Friday, 23 December 2016

South Africa 4

Leaving Pretoriuskop at 5am we knew we would have a long drive ahead of us. Our aim was to get as far as Newcastle however having gotten down there in good time we managed to get just north of Pietermaritzburg just as the storms rolled in at 5.30pm. It had been a long days driving but was worth it to spend a good amount of time in Durban the next day. Durban was very cool, a surfers paradise, with white sandy beaches and blue skies! Parking in uShaka along the beach front we spent the morning walking along the beach, checking the shops and enjoying not being in the car! After meeting up with an old friend of Charles' for coffee we found some was an interesting affair and called bunny chow, curry (not bunny!) served with a huge hunk of bread. Apparently a local dish, it was very tasty but a bit of a carb overload for me! Leaving Durban we headed just north about 30km away to Jon and Bronwen's amazing Eden like house to spend the evening with them! I hadn't seen them for years but they couldn't have been more welcoming, joking about how we had done well to travel through Africa and make it at the right time for a cuppa at theirs! When visiting as an Overlander I often feel cheeky as we invariably ask to use the washing machine, keep our food in fridges and make the palace look generally untidy, but this said, our hosts were fantastic allowing us to do all of the above, treating us to avocado ice cream (don't mock until tried it's amazing), and even loaning towels and smarter clothes for the evenings entertainment! When I had spoken to Jonathon about coming down he had told us about a charity dinner and quiz for their local animal rehabilitation centre (check out their amazing work at, it was such a fantastic night despite being cheated out of forth place by my spelling mistake.. (no surprises there, but it was phonetically correct!). The food was great, the wine even better and all for a great cause. After getting home and talking till 2am we felt bed (in a proper bed) was called for!

Leaving the next morning we were slightly bleary eyed but after a strong coffee we were off! Our aim was to reach Coffee Bay, again another mammoth trip! As darkness fell we arrived at Coffee Bay Camping and were quickly in bed.. the tiredness had caught up with us! The sun was shining the next morning, and it was nice to spend the day stretching the legs and walking around! Unfortunately the campsite was infested with mosquitos so we quickly escaped to the beach for a swim in the chilly ocean! The beach was stunning, white and with green hill surrounding it. It was small and quiet, apart from the life guard training going on.. heading into the town we stopped for coffee, being accosted by some new locals we sat with them gaining an insight into the culture around there.. not the local culture but the one adhered to by the people coming in.. seasonairs and volunteers. We managed to escape, finding pizza at another place. Coffee Bay was a nice place, but I think we were a bit underwhelmed by it.. the campsite we stayed at was over priced and so full of mosquitoes we were banished to the tent by 7pm - it did make us move faster when doing some exercise - the more you moved the less likely they were to bite. Overall I counted 30 bites, the worst they have been for months!

With our few remaining days driving down ticking away we spent the Friday driving, managing to do a 10 hour stint to get to Jeffrey's Bay. I always take my hat off to Charles who doesn't complain at all driving for that long, despite the stops and starts for road works, idiot drivers and livestock crossing the road! I have learnt the key thing is to keep him supplied with food at all times and the occasional Monster! After spending the night in a small and inexpensive campsite just outside, we drove in on the Saturday. Jeffrey's Bay was stunning, you think of beach (not UK) and that was it, the layers of blue and the sand white and ever stretching. The countryside around it rolling hills. It was a Saturday so it was packed, but it was so nice to see people having fun, relaxing and enjoying each other's company! It made us feel less like tourists, doing things that everyone else was doing! Before we headed to the beach we did a little bit of shopping at the factory outlet stores.. it was like Bicester Village but more fun, and better shops.. Bilabong, Roxy, Ripcurl etc.. We managed to pick up some clothes at dirt cheap prices, even Charles who finally bought some new Fox tshirts and swimming shorts. After a lunch of sushi with a cheeky glass of wine we hit the beach and letting the food go down we then headed into the sea which was great fun. Everyone jumping over and under the waves, and just cooling down! It was a real contrast to Coffee Bay.

After Jeffrey's Bay we were on the home straight so to speak, a night at a the Garden Route Wilderness National Park which involved some serious hiking up a mountain marked our last run of camping for a while! The next few weeks would involve houses and stealing sofas! Monday we made our way down Rooi Els Road, a road that Charles had spent many days biking along! It was a stunning entrance into Gordon's Bay winding along the coastal route! It was a real blast from the past for Charles who could tell some story about each bend.. they tended to involve crashes or high speeds! Driving into Gordon's Bay we stopped of at the yacht club for some amazing sea food and headed into Somerset West where Charles used to live and his friend Dean still does. Charles couldn't believe how big it had grown and all the new developments and shops that had popped up.. it had been eight years I suppose! We had a great evening with Dean, eating ribs and catching up!

(Wilderness NP)

(views coming into Gordon's  bay(

Tuesday morning we spent some time driving around visiting Charles' old life! I got to see where he grew up - schools, after care, his house and his friends houses. It was something I had been looking forward to seeing, the area was stunning.. what a place to grow up! Gill and Roger had flown into Cape Town that morning so once we had the go ahead we arrived at their rented house half way up the Gordon's Bay mountain. It was the most incredible house, with the most stunning view! The view would had sold it for me.. our bedroom had a full view of the valley which was even more incredible at night! We settled in, and were in the pool with a drink in hand before we knew it! It was great to see them, and great to relax in such beautiful surroundings!

Over the next week or so with Gill and Roger we took it slow, and kept it relaxed. It was great just to catch up and spend time in their company. We hiked up the Helderberg mounting, which again brought back great memories for Charles and a Gill, walked along the beach at Strand, met up with old friends - both Gill's and Charles', ate amazing food, did a little bit of retail therapy, drank a lot of wine, visited a market and generally had a good time! Saturday was spent with some of Charles old friends from school and when he was growing up - it was nice to meet them and hear their old stories! This was all done to the stunning backdrop of the Bay, the sea and the sprawling individualised houses on the mountain! We couldn't have asked for better company or setting!

On Monday it was our trip to Cape Aghulas for our furthest point South of the trip! Whilst we still had a few weeks in South Africa it was effectively the end of long distances and new countries! We set off en-mass, Gill, Roger and ourselves, to meet Mum, Dad, Nev and Jen there also. The drive was stunning, the scenery and the animals - blue cranes and some game animals! We arrived to no wind but a grey sky, parked the car and took a few photos of it.. we were all surprised it had made it, it limped some of the way but it had made it!! We all walked with our picnic and celebratory bottles towards the southern tip, where the Indian Ocean met the Atlantic Ocean. Bottled ready and slight pause whilst Charles removed something out of his pocket.. to my complete surprise he got down on one knee and the rest is history! A real celebration, champagne was popped and our picnic eaten with the family! What a great surprise! The way home was just as beautiful, we stopped off at a harbour to watch the rays under water, and drove the Rooi Els pass again.. the clouds rolling over the mountains. Fish and chips for dinner and some more happy celebrating!

Gill and Roger's last day came around all too quickly, and the one thing we hadn't done was a wine farm visit. Gill used to work at Boshendahl winery so we headed there. It was an old, white building surrounded by green lawns and oak trees. The wine was great, all the company was great and our picnic under the trees idyllic. It was such a great way to end their time here, as we looked forward to seeing them back in the UK.