Let the Sunshine in

Posted: October 1, 2010 in Africa
Tags: , , , ,

Cape Town now seems like a distant memory. We left on Tuesday morning after a frantic time trying to sort car rental. I’d made the reservation the day before and explained the set-up to the dude and he was fine with payment and ID.  So we relaxed on our last day and hit the tourism track, first via the tourist bus up to Groot Constantia for wine tasting (stumbling in a semi-drunk haze back down the road 1hr later), then by taxi to the cable lift up to Table Mountain (which is a truly amazing place to take in the local scenery and admire the rolling bays and mountains). Alas I can’t upload photos at the mo so can’t share the joy.

We spent the last night in the hostel, preferring to make our own food than head out on Long Street and run the gauntlet of hustlers and mental cases. In the 2 days we had been in Cape Town, we’d had a crazy dude pull a knife and tell us how he deals with muggers and then a drug fuelled local mentalist follow us down the street telling me he’d kill me if I didn’t give him money. So our lasting memories of Cape Town are those of a beautiful looking place that is horrible to live in or go out in unless you stay in the poshest of suburbs and away from town.

So it came to the day to pick up the car and hit the Garden Route. First we had to take a detour to the Waterfront to pick up the satnav as the car company had run out. 1hr later than planned we went to get the car keys, only to be told we couldn’t have a car. The reason – I couldn’t pay as they only accept credit cards, Muneeza couldn’t pay on her card because she didn’t have her driver’s license and the person paying has to be the main driver. Absolute ball ache. Following a string of sharp expletives as tourettes boy returned, I beseechingly pleaded with the lady for help. To be fair she was amazing, phoning other companies to see if they could help, then having the genius brainwave of getting approval from her manager that we could still hire the car if we had an affidavit signed by the Police stating that Muneza would not drive the car but had a valid license. 20mins later, affidavit in hand, we signed, sealed and delivered and the car was ours. We couldn’t get out of dodgeville fast enough, and put the peddle to the metal.

Leaving Cape Town was a relief. We never felt comfortable there and whilst the days were fun, the nights were about survival and locking ourselves away in the hostel. That’s no way to live. So driving the Garden Route along N2 towards our first overnight stop was like a breath of fresh air.

We made good progress and took in the stunning scenery – rolling mountains on one side. open plains and glimpses of the Indian Ocean on the other. As we passed by a place called Wilderness (yep, honestly) the landscape became truly stunning, with high cliff passes giving way to sweeping coastal views and sandy beaches. The Garden Route is a beautiful stretch of SOuth Africa.

We rocked up early evening to a place called Knysna and checked in to the backpackers. It was a relaxed pad just up from the main town and run by a friendly dude who I kept called Hanz but apparently was called Yannis. Bloody foreigners. This place is apparently renowned for the host cooking a 3 course meal for his guests most nights for an incredible R40 (approx 3.5 pounds).

We showered and joined the other guests, a lovely American couple who had been sailing the world for 19 years (couldn’t have kids so cashed in all their savings and went travelling instead!) and a super chilled and entertaining English couple. Mike & Sandra had rented out their house in the UK and were working their way round South Africa and India before joining their sons in Oz to travel New Zealand together. Dinner was good and the conversation flowed and we enjoyed hearing their travel stories, especially the amercianos who were moored in Indonesia when the tsunami hit and saw the wave travel under their boat before hitting the shore and causing untold damage. As they said, a rather sobering experience.

We left early the next day and headed for the mountains to a place called Hogsback. I thought it sounded like Deliverance land but the LP assured us it was a relaxed getaway which is what we wanted. After hours of driving we struggled onto a track that said “Only suitable for 4×4” – as we had a tasy 1.1l Kia Picanto (now named Mopfu because we keep seeing signs with this name and it is pronounced mofo) we were a tad concerned. I stopped a local yokel and asked advice – he told us no way Jose but there was an unpaved road and dirt track that went the long way round.

Armed with directions, we set off on the adventure. 45 mins later we were directed onto dirt tracks that went through some pretty run down shack like villages, almost slum like in their look. It was getting late and I think the Cape Town experience set the nerves-a-jangling. We decided it was a bit too risky in Mopfu, so turned round and made the decision to go coastal and move on to the next town on our planned route, a little place called Chinsta on the Sunshine Coast.

Our inital plan has been never to drive at night given the stories of car jacking in SA. Yes, I know, stories are often exaggerated but believe me, this country at night is more intimidating than any other country I’ve ever travelled through and having been through places like El Salvador, that should give some perspective. However, we were 3hrs off track, so by the time we’d hit the N2 again it was dark and frayed nerves needed calming.

Muneeza called a backpackers and got directions. After a nervous drive through a few major towns, ears pricked like meercats at intersections, we found the turn off and headed towards the small village of West Chintsa. We lucked in, staying in a cool cabin that has 2 double rooms and a shared kitchen/bathroom/lounge. We crashed pretty qucikly to the sound of the waves lapping on the shore just below our balcony.

At first light, we woke and checked out the vista. Complete result – our view from the bedroom and balcony takes in a small lagoon and a long stretch of sandy beach with rolling waves behind it. The beach is a 5 min walk from our front door. The place we are staying, Bucaneer Backpackers, is awesome. It is family run, has a reputation as a hippy getaway, and is currently quite quiet and had a super chilled vibe. We love it here and have decided to stay an extra 2 days to soak up the rays and enjoy swimming in the Indian Ocean.

We spent today beach side, then bought some food and headed pool side to check out the facilities. As I type this, with Muni jani peering over my shoulder waiting for me to shut up and hand over the keyboard, the sun is setting and we’re getting ready to cook up a steak feast. I’m definitely not a city boy when I travel, I love the quiet escapes and the Sunshine Coast so far is living up to expectation.

We’ll upload some more photos to Facebook and this blog when we find an internet cafe that permits it. In the meantime, take care and hope you are all well.

love jamer & Muneeza x

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