First of all, sunny greetings from South Africa. I have been here for a week now and am already really in love with this country. It is obviously totally different from Europe and the Western world in general, however, I will touch on that subject another day. Today, I want to tell you about my experience on the so-called “Garden route” I did a road trip on for the last three days. In fact, whilst I am typing this, I am still sitting in our small bus on the way back to Cape Town.
If you have never looked deeper into the subject, you probably have not heard about the Garden Route yet. So what is it all about? Well, the Garden Route is an iconic motorway connecting the cities Cape Town and Port Elizabeth-you could probably call it the African equivalent to the famous Route 66. The route got its name because of the natural beauty displayed and also because of how green is compared to the rest of the country. This is due to the fact that the Garden Route is situated along the Indian Ocean, so close to the water, as well as because of the mountains at the coast that do not allow any clouds to pass by and make them lose all their rain in this area. Another side effect of this is that the area is also quite humid. So much about the basic facts, let’s continue to what I did there now.
On Friday, I was picked up from my residence at an early 7:15 a.m. by our driver. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical at first since the bus was pretty small, about the size of a classic VW bus from the 1960s and the driver who would also be our guide turned out to be a young, tanned guy with dreadlocks and a skater cap who liked listening to African reggae/rap. However, he really grew on me during the trip and turned out to be the best guide I could have wished for. We were quite a small group consisting of only 13 people, hence the tiny bus. I have to admit that our mean of transport was not the most comfortable one as we had very little space inside, especially for our legs and we would have liked to be able to move a bit more during our long journey.
In the beginning, everyone was obviously still pretty tired and so, after a short “getting-to-know-the-others”-period, we all tried to get some more sleep. Aside from a quick coffee stop, we drove the whole morning and stopped only at about one o’clock at our lunch spot, where a three-hour safari would also take place afterwards. South African food is very meat-centered as the land is rather dry and farming there not that easy, so my choice of food, especially in the countryside, quite limited. So I had Penne Napoletana, which was already a bit cold and not that good. Afterwards, we continued with the safari, which was all the better. The jeep we were sitting in made us feel every stone we were going over, which might not have been the most comfortable thing, made the whole experience feel even more adventurous and real. On top of that, everyone who knows me personally would tell you how much I love animals. Seriously, I am obsessed with my cat (I get tagged in cat memes on Facebook on a daily basis), make friends with the pets first at house parties and get excited about seeing any kind of animal. So this safari was really special to me, particularly as I grew up with The Lion King and its depiction of African wildlife. We saw four out of the “Big Five”, the rhino, the buffalo, the elephant, the leopard (which we missed) and the lion. The lions were my favorite by far since they were really funny. You know them as the kings of the animals, however, when we saw them, they were asleep and harmless like little kittens. We drove about two to three meters close to them, but they just kept on chilling: The male lion yawned while one of the females rolled over onto her back and showed us her belly.
After this experience, we continued our journey and drove on to our stay for the night, a hostel in St. George. It was located in the rainforest (I do not know if it actually was one, but it definitely looked like I picture a rainforest). After having a welcome shot that Brad, our driver, payed for, we went to check out the beach. It was a really nice one that appeared to having been kept in a quite natural state, so we enjoyed a beer while sitting in the sand, watching the waves. Afterwards, we were all starving so we had dinner, which was pizza with up to three toppings of choice. Since the hostel itself was pretty modest, we chose to keep sitting on the huge balcony outside where we had also gotten our food. A bonfire was lit, the lanterns in the trees were switched on, a few drinks were had and we just talked in this tree house-like environment. Brad also introduced us to a popular South African drink, a shot called “Shit in the woods” which tasted like liquid After Eight. As most of us were pretty tired, we went to bed quite early and so I climbed up my bed and quickly fell asleep. Fortunately, I have a very deep sleep, because apparently, the travellers that had stayed outside drinking came in at about three o’clock and made so much noise that they woke almost everyone else up-I did not notice a thing besides a guy that was snoring pretty badly.
At five thirty, a friend of mine woke a few others and me up to go watch the sunrise together. So we sneaked out of the house, climbed over the fence (the door was not open yet) and went to the beach. Unfortunately, it was really cloudy that day so we did not see the sunrise. However, part of the group still went into the water for a sunrise swim, which I could not join because of my cold. Then I relaxed in bed for a bit more before we had breakfast and continued our drive at about eight o’clock. We went to an elephant sanctuary where elephants that could no longer survive in the wild were kept. We were all allowed to pet and feed them and later on even walk with them. This was a particularly surreal experience as the elephant really took your hand into his trunk like a human. I guess I can say that we were all in a great mood afterward, despite being a bit dirty from the elephants touching and sniffing us everywhere. We had lunch at an Italian restaurant at another amazing beach before continuing on to our next destination, the world’s highest bungee jump. At first, most people had not wanted to do it, but Tracey, one of our group, said “It is the world’s highest bungee jump, so you have to do it” and in the end, everyone decided to do so. The atmosphere on the bridge was great and very energetic. They played loud music and so we were all dancing to it. It was definitely a fun experience. Then we went to the Garden Route national park and had a quick walk there as it was already quite late. But we did not regret it, every spot looked like straight out of an Instagram picture. So I highly recommend everyone going there. I we had had more time, I would have also loved to go canoeing in this place as it looked like a great spot to do so. Back in the hostel, we took it easy, just had dinner and chatted a bit before going to sleep after this eventful day.
On Sunday, we left the hostel at eight again and started our journey back home. On our way, we stopped at the so-called Cango Caves” where we took and adventure tour. We had to go through narrow passages inside the mountain and at some point, we had to climb up about four meters in a tunnel or lay flat on the ground in order to get ahead. As a former competitive climber, I really enjoyed the tour and had loads of fun. Afterwards, we continued our drive for several more hours. At this point, I have to mention that I would highly suggest you taking snacks with you on the way. Most of the Garden Route area is so remote that it is hard to find any food places. When at one o’clock, we said that we were very hungry, we had to drive another hour through the uninhabited lands before we reached an area where there was civilization and restaurants. We finally got our food a bit before three o’clock (we had had breakfast at half past seven) so at this point, we were all pretty much starving. For most of the car journey, everyone just relaxed from the exhausting passed days and tried to sleep. After a quick and final stop at a gas station however, the song “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore came on and everyone started singing and dancing. Now we were suddenly really awake again and started some kind of a car karaoke session. We listened to classic sing along and road trip songs such as “Wannabe”, “It’s my life” or “Without me” and were all in an amazing mood. In fact, I was quite sad when Cape Town appeared on the horizon again as I did not want this road tip to end. We went out of the car a few kilometers ahead of the city to take some group pictures (let me tell you, it was ridiculously windy there) before finally arriving in back in the “Mother City”. Brad quickly showed us some of the graffiti art in the hip district oh Woodstock before dropping everyone off.
If you ever come to South Africa or Cape Town in particular, doing the Garden Route is a must in my opinion. You not only get to see as much different nature in a short period of time as I have never done before, there are also hundreds of activities for various interests offered along the route. I think the pictures already speak for themselves though. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this report and maybe I convinced you to go on a road trip of any kind in the near future-it can be great fun 🙂