This past December the Elder family descended upon Hermanus to visit my mom, her partner, and my little brother. It was a time that can be perfectly summed up by one word: restoring.
You see, as it was to most people, 2020 was not kind to us. Far from it. The year brought with it many challenges but the standout few include Daddydaims’ six months of unemployment, Arabella’s leaving school after just three months of adjusting to it, our failed emigration, and some struggles with my faith.
Oh, and the whole living in a global pandemic thing.
When the opportunity to escape from Johannesburg and recover from the year at the seaside presented itself, we grabbed it with both hands. And arms, eyes, ears, feet — pretty much every available body part!
We decided (okay, fine, maybe our budget did!) to drive down the day after Christmas instead of fly. All I can say is if Hermanus is not yet on your list of places to visit in South Africa, it should be.
Right at the top.
Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming posts on fun things to do in Hermanus, and tips on how to keep your toddler entertained along the very, very, very long way. For now, I’ll be filling you in on (the naturally way too detailed) experience of our first family holiday.
The Drive Down: 1,410 Kilometers
Because we’re not the type of people who normally take holidays, coupled with the fact that it was our first ever holiday as a family, we decided to take the scenic route. This meant a 15-hour drive from Johannesburg through the Free State, Northern Cape, and Western Cape until we reached Hermanus.
Arabella was an absolute STAR! She was up at 04:30 am for our 5:00 am departure and she was hopped up on holiday adrenaline before falling asleep just after the first of three toll gates.
The farm-filled drive was really fantastic. Everywhere you look there is farmland, with the occasional mountain dotted here and there. This may sound silly but it felt as though the more kilometers we put between us and Johannesburg the bluer the sky seemed.
Every now and then, you’re reminded of just how much having a child changes you. In an attempt to keep us alert and somewhat entertained, Daddydaims and I came up with a checklist of animals that we bet we were going to see along the way. The list included cows, goats, sheep, horses, some kind of buck, ducks, ostriches — and we saw EVERY SINGLE ONE.
We were buzzing!
But be warned. There is a lot of open road that feels like it leads to nowhere. This can bum out your morale a little, so make sure you have good tunes and great conversation to keep you going.
Because we had a three-year-old in the backseat to think about we decided to split the 15-hour drive up into two days. Daddydaims decided to do the bulk of the driving on day one so that we could wake up on day two and drive a shorter distance to reach our destination faster.
This sentiment probably resonates with the seasoned road trippers amongst us.
Our first stop was the Verberg Herberg and Roadhouse, which is a stunning guest house located bang in the middle of Willowmore and Uniondale. It also happens to be where my childhood bestie and forever friend lives with her husband. But more on that in a few!
The Karoo? As Daddydaims says, more like the Kar-OOH-it’s-hot. Seriously, by the time we hit the road at 07:00 am the next morning we were part human part sweat droplet. After driving past more farms, grazing animals, and the odd vineyard, we arrived at the Outeniqua mountains.
Cue Tash sobbing like a child!
I grew up near these mountains and never appreciated them while I had the chance so I apparently made up for lost time. I cried for a bunch of different reasons but the most prominent was just the sheer beauty of it all.
Even Daddydaims took a moment to bask in their beauty and Arabella was just blown away. These mountains put those in The Teletubbies to shame, let me tell you. Once I pulled myself toward myself and said goodbye to the mountains — and, in all honesty, parts of my old life — we hit the road again.
We drove through George to Mossel Bay and after one stop and about three hours, plus a sneak peek at my old high school, we arrived in Hermanus.
How lucky were we to have a very excited family waiting for us.
Verberg Herberg and Roadhouse
On the way down we stayed at the Verberg Herberg and Roadhouse. It’s a beautiful guest house that is genuinely located in the middle of nowhere. If peace and quiet are what you’re looking for, you’ll find both here.
Verberg truly presents an opportunity for you to disconnect from the always-on world and spend a little quality time with yourself. It’s also THE perfect place for the tired traveller to rest their head, specifically for those driving the route we did.
You can braai, you can go for a hike, do a bit of birdwatching, or play a game or two of pool. There’s a Lapa restaurant as well as a dam to swim in and a jacuzzi to… jacquooz in?
You have your choice between double rooms or a self-catering cottage, with prices starting at R795 per person. There’s even a campsite for the truly brave (there’s, like, animals and stuff) that costs a measly R100 per person.
Maybe it was because we had a typical Shade and Wessel welcome, but from the moment we arrived, we felt like we were home.
While We Were in Hermanus
Guys, Hermanus is breathtakingly beautiful. The seaside town is framed by mountains and as you drive along the surprisingly busy Main Road you’re sure to catch cheeky glimpses of the ocean.
Everywhere you look, there’s something to see. And that something is stunning! No matter in which direction you look, you’re treated to views of the sparkling blue ocean or huge green mountains.
Besides basking in the sheer beauty of Hermanus from the comfort of our balcony, we spent the rest of the first day hanging out with the family and recuperating from the drive.
The next morning we put on our cozzies, gathered up our pro-sandcastle-building equipment, slathered our bodies in factor 50 sunscreen, and hit Grotto Beach.
What a treat it was! The white sand was so soft and the beach itself was a sight for sore eyes. Arabella’s first time in the ocean was a wonderful experience to be a part of and she loved every second of it, even though she spent most of the 2 hours squealing and running away from the waves.
Daddydaims was bodyboarding with the rest of the guys while my mom and I spent the majority of our time on the sand making sandcastles with madam after taking a bit of a tumble in the sea.
