Leaving Gariep Dam, I had the choice of taking either the N1 or the R58. Seeing that the detour to the power station was scheduled later than I expected, I took the National route from Gariep Dam to Colesberg.
This stretch was a meagre 44km in total. And, I mean, even though it is the country’s premium National Road, how bad can it REALLY be? Here’s my list. It is that bad!
• It sucks.
• No real scenery.
• You are speed restricted. Not that I condone travelling over the legal limit but on a National Road, you can have three lanes and the speed limit will be 80kph. Furthermore, traffic cops are everywhere and even if you aren’t travelling fast, you always end up braking when you see one of them meaning a less efficient drive.
• It sucks.
• There is no risk travelling on a National route. Everything is shown to you like a pre-schooler. There is no chance of you hitting a cow as the freeway is fenced off with electric wire that can make a medium-well steak out of said cow in seventeen seconds. Every hazard has a sign warning you about the hazard and a sign warning you that you are going to see a warning sign. You don’t need to calculate how much petrol you need seeing that there is a garage every five kilometres.
• Caltex Star Stops, Engen 1-Stops, Shell Ultra Cities, Total Petroport and whatever they call those Sasol jobbies. Excuse me whilst I go puke.
• You can’t just stop in the middle of the road and look around in awe at nature’s beauty.
• Construction never ever ends.
• It sucks.
• Rest stops are designated. It doesn’t matter that there is an exquisite view of a dam and mountain at one point – the freeway dictates that you must stop 2km down the road with a marvellous view of a koppie with half its side levelled out.
• BMW X5’s – these don’t take R-roads. It will damage their 4×4 suspension and there is nobody on those roads to cut off.
• You can’t travel at 80kph when you want to enjoy the view because said BMW X5 will have its bright lights, fogs and stadium-strength roof-mounted spotlights glaring at you if you do.
• It makes you sleep.
• It sucks.
• If you are on a single-lane freeway and encounter a truck, you’re screwed. The traffic means that you are following that truck all the way to Beitbridge (even though you just got out of the Huguenot Tunnel!)
• Too many sign posts telling you everything you don’t need to know and more.
• Mountain passes are WAY too tame. Van Reenen’s Pass is easier than driving up my driveway and the Tsitsikamma Toll Route, um, it bypassed SEVEN mountain passes.
• Did I mention it sucks?
Okay, I’ll stop there. Firstly, this is just a generalisation of the National routes. Actually, this applies mostly to the lower numbered N-roads namely the N1, N2, N3 and N4. The N4 is undoubtedly the most boring road to drive if you have no interest in the beauty of industry and power generation. Some N-roads are exquisite such as the Camdeboo Route on the N9 and the Friendly Route on the N6. The N11 between Middelburg and Marble Hall is another beautiful drive with an even more beautiful road surface. These routes still suffer from some of the downfalls mentioned above. Driving the R701, known as the Gariep Lake route, was a religious experience. The roads were just as good as any N-road yet I was free to drive the way the purest automobile engineers intend a car to be driven.
Not taking away any of the uses of the N-roads. They are extremely important to the country. They’re the main veins of our economy and aid interaction. The features of the roads are important and if you need to get somewhere quickly, these are the best options. These are not roads for travellers and adventurers.
R-roads are the driver’s roads. These open up your mind and engine and give you the true sensation of being a road warrior. The R-roads aren’t without issues though. The solitude of the R-roads proves a burden if one has to meet with an accident. These R-roads are also much more sensitive to weather and one never knows when these roads could be closed due to some sort of hazard.
However, when you are on a road trip, you want the mystery, intrigue and stunning views offered to you by the R-roads. Quite simply, if your travels take you solely down a lowly numbered N-road, please don’t bother calling it a roadtrip.