The third annual National Braai Tour is currently underway and, if the general participant consensus is to be believed, it’s the best one yet. Currently the Tour is in Calitzdorp, the port capital of South Africa, having already visited Cape Agulhas and the Kam’Bati River Resort just outside Swellendam. Over 200 enthusiastic braaiers will eventually finish the Tour – perhaps somewhat bleary-eyed – at Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape.
This year National Braai Tour started in Cape Town before heading to the southernmost tip of Africa. From Cape Agulhas it was on to Swellendam – the third oldest town in South Africa – and then to Calitzdorp. The route to Calitzdorp took Braai Tourists over the breathtakingly beautiful Tradouw Pass – one of 13 built by master builder Thomas Bain – and through Barrydale along Route 62 to the Calitzdorp Spa. Along the way there were roadside braais, giant milkshakes and new friends coming together around a fire.
The gees has been so impressive that one participant was moved to get a National Braai Day logo tattooed onto his leg – just two days into the festival of fires and vleis. “The vibe at Braai Tour is just too epic,” says Jay Don, a tattoo artist from Soweto. “I’m just having such a good time that I had to do this. It’s smashing. And it’s only just started!”
While not yet motivated to take home a permanent reminder of the Braai Tour, other teams are also enjoying the festive atmosphere. “So far this has been an awesome experience,” says Mthoko Dlomo, a participant from Joburg and a member of team Boys to Men. “Coming from Jozi, we have never heard of some of these towns; we would probably never even Google them. I know about Cape Agulhas, but I never thought I would go there.”
Dlomo is on the Tour with three friends, all of whom will be turning 30 next year. “This is like our last hurrah in our twenties,” says Boys to Men teammate Paballo Moshao. “It’s been incredible. We have met guys from Pretoria, Mpumalanga and a guy who lives at Kruger National Park. There are people from all walks of life here and everyone is getting in really well. What the National Braai Tour is doing – getting diverse people together around the braai – is incredible. We love it.”
The Boys to Men crew made new friends on the very first night of the Tour when they struggled to put up their tent in a howling Cape Agulhas wind. “We don’t camp,” says Mpho Modise, “so we bought a tent especially for Braai Tour. We couldn’t put it up, so the women’s team next to us had to do it! It was a little embarrassing, but it got us into the spirit of things early on.”
Although the National Braai Tour has teams, it is certainly not a race. Participants are encouraged to enjoy their extended road trip and to visit the numerous heritage sites en route. “When we got here we thought it was a competition, but it’s much better than that,” says Johan Joubert of the team Vuurneef. Joubert and his three cousins – Charles Joubert, Jaundre de Witt and Danie Kotze – are also Braai Tour novices.
“We are already thinking about coming back next year,” he says, “that’s how good the Tour has been so far. Everything we have experienced so far has been better than we expected. It is well organised, the crew are friendly and helpful, and the other participants are very friendly.” Kotze chimes in that he has made enough new friends in three days to fill his social calendar for the next two years. “I have made plans with everyone, I think. I have already arranged a holiday with one team that we met,” he says.
The cousins are unanimous that the Braai Tour is a winning concept, enthusiastically calling it ‘the greatest tour in the world’. “We are from Cape Town,” says Charles Joubert, “so we are familiar with the names of the towns, but we have never been to some of these places or taken some of these roads. That, added with Tour’s tips on what heritage venues to visit, really makes this a one-of-kind experience.”
After Calitzdorp, the National Braai Tour will travel to Wilderness via Oudtshoorn and the world famous Cango Caves. From Oudtshoorn it’s on to Keurboomstrand, Port Elizabeth and then the final destination of Addo Elephant National Park.