Many Overlanders tend to avoid this part of South Africa: too touristy, too “developed” and not sufficiently adventurous. We have planned the route anyway, because this part also belongs to South Africa and there will certainly be a reason why many “beautiful and rich” people (not only from South Africa) have real estate here or even have moved their center of life down here.
On first sight, all Overlander prejudices are certainly true, but we still have a great time. For the first time in almost six months in Africa we are traveling slower than planned and that means something with our overall still relatively high pace of travelling 😉. In addition, I find myself looking at offers from real estate agents … another sure sign that we like the region very much. We are lucky that we are traveling in the low season which keeps the tourism within acceptable limits. The weather also plays along and spring shows in its most colorful floral splendor.
No one knows exactly where the Garden Route begins and where it ends. We start in the east shortly after Port Elisabeth (“P.E.”) in Jeffrey’s Bay, visit the highlights of the Gardenroute National Park (Tsitsikamma, Nature’s Valley, Wilderness and other sections) and make impressive walks along rocky coastal cliffs to waterfalls and other great natural highlights. The trees (especially the yellow woods) in these cold rainforests are huge and the surrounding jungle with its ferns forms an impenetrable thicket. In Plettenberg Bay and in Knysna we enjoy “lifestyle” with great restaurants, shops and chilled beach walks. We take a walk in the high end residential areas and admire the pretty houses with their perfectly landscaped front gardens and beautiful decorations. Several times we are impressed by the temperature fluctuations at this time of the year (spring): on average we have between 20 and 25° C during the day, however we had two single days with temperatures of 35 to 37° C each. The so-called “mountain wind” is comparable with the alpine “hair dryer” wind we have at home and is responsible for this short-term temperature booster. We visit acquaintances (a friend of Karin from her yoga class in India and a South African whom we met in Hangwe N.P. in Zimbabwe) and explore also the back country away from the coast. The so-called “Klein Karoo” has great passes to offer (including the scenic Swartberg Pass) and picturesque villages, such as Prince Albert with old Cape Dutch houses. Here everything is very peaceful, the front doors are still open until late in the evening, and nothing is noticeable of the frequently felt tensions, between white and black. Again, there are several wineries, but our wine tasting highlights are still to come 😉.
Back on the coast, De Hoop N.P. not only offers great views of the sea and of the rare Bontebocks but also of many whales. Whilst we had bad luck in Mozambique and saw only a few, here we encounter them in masses. We see Southern Right Wales babbling in the shallow waters with their babies before returning to the stormy and cold Antarctic in a few months. After arriving at Cape Aghulas, the most southerly point of Africa, whales are again in the foreground in Hermanus – and of course our meeting with the nice Swiss Overlanders Penny and Armin. We have been in contact with them for some time and they have driven down the Africa West Route with their MAN truck …. Of course, we are curious and spend a nice time with them.