The words of Irish poet W.B. Yeats, sensuously chronicled in the poem “A Drinking Song,” reverberate in my ears when I think of the days I spent behind the wheel, traipsing through dainty South African towns along Route 62—often dubbed the world’s longest wine route. For the oenophiles, this 1000-kilometer-long road trip between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town is nothing less than bottled poetry.
If South Africa’s tourism offerings were to be a museum, the coastal vistas of the Garden Route would be its “Mona Lisa,” and the safaris of the West, its “Starry Night.” But in a corner, far from the madding crowd would be a room showcasing Route 62, where one can experience every whim and fancy from Pollockesque wilderness to Daliesque intrigue, replete with bottles of reds, bubblies, and pinks.
The experiences on this route span a wide spectrum—an intimate tango with ostriches, a brush with human history at the Cango Caves, soulful intoxication at wine centres like Calitzdorp and Robertson, a complete detox from the bustle in boutique estate stays, and so on.
PORT ELIZABETH AND WILDERNESS
The first stretch of the road trip straddles South Africa’s craggy coastline, starting in the historic city of Port Elizabeth and culminating in the beachside town of Wilderness, 308 kilometers/ 3.5 hours away. While PE’s urban beaches are blue-flagged, I recommend getting out of the city onto the highway at the get-go to savour this route’s unique delights. This picturesque drive is the only part of Route 62 that intersects with its famous cousin, the Garden Route. So, devour all the ocean vistas on offer by making innumerable stops along the way, none more recommended than a lazy lunch of delectable oysters at Knysna’s harbor.
Further westward, Wilderness is a twee seaside town with long stretches of powdery white-sand beaches, river lagoons, and lookout points featuring majestic views of the Indian Ocean. Go on a small kayak adventure along the river, catch an unforgettable view of the entire Milky Way.
The sunset from the beach, and retreat for the night in a beach house to lap up the panorama. And then head inland for the rest of the trip. If you find yourself here on a moonless night like I did, don’t forget to look up for an unforgettable view of the entire Milky Way.
OUDTSHOORN AND CALITZDORP
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