Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty....
Trip Start Oct 13, 2010
58Trip End Jun 20, 2011
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Where I stayed
All along The Garden Route
Landing in Port Elizabeth at nightfall, we walk over to Budget to pick up our rental car for the next 11 days. Our destination is ultimately Cape Town, but we'll be taking our time getting there over the next week, driving along the Garden Route. We’re still pretty shattered from last night’s festivities, our regrettable early-morning run, and the long trip here from Victoria Falls. So when the flustered girl behind the counter tells us that there’s a problem with our reservation and her impatient manager confirms that she can’t find our voucher number, we’re growing a bit agitated. Whatever then…just cancel the reservation and pretend that we just walked in here requesting a car. Voucher schmoucher. But no…we stand there for the better part of an hour, waiting for them to dot their i’s and cross their t’s before we’re finally issued our tiny, pint-sized Chevy Spark
With my knees practically on the dashboard and continually interfering with Jill’s shifting, we sputter off in the dark to try to find our hotel, as we were also told that they don’t have a GPS unit for us, despite it being included on the reservation request. We did eventually find it…though it was definitely the "long way" and through some pretty dark streets. The hotel actually looks quite nice and should work out great to get some desperately needed sleep…and then reception tells us that they’re hosting a wedding tonight. Awesome. We get to our room and are awake only long enough to order a room service salad and check our emails. Oh…and also to notice that one of the zippers to my pack is open and the power cord to my laptop is gone. Really? Someone actually stole my power cord? Whatever…time to start counting sheep…
Despite the flooded bathroom floor on Sunday morning, we decide that one more night’s rest at this hotel would do wonders for us, so we change rooms and extend for another day. The highlight of the morning is Jill receiving an email from a guy she met in Europe years ago, telling her that he was now married, but regretted it, and that he really should be with her
Port Elizabeth is known as the “Windy City” in these parts and as we drive down to the boardwalk to find a spot for lunch, we don’t need any explanation of how they came up with the name. We sit there happily in the sun and breeze for a couple of hours, soaking in the environment by the water below…a tireless guy repeating a crazy exercise routine beside his adolescent admirers, a giggling dance troupe of young girls, and a woman playing ultra-cheesy love songs on an organ. The beach here is quite pretty, though the water is way too cold for us….despite all the girls happily splashing around in it after they were finished dancing. Walking along the boardwalk after lunch, we spot an arcade and decide to go in to have a bit of fun. Unfortunately, there are no old-school games, so Jill & I resort to several showdowns of motorcycle racing, tap dancing, bowling, and the always crowd-pleasing whack-a-gator. (Reminded me of the Chucky Cheese days, collecting tickets to trade them in for some trinkety bits
Before leaving Port Elizabeth on Monday morning, we drive back to Budget to exchange our crappy Chevy Spark for a slightly-less-crappy Hyundai Getz…at least we’re not battling for elbow room in this one. We’ve plotted out our first stop on the Garden Route to be a town called Storm’s River, so we take off in our new wheels, with a slight detour to check out Cape St. Francis along the way. The waves here are crazy and the surfers better than we’ve seen anywhere on our trip so far. We walk along the water toward the lighthouse, stopping off at a penguin rehabilitation center along the way, only to find out that today is a public holiday and just about everything is closed. Oh well…back in the car then, we continue on to Storm’s River, just as a huge thunderstorm adds a level of appropriateness to the destination
As often happens during the course of this trip, we arrive feeling starved, so we immediately choose a nice little lodge, complete with fireplace, for dinner. With the place to ourselves, a homey décor, and an awesome-looking menu, we’re excited about the meal to come. The place is so quiet though that you could hear all of the sounds coming out of the kitchen….and the sound that we keep hearing over and over? A microwave beeping and its door being opened and shut constantly. Hmmmmm….a bit disconcerting when you’re supposed to be eating at a nice restaurant! (As we are listening to the micorwaving madness going on in the kitchen, in walks in another group of diners. I am now happily people watchng as they settle in and I can't help but notice that one has an uncanny resemblance to Elvis. "Seriously Joe, that guy has to be an impresonator...") Unsurprisingly, the food turns out to be average, but we buy a bottle of wine to-go before checking into our home for the next 2 nights….Serenity Retreat. We meet the owner, Kitty, along with her 2 pooches, and after she briefs us on the area, we settle into our nice, little rondavel hut for the night.
