Western Cape, Jan/Feb 2016 - Richmond to Cape Peninsula.

As we are not pushed for time we prefer to take our time travelling and don't always take the most direct route. There are 2 main routes between Richmond and Cape Town -the N2 along the coast or the inland route via Bloemfontein which involves travelling around the north of Lesotho, which is the route that we took.

Journey information

Richmond to Golden Gate. 325km.

Golden Gate to Hopetown. 580km. We had intended stopping at Mokala National Park which is south of Kimberly but we had heavy rain and thunderstorms so stopped at a self-catering accommodation in Hopetown instead.

Hopetown to Karoo National Park. 380km. we only stopped for one night as we wanted to get to Sutherland the next day in order to visit the observatory.

Karoo NP to Sutherland. 250km. We took the gravel roads through the Karoo rather than the main N1 highway.

Sutherland to Paarl. 250km. Once again we used gravel roads most of the time.

Golden Gate National Park.

We spent a couple of nights here and had a lovely campsite with superb views of the cliffs which took on a golden hue at sunset.

One morning we walked from the campsite to the top of The Buttress.

There was 1 steep, rocky section which had a handy chain.

Great views from the top of The Buttress.

Karoo back roads.

Between The Karoo National Park and Sutherland we travelled on gravel roads through a very dry Karoo landscape. We had to drive up the Ramelkop Pass and were glad of dry roads as there were several steep sections which required low 4 wheel drive.

This photo from near the top of the Pass shows how dry it was. In the distance is a serpentine of green which is a river valley, although we didn't see much water in the river.


We wanted to visit the South African Astronomical Observatory which is situated 15km from the town of Sutherland. The town is very small with a few shops but there's lots of accommodation available. We were impressed by the cleanliness of the town - something that we noticed about all the Karoo and Western Cape towns that we visited.

The Observatory is situated here due to the clear night skies. You can book day tours of some of the observatories and evening tours where you get to use a couple of telescopes. There are about 15 buildings housing telescopes, some are owned by foreign countries. Some have people manning the screens at the observatory but others are controlled remotely from all over the world.

Some of the observatories which can clearly be seen as you’re driving from Sutherland.

We'd book for a morning tour (R60 pp) which took about 2 hours. It started with a look around the museum and a film show and then we drove up to the observatories and were taken inside 2 of them. It was very interesting and our guide, Willem, was very knowledgeable.

A few of the older observatories.

We were taken inside one which had a telescope with a 1m mirror. You can't look through the 'scope as nowadays it's all computer controlled.

SALT - the South African Large Telescope - building.

This telescope has an 11m and is made up of 64 mirrors. Unfortunately they were working on the 'scope so we didn't get a good view of the mirrors.

We stayed in Sutherland for 3 nights as we weren't able to do an evening tour on Wednesday and the next one was on Friday evening. The tour starts at 8pm so we arrived in good time and watched a lovely sunset.

Sadly it was deemed too windy to open the telescope roof so we agreed that we'd return another time.



Karoo Back Roads.

Our route from Sutherland to Paarl took us along more Karoo gravel roads. Occasionally we'd pass an isolated farm and sometimes see a few sheep but the drought has affected a lot of farmers.

1. Richmond to Cape Peninsula via Golden Gate National Park, Karoo National Park, and the Sutherland Observatory.

2. Cape Peninsula. Kommetjie, Cape Point Nature Reserve, Table Mountain and Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens.

3. Cape Winelands. Tulbagh, Stellenbosch and Worcester.

4. Cape Peninsula to Richmond via Matjiesfontein, Sutherland, the Karoo, Melton Wold and Gariep Dam.


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A springbok with a very young calf which we saw at the Sutherland Observatory.