My Solo Road Trip Down the Garden Route

After what can only be described as a challenging year so far, I decided to run away for a week. On my own. I haven’t done this in ages, since living in the UK and jetting off to Malta for 5 days, in fact, but I am glad I did it again! This is a short version of what I got up to along the Garden Route.

As can be imagined, I left as soon as I could after work on the Friday, as my first stop was four hours’ drive away. It’s only coming into spring, so my last stretch was to be in the dark. It was an especially tricky drive as it rained all the way from Somerset West (15 minutes from the office) to my destination, a farm. By the time I arrived, it was quite a muddy farm and there were gates to open in the torrent. It was great though, exactly the kind of remove I was looking for, and I was really just so glad to be on the road and on my trip with not a clue what to expect of the next 10 days. Having my car serviced a few days before the trip also helped.

I’ve known Leah for about six years now, so it was really great to finally see the farm where she grew up, and recently moved back to from Stellenbosch, and meet some of her family members. I felt quite at home very quickly! On the Saturday we went to check out her two old horses Lappies and Ceasar, went to sit on her sister’s patio overlooking the sea for a few hours, armed with large whiskey and sodas, in Mossel Bay and on our return spotted some lambs out in the field near the farm that had frozen to death that very afternoon. I’ve never seen this, and it was quite a saddening sight, but it reminded me that nature favours the strong and always will. I also helped with feeding some calves a special blend of milky food on the Sunday, and in the late afternoon we walked to a dam on the farm. Because it’s there. And that’s what you do on a Sunday afternoon on a farm.

Monday morning, I left early and bought myself some proper leather boots and sandals at the Der Lederhandler factory shop in George. All in the aim of eventually getting those horrid plastic and pleather shoes out of my warddrobe for good and creating some space. Thus releasing the tiny Inca tribe hidden in the back of my cupboard from their agony of being stuck under some cheap chaussures. And reducing my future plastic and carbon footprint. And simply making my life easier by not having to go to a shoe shop again for many a year to come, which also makes it more cost-effective in the long run.

I stopped in Knysna at a pub-like restaurant in Thesen Island for lunch and uhm, the coffee was good. So decided to negate the substandard meal with a standard visit to The Heads and as always it came up with the goods. I met some Irish visitors, and on my return to my car ended up chatting to Donovan, the car guard, for about 15 minutes. He went to great lengths to tell me that he’s been the car guard there for 17 years and had quite a few stories to tell. He was very chuffed to speak some Afrikaans for a change “met die Stellenbosse nonnatjie”.

Next stop was Nature’s Valley. I had booked myself into a tent at Wild Spirit backpackers’ lodge, so was looking forward to the experience. Except that the tent on their website is probably the polar opposite of what I got. But the bed was comfortable (after I covered the tear in the sheet with the extra duvet), the tent was under a tree, on a corner and had good zips (bug control). Subsequently I realised that the best place to stay there was in your own tent, at the back of the property. Filed away for next time …

I didn’t really meet any new people, most of the travellers were kids from Germany, the Netherlands or the USA ticking items off a list (bungee jumping, stroking wild cats and so forth, but I didn’t overhear anyone planning to go for a wine tasting, surprisingly) and that wasn’t the point of the trip anyway. It was just to get away. Into forests, which I did. A lot!

I found some really great places to eat, with plenty of nature around, such as the Nature’s Way coffee shop within walking distance of the backpackers, and Bramon Wine Estate with their delicious food and wine, and tables that stretch right into the vineyard. I also visited Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary. Having arrived early in the morning, I ended up having a guide, Bazil, all to myself – a highlight for sure! In the afternoon, I drove down a few little roads seemingly going nowhere and into one guy’s yard unwittingly. Mercifully, he was friendly and sans shotgun. I arrived just in time to go for a walk in the Magic Forest before the sun set. It was truly magical!

After I had gone for a last walk in the Magic Forest, I made my way slowly back towards Cape Town on the Thursday morning. The photos probably don’t do the forest any justice, but maybe you get an idea of it’s awesomeness. I stopped for a long walk on the beach at Plettenberg Bay and had coffee at the Garden Route Wolf Sanctuary, inadvertently thinking it was a coffee shop. Good thing I did! It was the best coffee on my trip! It came in a small plunger with enough coffee in for two cups. It was perfect in every way and cost me all of R12.

The next stop was to visit some friends in Knysna, in Gouna, and it was great to be social again. I met some of their other friends and, as one does in the forest, we had a braai, drank wine and enjoyed lots of fresh air. Lesley kept us well fed with a delicious quiche and what I would describe as legendary omelettes. I was not entirely happy to leave the next day, so a walk down to the river with the puppies and Renier helped alleviate that. It was probably more the steep walk back up that rendered my brain incapable of thinking that helped.

After Knysna, I was off to a little enclave called Tesselaarsdal, four hours drive away. I had never been there before, so rented a little cabin for my last weekend. It was quite basic but equipped with everything you could need, including some spinach and thyme in the garden for breakfast with my eggs and cheese the next morning. It wasn’t as peaceful as I had hoped it would be (the sporadic revving of car engines seemed a bit excessive, and the neighbour had a loud party on the Saturday night, subjecting me to boot-party remixes until midnight, so Joe Cocker and I had to part ways after the first half an hour) despite being so remote. The only restaurant in town, De Postkantoor, is definitely worth a visit! They made my a salad to spec for lunch and sorted me out with a take-away dinner (and wine) too, adding everything, plus the permit to go hiking around the mountain, on one bill.

I woke up on Sunday ready for my home and people. The plan was to go to Blaauwklippen Market and meet a few friends, so was I packed and out by 10am. It was a gloriously a sunny day, and the drive out of town was breathtaking!

A solo road trip is to be recommended, for everyone. I had the space to pack out my mind and pack it in again, to switch on and off as I pleased, read books, go for walks, eat good and healthy food, listen to good music, see different things and encounter interesting people. And not once did I feel like I was unsafe.

The best part? That I knew I had something to come back to. That there were at least a few people glad to see me return. That my house was somehow glad too, and even though my plants had suffered a bit (my neighbour and I have different ideas about watering plants…), they are on the mend.

This welcome feeling, it’s worth more than any money in the world.

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