South Africa - Garden Route

The drive back to the coast takes a little longer than planned, because we stay a few days at the beautiful River Campground and pass the time with swimming, reading and braai, the South African barbecue. 

Finally, we make it to the sea after all and make a first stop in Jeffreys Bay. The place is a hotspot for surfers and the heart of our son Felix would surely beat faster in view of the possibilities. We stay one night and enjoy seafood for lunch and margarita for sunset. A few kilometers further, St Francis Bay is already waiting for us. We take advantage of the good infrastructure in the town to do the laundry before we park ourselves a little outside near the lighthouse on a beautiful parking lot by the sea and end the day with walks on the beach and extensive sunbathing.  

Now we continue along the coast to Tsitsikama NP. There we go for a few days to the Storms River Mouth Campground with a beautiful seawater swimming pool. From there we do a hike over three suspension bridges and then further steeply up the mountain to Lookout Point. We have been here before in 2009 and have to take a picture at the same place. Unfortunately I didn't find the T-shirt from before, but otherwise everything fits. The next day we walk in the other direction along the coast to a small waterfall. The way goes over stick and stone with some climbing. Karin's hiking shoes didn't survive this ordeal and gave up after half of the way. The trail is also the start of the Otter Trail which in normal times you have to book a year in advance and for which a maximum of 12 hikers per day are allowed. 

We prefer to drive with our car to Natures Valley instead of walking the Otter Trail and spend a few hours swimming in the lagoon. On the way you can jump from a height of 214 meters from the Bloukrans Bridge and hope that the bungee rope holds. We have waived it and rather made a few photos of the daredevils.  

Birds of Eden is the largest free-flight aviary in the world, spanning more than 2ha of forest above a river gorge. On boardwalks and suspension bridges you walk through the jungle-like terrain and can admire hundreds of bird species up close. 

For the night we put ourselves on a beach parking lot in Keerboom, after we have enjoyed a delicious dinner at the trendy Italian restaurant "Enrico". In the morning dolphins greet us for breakfast.

Near Plettenberg we spend two relaxing days on a beautiful campground by the sea. Locals tell us that the campground is probably one of the best 10 in South Africa. We can only agree with that. The sea around the corner, space for the hammocks, a fireplace for our potje and a nice campfire in the evening, what more do Manni and Karin need. 

Well rested, we drive a few kilometers to the Robberg Nature Reserve, a peninsula that can be circumnavigated on beautiful hiking trails. As the name suggests, there are a lot of seals that obviously feel comfortable on the rocky cliff and in the roaring surf. This also attracts the white sharks, which the surfers on the nearby beaches like less. 

According to travel guides, Knysna is one of the most beautiful resorts on the Garden Route and correspondingly touristy. The waterfront is modeled after the one in Cape Town, only a bit smaller. After a moderate sushi lunch in a nice restaurant on the waterfront, we drive a little outside to Buffalo Bay. There we are directly at the sea and after sunset we are alone. During a walk on the beach I discover in the distance many locals on the beach who go there some mysterious activity after. It actually looks like they are digging and sifting the sand. Of course, I have to take a close look at this. In fact, they are actually sifting the sand and finding polypropylene balls 1-2mm in diameter. Each day, 10-20 kilos are obtained per search team, which are then passed on for processing. Whether this is a contribution to reducing the plastic content in the sea, or rather a business model, because the price of plastic raw materials has doubled in recent years, even Google could not tell me. 

IIn the vicinity of Wilderness we go for a few days to the beautiful Ebb & Flow Campground on the river. After the many beach nights with the permanent background noise of the roaring surf we are looking forward to a few noiseless nights. From there we visit the Farmers Market in Sedgefield on Saturdays. On a huge area everything is offered what grows with the farmers in such a way. In contrast to the supermarket, where everything is shrink-wrapped in plastic, the goods are available unpacked directly from the farms in the area. Of course, there are also many handicrafts and lots of food stalls and a really good German Curry sausage. In the afternoon we take a nice walk along the river to Wilderness. The place itself has not much to offer for our taste, but it is almost unbelievable how many villas line the way here in the best location and BMW and Porsche give themselves a rendezvous in the double garages. On Sunday we make a hike along the river to a small waterfall. As a highlight you have to pull yourself on a pontoon with muscle power over the river on the way. Arrived at the waterfall, however, the brown water in the bathing pools does not invite us to bathe and so we are back at the car in the early afternoon and prefer to go swimming in the river

