The Garden Route

Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Flag of South Africa  , Western Cape,
Wednesday, May 16, 2012

We caught the Bazbus from Port Elizabeth to Knysna for the start of our time on the garden route just along the border of the Eastern and Western cape. All my family have been telling us the best things to do and assuring us it is well worth a visit but strangely the Lonely Planet guide to Southern Africa describes the garden route as 'missable' and our fellow travelers didn't seem too bothered by the area either, other than wanting to ride on an ostrich in Oudtshoorn. In fact several of them were just passing on through in order to get to Cape Town as soon as possible. 

I kept the faith that it was worth it but as we arrived into Knysna for the first time my initial reaction was that maybe the guide was right. We had just driven through a large township, the weather was overcast and the lagoon looked to be a little overly built-up. I'm not saying we were disappointed or that it wasn't nice, it just wasn't as amazing as we had expected. However when the sun came out and we started to explore the region it absolutely confirmed to us that the lonely planet guide is completely wrong. The garden route is simply amazing. Within a couple of hundred kilometres are stunning coastlines, deep forests, lakes, rivers and beautiful mountain ranges.

We were booked into a wooden cottage in Knysna overlooking the Knysna lagoon which was pretty luxurious and significantly cheaper than we had paid for hostels in Australia. We had a large bedroom with a balcony, bathroom with a jacuzzi bath and a small kitchenette which served our purposes perfectly. Most evenings there we watched the sun setting over the lagoon from our balcony with a bottle of Cape wine and a block of locally made blue cheese. No complaints there! Although Knysna is a little bit built up, you only have to drive a kilometre or two out or drive over to the Knysna Heads and it's stunning! Plus the Knysna waterfront has some really good restaurants with views over the lagoon and amazing food for half the price we pay at home. Again Katy was threatening to move here!

We had rain on the first night and all day on the last day, but every other day was beautiful sunny weather so we got out and explored in our hire car. On one of the days we visited nearby Wilderness which is a beautiful forest area right next to the sea. We drove into the forest to see the huge 800+ year old yellow-wood tree and an area called 'The Map of Africa.' From the view-point, the land looks (as the name suggests) like a map of Africa with two rivers meeting at the bottom. One side of the river is fresh water, and the other is salt and the two rivers meet at the bottom southern point. It's a bit like the two oceans meeting at the southern tip of South Africa. From there we could see around 18km's of coastline up towards Knysna with the backdrop of extensive mountain ranges behind.... as I say, the Garden Route is spectacular!

We also visited Plettenberg bay with it's beautiful beaches and explored a bit. We parked up and wandered across the beaches eventually finding our own private beach. Again we were treated with brilliant views across the sea to the mountains. We drove up a bit higher so that we could get more of a panoramic view and it was well worth it as the mist hung below the top of the mountains and above the bottom creating a mystical look over the mountains. With it being a clear day you could see for miles from our view-point and it was beautiful!

Probably the highlight (Other than amazing wine and chilling at our cottage) for us was a visit to Storms River Mouth in the Tsitsikamma national park. It's a it of a drive but a beautiful one past the Tsitsikamma mountain range and into the national park which looks our over the Indian Ocean. We stopped off at the Storms River Mouth and hiked from there along the coast and into the forest in an area which is part of the famous Otter trail. We had our picnic next to the sea and whilst we were eating we watched the rock dassies scurrying around on the rocks near the sea. They are brave but a bit skittish so if you got within about 10 metres of them they would shoot off into the rocks and out of sight.

On the way home from the Tsitsikamma national park we stopped off at the world's highest commercial bungee jump where very stupid people throw themselves down off the bridge falling over 200 metres towards the earth. It's such a beautiful view across from the bridge and into the mountains but I don't think I could have appreciated that view if the only thing between me and certain death was a piece of elastic. 

 I heard that this bungee jump company had a group of guys signed up who were being very cocky about the jump so the guys decided to make their jump a little more adrenalin filled. They got them all strapped up and ready to go and led them to the edge. Then they counted...

 "Three, Two, One... Bungee!!!" As they leaned forward they then shouted "NO, wait, stop!!!

 So now they were hurtling towards the floor in blind panic that something was wrong. HARSH!

The garden route is amazing, it's just so beautiful. The only negative aspect is how built up certain areas are, but for us... Brilliant! 
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