On my drive back to North Carolina I went through Greenville and stopped at Falls Park on the Reedy. This is a beautiful free to all entry park with ample space to setup a picnic away from other people. With the falls from the river providing a starting point for industry many years back, a lot of history can been seen in Greenville itself.
The Sunday I drove through Greenville it was a perfect day with highs in the mid 20°C the bistros around the park and the park itself was buzzing with activity, but with more than enough space I never felt over crowded.
Visiting friends in Easley, South Carolina – a small town outside Greenville, much closer to a mountain range than Indian Trail – I used the opportunity to go for a hike.
After searching online for possible trails I could take, keeping in mind that some of the trails might be closed for the winter, I decided to see if I could find a meetup group in the area that I could join. Seeing as I wanted to do the hike on a Friday morning I realised my options will be limited, but fortunately there is a big hiking community in a town called Asheville, probably because its located close to the mountains. So I joined on of the groups for the hike on the Friday morning.
I originally wanted to do a trail closer to Atlanta, where the start of the Appalachian Trail would be, but realised option of going with a group might be the better option.
We did about a 8.5km hike down into a valley past a couple of awesome waterfalls in a wooded area, and again up to a lookout point on top of a section called ‘The Great Wall’, where we stopped for a short break enjoying the views! With perfect weather, much warmer than I expected, and apparently much warmer than usual for this time of year – close to 20 degrees Celsius – the hike was exactly what I needed to get outside for a bit!
There is a lot of history in the US and in many of the towns you’ll find a sign that says something like ‘History town district’. Some of these areas might be just a few old buildings in between other new modern buildings and in other cases these areas are more of an attraction.
And this is the case with Brattonsville. The town is just a few miles outside of Indian Trail, so just South West of Charlotte and was listed on a ‘Top 10 places to see in South Carolina’ – so on an outing to friends South Carolina I decided to go past it – and its a good excuse to stay off the Interstates.
The story goes that a family settled there and started farming that then furthered the grow in the community by attracting more people to work on the farm and that is, in short, how the town then started. Over years they acquired more land and then in more recent years some of that land has been sold by the family, but some of the land still belongs to the family and is still a working farm.
They’ve moved some of the old buildings to the area where the original farm house was build so you can get a feel for how it was in that time. The tour guides all dress in era specific clothes and its a cool place to walk through the woods and see all the different types of buildings, some still with its original tools and such, all well preserved and restored.
What better to do in the States than a road trip. For that the right vehicle selection is important. Obviously using a bike that screams USA like a Harley-Davidson would be awesome…but traveling during winter at sub zero degree Celsius temperatures on a bike is not the best idea. So I thought I’d get a car equivalent of a Harley, something that is unmistakably American – like a 1980’s Ford Bronco. But…finding a decent one that can do close to 10,000 miles in a few months turned out to be slightly more challenging.
So the next option became a Mustang convertible. And I was able to find a few…we’ll, one or two convertibles but mostly coupe’s within my budget. Unfortunately everything with low mileage was already sold by the time I phoned.
Eventually I found one in South Carolina on the Internet and I decided to drive through one morning with my dad’s car to check it out. But again, by the time I got there the car was already sold. Fortunately the lot I was at had a big selection of vehicles…and after slightly adjusting my budget upwards and negotiating a bit of a discount I was able to drive away with a 2008 Ford Escape! What’s even better is its a hybrid!
So now that I have the Ford I can finally escape and start planning my first road trip…probably up north towards New York…
A huge snow storm was predicted for most of the States. For Indian Trail 3″ to 6″ of snow was predicted to start falling from Friday evening, 6th January 2016. On Friday though the prediction changed in such a way that the snow would have missed Indian Trail.
So, Friday evening we only had some ice rain and woke up to icicles hanging from everything. And from mid morning on Saturday the snow did start falling and a light dusting of white was all over by the end of the day on Saturday!
Getting back from the wedding in Dulstroom on the Sunday afternoon, I only had a few hours to pack the final things for the flight the next day. Having to repack the bags a few times to not go over weight and still fit the few winter clothing items I have, I eventually get everything in and were able to relax at my mom’s place the Sunday evening.
My full travel itinerary were as follow:
Flight from OR Tambo in Johannesburg, South Africa to Dubai
7 hour stay at Dubai
A long flight from Dubai to Washington DC
4 hour stay at Washington
Short flight from Washington to Raleigh, North Carolina
2 hour drive back to my dad’s place from Raleigh
I got a great deal on the flights from South Africa to Washington through Discovery Vitality using Emirates Airways. For the flight from Jo’burg I had an isle seat…and an annoying window seat neighbor that kept drinking beer and soda…and obviously needing to get up every few minutes to run to the loo, waking our middle seat passenger that tried to get in all the sleep he could during the entire flight – a task that became less successful with the beer drinking friend.
