Have you heard of South Africa’s Ben10 Challenge? The aim is to drive 10 gravel passes in the Eastern Cape, all at an altitude above 2,000 metres, within seven days. You can do it any manner you like – drive, ride, cycle, run or walk – taking time to discover the Eastern Cape Highlands along the way.
The Challenge includes these 10 passes:
1. Ben MacDhui Pass (3001m)
2. Carlisleshoekspruit Pass (2563m)
3. Volunteershoek Pass (2581m)
4. Naudes Nek Pass (2590m)
5. Lundin’s Nek Pass (2170m)
6. Joubert’s Pass (2234m)
7. Bastervoetpad Pass (2240m]
8. TTT [Tiffindell-Tenahead Traverse] (2720m)
9. Otto du Plessis Pass (2115m)
10. Barkly Pass (2018m)
It’s growing in popularity, with Mountain Passes South Africa offering tours. But where to stay along the way? Tiffindell used to offer camping but no longer does and there aren’t many other viable camping options in the area. Instead, it’s best to look at places to stay in and around Rhodes. Famed for its fly fishing and mountain scenery, these are some of our recommended options in that picturesque corner of South Africa.
1. The Bothy
The Bothy is one of the town’s more comfortable cottages. The large, open-plan dining area is homely and the little veranda and outside, grassy lawn is ideal for a braai. If braaiing feels a little unappealing – and it can get icy in the highlands – the cosy interior is an ideal place to hunker down and stay warm, with thick duvets, electric blankets and an indoor fire. Beyond the walls, there are hundreds of kilometres of fishable streams, and non-fishers can still make use of the fishing permit system to walk, hike, mountain bike and swim.
2. Tenahead Lodge & Spa
Built from layered stone found in the area, this five-star lodge fits perfectly into the natural and unspoiled environment. While the road to Tenahead is long and windy, and a little bumpy, the destination is well worth it. Inside the “Highest Mountain Lodge in South Africa”, you’ll find cosy and spacious living areas. In chilly weather, there’s a toasty fireplace to dine alongside. In better conditions, visitors can walk the mountains in search of wildflowers and birds. The seven en-suite bedrooms provide five-star comfort, with the on-site spa the cherry on top.
3. Rhodes Hotel
The Rhodes Hotel was established in 1899 and built to be a comfortable haven to explore the then-wild frontier. Traders and farmers from across the region gambled and cajoled in the legendary De Wydeman pub. The pub, beautifully restored, still offers visitors a glimpse into the past. The hotel acts as home-away-from-home for both the fly-fishermen, road trippers and other adventurers.
4. The Walkerbouts Inn
The Walkerbouts Inn was established almost three decades ago by Dave Walker on the same site as the original farmhouse of the farm “Tintern” on which the village of Rhodes was established in 1891. It enjoys an elevated position on the western side of Rhodes on a quiet cul-de-sac. The view from Walkerbouts across the village is stunning, with the magnificent backdrop of the mountains en route to the Naude’s Nek Pass, and is the perfect place to tuck into their fine country meals, sourced from local produce.
5. Kinmel Guest Farm
On the outskirts of Rhodes, very near to the foot of Naude’s Nek pass, at the end of a gravel road, you will find the outstretched fields and mountain slopes of the Kinmel Guest Farm. The old barn has been transformed and divided into two private and fully equipped chalets. Each offers a full kitchen, three separate bedrooms and two bathrooms (bath and shower). They’re spacious enough for groups of up to eight per chalet, and, at the same time, still cosy enough for a break away weekend for two. Kinmel is an active farm – with bleating sheep and a trout-heavy river, a mere 500m from the chalet, adding to its pastoral allure.
Pictures: Courtesy of properties