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Yes, you can find some peace and quiet in Mthata

There is a dramatic change in scenery the moment you cross the Kei River and the coffee is good at that garage stop at the border so give yourself a few minutes to enjoy it. There are also braai (BBQ) facilities in the vicinity and you can buy meat and wood at the garage convenience store.
My childhood memories of visiting The Eastern Cape instantly came flooding back the moment we saw the shape of the hills and the quality of light that is uniquely Eastern Cape. The journey along the N2 over the Kei River into Mthata is a beautiful expression of it. We arrived in Mthata late on a Sunday afternoon but it felt more like the busiest day on Cape Town's Adderley Street with people all over the streets and music competing from one car to the next. Knowing that the 117-roomed Tsogo Sun Mthata Garden Court was also in the main road through the town was a bit of a shock as I expected spending the night in the middle of the tumult.

The good news is that while the hotel is, indeed, in Nelson Mandela Road (which is the N2) it is on the outskirts of Mthata on a koppie in the leafy area next to the University and it is as quiet and as pretty a garden setting as you could hope for.

Clean, comfortable and roomy

The hotel is a business-focussed property which while it doesn't have the bells and whistles of the newly renovated Garden Court hotels, is clean and comfortable. It was especially roomy having two double beds in the standard room.

There is a dinner buffet but we thought it a little too costly so ordered room service which was adequate.

Breakfast the following day was super - an excellent selection of well-prepared items and we found the service and quality spot on.

There is a large swimming pool (unheated) and sun loungers but no gym. The property is geared for conferences with breakaway meeting rooms and at only 17km away from the airport, it is a convenient fly-in destination.

I wouldn't dream of staying anywhere else in Mthata between Durban and Grahamstown. Although significant road works were underway to widen and improve the surfaces, there are many animals around and driving in low light could be treacherous.

Call +27 (0) 47 505 3500 or email for more information.

About Brian Berkman: contributing editor, travel

Brian Berkman can be contacted on 083-441-8765 or email .