It was a morning flight so I stayed awake all the way working in a few episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. In Dubai I tried out the VIP lounge using the Dragonpass vouchers I received from ABSA Bank, which was perfect for some relaxation, food, drinks and some peace and quiet. I first had to run to the duty free shop to get a travel adapter to charge my laptop since I only packed a US to SA adapter and Dubai apparently uses the same plugs as the UK.
The plan was to stay awake till I need to board the plane to the US, so I can sleep during the flight. The theory being that since the plane would arrive at 8am in the States, if I can sleep during the 11 hour flight I should wake up before we land and be rested and cut out having to deal with too much jet lag. But…sleeping on the plane didn’t work out really. It was an empty flight, so had a row of seats to myself, but I ended up finishing the rest of the Brooklyn Nine-Nine episodes…and the movie Civil War…and Avengers…and a few other random episodes of different shows.
Anyway, at Washington getting through passport control was pretty painless, and finding my next local flight was easy enough with the help of the friendly people at the airport.
I blew most of my holiday budget when I decided to buy a sandwich and bottle of water at the airport. But knowing that the United flight of only 1 hour was a 4 hour wait away, I just had to get something to eat…just to stay awake.
My dad came to pick me up for the 2 hour drive home…which I previously though was going to be shorter but I miss judged when I looked for flights and traveling times, but anyway.
The first few days in the States I met some of my parent’s friends and other family members I haven’t seen in years also visited so it was a busy few weeks…with mostly a lot of eating and driving around – but it was all awesome. We played a round of golf at Piper Glen, which was fun. I only lost 2 golf balls, so it was pretty successful, I think.
From this week things will get a bit more into a normal schedule with everyone going back to work. So hopefully I’ll be able to go look for a car for my roadtrip as well as starting to plan the first leg of my trip.
Part of the pre-US plans were to attend friends’ wedding in Dulstroom and visiting my brother and his family in Tzaneen.
While in Tzaneen we visited Haenertsburg for lunch and craft beer at Lekwar and afterwards drove into the mountains outside of Tzaneen town with the Jimny from great views on parts where of the mountain where cars usually don’t get to. And the only other vehicle we saw there was another Jimny with the same plans as us!
In Dulstroom, before the wedding, I spend some time on the friends’ family farm. After a decent rain shower the Friday evening, driving home to the farm on a small, muddy jeep track at night the Jimny was right at home – only to see the amount of mud gathered on the mudflaps on the ride in. With some time on the Saturday morning before the wedding I wondered into the farm exploring some of the amazing views!
The Suzuki Jimny is an awesome car! You can really go anywhere with it. I never have to think about what the road condition will be like before embarking on a journey. I can only fault two things on the Jimny – one being the size of the fuel tank…with a 40l tank driving normally I need to plan a fuel stops not much more than 400kms apart. In South Africa that is easy enough and on the odd trip that I know it might be an issue I have an addition 20l jerry can I can take with.
The second issue is the sound system… Coming out standard with only two front speakers of not the best quality and a radio with below average FM reception and no aux jacks or Bluetooth connection another plan needs to be made. On a previous trip through the Ceder mountains I use a Bluetooth speaker playing music from my iPhone – and this has now become part of my travel gadgets. With that a powermonkey battery pack to keep the iPhone and speaker charged and my Canon 100D camera rounds off the required gadgets.
On the iPhone I started using the Lively app to create gifs and movies from the iPhone’s live images as well as pulling single specific frames from the live image collection of images.
Taking the easy, normal road is no way to learn and experience new things. So when possible I generally try new routes when I travel.
The plan was to leave in the early morning hours from my home and head up along the N7 and then somewhere cut into the Cederberge somewhere around Citrusdal and from there see where the road takes me and head towards Pretoria. It didn’t happen exactly like that though…
As its getting closer to the end of the year and everyone is just getting busier and busier, the only time I had to catch up with a client was for breakfast the Thursday morning I wanted to start my journey. So after breakfast in Durbanville I got back on to the N1 at about 9am and decided to head up to Ceres and through the Tankwa karoo on the R355 towards Calvinia.
R355 from Ceres to Calvinia
The R355 is a 200km gravel road with no cell phone reception and no fuel stations – it’s a good road, but has many sharp rocks, with a real potential for a flat tyre. Fortunately nothing went wrong this time around and I soon reached Calvinia and headed towards Kimberly on the R63.
I wanted to skip Kimberley and head up towards Prieska, since I’ve never been through there, but since I started later than I wanted and set myself the goal to reach Pretoria in one sitting I opted for the boring, faster route through Kimberley and towards Pretoria on the N12.
All of this meant that I did achieve the goal of reaching Pretoria without having to sleep over anywhere, but it did mean reaching Pretoria only at about 2am the Friday morning. So even though I didn’t take much time on this trip to stop at new places, at least I’m able to tick of the box of driving between Cape Town and Pretoria in one go…though I’m not sure I’ll want to do it like that again – having a stop over at some random small town in the middle of no where halfway into the 1600km journey is a much better option. At least I was also able to capture some cool pics of some lightning heading through Kimberley!