Loading Map...

Road Trip! The first step along the Garden Route.

Written on: Saturday April 25th, 2009

Forget flying, forget trains and forget the BazBus: what better way is there to explore South Africa than by getting a few friends together, renting your own vehicle and hitting the road?!?  Well, that´s exactly what Mari and I had proposed to the group the night before during our never-ending wine evening.  When it was all said and done we had two more accomplises, Nish and Koeb, to join us on our quest.

We started off with an easy drive from Cape Town to Gordon's Bay, where we stayed at the happily named Wonkey Donkey.  Our first hostel of the road trip turned out to be quite an experience, especially watching Koeb trying to get into his upper bunk after a few drinks.  But soon morning came and we were off to other locales.  Our plan was to drive along the coast, taking in the spectacular scenery as we headed East; however, Mother Nature had other plans as fog engulfed the shore.  We had to double back and take an inland route for a couple hundred kilometers before the weather cleared, allowing us to at least stop at a couple beaches and check out the scenery.  Eventually we made it to Hartenbos, 500k and 50 renditions of 'Poker Face' later.  A popular stop on the garden route, Hartenbos provided us an independent cottage in which to sleep, rather than sharing with multiple other travellers.  Additionally, we had an outdoor fire pit, which naturally meant we had to braai.  Koeb found us a nice butchery where we purchased steaks, boedworst and lamb chops.  A creative set of vegetarian kabobs was created for Mari.  It was a nice ending to a long day on the road.

The following day offered plenty of sites to see.  First up was the ostrich farm.  Í wasn't sure if it was more entertaining to feed the over-sized birds, or to listen to Nish's amazement as to why evolution has spared them as a species thus far.  After big bird came the Cango Caves.  This was a very commercial, very cool cave system that the public was allowed to tour.  At the start, enormous caverns abounded, some big enough to hold rock concerts inside of them.  Seriously.  This practive was eventually stopped, however, as some of the concert-goers would delve further into the labyrinth and break off pieces of stalagtites as souvenirs...not cool.  Now it was experienced by guided tour only.  After the large caverns, we could explore further into the cave, until we eventually came to passes known as 'The Chimney' and 'The Mailbox', two narrow, vertical stretches that we could ascend/descend individually.  Again, my enjoyment was split between the actual experience of climbing through these sections, and watching/listening to Nish do the same.  A self aclaimed city boy, wiggling through small crevaces underground isn't really his thing. But it was entertaining for me and Mari, and when it was all said and done, Nish did negotiate every maneuver in the caves!  Good on ya, bru!

Our final stop of the day was at a cheetah sanctuary.  Actually, there was a lot more than cheetachs there: there was an aquarium with cyclids from Lake Malawi, plenty of exotic birds, a croc pond that one could enter via steel cage, pygmy hippos and a reptile display containing some ofthe world's deadliest snakes.  But the main draw was the cats.  In addtion to many cheetahs (yes, you were offered the opportunity to hold and play with the little ones), there were lions, white lions (including the cutest baby cubs you've ever seen) and even white tigers!  Staying around later...after the official tour ended...we were rewarded by hearing the male lions roar right in front of us...very powerful!

That night we made it to one of the coolest backpacker places on the trip: Beach House in Wilderness.  Overlooking a spectacular beach, the hostel is fun.  A cool staff and fabulous owners compliment the location.  The outdoor bonfire was the central meeting point, just be sure you don't sit on any little girls when choosing a seat!

Beach House was so laid back that we decided to stay another night.  After all, Koeb was leaving for a job interview in Jo'burg, and the remaining three of us were content to wait out the drizzle that fell most of the day.  We dropped off Koeb at the bus station and headed back to the beach, where I was finally able to go for a run, Mari was able to go for a walk and Nish was able to get some chill time at the computer.  How little we knew that that was the last we would see of our fourth companion.