucket list yet.

You will recall your childhood on the West Coast and you will find your granny in these towns. It might be one of her sayings coming out the mouth of a stranger, or items familiar to you from your long forgotten visits to her house, or the stories she told of days gone by that always include a good laugh ,  and often a larger than life character, the kind that are hard to find these days.

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I had a sneak peek into parts of the two new routes launched by West Coast Way SA, namely the Scenic and Berg routes.

Koringberg on the Scenic route intrigues me, and I have yet to set foot in this tiny hamlet.

At the Desert Rose farm stall on the N7, I listened to Tannie Marta, the local Post office lady; talk about Koringberg situated 6km up the road. I think she might be the self-appointed mayor and tourism officer of Koringberg, she certainly knows everything that is presently going on, I doubt there is much she missed of what happened in the past, and she has very clear ideas on how the town should go forward into the future.

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I loved Tannie Marta’s stories; I came home and virtually toured Koringberg and the surrounds on Google Earth. I need to walk its street, photograph its moments, talk to its people and absorb its essence. I can’t wait.

Koringberg is just off the N7 halfway between Moorreesberg and Piketberg, and is 118km from Cape Town.

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I think it is time for rural and urban South Africa to shake hands and see each other realistically.

The young adults in the rural areas are convinced that success and happiness lie in the cities, while every increasing affluent city dwellers and early retirees are leaving the city in search of a better lifestyle in a small town.

In 2008 tourism was declared the new gold of South Africa. Since then we have been through a global economic depression, but tourism growth has managed to hold its own.

We need to mine the tourism gold responsibly and by supporting and promoting tourism in the rural towns we can do just that. For every urbanite that relocates to a small town and embraces the lifestyle and the community, jobs can be created, city friends can be exposed to the area and a micro economy can begin an upward spiral.  Sometimes all it takes to ignite a creative spark is for local inhabitants to see their home town through the eyes of delighted visitors. There are thousands of wonderful people in our tiny towns who have a wealth of knowledge and passion for their area who are doing amazing things, and we should be supporting them with our custom and marketing them by word of mouth.

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Creating tourism routes is not an easy job, but it is an important one. It is the first introduction to places we have previously never heard of or considered visiting. West Coast Way SA is doing a sterling job of linking the towns and attractions of the West Coast by geographical location and themed experience. The offerings are diverse but have a very strong food, wine, culture, adventure and nature loving flavour.

With the most Northern point of the routes being only 215km from Cape Town it makes it relatively easy to incorporate more than one route into your holiday planning or visit any of the towns as a day trip from Cape Town.

Everything is offered from relaxed camping to five star luxury, so do your bit for the country and find your personal favourite on the Cape’s West Coast.

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I am not yet able to fully define the West Coast, contradictory, compelling, creative and surprising  are the best I can do for now.

I do know that you will find the essence of South Africa on the West Coast.

I think we should refer a trip to the West Coast as “going for gold”

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Out and about in South Africa

Diversity is our middle name here in South Africa.

Click here  to see some of my stories as published by AFK Travel.

A little bit of the history of Johannesburg during the era of the Randlords, or perhaps you prefer the Victorians of Matjiesfontein?

Find adventure and wine in Elgin Valley in the Western Cape,  and meet sharks, nature and the great outdoors in Gansbaai, a fishing village, and now the number one destination in the world for responsible and sustainable tourism.

The Moravians of Mamre on the Cape West Coast.

It takes just 45 minutes to travel back in time to 300 years ago.

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Back in the day, long before this fertile valley caught the attention of Jan van Riebeeck and his cronies from the Dutch East India Company, the inhabitants were a Khoi-San tribe, known at the time as “Cochoquas” or “Proper Saldanhars” who lived off the land and had a very nice life.

Then in 1652 the Dutch colonized the Cape, and like all colonisers they spread out, explored and with little or no regard for local inhabitants, they took over.

France, Britain and Portugal all added to the history of the Cape, but the people who made the biggest and lasting impression on Mamre were the Moravian Missionaries.

 Who are the Moravians?

The Moravian Church was founded in the Czech Republic in 1457, and is said to be the first breakaway from Catholicism. By the 1670’s the movement was pretty much destroyed as a result of persecution and wars.

