The Garden Route - South Africa

Our first stop on the world tour is South Africa! We had planned already to meet our friends in Cape Town, and so decided to stick a week on beforehand to explore the coast on the well known ‘Garden Route’. 

We arrived into Port Elizabeth our first stop, after a 24 hour journey from Heathrow.We arrived at our Airbnb after a sightly overwhelming drive from the airport in our hire car. Ed had never driven outside the UK and was thrown in the deep end slightly when suddenly driving in an African Country. 

Our wonderful host Romano met us at the gate of his home with a lovely smile and kind manner. He explained that he was a missionary (from Italy) working with underprivileged children locally, we immediately felt at ease and blessed to be staying in his home. He gave us good advice about where to eat, park and how to stay safe whilst staying in the local area (Something else that felt so foreign to us, living in such a safe country). 

Feeling much brighter after a good nights sleep, a shower and food, we headed to a nearby national park. With over 500 elephants, ‘Addo’ is the 3rd largest national park in South Africa. The huge expanse is home to many other wild animals and is a protected area. We had what I can only describe as a magical day. Driving round bends and happening upon elephants at the watering hole, herds of Zebras, Ostriches running in the distance. I felt like an observer in The Lion King. We were up close and personal, driving in our little hire car with no guides nearby, we definitely felt to be in their territory. I was awed by the stunning landscape, blue cloudless skies, red dusty earth and striking animals in their own habitat. What an experience. We knew that seeing Lions was rare, they keep to themselves and often only appear early in the morning or late at night. We of course hoped to see one but did not expect it. Whilst driving a little hastily back to the entrance to make closing time, aware that the sun was setting and we needed to be out, we noticed cars in the distance stopping and people pointing. I turned quickly to see in the distance not one, but 4 lions walking through the thick bush. A large female with her 3 cubs. We were giddy. Ed quickly turned the car around as we could see she was headed toward the road. We followed her path catching glimpses of her and the cubs through the thicket, getting closer and closer. She appeared on the road and casually walked between the cars, glancing round to check her babies were safe behind her. They were in no rush. We were awe struck and speechless. She was beautiful and majestic just as you would imagine and her cubs were adorable. They crossed the road slowly and ambled onto the hillside to continue their journey. We turned around and headed home speechless, thankful and I must admit, a little emotional after seeing such a sight. We later learned from Romano that in 30 visits to Addo, he had seen a lion once and that was with binoculars. What a privilege and what an introduction to this fascinating place. 

Next we arrived in Jeffreys Bay, a surfing hotspot. We headed straight to the stunning beach. A huge expanse of white sand, blue skies, bright sunshine and white waves rolling in. My ideal day. Being winter in South Africa, meant for a pretty empty and quiet beach, bar the surfers out on the waves. This was a lovely relaxing spot, we ate great fresh food, steaks, enjoyed the vibe and stayed in a relaxing Airbnb by the sea. Frisbee and jogs on the beach, reading books and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere made for a really lovely day / evening. Again, another blessed and beautiful day. 

3rd stop on the tour is a unique and quirky Airbnb not far from Plettensburg bay. Located on a lovely homestead, we had a 3 day stay in a creatively designed room that felt only slightly more permanent than a glamping tent. Open space, full of different textures and designs, aptly named The Peacock Room. This small farm is home to 3 dogs, 2 peacocks and several cats. It boasts a mask making shop and chocolate cafe. Warm and friendly hosts showed us around and explained that they have no internet and use rainwater to drink, an off the grid, fun experience! 

First night we joined the couple Neals and Carla alongside other American (Sailor) guests for a home cooked meal. We talked for hours, world travel, politics, philosophy, cultures and stories. It felt like a special time. Over the 3 days in ‘Plett’ we hiked, saw whales off the shore, at more great food, rested and enjoyed Neals + Carlas home and hospitality and home cooked food! 

We briefly stopped in the town of Hermanus, renowned for whale watching, especially in August. We were so lucky to see several large Southern Right Whales so close to the shore. Another spectacular experience that we will never forget!!! 

Bethany WalkerComment