In October of this year I did a 4 day Garden Route road trip with my girlfriend. Here are some of my surprise discoveries from my one and only South African road trip of 2010.
#1 Nature’s Valley Until this road trip, I had never been to Nature’s Valley. 32 years living in South Africa and never had I been there. Disgraceful. All I can say is that this place is a nature-lover’s heaven-on-earth. Wake up to the sound of the indigenous Knysna Loeries knocking on your window. Go for long walks on a wild and impressive beach. Surf spots on your doorstep, to the east and to the west. I will be back. Oh yes, I will be back.
#2 Best Sunday Roast on the Garden Route There is wildlife sanctuary for birds of prey called “Eagle Encounters” on the N2 near Plettenberg Bay. We discovered this little gem on a rainy Sunday afternoon while travelling from Plett to Knysna. I am big fan of birds of prey, so we decided to stop. Unfortunately the centre was not doing their daily bird flights and educational talks (because of the rain). So we browsed through their shop, and decided to have lunch at the cosy little restaurant. The restaurant served up the most delicious roast I’ve had all year. The atmosphere was just perfect with the soft rain drip-dropping on the corrugated iron roof. The ladies in the kitchen who prepared our food were laughing and smiling all through lunch. Definitely happy food.
#3 Pure Luxury at Pezula During this trip, we were fortunate enough to be offered a couple of nights stay at Knysna’s luxury golf estate, Pezula. Situated high up on the Knysna heads, the estate overlooks the Knysna lagoon on one side, and the Indian Ocean on the other. The most memorable aspect of our 5-star stay, was the large, comfortable and beautifully decorated room; which had every conceivable luxury including a selection of pillows which could be ordered from reception, based on your sleeping preference. The grounds at Pezula are magnificently kept, incorporating a world-class 18 hole golf course.
#4 Knysna Forest Walk Part of the charm of the Garden Route is NOT having a plan. If you like keeping spontaneity alive, then keep an eye on the various signboards which line the N2 as you drive this popular route. There are all sorts of spontaneous rewards awaiting you: Elephant Sanctuary, Bird Sanctuary, Wolf Sanctuary, Puzzle Land, Canopy Tours, and the list goes on... One of these rewards was a short forest walk (1.5km) we did through a section of the indigenous Knysna Forest. The demarcated walking area is easy to miss while travelling at 100km an hour on South Africa’s second national road; so keep an eye out for the small signboard (on the left hand side) on the stretch between Knysna and Plett.
There is parking for about 5-10 cars, and a small hut where the local national parks employees will take your R10 (approx $1) for walking along the boardwalk through this small piece of wooded paradise. There are picnic tables and all trees are marked with information boards. This is a great place to stretch your legs on a long road trip and a must for anyone who simply love beautiful trees. When I close my eyes and think of this road trip, it is in this haven that I find myself.
#5 Explore more My final and most important discovery from this road trip, is the realisation that I do not do this enough. It is so easy to get caught up in the rat-race: work, social commitments, friends, surfing, dinner parties where conversations revolve around things we’ve seen on youtube and where people keep whipping out their mobile phones every 5 seconds. I have realised that we do not make enough time to appreciate the beauty which lies all around us. Gifts. My resolution for 2011: explore more.