IN THE WAGON TRACKS OF LADY ANNE BARNARD AND THE 16 SPECTACULAR PASSES OF THE CAPE FOLDED MOUNTAINS

6 days : Tour starts and ends in Cape Town

Lady Anne Barnard was the wife of the secretary to the first British governor of the Cape at the end of the 18th Century. As the governor's wife did not come out, she took over the 'hostess' role. In addition she established a reputation for herself as an intrepid and enthusiastic explorer in her own right.

Such zest for adventure coupled to her writing ability provided a chronicle of what life was like traveling eastwards by ox cart along many now forgotten Cape highways in search of new horizons.

Not only did the early travelers have to contend with a landscape twisted and contorted by the cataclysmic upheavals and tectonic forces associated with the breaking up of Gondwanaland some 600 million years ago, but they had to cope with hostile ethnic interactions and Africa's 'Big Five' mammals as ever present threats along the way.

'Awe inspiring' best encapsulates the description of many a mountain pass traversed with extreme difficulty and great determination as travelers and traders of the day painstakingly wended their way over the precarious heights of the Cape Folded Mountains and through steep-sided river gorges in search of new opportunities in a land of promise characterized by mystery and pioneering hardship.

And so in this modern day of motorized transport we follow in the 'wagon tracks' of an era past that will provide a medley of cultural, scenic, botanical, mammal and birding experiences for all to enjoy as a fitting tribute to those early pathfinders responsible for pioneering the way through the foreboding mountain ranges of the Southern Cape to the hinterland beyond ...

Day 1

We leave our overnight stop in the historical naval village of Simon's Town for the southern end of Ou Kaapse Weg as the original wagon route to the South Peninsula was known. Heading north into the arid and open landscape of the Karoo, the air becomes drier as we follow the line of rail northwards to an isolated and semi-forgotten Boer War cemetery a few kilometers short of a Victorian cluster of houses and a single hotel that collectively comprise Matjiefontein. Indeed it is a fascinating settlement representing a now famous country retreat that remains little changed as a popular winter retreat for gale beleaguered Capetonians seeking respite from the rain in a 'dry' Karoo environment far away from the cold and wet of the Peninsula.

Here we will spend our first night enjoying a menu of traditional country fare including local lamb and venison, accompanied by a superb selection of table wines from the Worcester area, in a Colonial dining setting adorned with stag's antlers before turning in for the night.

Day 2

A full South African breakfast marks the start to the day as we enter the realm of the Great Karoo with its scrub studded rolling hills and acacia choked drainage lines. Returning to Calitzdorp we cross the valley to the foothills of the towering Swartberg mountain range before meandering along a delightful valley of isolated smallholdings to Groenfontein farm for the night. Here the more energetic can indulge in a guided nature walk and for those less inclined the pool or shaded veranda of the old farmstead offer relaxing alternatives ahead of a farmstyle dinner.

Day 3

An early morning saunter along one of several walking trails sets the day in motion, followed by breakfast on the spacious veranda before driving through to the foot of the Swartberg Pass. From here we travel south to Prince Alfred's Pass before dropping down through the lush forests and pine plantations of the Garden Route to the warm and inviting Indian Ocean. It is indeed a soft and welcoming environment in contrast to the harsh and rugged topography of the interior.

Late afternoon sees our arrival at a specially selected guesthouse in Plettenberg Bay for the night followed by a seafood meal of oysters and fresh fish in the town before turning in after a day of geographic contrast.

Day 4

A short walk ahead of breakfast along the Robberg Peninsula exposes us to sea on both sides and a diverse mix of hardy plants and succulents amongst the iron oxide outcrops. From the heights we may well see dolphins and whales.

We will cross the mountain range into the Succulent Karoo, heading for our overnight stop beyond Barrydale on a game reserve under African skies. Our evening meal will be a classic braai complete with 'potjie kos' and oven baked stone ground bread prepared in a traditional wood fired oven. Later that night a short game drive should deliver up sightings of nocturnal animals such as Springhare, Porcupine, Spotted Genet, Scrub Hare, Black-backed Jackal, Bat-eared Fox and if we are really lucky the shy and strikingly impressive Caracal Africa's only Lynx.

Day 5

Break of day sees the game drive underway as we set off in search of 'Big Game' including Lion, Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo along with a wide variety of antelope.

After brunch at the safari lodge we travel over the Tradouw Pass to the Bontebok National Park and then on to Swellendom for a light lunch in the early afternoon. Eventually we arrive at the most southerly tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas where we will spend the night. Dinner will be 'Catch of the Day' superbly presented and complemented by a wide choice of superb wines from the immediate area.

Day 6

Our last day follows a network of gravel roads via the old Elim mission to the coastal fishing town of Gansbaai. It is here that some of the most spectacular underwater sequences of Great White Sharks have been taken by intrepid photographers intent on up close and personal views of these magnificent creatures. Lunchtime finds us in Hermanus scanning for Southern Right Whales in Walker Bay from a cliff top restaurant specializing in local seafood. From Hermanus we wend our way back to Cape Town via the botanically delightful Harold Porter Wild Flower Reserve before tracing the scenic shoreline of False Bay to our starting off point in Simon's Town for the last night.

Peninsula tour options to Table Mountain, Kirsten bosch Botanical Gardens, Masephumelela Township and Robben Eiland or tailored shopping trips are open for discussion for those wishing to extend their stay.

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