Our Route 62 motorbike road trip from 20 February to 6 March 2021
Route 62 is an inland tarred route between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town that offers a scenic and interesting alternative to the traditional N2 highway that is further South and follows some of the coastline. Route 62 promotes associations with the legendary Route 66 in the USA which was built in 1926 to connect Chicago and Los Angeles. Route 62 (the red line in the map below) covers around 1000 km of mountains, fertile valleys and semi-desserts, ensuring an experience that leaves those who have travelled it with special memories. As Route 62 tends to be a bucket-list trip for many South Africans, particularly those who ride motorbikes, I had been wanting to arrange a bike road trip of this area for years.
Our 15-day Route 62 motorbike trip was originally planned for April 2020, but Covid-19 unfortunately scuppered those dates. We therefore had to postpone it to February and March this year (2021) and in the end a small group of four of us did the whole trip – Avril, Anton, Grant and I. When we do such long bike trips, we try to stay off the main N routes and we typically plan the route to cover an average distance of around 350 to 400 km per day, as this is easily done and is not too tiring. In addition, we do these trips outside school holidays and we normally do not book accommodation in advance, but rather look online for accommodation for the night when we stop for lunch or for something to drink in the afternoon. Doing it this way gives us flexibility and means that we do not need to add “rest days” along the way. It also means that if we get stuck somewhere due to bad weather or some other delay, we can usually catch up by increasing the distance ridden over the next day or two. Having done quite a few two-week bike trips in SA and overseas, we have never battled to find accommodation and the places where we have stayed have seldom been disappointing. Another advantage is that one sometimes finds special last-minute rates when booking on the day.
As is generally the case when riding or driving just about anywhere from Gauteng, the first day is somewhat boring and the scenery only really improves from the second day. Our first day was planned to take us from Gauteng to Bultfontein, but we missed a turnoff to Wesselsbron somewhere after Bothaville and ended up in Odendaalsrus, where we had lunch. We looked online and decided to change our plans and to rather stay on a farm called Die Kuirhuis B&B outside Ventersburg. This was reached via a roughly 14 km dirt road that was a bit tricky on road bikes with road tyres, but we all managed to get there without falling off our bikes. The accommodation was nice and the owners were very friendly and hospitable. We had a lovely “Boerekos” supper there and an equally good breakfast the following morning.
Day 2 took us from Ventersburg to Bethulie via Bloemfontein and Phillipolis, staying off the N1 as far as possible. Our overnight stop was at the Royal Hotel in Bethulie, which is a unique and quirky hotel with literally thousands of LPs and books lining most of the walls in all areas except the actual rooms.
The third day took us from Bethulei to Graaf-Reinet, via the Gariep Dam which was still overflowing after the recent good rains. We stayed overnight at the Roode Bloem Farm House, which is a lovely old house on a farm about 10 km before Graaff-Reinet. One advantage of staying outside the towns is that the stars are so much brighter than when in the cities. The Milky Way is so clear that it seems that you can reach out and touch it and one can see lots of satellites on clear nights.
Day 4 was from Graaff-Reinet to Prince Albert, via Meiringspoort which is absolutely stunning.
Our route for the fifth day was from Prince Albert via the Swartberg Pass to Barrydale. The Swartberg Pass was probably the most impressive of the many great passes we did on this trip and the scenery was amazing. The dirt road had recently been worked on and was in excellent condition. Barrydale is a lovely little town and we found really nice accommodation at Doorways. If you are ever in Barrydale, I can highly recommend that you spend the night there, followed by breakfast at The Diesel and Crème Diner.
Day 6 took us from Barrydale to Riebeek Kasteel, which is another lovely town we stayed in. Luis, an old friend of Grant’s and mine who lives in Cape Town, met up with us along the way and joined us until the next afternoon.
The seventh day was from Riebeek Kasteel to Darling (where we met up with Darryl, another mate of ours, for lunch at The Darling Brewery), Paternoster and then to Langebaan. This day also included us seeing the sea for the first time on this trip.
The route on day 8 was from Langebaan to Kleinmond and included several road passes and amazing scenery. My brother, Guy, rode through from Stellenbosch on his restored 1958 Vespa and joined us in Gordon’s Bay. We then rode the 50 km to Kleinmond against some serious headwinds which were a bit of a battle on the Vespa. This was followed by a lovely supper at KabelJoe’s Seafood Restaurant that night.
Guy left us on the morning of day 9 – he went back to Stellenbosch – and we then headed from Kleinmond to Barrydale, via Cape Agulhas. We had intended staying over in Swellendam but decided to go back to Doorways in Barrydale when we realised how close it was and as they again had rooms for us.
Day 10 took us from Barrydale to Wilderness, doing several more lovely passes along the way.
The eleventh day started with the amazing Seven Passes Road (more info below) from George to Knysna, milkshakes at Marilyn’s Diner near Storms River and on to Port Elizabeth.
The route for day 12 was from Port Elizabeth to Elliot and we stayed at The Mountain Shadows Hotel which is on the road from Elliot to Barkly East. We were then getting close to the Drakenberg Mountains, the scenery was spectacular and the hotel was very nice.
Day 13 was from Elliot to Bulwer. Although there were some nice and scenic stretches, most of the day was spent riding through sprawling settlements and some towns that have sadly really deteriorated over the past 20 or 30 years. If I ever do a similar trip again, I will look for an alternative route from Elliot.
The fourteenth day – from Bulwer to Fouriesburg – included the Midlands Meander (R103) which is very pretty with lots of places to stop, Oliviershoek Pass and the beauty of the Golden Gate National Park. We stayed at the Sandstone Chameleon Guest house in Fouriesburg, which I can highly recommend. If you are ever in the Clarens area for a night, rather stay at Sandstone Chameleon in Fouriesburg. There are some lovely places to eat at in the town and you can then take the lovely and scenic 35 km road to Clarens the next day.
Our last day was getting home from Fouriesburg and once again meant that the scenery would unfortunately be getting boring, the closer we got to Gauteng. Having said that, we rode past many farms with good crops getting ready for harvesting.
The only “trouble” we had on the trip was a rear wheel puncture Grant had in Underberg on day 13. We were fortunately just arriving in the town when he discovered it – his bike has tyre pressure sensors and these alert you before you feel it. He fortunately had a puncture repair kit with him, which he used to plug the hole very quickly and he did not have any further problems with it on the trip.
The above is but a taste of the trip, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. The company was great, the scenery was amazing and most of the roads were good. If you have any urge to do a road trip, be it by car or (preferably) by motorbike, do yourself a favour and do Route 62. You won’t be sorry.