Karoo-sing through the Quirky, Spectacular Karoo Desert (Hectic Route Day 11)

Some days on a road trip, the trip itself is the highlight. You relax, take your time, and savor the sights along the way. Day 11 of our Johannesburg to Cape Town road trip, The Hectic Route, where we Karoo-sed through the desert, was one of those days. 

Today, we're going to shut up and let the pictures do the talking (…but still included some captions so you know what the pictures are about).

6:00-8:30: Roaming Around Nieu Bethesda

Kim walking down street towards Nieu Bethesda's church
"Downtown" Nieu Bethesda. Note the warm clothes. It was 6 degrees Celcius this morning!
Nieu Bethesda church
Tree with Gallery sign on street in Nieu Bethesda
Nieu Bethesda has perhaps the highest number of artist per capita in the country because it's such an inspiringly funky place and it's in the middle of nowhere so it keeps you focused.
Kim shopping at the honesty shop in Nieu Bethesda
Nieu Bethesda's Honesty Shop is open 24/7 because they trust you'll leave money for what you take.
Spinning windmill in Nieu Bethesda
Windmills everywhere around Nieu Bethesda and the Karoo.
Knick-knacks in Nieu Bethesda
The world's most broken down garage sale?
Facade with shutters in Nieu Bethesda
So many funky facades in town. I mean, there are only like 50 buildings in the whole town, so there aren't that many… but they're all funky.
Pastel house facade in Nieu Bethesda
Barn with brightly-colored door and tree
Arab-style door and vase
Door and antlers above in Nieu Bethesda
Street sign in Nieu Bethesda
Not sure why the distances are in miles. Either it's an old sign, or they get a lot of American tourists here.

8:30-9:40: Local Artisanal Platter from Two Goats and a Deli

Two Goats and a Deli Entrance
No, we didn't have beers at 8:30 in the morning. The microbrewery (which we went to yesterday) also has a deli, so we came for breakfast.
Platter from Two Goats and a Deli in Nieu Bethesda
Platter of locally-made cheeses, jams, pickles, and bread from Two Goats and a Deli. 70 rands each, including refills if you ask nicely. Highly recommended!
Peacock on roof
The peacock would make a fitting mascot for Nieu Bethesda — colorful, weird, impractical, and attractive.

9:40-12:00: Driving from Nieu Bethesda to Willowmore

View through driver's side window of mountains, desert, and clouds in rear view mirror
Cape Town isn't the only place with a Table Mountain.
Karoo desert and sign warning of winding roads
Off Nieu Bethesda's gravel and back onto paved roads, but still in the middle of the desert.
Long desert highway through the Karoo
Moon-like Karoo landscape and road
Desert mountains on the horizon
Approaching some mountains
Cloud formation above desert mountains

12:00-13:11: Pit Stop in Willowmore and Sophie's Choice

Karoo sign at shop in Willowmore
"Where the wind blows – Karoo"
Mannequins on wall in Willowmore
Apparently the desert does weird things to your head. First Nieu Bethesda and now Willowmore is full of strange decorations that might give nightmares to people with too much imagination.
Funky backyard patio at Sophie's Choice
Fireplace in Willowmore
Kim reading menu at Sophie's Choice
At Sophie's Choice, you dine inside an antique store.
Delicious meal at Sophie's Choice in Willowmore
Kim had the quiche of the day, which came with plenty of veggies on the side. Yum.

13:11-15:52: Driving to and Through Meiringspoort Pass

Highway with mountains at a distance
The Meiringspoort Pass cuts narrowly through these mountains. A group of photographers we met in Nieu Bethesda told us we had to go through the pass, so we did…
Meiringspoort Pass sharp turn sign
The whole, windy 10 km through Meiringspoort pass is flanked by incredibly colored and formed sheer rock faces.
Big truck, bigger rock wall in Meiringspoort Pass
Even huge transport trucks look tiny compared to the cliff walls in the pass.
Dramatically narrow road in Meiringspoort
You have to stay alert because there's no way of seeing what's around each corner.
Close-up of crazy rock formations in Meiringspoort Pass
Some geologist needs to explain to us how the rock layers end up like this, going in all sorts of crazy directions.
Road, aloe, and rocks in winding Meiringspoort Pass
Kim standing in the middle of Meiringspoort Waterfalls
Towards the Prince Albert end of the pass, we got out for a five minute walk to the Meiringspoort Waterfall.
Close up of Kim in front of Meiringspoort Waterfall
Too bad it was too chilly to go for a dip.
Rock hyrax by Meiringspoort Waterfalls
By the waterfall we saw a rock hyrax, or "dassie" as it's called in South Africa, on guard, protecting its litter of 6 pups.
Close up of flowers with rocks and road in background
Leaving Meiringspoort Pass and approaching Prince Albert
Out of the pass and approaching our destination of Prince Albert.

15:52-19:15: Hanging Out in Prince Albert

Flowers, sky, and windmill in Prince Albert
Nieu Bethesda, where we were this morning, is the sibling that drops out of school and moves to some random place to become a struggling artist. Prince Albert, where we ended the day, is the more "mature" older sibling who went to art school and got a decent job working for a museum.
Barn in Prince Albert
The barn at Gay's Guernsey, with the mountains the Meiringspoort pass cuts through behind it.
Cheeses we tasted at Gay's Guernsey
We stopped by Gay's Guernsey for a free cheese tasting.
Rounds of cheese at Gay's Guernsey
Our cottage at Swartberg Cottages in Prince Albert
We stayed at the Swartberg Cottages. The owners, Martiens and his mom, were exceedingly welcoming and helpful.
Fireplace at African Relish in Prince Albert
Is was over 20 degrees, but hey a fire's always nice.
Studio de Beer in Prince Albert
Not actually a beer studio.
Funny-shaped pool table at
An unconventional pool table at the Bush Pub.
The church in Prince Albert
Tiny home in Prince Albert.
Tiny home, Karoo-style.

19:15-21:15: Karoo Kombuis Dinner

Chris walking into Karoo Kombuis
Bring your own wine to Karoo Kombuis a restaurant run by husband and wife from their home.
Menu at Karoo Kombuis
Traditional Karoo cuisine is always on the menu at Karoo Kombuis.
Waitress opening door to bring out dinner at Karoo Kombuis
Eagerly awaiting my bobotie, chicken pie, and Karoo lamb platter…
Getting closer to serving dinner
Here it comes!
Dinner is served
A delicious meal to put a perfect cap on a fantastic day Karoo-sing from Nieu Bethesda to Prince Albert.

Next Up (Hectic Route Day 12):
A Delightfully Conventional Day around Outdshoorn and Route 62

Ostrich head close-up cover image of Oudtshoorn and Route 62 day

How to Have an Even Better South Africa Road Trip than Ours

South Africa Road Trip Planning tips cover image of a sign saying bon voyage in xhosa
"Hamba kakuhle" means "bon voyage" in Xhosa.

For everything from safety tips to how to find the best rental car to what our absolute favorite experiences are, check out our South Africa road trip tips.

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