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Gavin Explores - South Africa (Part 3)

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Garden Route

The Garden Route is a well-travelled area of South Africa, it’s the stretch of land, or mainly the roads on the land, between Cape Town and Plettenberg Bay. The route itself is filled with lovely historic and touristy towns, so even though the drive from CT to PB can be done in a day, people tend to take a few days to drive from town to town and stay over in the hundreds of B&Bs along the way.

One of the main attractions to the Garden Route is the sheer number of activities along the way. From animal sanctuaries to art galleries, from cave exploring to whale watching there’s a real plethora of attractions to enjoy.

Whilst everyone makes up different combinations with their trips down the Garden Route, here is what we did on ours;

AB1Our trusty steed ‘Marco’, who took us on our adventure.

DAY 1: Cape Town to Hermanus. 127km

AB2

 Drive on Day 1

We set off from Cape Town in the early afternoon after speed walking up the Lions Head with our friend James at 7 am. Andrew gave me a drive-by tour of a lot of the main buildings and sights in central Cape Town that we hadn’t had time to take in; mainly the political buildings as Andrew is a political whizz. Then we set sail for the old fishing town of Hermanus.

We were staying in the Villa Blu B&B in the neighbouring town of Voeklip (there’s meant to be an umlaut on the top of the ‘e’, but I don’t know how to do that on my mac) which was a fantastic place with one of the most comfortable nights sleep I’ve had in South Africa. Unfortunately, when we arrived it was my turn to feel run down with the cold. Andrew and I have been taking it in turns to feel the worst with this bug we seemed to have been battling for a long time, so when we got there I was feeling pretty worse for wear.

AB3Along the Hermanus Sea Front

We took a walk along the seafront in Hermanus, which during whale season (October/November), and Christmas, would normally be heaving with tourists, but for us, it was wonderfully quiet and subdued, which after Cape Town was a real treat. Hermanus surprised me with the number of art structures along the sea front, all produced by local artists. Something I hadn’t seen much of in South Africa, even though there are thousands of art galleries, 3D structures such as these were not the norm. After we had been for our walk, I decided to go for a nap while Andrew walked along Grotto beach in Voeklip.

DAY 2: Hermanus to Robertson (via L’Aghulas). 265km

AB4

Drive on Day 2 

When we researched this part, I thought it would be quite nice to head down to the L’Agulas, which is the southern most point of the whole African continent. Their equivalent of Lands End. This meant a detour of a few hours, but after an early morning walk along Grotto beach and breakfast, we were ready to set off by just before 11.

The drive down to L’Agulas was a very lonely drive. Very few cars on the roads here and many of the roads were dirt roads with miles and miles of farmlands and nothing on either side. We stretched our legs half way at Die Dam, one of the many beaches, this one was covered in flour like white sand and was completely deserted. Perfection. We made it to L’Agulhas for just after midday. There is a historic, and huge, lighthouse, to guide the old trade ships that would be heading for Asia, and in the lighthouse, there’s a museum and you have the option to climb the steps up to the top. We didn’t as we were quite pressed on time.

AB5< Indian Ocean | Atlantic Ocean >

It was a really beautiful place to go to. The Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean meet here and the sea is azure blue, and quite choppy, breaking on the jagged rocks that span the coastline. We climbed over the rocks and took a short time taking the whole place in. We were the furthest south we could be in Africa. The next stop below us is the Antarctic. That’s quite something. After this, we headed straight up for Robertson, a simple few hours drive north.

Robertson is a stunning old wine town. The countryside suddenly changes from stark dry fynbos (the South African shrubbery that can survive the summers) to beautiful green mountains covered in grass and delicious soon-to-be-more-delicious grapes. We stopped off for a lime milkshake and toasted chicken mayo sandwich (staple South African roadside meal) and headed straight to our B&B. We were staying at the rather luxurious Rosendal Winery and Wellness Retreat, hidden in the mountains surrounding Robertson. I was a huge fan of this place. For a start, the receptionist greeted us and gave us a glass of their delicious house white wine. I mean, anywhere that asks if you want a free wine in their second sentence gets my vote. We were taken to our very swanky poolside room and we settled in for a swim and a sunbathe.

Many of the places around here all offer similar experiences; wine tasting and spa treatments. We had a chilled night, as this time Andrew was feeling the effects of his cold, so we ate in and turned in early. The following morning we had booked in for a 2-hour spa treatment on site.. something I’ve never done before, so figured we’d give it a go. It was 800R for a full body scrub, facial treatment and an hours massage. Christ alive it was wonderful. I can see why people do these. My entire outlook on life had changed by the end. Feeling so bloody zen. Not remotely worried about work or life. Completely zen.

DAY 3 – Robertson to Oudtshoorn. 293km

AB7

 Drive on Day 3

Oudtshoorn. Why Oudtshoorn I head you ask? (You probably didn’t), but I will tell you why. Oudtshoorn isn’t a particularly common stop on the Garden Route as you’re not far from the end, but it has its draws. For me, it was the chance to visit an Ostrich farm. Oudtshoorn is a famous Ostrich town, which hit it’s industry boom in the late 1800s and early 1900s when Ostrich feathers were worth a fortune.

The drive from Robertson was easily navigated, most of it being through the Karoo, South Africa’s huge desert. This made for a stunning, if not somewhat bleak drive, but if you are doing this, please ensure you have water and enough petrol. There are farmstalls on the way to get snacks and drinks, but we didn’t see a petrol station for hundreds of kilometres and if you get stuck out there, it will make for a sweaty day.

We were later than hoping getting to Oudtshoorn, so headed straight for the 4 pm tour of the Highgate Ostrich Farm. Bizarre as it was, the whole experience at the ostrich farm was amazing. We saw a hatching ostrich and held week old babies, fed adults and went into the manufacturing area where a worker showed us how they made feather dusters. There was a section of ostrich riding and racing, which I’m not entirely sure how I felt about, but generally, it was a really fun experience. That night we ate at a local restaurant, Nostalgie which, like most Oudtshoorn restaurants, specialises in Ostrich meals. So, after an afternoon of learning about ostriches, we ate one, and it was so delicious.

AB8Many an Ostrich

The following morning we headed over to the Cango Caves about 30 minutes north of Oudtshoorn for our 11.30am ‘adventure tour’. The Cangos is an ancient system of caves that have been carved out through millions of years of water erosion. We were taken to the first few chambers by our tour guide, which were filled with huge stalactites and stalagmites formed over hundreds of thousands of years. Because we, foolishly, opted for the ‘adventure tour’ instead of the ‘heritage tour’, this involved our small group of 8 going on to explore the small system of corridors and passageways, something neither of us were aware would basically recreating ‘The Descent’ (without the cave zombies). The whole experience was terrifying yet at the same time, so exciting. I’m not claustrophobic, but I have never ever wanted to go 1km underground into a freezing cold caving system that has 98% humidity.

AB9Andrew coming out one of the small caverns we had to drag ourselves through.

DAY 4 – Oudtshoorn to Plettenberg Bay. 180km

AB91

 Drive on Day 4

The final morning was a push to get to our final destination, Plettenberg Bay. The road to Plett from George is a well-trodden route, and one we’ve done before. It’s filled with towns that many people stay over in, especially the famous fishing town of Knysna. 

The final post about Plettenberg Bay will be up soon.

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