Tread lightly no matter where you travel

Posted by Mishqah Schippers on 23 December 2020

Conscious of travel’s inherent effects on the environment, Mark Samuel heads for the Cape’s Slanghoek Valley in a hybrid-electric Lexus, to recce the area while also reducing his impact.

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

The Lexus UX 250h SE is a stylish hybrid electric car that leaves a lighter footprint on road tripping.

What does it mean to travel in a sustainable way? Where you still get to venture out and exper
ience new places but your impact on the micro and macro environment is reduced, or at the very least, properly considered.

Like a game of mental tennis, these thoughts bounced around my head as 
I cruised up Du Toitskloof Pass, gently feathering the throttle of my Lexus UX 250h. Chosen specifically for its lighter environmental footprint, this vehicle is a self-charging hybrid electric that cleverly combines a conventional internal combustion engine with an electric propulsion system.

The energy monitoring system on the dash had me as distracted as a teen with a new smartphone. The info it spouts is fascinating and I had to force my attention back to the road ahead. Depending on driving conditions and battery levels, the UX is constantly deciding whether to draw exclusively on the battery, use a blend of electric- and petrol power, or just the fuel-air-spark process with which we’re all so familiar. The power-usage graphic feeds you this information in real time, passively coaxing you to drive more efficiently.

An internal debate about sustain-
ability can become all-consuming, 
potentially ruining a holiday. At the risk of upsetting fanatics, the best 
approach is about compromise and balance, which is why this Lexus was the perfect solution for my sojourn into the scenic Slanghoek Valley of the Western Cape. Full electric is the 
future of motoring (see the side panel on the Jaguar I-Pace and VW e-Golf) but until battery storage and its range limitations are resolved – especially for areas as vast as Southern Africa where little infrastructure exists – compromises have to be made if you want to visit far-flung destinations.

The drive through the Slanghoek Valley provides visual overload.

I’m a sucker for mountain roads, so heading up Du Toitskloof Pass was a no-brainer. The alternative out of Cape Town on the N1 is the 3.9km-long Huguenot Tunnel that cuts through the Klein Drakenstein Mountains. Up and over the pass on the R101, on the other hand, immerses you in the rugged beauty of the Limietberg Nature Reserve. Much of this old road was built by Italian prisoners of war in the early 1940s. Although a farm track through these mountains dates back to the 1730s, the road as we know it was completed in 1949. It’s an oldie, but a true wonder of the region.

After rejoining the N1 on the Worcester side of the pass, immense mountain buttresses line the valley, towering above you like the Wall from Game of Thrones. Swooping along the dual carriageway with my fuel consumption registering less than 5l/100km, I swung a right back on to the R101, here also called the ‘Old N1 Road’, and entered the ridiculously 
picturesque Breedekloof wine district. Almost 
exclusively agricultural and encompassing Rawsonville, the Slanghoek Valley and Goudini, vineyards and fruit orchards as far as the eye can see saturate the fertile landscape.

Chenin Blanc is the preferred cultivar in this valley of 28 wineries.

In addition to your mode of transport, travel that’s more sustainable also hinges on your accommodation. What materials are used in the building’s 
construction? How is water usage managed? Are guests encouraged to minimise electricity consumption? If food is served, how is it sourced? When I travel, these are questions I ask, which is why I ended up at Picardi Place, a one-hectare sanctuary in the middle of miles of vineyards just off Slanghoek Road.

‘I bought this piece of land in 2007 when my parents moved to Rawsonville,’ says owner Jaco Brand. ‘I was always in love with this area – to me its climate feels more Mediterranean, and it’s not so commercialised as Franschhoek and Stellenbosch.’

The outside of Bosjes Kombuis features a ‘Tree of life’ mural, made up of 366 tiles.

And Jaco’s right – there’s an honesty to the area, a warmness that emanates from the locals. Nothing seems fake, or hidden behind a veneer put in place just for tourists.

Over the past 13 years, Jaco has transformed 
Picardi Place, and in addition to several large en suite rooms in his farmhouse, the jewel is the stand-alone Chamomile Cottage on the western corner of his property. Constructed mainly from rough-hewn timber, it sleeps six comfortably, two downstairs, and four 
upstairs in two separate loft spaces. Its crystal-clear water comes from a borehole, which is gas-heated for the 
bathrooms and kitchen. Out front, it was a challenge extricating myself from the wood-fired hot tub – the 
perfect place from which to stare up at the Milky Way on clear nights.

Jaco Brand and friends.

Jaco recently held his 600th pasta-making course out here, one of several reasons guests book their stay. Many ingredients used in the courses are grown in Jaco’s organic veggie gardens out back.

The 22km-long Slanghoek Road snakes northwards through a fertile valley of the same name. It’s bordered by hulking mountains with giant-sized natural ramparts, carved by ravines fashioned by eons-old streams. A little single-lane bridge that floods when the Breede River rises marks the end of the road. Once you’re done exploring this area, take a left here and head 3km up the R43 before turning left again on to the R301 Bain’s Kloof Pass road, which altogether creates the perfect circular route through some of the Cape’s finest mountains.

Chamomile Cottage’s wood-fired hot tub.

Motoring Match-up

Road-trip

Lexus UX 250h SE

Featuring unique design and high levels of standard specification, this latest offering from Japan is sure to win many fans in crossover territory. The 2.0-litre motor lacks torque when unassisted.
135kW @ 6 000r/min
180 Nm+e @ 4 800r/min

R756 200



Contender 1

Jaguar I-Pace EV400 AWD HSE

Expensive, but an out-of-this-world package courtesy of its electric drivetrain. South African Car of the Year, 2019.
294kW

696Nm

R1 854 200

Contender 2

Volkswagen e-Golf

Instant torque, comfortable, fun to drive, affordable to run and high levels of refinement. Except, range plummets on the highway, charging infrastructure is a headache and you can’t actually buy one.

100kW

290Nm

Price unavailable

Picardi Place

Base yourself here for a few days, just off Slanghoek Road. Wine farms and restaurants are close by, or stay put for a pasta-making course with owner Jaco Brand. Chamomile Cottage is beautifully and rustically styled, and few spots are more inviting than the front stoep and wood-fired hot tub. The outdoor showers are also a highlight. Weddings are hosted at Picardi Place too, on the lush lawns or inside the old barn. 
Cottage from 
R1 900 for two, sharing. Rooms 
from R450 pps.
Slanghoek Road, Rawsonville.
picardiplace.co.za

Bosjes

Just off the R43 Mitchell’s Pass Road 
at the foot of Waaihoek Peak in the Hex River Mountains, Bosjes is a tranquil haven with a rich history dating back to 1790. On the property now are immaculate 
indigenous gardens; Bosjes Kombuis, a 
bistro-styled restaurant; a Manor House with five luxury suites and a striking glass-walled wedding chapel. When in the area, pull in for 
a meal, a cup of coffee and a snack, or just to see the chapel.
bosjes.co.za






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