Cape Agulhas and the Coast

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Our drive from Swellendam onwards was relaxing. We had nothing planned except to check out Cape Agulhas and drive the coastline to Hermanus.
We stopped at the Spar and picked up a picnic lunch: fresh fruit, some bread, cheese and salami. Then we grabbed a coffee and began driving South.
Cape Agulhas is the southern most point in Africa. It is also where the Atlantic and the Indian oceans meet. Our guide book said it was good luck to pee where the two oceans collide. It followed up with “good luck ladies”. To Kelsi and I, that sounded like a challenge. Well challenge accepted!
Driving down through Struisbaai and finally to Agulhas was beautiful. The sun was shining, there was hardly a cloud in the sky, and the waves breaking on the shore was just as spectacular as ever.
“Shut up! Do you see that?! It’s incredible! Look at that shore!”
It never got old for us. We were just as excited about the view as we were when we stumbled across Sea View point back near Port Elizabeth.
We found the point fairly easily. Had our obligatory photo with the sign that says “You are now at the Southernmost tip of the continent of Africa” and then hopped back in the car to find a quiet spot to ourselves.
Just a little ways into Agulhas National Park, we came across a section of beach with nothing around but an old, rusted shipwreck. We backed up to the shore and sat in the trunk of the car, looking out over the ocean. We cracked a now warm beer and enjoyed the view with some music. This was paradise.
“What do you think everyone else in the world is doing right now?” I asked.
“Whatever it is, it’s not nearly as amazing as this” we cheersed in agreement.
After a bit, we wandered down to the water to explore the shipwreck. It looked like an old, Japanese shipping boat that was cut in half. It was full of water, and too difficult to climb into, but it was a great backdrop to an already stunning view. We tried to find some oysters along the shore as well, but the tide had come in again and we were once again left in oyster-less disappointment.
When we’d tired of the view, we drove down a bit to a slightly different view to have lunch. We sat in the shade of the car and snacked while staring out at the two oceans. Before we knew it, we’d been at Cape Agulhas for four hours. How did that happen?
Before we left we had to complete our mission and pee in the water. It was more difficult than I had thought with huge waves and rocks to maneuver through. These are the times I wish I was a boy. But determined as we were, we completed our goal and jumped back in the car to find Hermanus.
Our drive to Hermanus was entirely down unpaved, dirt roads. The map showed that there was only two turn offs that we could possibly take. No issue with getting lost!
In reality, there were endless numbers of turnoffs. Oh no. We used our gut feeling to find the way, but with such few directional points on our huge map we finally admitted defeat and pulled over for directions.
We stopped at some farm that had banners and tents all set up at it. There was a guy standing next to the road texting on his phone, so we pulled over to see if we were on the right track.
Turns out he wasn’t from around the area, but he could ask someone who knew. He jumped in the car and we drove him down the long driveway towards the throngs of tents and people at the end.
“What’s going on here?” We asked
“It’s a biking festival.” He said “we’ve been going throughout South Africa for days now. I follow the group and do the music for the festival”
Of course Kelsi and I would stumble across the only thing going on in the middle of absolutely nowhere. We ended up getting directions from a local guy. Turns out we were on the right track and just had to keep going south until we hit the water again. Perfect!
We thanked them both and kept driving south. Before long we hit a place called Die Dam. It wasn’t even on the map, and yet we’d been seeing signs for it for the past half hour or so. We felt the need to stop.
It was a beautiful little beach that looked like a popular family camping spot for locals. As usual, we were taken aback with the beauty of the coast, took some photos and carried on. Our next stop was a place called Pearly Beach. More photos, more jaw-dropping scenery and then off to Hermanus.
As we drove North away from Gansbaai, we could see some beautiful cliffs to the West.
“Look how beautiful those are!” We exclaimed excitedly. “I hope that’s were we’re headed!”
Turns out it was…

