This Week in Africa…Eastern/Western Capes, Garden Route and Beyond, South Africa (April/May 2019)

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At the southernmost point of Africa (Agulhas National Park)

After nearly two weeks in the beautiful Drakensberg region of South Africa (see previous post), Mathieu and I headed to the coast. Over the next nearly 3 weeks, we meandered through the Eastern and Western Cape provinces, including the Garden Route, visiting friends and stunning places along the way.  

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Our first stop was to the city of Durban where we stayed with our friends Wendy and Ian who we’d met in the Drakensberg. Like us, they’d just returned from the rainy Drakensberg, so together we dried out our camping gear and did some maintenance. Their front yard looked like a tent city! They welcomed us into their beautiful, tropical oasis-like home where we spent time relaxing, eating good food and drinking delicious wine with our wonderful hosts. We also got to join their weekly wine club where we met some of their friends and tasted some fantastic wine presented by the winemaker. What a treat!

After several wonderfully relaxing days with our friends, we continued south to Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve also in the KwaZulu-Natal province. This small inland reserve protects a portion of a deep gorge cut by the Mzimkulwana River. It was nice to hike through the lush green tropical forest at the bottom of the gorge.    

We then drove along the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape province, spending a few days at Coffee Bay, a small village named as such after a ship lost its cargo of coffee beans in a wreck off the coast. We couldn’t resist spending a few days there enjoying the white-sand beach in front of our campground and exploring the area, including the Hole in the Wall, a massive offshore rock with a hole that formed due to erosion by the Mpako River (vs.by wind or surf). Very cool.    

Next we visited Addo Elephant National Park. While we encountered many of the same animals during our visit to Kruger National Park, it never gets old seeing these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat. And here, we finally saw ostrich, and we got to watch a very stealthy yellow mongoose forage across the grassland.     

From the park, we drove through the city of Port Elizabeth to visit the stunning white-sand beaches of the Cape Recife Nature Reserve and Sardinia Bay Marine Protected Area. It was amazing to enjoy the beautiful landscape almost entirely to ourselves.  

We then drove inland again to visit the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve, a World Heritage Site that protects roughly 667,000 ac (270,000 ha) of unspoiled, rugged mountainous terrain. We spent a day and a half driving the narrow, windy dirt road through the Grootrivier Gorge, enjoying the colorful layered cliffs and rock formations.  

From the gorge, we returned to the coast, now in the Western Cape province, and started the famous Garden Route, a 190-mi (300-km) stretch of the coast sandwiched between the Indian Ocean and the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma Mountains. In Tsitsikamma National Park, we walked the network of suspension bridges dangling over the turbulent ocean at the mouth of the Storms River and hiked along the jagged rocky coast. The gray, cloudy weather just added to the drama of this already stunningly dramatic landscape.   

Besides the awesome natural beauty of this extensive national park, the area is also famed for the Bloukrans Bungy Jump, the world’s highest commercial bungy bridge jump where you jump from the top of the arch of Bloukrans Bridge, Africa’s highest bridge. Yeah, you know I had to do it! (The proof is in the video.)

After a few days in the park, we continued south to Robberg Island Nature Reserve where we hiked around the narrow peninsula surrounded by stunning views. As we hiked, we watched the huge colonies of African fur seals hauled out on the rocks and swimming in the surf. We couldn’t help but wonder how many of the seals’ local predator, the great white shark, were also lurking in the surf. Hmm… 

In the city of George, we visited our friends Jeandré and Bianca who we’d also met in the Drakensberg. We spent several days relaxing with our wonderful hosts and their awesome dog, Ash, eating good food, drinking delicious wine, and sharing stories. While we were there, we were integrated into their lives. We got to met their friends at their weekly supper club and join them and their running club for the weekly 5km at the local park. What a treat! After a few days of relaxing, we finally got off of their couch and explored the area a bit. We went for a kick-butt hike up to two local mountain peaks. The views from George and Cradock peaks overlooking the mountains on one side and the coast on the other were absolutely stunning.  

When it was finally time to move on, we drove south to the end of the Garden Route then onward to Agulhas National Park. There, we stood at the southernmost point of Africa, straddling the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Very cool!

After rounding the tip of Africa, we spent the next few days slowly driving up the west coast along the Atlantic Ocean to Cape Town. On the way, we stopped often to walk along some of the many stunning beaches and marvel at the massive steep coastal mountains that sloped into the sea. Dramatic. Stunning. Awesome.    

I’ll let the pictures and videos show the beauty of the Eastern and Western Capes, the Garden Route and beyond. Enjoy!

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