It was a fantastic experience and I will forever cherish this special time I got to spend with my momma bear. When the sun became a little too hot for our delicate Johannesburg skin we left in search of fresh fish and chips. We found it, we ate it, and then we slept.
For dinner, we took the family out for pizza at Rossi’s Italian Restaurant. Everything was delicious and the service we received from our waiter, Chris, was phenomenal. The curbside restaurant was opened in 1985 and is the oldest restaurant in Hermanus.
The menu boasts something for everyone — from pizza to seafood and everything in between. Should you ever find yourself in Hermanus, I highly recommend you pay them a visit.
That same night President Ramaphosa addressed the nation once again and we were informed that our beach holiday would no longer include visiting any beaches. Overberg, the area that Hermanus falls into, was declared a hotspot.
Understandably, we were a bit bummed out that we only got to experience the beach once. But we are SO thankful that we decided to hit the beach that morning instead of staying home and relaxing, which we were seriously tempted to do. Funny how these things work out, eh?
Either way, we very quickly had to readjust our itinerary to scrap all of the places we wanted to visit that we would no longer be able to.
Leave Hermanus for The Beauty of Betty’s Bay
Suggesting that anyone leave Hermanus is wild, I get that. But bear with me here. I know that this is something most people would skip out on, especially those who visit Cape Town regularly, but I PROMISE you that the drive is worth it.
When we first decided to take a trip down to Hermanus we knew we would pay Cape Town a visit purely because it’s Cape Town and we don’t get out there much (read, ever).
We spent most of the two-hour drive pulling over to revel in the beauty of our surroundings. Daddydaims even had a hard time keeping his eyes on the road. It was so beautiful that AJ, myself, my brother, and Daddydaims literally gasped.
The drive was the best part of our day trip to the Mother City. In all honesty, Cape Town wasn’t too impressive but that’s probably because we didn’t have a local to show us around. But this is coming from people who thought the V&A Waterfront was an actual waterfront and not a giant shopping centre.
After struggling for a bit, we drove to Camps Bay in search of some fresh sushi. To our surprise, the ONLY beach-facing restaurant that served sushi was Ocean Basket. While the familiarity was great, it was a smidge disappointing to have traveled so far just to find out that the only option for our sushi-loving souls was from a restaurant chain that can be found on every corner in Johannesburg.
But, sub-par sushi or not, I would go again JUST for the drive along Betty’s Bay.
The Drive Back Up
The drive back home was very different from the drive down, that’s for sure. Emotions were heavy: sadness to be leaving our family behind, excitement to arrive back home to Essie cat and our lovely little flat, and trepidation for the long drive.
Much like on the way down, we made arrangements to stay overnight at a BnB in a dorpie called Trompsburg but we decided against it as we were making “great time” as those who travel by road say. By the time we arrived in the area, it was a little after 2:00 pm in the afternoon and Daddydaims decided that he felt fine to drive the remainder of the 15 hours and drive we did.
We got caught in a notorious Free State storm, had to pull over for a side-of-the-N1 emergency pee break for Arabella, got to experience first-hand two of the DODGIEST bathrooms known to mankind, and realised we left behind a neon pink fishing net.
Other than that, the drive was a non-event. It started raining pretty much the moment we entered the home stretch and didn’t let up until we were safely back home. We also saw a buttload of windmills, which was weird but wonderful as you don’t see too many of those in Jozi.
What to Pack for Padkos
I think you learn a lot about yourself when you’re planning and eventually on your holiday. When it comes to padkos, apparently I get weird. Like I said, we’re not “holiday people” and so I had no idea what other people usually pack for padkos.
For those who don’t know, “padkos” is the Afrikaans translation of “road food” and it is exactly that. It took me almost a week and MANY conversations with Daddydaims, my colleagues, and Afrikaans ladies I bumped into at the bathroom at work to come up with our padkos menu. Special shout out to the marvellous Miss Monique for educating me on all things padkos!
When the time to hit the road arrived, we were armed with — drum roll please — toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, biltong, chili sticks, drywors, chocolate, crackers, Arabella’s Christmas candy, cereal bars, energy drinks, and a big ‘ol bottle of water.
Much of the above survived the drive down. We added a new supply of cereal bars and energy drinks into the mix along with chips, biscuits, and an emergency stash of Speckled Eggs.
This time around we stopped at the Colesburg Ultra City and bought some baguettes and a salted caramel shake that hilariously repeated on Daddydaims for hours! He spent the vast majority of the drive home grumpily muttering to himself after every burp “why do I try new things?”
It was a riot.
Hermanus, You’ve Got My Heart
Honestly, our time on holiday in Hermanus was one of the happiest of my life. Even though much of it was interrupted by the Covid19 curfew and lockdown restrictions, I would visit again in a heartbeat.
The drive down has firmly cemented itself as some of the best time I’ve ever spent with my husband and our daughter. If I could capture the feelings of excitement, anticipation, and breathlessness I felt on our little road trip and bottle it, I would.
To anyone that is thinking about making the trip down, I highly recommend you do so. And the next time you’re planning a family holiday, PLEASE consider doing it by car. The South Africa you see along the road is incredible. It may possibly even be enough to change your thinking about the beautiful country we are lucky enough to call ours.
And there you have it! My very detailed account of our very first family holiday. Was it worth the 15-hour drive? Abso-freakin-lutely. Should my journey lead me back to Hermanus, I will be a very happy Tash.