Day 6 : Calitzdorp, Ladismith and Barrydale
Drive Time : 2 hours +
Leave Oudtshoorn and take “Route 62” direction Calitzdorp
Choose to carry on or stop for the night either Calitzdorp (45 minute drive), Ladismith (90 minute drive) or Barrydale (2hr 30 minute drive)
Today, you drive along the majority of the infamous Route 62 which kind of piggy backs on the fame of Route 66 in the States but is similar to it in no discernable way. There’s a whole website dedicated to the route at www.route62.co.za.
This scenic route is through the semi arid Little Karoo and is flanked by the Swartberg and Langeberg mountains. It’s the kind of road where you need a nice throaty sports car and some dicey music to sing along to. (‘On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair’…Phil, please stop before we have to shoot you). If all you’ve got is a Toyota Corolla (or worse) and a Barry Manilow CD, (God help you), you’ll have to make do with the epic scenery, vegetation, the vernacular architecture and the endless array of great little places to eat and stroll about.
Ladismith (not Ladysmith if you have a GPS which is totally the wrong way from Oudthoorn) was named after Lady Juana Smith, wife of the Governor of the Cape, Sir Harry Smith, and is quite a young town at 1852. The main industries here are fruit and flower growing, most of it for export, so the jams and preserves here are really worth getting (for much less than you’d get the same quality overseas). Most of the buildings are from the Victorian era, obviously, but they’re well preserved and pretty. Troops of baboons are common and rare leopards roam the mountains too.
Probably the most famous thing about Barrydale is Ronnie’s Sex Shop, which has nothing to do with sex (unless you’d like to be the first, of course) and is in fact merely a bar at the side of the road in the middle of the desert. That’s it. The whole thing started as a joke when Ronnie complained to friends of his that he wasn’t getting enough business as a convenience store (desert – convenience store: I also don’t see the connection) so they painted the word ‘sex’ between the words ‘Ronnie’ and ‘Shop’. So many people stopped to take a photo or just out of curiosity that the place ‘went viral’ and now hosts its very own music festivals and bikers weekends year round. See www.ronniessexshop.co.za.
Calitzdorp is all about port and some very good stuff too: we’d really suggest trying some at the side of the road and buying a bottle to have around the campfire with some blue cheese. It also lays claim to being the closest place to the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve which was established to conserve the only local population of the endangered Cape mountain zebra in their natural habitat. The name Gamka is derived from the Khoekhoen (‘Hottentot’) word gami, meaning lion. The reserve is open daily from sunrise to sunset and is well worth a visit. Day visitors have access to the information centre, short hikes and picnic and braai facilities.
Places to Stay :
Barrydale Karoo Hotel
Tel : 028 572 1226
This great little place is what happens when Cape Town funky chic meets old style Wild West Bar/Saloon: the building looks like the kind of place you could have filmed High Noon but the inside is a riot of colour and light. Nothing’s toned down here: it’s all very joyful and naïve inside, not too serious and stylish but warm, comfortable and friendly. They organise a whole heap of stuff for the surrounding area too, from hot spring baths to 4x4 trips.