The rebirth occurred in Germany in 1720, and by 1730 missionaries from Herrnhut in Saxony, East Germany were sent out to spread the word. The first Moravian Mission Station in South Africa was established in Genadendal in 1792, and local people were trained to become teachers and ministers.

In 1808 the Moravian missionaries were given  three farms in the area around Mamre. They were not really interested in the politics of the Cape, nor were they mad about the Dutch or British who governed there. They wanted to spread the word of God, convert the followers of Islam, and build a community, teaching skills like  farming, carpentry, brick laying and leather tanning to the local people.

Moravian lifestyle.

After their strong Christian beliefs and values, community, respect and education appear to be the cornerstone of the Moravian lifestyle.  They were way ahead of their times in their thinking and ideals. They created communities that embraced people of all nationalities, races and status, who worked and lived together peacefully.

More astonishing was that in the days when women were not permitted to vote, and children should be seen and not heard, the Moravians not only allowed ordinary men or women to be affirmed and chosen as priests, they also believed that the spiritual and educational life of children was of high importance.

They taught skills and work ethics that empowered people to create better lives for their families, and taught others how to become teachers . Good succession planning way before the expression was coined.

The Mamre Moravian Mission Station is a collection of nine historical buildings.

The oldest building, The Parsonage, was built in 1697.

In 1822 the Church was completed and is the fifth oldest church building in South Africa. In 1887 the impressive Marcusson Organ was brought from Norway and is still used today.

The Cook House dates back to 1700, and visitors can arrange to bake bread in the old fire place.

Other buildings include the Old Shop which serves lovely teas and baked goods, the Long House which brings the military history of Mamre to life, the Mill, Acorn House and the school.

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The Mission Station is a peaceful place.  The whitewashed buildings on either side of the wide road are shaded by old oak trees, or look out onto open areas of wild flowers and colourful gardens.

On one side the view is of the hills in the distance, and a charming path winding next to to the stream. To the other side a hill rises up leading to walks, views and the cemetery.

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We took this path, stopping to explore the remains of an abandoned house halfway up the hill, then spent an hour walking through the graveyard. The names on many of the headstones are Germanic, some dating back to the 1800’s, and they all tell stories, some very sad.

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The Wild Flowers

Flower season is between July and October, with August and September generally offering the most spectacular displays.

Many flowers will not open on an overcast day, but when the sun is shining the optimum time is between 11am and 3 pm, so plan accordingly.

Please walk carefully through the fynbos and try to avoid standing on the plants. Do not pick any plants or flowers , they are there to be enjoyed by everyone.

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Tour guide  Reginald Josias  083 528 6120  seastreamscc@gmail.com.  Reginald grew up in Cape Town and was sworn into the Moravian Church as was the tradition if you wanted to stay in Mamre as a citizen at the time. A registered Tour Guide, Reginald is a mine of information regarding the history of this area. I found him to be very professional, well prepared and an absolute gentleman.

  Gay Alexander  alexandergay368@yahoo.com  083 615 3749 . Gay is a resident of Mamre and she knows almost everyone in the town. She has numerous stories and anecdotes about growing up in Mamre and offers guided tours that are informative, personal and include stories that have been passed down to her through the generations.

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How to get there.

Mamre is just 60km from Cape Town. Take the N7 until you see the Engen Swartland One Stop Petrol station,and just beyond that take the left turn to the R304. Travel for 4.8km until you reach a T junction and turn right. Continue on this road for 17.8km, through Atlantis, past the first turning into Mamre.

Look out for the sign on your left that says Mamre Historical Moravian Mission. Drive through the stone walled entrance and follow the road to the traffic circle. Go round 3/4s and you are at the entrance to Die Werf.

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Thank you to West Coast Way, Reginald and Gay for giving me the opportunity to experience Mamre.

Stanford. The repeat #shotleft destination.

L o c a t i o n.           Lo  c  a  t  i  o  n          L   o   c   a   t   i   o   n.  

143 km from Cape Town

Mountains & rivers  |    Birds & bush   |     Food & wine   |   Beer & cheese

 Adventure   |    Pamper  |   Relax

  Explore 

via

Horse   |  kayak  |  quad-bike   |  bicycle  |  car  | boat  | small plane

Walk or hike the

heritage  |  history   |  fynbos & flowers  |  markets & crafts  |  birds  |  antiques  routes

STANFORD-VILLAGE-INFOGRAPHIC
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