If you are interested in glorious scenery and delicious wines, a trip along Route 62, in South Africa's Western Cape region, is a must. Some 50 years ago, a highway was opened here, and Route 62 became a forgotten road, with little traffic and fewer visitors. Surprisingly, this was a godsend for the area: its fruitful farming communities were left in peace. The result is probably the longest wine route in the world, meandering through some of the most sublime scenery and prolific vineyards you can imagine.
Leaving Cape Town, the road climbs through majestic mountains, over a series of dramatic passes, alongside crystal clear streams, through fertile valleys rich with magnificent vineyards and orchards. The approach to Montagu, the first town en route, is astonishing. Set in a narrow valley, by a mountain stream, with towering ochre cliffs to either side, and peach and apricot trees laden with blossom, this Victorian era town might be in the Garden of Eden. Continuing through the Breede River Valley, the Worcester winelands provide 27 per cent of the country's wine as well as being the main brandy producing area.
Stop at some of the many wineries to taste both white and red wines - the gabled, Cape Dutch architecture, set in gold and green vineyards against a backdrop of mountains, makes a memorable sight. Farther on the road travels through the Klein Karoo region, a huge, khaki coloured, treeless space with flat-topped hills and small towns lying under the vast, cloudless African sky. Here are several small, picturesque towns such as Ladysmith, set at the foot of the Towerkop Mountain. Route 62 ends at Port Elizabeth, South Africa's water sports mecca. The splendid beaches, scuba diving, game fishing and whale watching tours could hardly be more different from the mellow journey you have just completed.
WHEN TO GO
September to November, late January to April.
TIME IT TAKES
About two days, but take a week to fully enjoy the experience.
The Robertson Wine Festival, which takes place over a week every October.
The historic town of Tulbagh. with its cape Dutch architecture and lovely gardens.
Addo Elephant Park.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
This is the first wine route in the world to produce a Braille wine bottle. A percentage of its sales go directly to the Institute for the Blind.