After having breakfast in our own self-contained kitchen on Tuesday morning, we get into the car for the short drive to Tsitsikamma National Park
Wednesday came and it was time to move onto our next stop along the route, which we’ve decided will be a town called Knysna. It’s actually not too far of a drive, so we figure we’ll take our time getting there, stopping off at a few places along the way. After breakfast, we do a very short 1km hike called the Big Tree walk
Driving out to an area called The Crags, we’re both excited to stop in at the Wild Cat Sanctuary. After being shown a well-intentioned but ridiculously cheesy video (A Whole New World??? Really???) about endangered wild cats, it was time to actually get into the pens with the carnivores….nice! They start us off small, though still cool, with a couple of African wild cats, a serval, and a caracal. Then…the bigger guys. For our own safety, we weren’t allowed into the enclosure with the leopard, but we did get to see him prowling around up close and personal. What a beautiful animal. We were allowed in to see the cheetahs though and they were walking right beside us
We drive onwards until deciding to stop in the town of Plettenberg Bay to find a spot for lunch. This town is resort heaven and absolutely reeks of money. We drive to a spot called The Lookout, find some space on the rocks, and watch the waves roll in and a bunch of guys fishing in front of us as we eat our turkey sandwiches. A beautiful spot and an absolutely huge beach below.
Making our way to Knysna, we haven’t yet booked a place to stay, so we head to the first hostel that we had picked out from our book. After a confusing discussion about the correct rate, the dog smelling like its own crap, (This dog was definitely a poo eater, and unfortunately I had let it lick my hand, which now smelled like @ss... awesome.) and an overall bad ambiance, we decide to try out option #2…Island Vibe. Despite horrible acoustics, the place seems much better, so we check in and shower up before heading out to find a place for dinner. We eventually make it to a Mozambiquan restaurant, with the greatest memory of it being a huge fight going on between the couple in front of us
After checkout, we drive to the lagoon on Thursday morning for breakfast and some much-appreciated, strong coffees. We stroll around the waterfront for a while before driving out to another lookout point on the top of a hill called The Heads. From that perch, we looked down below onto the lagoon, the ocean, and the rocky cliffs all around. What an amazing vista. We agree that we really like Knysna…a charming and picturesque town.
Next stop…Wilderness. Yes, that’s actually the name of the town. The tourist information center doesn’t provide much useful information on accommodations, so we choose one from our book and drive there to find a sprawling acreage dotted with old farmhouses and an outdoor bar area. Nobody is here but us and David the surfer-dude, who’s manning the front desk. We both like the place immediately. Our room, though, is pretty dark & cold and has a broken doorknob. After going into town to get some groceries, we decide to commandeer the upper floor of the farmhouse, which is much nicer and also empty
We decide to actually check out some of Wilderness on Friday, so we pick out a 2-hour hike that leads to….you guessed it….another waterfall! It was actually a pretty cool hike, with a nice trail and a water crossing that we had to use a pulley-powered pontoon boat to get across. There are also tons of huge, fresh spider webs, much to Jill’s delight. (They actually looked pretty with the morning dew.) When we arrive at the waterfall, we see 2 guys sitting there on the rocks….without so much as one stitch of clothing on. So what do you do in this instance? Turn back? Warn them? Just continue on as if everything is normal? After a brief hesitation, Jill and I choose the last option, and we engage in some friendly banter with them just to take some of the “weirdness quotient” out of the picture.We continue chatting as we walk right up and then past them, turning our backs to give them a chance to put some pants on
After lunch, we check out from our farmhouse in Wilderness and decide to drive to our next town…Oudtshoorn, which is not pronounced anything like it’s spelled (assuming you would even know how to pronounce it the way it’s spelled). This place is known for its ostrich farms and we had it earmarked from the very beginning of our Garden Route trip. Who can resist the opportunity to ride an ostrich, right? We arrive into town and find a guest house called Karoo Soul Lodge…a beautiful, homey property that we both like immediately. We settle in, make a trip into town to get some groceries for dinner, and then plan out our ostrich extravaganza tomorrow.
We wake up Saturday morning to pouring rain…hmmmmm…maybe not the best weather to hit an ostrich farm. No biggie….we’ll wait it out and in the meantime, we’ll go visit one of the other cool sites around Oudtshoorn….the Cango Caves
Exiting the caves, it’s still raining pretty hard, but we try our luck and stop off at an ostrich farm regardless. We’re told that the ostriches would be quite “cranky” today because of the rain and that the track would be too slippery to actually ride them, so we concede defeat and accept that we won’t be getting up close and personal with any ostriches on this trip. There are worse things in life. So to console ourselves, we choose another method to get up close and personal with ostriches…eating them
Tomorrow we have a 6-hour drive to get to our last stop in South Africa…and the one that everybody we’ve spoken to has raved about…Cape Town. It’s supposed to be a beautiful city with tons of cool stuff to do, not the least of which is climbing Table Mountain. South Africa has been a highlight for both of us so far and we’re hoping to end it with the cherry atop the proverbial sundae…even though I really don’t like those cherries. Regardless, it should be a good time. We’ll let you know how it goes.