When I was growing up I heard of the Garden Route many times, but had no idea what it was. I imagined it was just a tour of some beautiful gardens. My dad hitchhiked there many years before and said that it was beautiful and that one day he would take me. Unfortunately he never got to do that, but on my last trip to SA, I was lucky to finally visit. It was a privilege to show Chris this beautiful part of my country. Following our stay at Pilanesberg, we flew to Port Elizabeth and drove the Garden Route to George. I think it actually finishes in Mossel Bay, but we wanted to drive Route 62 too, so we decided to leave Mossel Bay for our next visit and cross the Outeniqua Mountain Pass to Oudtshoorn.
As soon as we left Port Elizabeth and joined the Garden Route, the scenery changed dramatically and we knew we had arrived. As it was Chris's first time in South Africa he kept pointing out how different the landscape was every time we visited a new place. We'd gone from my grandparents' house in Mpumalanga in the mining town of Kriel, to the hot dry bush in Pilanesberg, and now to a luscious green oasis. Each time it was like arriving in a new country. You drive along a smooth wide quiet road for hours with mountains, forests and vineyards on one side and dramatic gorges, rocky shores and sandy beaches on the other. We did it over a couple of days, which was fine, but involved a lot of driving. I'd really like to go back one day and spend 1-2 weeks there just lazing on the beaches, hiking through the forests, drinking wine and just soaking it all in. It really is a stunning part of the world.
We stopped all along the way to take photos, go for little walks and just take in the scenery. First was Storms River Gorge, which you can view from a bridge above. It is huge! We drove a little further along where you can enter the Tsitsikamma National Park and walk along a series of suspension bridges to see the river mouth. A little further was Bloukrans Bridge, the world's highest commercial bridge bungee (216 metres above the Bloukrans River). After standing on the Storms River bridge, which rattled every time a truck drove past, I had no hope of ever convincing Chris to do the bungee with me, and I'm too scared to do it on my own, so I'll have save it for the next visit!
We stopped in Plettenberg Bay for lunch. It has miles of beautiful beaches and there were young surfers everywhere we looked! They all piled into South African taxis with their surf boards to get to and from the beach, which after growing up in South Africa was unusual, yet pleasant to see. I don't know if it has changed now, but in Hillcrest it was very separated... white people would never catch taxis, it was considered too dangerous and you would stick out like a sore thumb. But here everyone piled in together, it was great! We had an amazing Mozambican lunch before heading to Knysna.
We stayed in Knysna for the night in a lovely guest house. We had our own wooden apartment set among the trees. Everyone we met here was super friendly. We went out for a cocktail and there were a lot of backpackers out drinking too, and then had an incredible seafood platter for dinner. This is something we used to have as a treat growing up and I have not really seen anywhere else since I left South Africa. It was so good!
The next day, we explored Knysna. They have a lovely little waterfront, and the area is known for its oysters, so has several oyster bars. We drove up to see the Knysna heads, which are two dramatic sea cliffs at the entrance to the Knysna lagoon.
Our last stop was Wilderness beach, where we dipped our toes in the sea before heading to George and then leaving the Garden Route to join Route 62.
This really is one of the most beautiful road trips! There are so many other things to do if you spend a bit more time in the area - national parks, hikes, shark cage diving, surfing, bird watching, camping - the list is endless and depends on what you're into. I'm so glad I finally went and found out that it is not just a series of pretty gardens!