Avoid the queue take the 62

Posted on 9 December 2020

Many a road leads to (and from) Cape Town but for charming, quirky, and outright wacky, few rival Route 62. Behind the wheel of a new Mazda CX-5, Mark Samuel discovered that a few extra ups and downs are more than worth it.

Words: Mark Samuel | Photos: Mark Samuel and Peet Mocke

Leave Cape Town at sunrise and you’ll be in time for breakfast at Diesel & Crème.

On face value, Route 62 is impractical. It’s not the shortest, nor smoothest. Sections are narrow, the mountain passes steep while glitzy 
refuelling and fast-food spots are few and far between. But shortest, smoothest and flattest… who wants those? Driving from A to B might be 
logical, but A to Z is much more fun, inserting as many zigs and zags, 
mountain passes and quirky stopovers as possible in-between. Interesting people and places make for the best memories, and if these are the metrics by which you measure a successful road trip, then few South African roads outshine the R62.

Which is why my bum is ensconced in the driver’s seat of a new Mazda 
CX-5, with vivid Klein Karoo scenery whizzing by. Winter was wet but the countryside isn’t lush. It never is. However, catch it at the right time and – just like a Monet masterpiece – the rocky outcrops and hardy shrubs are peppered with splashes of green and vibrant colour. Lucky for me that ‘right time’ is now.

The Cape Fold Mountains, formed roughly 280 million years ago due to tectonic shifting, make for 
winding passes and dramatatic scenery.

Geographically, the road is inland of the tiring N2, and several mountaintops and Karoo vlaktes south of the dreary N1. So numerous are the mountain ranges along this route that the Google Maps satellite view presents like clusters of crocodiles drifting from east to west. The start is, well, unclear – it’s roughly around Robertson – and then things get real as it cuts through Cogmanskloof Pass en route to Montagu. The roadworks here are nearing completion but the CX-5 took it all in its stride. At the heart of this Mazda is a powerful yet oh-so-smooth 2.2-litre turbo diesel that seems content no matter the cruising conditions.

It’s impossible to dislike Montagu. It’s dotted with quaint coffee shops and restaurants, a nursery, weekly farmers’ market, and towering 
mountains envelop the dorpie, many of which boast the best rock-climbing routes anywhere in South Africa.

Some 20 kilometres down the road, a bright swash of colour caught my eye – the driveway daisies leading up to Leon’s on 62 were in full bloom. Here I chatted with bistro owner Leon Gevers, connected with his rooster and pet parrot and romped with his duo of dachshunds. If a leg stretch and a snack is needed, pull over here.

Have the Chili-Chili-Bang-Bang shake, we dare you.

Barrydale is a central character on Route 62, even if you only sneak in 
for a milkshake at the legendary 
Diesel & Crème. Also, save a rand per litre on diesel and fill up at the local Agrimark, the CX-5 is frugal but it 
was time.

But have you even driven Route 62 if you don’t stop at Ronnie’s Sex Shop? Like the immutable mountains, Ronnie’s been an indelible character in these parts for decades. If there were a gatekeeper of the Klein Karoo, he would be it.

Swooping through from Ladismith to Calitzdorp, Huis River Pass is a spectacular feat of engineering. Major renovations were completed in 1966, and while zooming through is pure motoring joy, lunch at one of the roadside picnic spots is recommended.

Sure, Oudtshoorn is all about 
ostriches, meerkats, crocodiles and chasmic caves but in addition to all those, treat yourself and head all the way through and beyond neighbouring De Rust to Meiringspoort. Though no longer strictly R62 territory, this is one of South Africa’s greatest passes and worth a visit, and craning my neck to view the immense rock formations meant keeping my eyes on the road proved challenging.

The colourful trail to Leon’s on 62. Bistro and Kontreiwinkel.

Swinging into the poort’s info centre was the final turnaround spot for my Mazda and me. To mark this, I ambled up to the 60 metre-high Great Waterfall, which pummels down a steep gulley into a nine metre-deep pool. Privileged to have it all to myself, 
I took a moment to reflect. A meandering tortoise I’d watched a few days earlier confirmed it all for me: The journey’s the adventure, really, and Route 62 is the perfect stage.

Motoring Match-up

Road-trip vehicle

Mazda CX-5 2.2DE AWD Akera

The flagship version of Mazda’s sleekly styled CX-5 is lovely to drive, more practical than it might look and positively packed to the rafters with kit. There’s a reason it’s routinely Mazda SA’s top seller, after all.

140kW @ 4 500r/min
450Nm @ 2 000r/min

Service plan
Three-year/unlimited km

R649 900

Meiringspoort Pass with its 60 metre high waterfall and canyons of rock are well worth the trip.

Contender 1

Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI Highline 4Motion

Despite the facelifted model appearing on the local horizon (it’s due to arrive in SA in the first quarter of 2021), the outgoing Tiguan is still 
a compelling option. 
It’s getting a little expensive, though.

130kW @ 3 500–4 000r/min
380Nm @ 1 750–3 000r/min

Service plan
Five-year/90 000km

R665 100

Contender 2

Ford Kuga 2.0TDCi AWD ST Line

An often-overlooked contender in the midsize crossover segment thanks to its seemingly tainted badge, the diesel-powered Kuga remains a capable vehicle. It boasts the longest service plan here, too.

132kW @ 3 500r/min
400Nm @ 2 000–3 250r/min

Service plan
Six-year/90 000km

R617 000

Viljoensdrift River Cruise

On the outskirts of Robertson, experience the Breede River on an hour-long cruise at Viljoensdrift wine farm. Board Uncle Ben 2, then settle back with your glass of wine and picnic basket as you gaze at the abundant birdlife and lofty trees on the riverbanks. 
R90 for adults; R20 for children (ages 3 to 12).

Stay Here

AfriCamps at Pat Busch Mountain Reserve
is 15 minutes from Robertson, tucked away in a verdant valley. Ten luxury tents each sleep up to five guests. Every tent has two bedrooms, a bathroom with shower and loo, a fully kitted kitchen, dining area, living room and a large deck overlooking the valley. Swim in the pool or farm dam, or go hiking or biking in the mountains.
From R1 190 (single), or R595 (shared) during low season; Bergendal Farm, Robertson.

Africamps Klein Karoo

Blue Cow Barn
is a collection of four charming cottages on the Cooke family farm, on the edge of town in Barrydale. Cottages ‘Ansie’, ‘Betsie’, ‘Corlie’ and ‘Donsie’ sleep up to 12 in total. Each has a kitchenette, en suite bathroom, and a wonderful view of the surrounding mountains.
From R250–R350 pp pn sharing; corner of Van Collier St and Villiers St, Barrydale.

AfriCamps Klein Karoo
is on the road to the Cango Caves, five minutes from Oudtshoorn. Each tent is ultra comfortable, sleeping up to five in two bedrooms. An en suite bathroom, lounge, dining area, kitchen and spacious deck make for the perfect luxury camping experience. And while here, book a stargazing experience with True South Travel (082 461 8253). You won’t regret it.
 From R1 190 (single), or R595 (shared) during low season; Buffelsdrift Farm, Cango Caves Road, Oudtshoorn.


Also read:

20 Things to do in Montagu in 2022

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