The Great South African Escape 4x4 Tour - Part 3...

For previous posts in this series, please follow this link.

The Nguni cattle walking on the beach at Mbotyi River Lodge have reached legendary status. The Xhosa people introduced cattle to the Wild Coast between 600 and 700 AD. Try to wake up a little earlier today to experience these painted cows - bread from different European and Indian cattle breeds - on the beach!

Following a delicious Mbotyi breakfast, our SA Adventure guides will give you a run-down of the day's proceedings, and boy-oh-boy is it going to be a day packed with adventure! Before we head off, don't forget to buy a box of Magwa Rooibos tea in reception, it's the best you'll ever taste!

We travel up the same gravel road through the Wild-coast forest and tea plantation, saying hi to cattle herders on horseback, and losing ourselves in the misty pine plantation.

The drive towards Port St Johns on twisty paved roads is a real sensory treat. We'll go through grasslands, along riverine gorges, patches of forests, and will stop to take plenty of photos of the beautiful scenery before making our way to Mthatha. We will navigate through the bustling town and head to Maclear, where we'll stop to refuel, and we all have to refuel as we won't see any fuel-stops for a while.

Just outside of Maclear we get onto the gravel road that leads us to the start of our South African High Mountain Passes part of the adventure. It’s a beautiful road, winding its way through the PG Bison pine forests. The first pass we come across is the Potrivier Pass. The pass gets its name from the River, which sources in the Drakensberg. The pass summits at 1783 meters ASL.

The next pass on our route is Elandshoogte, the pass is 10.7km long and the corners and curves of this pass will leave even the most avid off-roader at a loss for words. Elandshoogte leads us on to the major pass of the day, Naude’s Nek.

Contradictory to popular belief, Naude's Nek is not the highest gravel pass in South Africa, it is actually the third-highest in altitude, superseded by the Ben MacDhui Pass and the Tenahead-Tiffindell Traverse. The meandering road of Naude's Nek transports us over the spectacular Southern Drakensberg, to a summit of 2596 meters ASL. If you've never driven over Naude's Nek, you will absolutely be amazed by the scenery. The vegetation is different at high altitudes, so get ready to feel like you've been teleported to another planet. The pass is well maintained, and although steep and windy, is a fairly straight forward drive.

The twisty road through the mammoth mountains opens up towards the historical village of Rhodes. Rhodes is located in the Eastern Cape Highlands, near the edge of the southernmost end of the epic Drakensberg mountain range. We've been greeted by Rainbows on two different occasions while driving into Rhodes in 2020, and both occurrences have stirred up quite a bit of emotion in the SA Adventure Team.

The village of Rhodes will be our base for the next two nights. Being at such high altitudes means that the temperatures can drop quite dramatically, so even though this tour takes place during the warmer months, please remember to pack a warm jacket.

We will be staying in the village's quaint refurbished Victorian cottages, and our meals will be at the Rubicon Restaurant. As we drive towards The Rubicon, Elizma will wait for us on the stairs of the Rubicon and Mike will be ready behind the bar to serve some of the - on-tap - local craft beer! The atmosphere at Rubicon is exceptional: From the lighting and table settings to the music and the extraordinary three-course dinner, it will become quite clear why we've decided to stay at Rhodes for two nights! After a delicious dinner, Gerrit - one of the local sheep farmers - will give us a little insight into the history of the area. One of our favourite stories is the origin of the War Trail!

Following dinner, we head off to our cottages and fall asleep to the sound of sheep baaing in the distance...

Join us next time for an epic day of off-road driving over a number of passes made popular by the Ben Ten Echo Challenge.

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