Oudtshorn is known for its ostrich farms. From the 18th century, ostrich feathers were fashionable as hat ornaments for rich ladies in Europe, which led to the near extinction of ostriches worldwide. Then, in the mid-19th century, South Africans began to breed ostriches in farms and experienced a real boom for ostrich feathers in the early 20th century. Today, feathers hardly play any role in ostrich breeding. Practically everything from the animal is utilized. The meat is usually exported as a delicacy and the skin is used to make leather bags. As the only guests on a farm, we even get a German-speaking tour. In the process, we learn a lot about the animal and are now practically experts on ostriches. Flying it has forgotten in the course of the millennia, but it reaches a maximum speed of 70km/h and can hold 50km/h for half an hour. For comparison, a lion with its 4 legs reaches 80km/h but only for a very short time. After a short visit to the city museum we have to try an ostrich steak for lunch. Tastes very tasty, almost just like a good beef fillet. 

We continue towards the Swartberg Pass, but turn left shortly before the ascent, because we have already driven the pass during our visit in 2009. As an alternative, we take an unpaved side road through a magnificent landscape that leads us, among other things, past some private game reserves. There we see then quite surprisingly a large herd of giraffes in front of a picturesque mountain scenery. 

The old train station in Calitzdorp has been converted into a campground by an English couple. With the trolley we actually wanted to recreate a scene from the movie "The Shoe of Manitou", but unfortunately it didn't work out with the costuming. It's a good 40 degrees hot and very dusty, but conveniently, just around the corner is a winery with a good restaurant and port wine tasting. So what to do when you see a tempting menu and can taste a wine or two in the shade under vines? Later it cooled down insignificantly during a thunderstorm, but that was already not so important. By the way, we can warmly recommend the port wine. 

We are now on Route 62, which is mercilessly marketed in the style of Route 66. So Ronnie with his bar on the roadside once thought about why no one stops at him and without further ado renamed the name in "Ronnies Sex Shop" and advertises it already a few kilometers before. Since then, his business is booming, although there is nothing to see of sex far and wide, except for a few bras that some tourists have left behind in the bar over the years.

Nearby is the Warmwaterberg Campground and as the name suggests it is a spa with three hot and one cold pool in which you can relax wonderfully with a view of the surrounding mountains. 

In Swellendam, Karin is due for another visit to the hairdresser. After a city tour with the beautiful thatched houses and an excellent lunch we drive out to the dam to a super nice place on the water. Here only a few dog walkers pass by from time to time and after sunset we are alone. At seven in the morning we hear "Good Morning Karin and Manni" from outside. This animates us to a wonderful bath in the morning haze. At this point we have to mention that we are very impressed by the unobtrusive friendliness of the South Africans. This makes traveling really very pleasant.  

Bontebok Park is beautifully situated by the river and the Bonteboks pass right by the site, or you can drive the 15km of the park. The next day we continue over a rock-hard rutting road to De Hoop National Park. It lies picturesquely behind the snow-white dunes and on the approach to the reception we already see more Bonteboks than in the previously visited park of the same name. Near the campground is a nice pool and a very good restaurant where we can celebrate our "getting to know you day" in a nice atmosphere. The next morning we drive a nice loop to the beach which shines in beautiful colors behind the dunes.  

Via Arniston we continue to Port Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa. After the southernmost and northernmost point in America, it is a sublime feeling to be at the southernmost point of Africa, whereby we can even stand with one leg in the Indian Ocean and with the other in the Atlantic Ocean.

Hermanus stretches for several kilometers along the coast with many nice pubs, but small parking lots that are not really suitable for spending the night. We find what we are looking for in Kleinmond. There it is a little more contemplative and when the beach bar closes at 21:00 you are alone.

On the further drive along the coast we make a stop in the Harald Porter Botanical Garden with interesting insights into the Cape flora and at the African penguins in Betty's Bay.

In Pringle Bay we stand directly behind the dunes and enjoy once again a great sunset.

Now it is enough with beach and sea noise and it goes on to the wine region around Stellenbosch and Paarl. What we experience there you will learn as always in the next blog. Until then, enjoy reading and looking at pictures.


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