In South Africa, the festive season coincides with the summer holidays and, for me, that just screams, “GET INTO YOUR CAR AND GO DRIVE SOMEWHERE!”. This could involve the six-hour drive to Plettenberg Bay, hitting the N7 and taking two days to reach the border of Namibia, or simply driving along the coast to the beach (because, let’s be honest, at the height of a Cape Town summer, when the tourists arrive and the traffic becomes a god-awful nightmare, simply getting to Clifton 4th beach can feel like a road trip all of its own).
The thing is, having an excellent road trip has very little to do with your choice of destination. It’s all about the journey getting there. In the wise, melodic words of old-school, country-singin’ Miley Cyrus: “Ain’t about how faaast I get there; Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other siii–iiide; It’s the CLIIIIMB”. Okay, someone’s been partaking in too much car-karaoke, let’s move swiftly on.
For those of you hitting the road this festive season, here’s my guide on making the most of the drive – including some of the Strumpman family’s most loved road trip rituals.
Grab some friends
…or in my case, your roommates. And by roommates, I mean my parents. Who I still live with. I’ve driven with those two to Plettenberg Bay (Plett) every single December of my life, it’s always a vibe, and this year was no exception. Although, on this year’s Great Summer Escape to Plett, I did also have one of my best and oldest girlfriends along for the drive, which was the BEST. We could sit in the back seat like two little kids, not worry about having to drive (thanks, dad) eat all the snacks and happily talk and laugh about every topic under the sun for a whole six hours.
It’s clear, then, that the term “friends” is a loose one. It could be your parents, your roomies, your sister, your partner, your girlfriends, your doggo, your cats, your pet basil plant or even your own self. Either way, gather up your ideal choice of company to be stuck with for a couple hours and jump in the car!
Put together a bangin’ playlist
They might not be the most likely choice of festive bands, but when I hear any song off the Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s Californation album, it immediately conjures a wealth of memories from all our drives up to Plett for the summer holidays. Their track “Road Trippin” makes me feel particularly nostalgic. In case the title wasn’t obvious enough, the lyrics speak of “Road trippin’ with my two favourite allies; Fully-loaded we’ve got snacks and supplies; It’s time to leave this town, it’s time to get away…”. Just typing those words gives me all the feels, thinking of all the overland adventures I’ve had over the years with my two favourite allies – my folks. And the whole “snacks” part really speaks to my soul, too.
Anyway. Before you head off, put together a bunch of your (and your road trip buddy’s) fave summer hits, or some classic 80s Rock, or make like my lovely friend Ali and add some Michael Bublé to really ignite the Christmas cheer within. Either way, if it has you feeling amped for all the possibilities lying ahead, it’ll do. Even if you love listening to the radio (as I do), having a playlist on your phone or iPod at the ready is a good idea because the signal will probably drop at some point. Some bangin’ tunes in the background not only set the mood, but they also ensure you keep your wits about you on the busy roads, and can lead to some hysterical car-karaoke when you crank up the volume.
Rustle up some snacks (that includes coffee)
I cannot stress enough the importance of this particular road trip essential. This is especially true if, like me, you morph into a demon at the mere twinge of hunger in your belly. My mom and I are both like this (it must be genetic), and my poor dad knows that if his passengers go deathly quiet, it’s time for a snack break.
It comes as no surprise then that most of our fondest family road trip rituals centre on food. Because we’ve driven from our home in Cape Town to Plett countless times, we have a bunch of favourite snack-spots in various different towns dotted along the route, and we’ll stop as we go to stock up on all the goodies.
Peregrine Farm Stall is, hands down, my favourite of these. It doesn’t feel like I’m off on holiday unless we stop here, that’s how ingrained it is in my experience of driving to Plett. Situated in the Elgin Valley about an hour or so out of Cape Town, it’s the ideal place for a takeaway brekkie en route.
Peregrine is like the farm stall version of Yours Truly on Kloof Street – no matter the day of the week (even when you least expect it, like on a Wednesday at the end of the month), it is ALWAYS busy. There is also SO MUCH to choose from when it comes to breakfast (and lunch…their pies are famously delicious), but, being creatures of habit, we have the whole routine down. We order our toasted egg-and-bacon sandwiches, and lurk around the store to wait out the five-or-so minutes until they’re ready (they’re always quick, and always delicious – crunchy on the outside, crispy bacon on the inside, and eggs done just at that perfect middle ground…because you don’t want runny egg going all over your car and your self). By “lurk” I mean that my dad selects some biltong, I get treats to nibble on (usually chocolate covered peanuts, or bananas if I didn’t have the foresight to pack any before leaving the house) and mom reminds us that we need water. After collecting our steaming-hot toasties and just as we’re about to pay, we order our flat whites (Peregrine makes use of Origin beans, which are so full of flavour, and the baristas brew them to magical PERFECTION every single time). This ensures they’re still frothy and warm by the time we bundle up back into the car, ready for brekkie and coffee on-the-go. GENIUS.
Some of our other regular spots along the way include Ou Meul Bakery in Riviersonderend, where we stock up on biscuits for the biscuit tin (while this sits next to the coffee machine at our holiday home, it could also become an in-car road trip essential, now that I think about it…) and Ikigai in Riversdale (also usually for coffee, or scrumptious, soul-soothing chai lattes).
Have your camera always at the ready
Even if you have planned every detail of your journey, you can never really guarantee what you’ll see as you go. Instead of storing your camera in its bag with the rest of your luggage, keep it with you. I always have mine on the seat next to me, ready for those “through the front windshield” or landscape shots, foodie pics for Instagram (#DoingItForTheFans), candid moments with my friends and family, and any other beautiful scene I might want to capture.
Stare out the window and ponder life
When you’re on a long drive, there’s always that lull. You’ve been chatting for ages, cramped in the car for a couple hours and now everyone is feeling a little tired and quiet (bar the driver hopefully. If he/she is – time for another snack break #SnacksAreLife). After the morning’s rush and excitement to get up and going, this is to be expected.
This is usually the point when my concentration drifts from the car’s interior and towards the beautiful scenery rushing by outside my window. I’m always fascinated by the way the landscape changes as we progress slightly inland (where it’s dominated by dry stretches of grass and livestock farms) and then back towards the coast (where the towns are larger and the air a little salty). I always have my best creative ideas when staring out the window, thinking about other things, watching the world go by. It’s somewhat meditative. And I think those quiet moments to yourself (even when cramped in a small space with other people) are food for your soul.
Pester your driver/navigator with an “Are we there yet?” or three
Jokes. That would be mean. Besides, if you take these tips on board, you’ll be having such a damn PLEASANT time you won’t even notice the distance and next thing you know you’ll be at your destination, hopping out the car, stretching out your legs and pouring yourself a glass of wine to cheers the journey.
What are some of your favourite road trip rituals? Let me know in the comments below.
Until next time. xx