I’m travelling around South Africa for just over 3 weeks and I’ve spent the first week and a half doing the Garden Route. This first post will explain all of my adventures and the next post will be about my adventures in Cape Town. I couldn’t upload any photos on this post as I don’t have strong enough wifi but you can view all of my photos in this album.
We left Mthatha on 10th December and we rented a car so that Chloe and Jess could kindly drive us all the way to Cape Town. On the first day we drove to East London and we arrived at our backpackers. That night we took a nice walk along the beach and we headed to a restaurant. We bonded with Kiera who is another Project Trust volunteer but sadly her partner dropped out so she is travelling with us. The drive and car issues wore us out so we headed to bed for an early night so we could be up early for the next day. East London reminded me very much of the South African version of the seaside town of Blackpool as there were fairground rides and the distinct fish smell.
The next day, we drove to the lovely little village of Bathurst to see The Big Pineapple. It was just like a village that you’d find in Somerset. My parents visited it 18 years ago on their VSO bike ride and I wanted to see it for myself. We climbed to the top of the pineapple, learning all about pineapple history and production, but the weather wasn’t great so we couldn’t see much from the viewing point. It was nice to take a break from driving to go and see something so unique. It’s also crazy think that my parents were also in the exact same spot I was and that only time has separated us. I hope these pictures bring back some good memories and you can see how much or how little South Africa has changed.
We then drove from Bathurst to Grahamstown where we dropped off all of our bags before we headed to Addo Elephant Park for the rest of the day. We saw elephants, zebras, giraffes and antelopes. Sadly we didn’t see any lions but it was still a fantastic trip. We eventually got back to the backpackers at around 7pm and it felt like we had been driving for an eternity. Grahamstown is home to Rodes University and it’s the most westernised place I’ve seen so far on our travels. The houses look just like bungalows, which makes a change from the traditional Xhosa houses I’m used to. Each street seemed to be named after a UK university as we saw Leicester Street, Oxford Road, Worcester Road, Sheffield Street and even Durham Road! Despite being 6,000 miles away from home it feels like the UK has just moved over here. Once we arrived to the backpackers, I was on cooking duty and after cooking in the tiny outside kitchen we finally made it to bed for a good nights sleep.
The next day we were heading to Adrenalin Addo to do a zip line and giant swing. Despite getting lost on the way there we arrived in the nic of time to start our 12 o’clock session. It was just as well we set of an hour earlier to ensure we got there on time! On the zip line you go down two at a time so it can be turned into a competition as to who can get down first. Sadly, I didn’t win but I had so much fun doing it. The giant swing was much more scary. We were hoisted up into the air by a car reversing which pulled a rope to pull us up in the air. We then swung down so quickly. It was so much fun and I wish I could do it again. Once we finished the activities we headed to Port Elizabeth to sort out the car (a very long story) and then we finally headed to our backpackers. Port Elizabeth reminded me of Manchester, with it’s tall flats, big city vibe and the motorway next to it. The next day was our rest day where we had no driving. We headed to Greenachres shopping centre for the day and we all picked up a few useful heat battling clothing. Sadly we didn’t have time to go to the beach but I still had a good day.
The next day we were heading to Bloukrans Bungy – the world’s highest bridge bungee jump. I wasn’t brave enough to do the jump myself but Chloe did a jump in Edinburgh for her Project Trust fundraising so she knows what she’s getting herself in for, and Jess is a newbe to it but she decided to take the plunge. After half an hours effort of trying to get our car out of our parking space we set off along the N2 (South Africa’s motorway) to head to our destination. Once we arrived, we checked in and walked underneath the bridge which was terrifying as the walkway was just metal slots that you could see the river far below. When we arrived to the bridge base, one by one Jess, Kiera and Chloe jumped off the bridge, had a 6 second free-fall and then they were brought back up to explain how it went. They all really enjoyed it and maybe, just maybe, one day I’ll get the courage to do one myself.
We then drove to Tsitsikamma which is a very small village, similar to Middleton-In-Teesdale. The village makes its income from tourism and as soon as we arrived I knew exactly why. Its geographical location makes it a perfect place to stay after doing the bungy jump as it’s nearby and in Tsitsikamma there are so many activities to do – canopy tours, waterfall zip lines, black water tubing, segway tours or visiting. We were booked in to do the segway tour and tubing the day after. The segway tour was so much fun. We were given a 1-hour guided tour around the village and into the national park. We went through streams and over speed bumps. The most interesting part of the tour was finding out more about Tsitsikamma and just how special this place really is. This has been my favourite place we’ve visited so far. There’s just something magical and enchanting about staying in a village that’s surrounded by trees and mountains whenever you look up and around you. It’s absolutely beautiful and I really hope I can go back sometime. In the afternoon we were doing black water tubing which was something we’d never tried before. You sit in a rubber dingy and go down the Stroms River. As we were doing it in December the river level was really low so we ended up walking a lot of it which was a shame as the videos made it look like you would go down whitewater waves. I still enjoyed the trip as it was really relaxing and something new to try. About three-quarters of the way through the route, we all linked up and became a giant chain whilst the instructor handed out Mars bars whilst we were still on the river! We gobbled them up quickly as we were running out of energy and we were being told to paddle. We then continued down the river a little bit further until we reached our end destination. We climbed out and drove back to the backpackers were we all got a good nights sleep after the tiresome adventures of the day.
The next day we headed to Knysna, a nice town with a scenic lagoon – similar to Keswick at home. I’m trying my best to relate the places to where I’m at so that you can get a better idea of what South Africa is like. Before anyone asks ‘where does Mthatha remind you of?’, I honestly wouldn’t know where to start. There’s no words that can explain Mthatha. It’s a different place to anywhere I’ve been before and the only way you could know what it’s like is to come and visit yourself. On the other hand, Knysna is a lovely town that has a nice balance of westernised shops to the small local markets making it a perfect place to be. In the evening, after a day of exploring the city centre, we met up with the Outward Bound (OB) volunteers to visit an amazing sand-covered bar that was right next to a beautiful beach. It was really nice to see the other Project Trust volunteers as we haven’t seen them in 3 months. The next day we drove to Sedgefield as we were heading to a township, leaving party for one OB staff member. The dress code was white so the girls wore white dresses or floral tops whilst the boys wore white shirts and smart trousers. This party was just like the township party we went to in Mthatha before we left for Cape Town. Parties here generally start in the middle of the day and go on til very late at night. South African’s really do like to party. There’s usually a braai and drinking involved which adds to the excitement. We drove to Sedgefield view point on the way back to our accommodation and the view was amazing. It was late at night but even then the town looked amazing from above and we even saw a shooting star! As there is no air pollution the stars light the sky and it’s so beautiful to look at.
We were staying with OB for the night and so the next day we had a lovely breakfast with everyone and then we headed to the beach for the majority of the day. It was so hot that we bought ice creams to cool us down but by the time we got back to the beach base they had already melted. The temperature is really heating up now as it got to 39 degrees the other day which is just unmanageable. In the late afternoon we made tracks and we drove to Mossel Bay where we got an early night for our 5am start the next day. Chloe and Jess were doing a shark cage dive in Gansbaai so we had to set off at ridiculous hours to get there on time. The girls throughly enjoyed it and are still alive to tell us their stories. Whilst we were waiting for them we saw some penguins on the beach which for me more excited to go to Simon’s Bay in Cape Town.
I hope you enjoyed reading the first part of my holiday. I will be updating my blog at the end of Cape Town so you can read and see what I’ve been up to. If you have any questions feel free to ask me in the comments below.