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The Long Road to Swellendam

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When the Cango Caves tour had finished, we grabbed a coffee and hit the road. It was still fairly early in the afternoon, but we had a lot of ground to cover. We took a different road back from Outdshoorn to the N2 and drove through Robinson Pass. It amazes me how each road can be more beautiful than the next. Robinson pass was incredible with its dramatic green cliffs and windy roads. We had just enough time to admire the view, and then before we knew it we were at Mossel Bay. Lunch time!
We wanted to find a local place for some cheap, good food. We were looking for some run down joint that was the gem for all the locals to eat at. We drove through the town, a little indecisive about where to go, then decided to head down to the docks to see what we could find.
As soon as we hit the docks we knew where we were eating. It was a shabby looking place from the outside, with bamboo walls and half a thatched roof. There was smoke coming out from the middle of the place and it sat right out on the edge of the water, in among industrial fishing boats and a parking lot full of trucks. A big sign on top read Kaai 4.
“That’s our place!”
We parked the car and walked towards it. As we walked in, we were greeted by the owner, Sean. He was a wonderful man, with an eye patch, a bucket hat and a great sense of humour. He walked around the dirt floor of the restaurant barefoot, meeting and chatting with all the patrons.
“Well hello ladies! How are we this afternoon? Where are you from? Welcome to the only remaining traditional Afrikaans Braai restaurant in town! May I ask how you found the place?”
“We were just driving by and it looked like a great place to eat.” We said.
He laughed “That’s amazing! You just stumbled upon this place?!”
Turns out, Kaai 4 is also the number one most recommended spot to eat in Mossel Bay by the Lonely Planet guide. Well done us, what a find!
Sean gave us a list of his favourite recommendations:
“I don’t much care for vegetables to be honest. But I do have some amazing meat and seafood dishes! My favourites are the mussel pot and the Meat basket. The mussel pot is made to order and everything is cooked over there on that fire. Traditional Braai style!” He stood there beaming at us. He was obviously so proud of his little restaurant, and his enthusiastic attitude was contagious. On top of that, the food was cheap. Probably the cheapest we had seen in South Africa for what you were ordering. We decided to go for both his suggestions and share. Then we sat down along the water and had a cold beer.
When the food came out, we were not disappointed. The portions were huge, and everything looked so delicious. Mussels cooked in a creamy sauce and served with rice, or the South African starch equivalent (the name of it has escaped me). Then there were ribs, and chicken and sausages, each served with homemade bread. Oh wow. What a feast!
We ate and ate and ate until we couldn’t move. Then we used the bread to soak up the leftovers. It was the best meal I have had in the country, hands down.
Sean wandered over to check on us a couple times, and we couldn’t stop raving about the meal. Of all the places we could have stopped at in Mossel Bay, I am so happy that this is where we ended up. If you ever find yourself in Mossel Bay and you DON’T stop at Kaai 4, then you are insane… Unless of course you’re a vegetarian.
When we’d stuffed ourselves as much as we could, we thanked Sean and his wife and carried on.
We started back on the N2, with our next scheduled stop as Swellendam. A little ways down the highway, however, I changed our plans.
“Look Kelsi, there’s this place down by the coast called Witsand. The book here says that there are over 150 whales in the bay every day, and when you’ve had enough of whale watching, you can fill yourself a bucket of oysters from the beach!”
“Oh my god, let’s go”
So we turned off the highway and drove the 35 kilometers South to Witsand. The place was spectacular!
We pulled up at the beach and the view was so pretty that I couldn’t stop talking.
“Oh my god Kelsi, do you see this place! It’s beautiful! Look over there. Oh! And those fishermen there! Do you see any whales? I wonder where we can find some oysters. Ah! Look at this place! Kelsi! Are you going to say ANYTHING?!”
She was laughing at my giddiness. Maybe everyone is right, Canadians do talk a lot. We wandered around the rocky shores, then climbed some nearby sand dunes as the sun was going down. We never saw any whales. Had I read a little further, we would have found out that whale season is over right now. Also, the tide was in, so oyster picking was out. But the place was beautiful.
We climbed up and down the sand dunes with some local kids, and I laughed until my stomach hurt at Kelsi’s limp. In the sand, she looked like either Igor, Quasimodo or Gollum. I kept poking fun at her “yes master, this way master, follow me” until we couldn’t contain ourselves any more.
“If I could move” she said “I’d come over there and slap you!”
We decided to head back to the highway before the sun completely set, so we hopped back in the car and drove onwards.
However, we still had our “no road twice” rule, and so I found us a different route back to the N2. This route was back road gravel streets that went through farmland and vineyards. The place was beautiful in the setting sun with the long stretches of slightly curving hills in the background.
Since day one, I’d been on a mission to get the perfect photo of a single tree in the red, African sunset. It still hadn’t happened. We tried to find one along this route, but none of them worked with my idyllic image. Then we came across a couple of ostriches, roaming in a field.
“Ostrich in the sunset photo!” We both yelled.
Kelsi pulled over and I jumped out to take the photo. Screw the tree in the sunset, this picture was incredible.
We laughed the rest of the way to Swellendam about the silly ostrich-sunset photo. It was more than I had ever expected!
Our directions to the only Swellendam hostel listed in the book were atrocious. We circled the deserted streets, in the dark, until finally stumbling across the street by chance. We checked in, had a lovely supermarket dinner of cheese and crackers and called it a night. We’d covered a lot of miles over the day, and had more exciting things to see in the morning. Oh how I was going to miss South Africa in a few days…

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Roadtrippin’

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We had a huge day ahead of us. We were driving from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth in one day, then slowly working our way back along the coast throughout the next week. For normal people, this isn’t that crazy of a trek, for Kelsi and I, a normal 8 hour drive turned into a 13 hour adventure through back highways and wine country. We had no exact plans, no city maps, and no directions. We just bought a big road map of South Africa and hoped for the best. (For anyone else thinking of doing this, maybe plan a little bit better than us).
Our alarm went off at 6am and we were out the door by 6:45 with all our things. Because we had left our car rental until so late, the only available cars were located at the airport. Which meant, we had to lug our backpacks the 20 minute walk to the bus station, then the half hour bus ride to the airport just to rent a car. We had found a pretty incredible deal through Europcar that worked itself out to $25/day with unlimited kilometers on it and full insurance. Both of which were very important; we had a lot of driving ahead of us!
Kelsi drove. Our car was A. Manual and B. It drove on the wrong side of the road. I was not about to mess around with my limited knowledge of manual cars, trying to figure out which side of the road to turn in to and with the stick shift on the wrong side. I was much safer with the map. It didn’t matter how many turns or corners we took, I could NOT get used to driving on the left side of the road. But the driving was teamwork for sure: I read the map, and found the right highways for us to follow. I shifted gears while Kelsi needed a break to eat, and I helped with the four way stops. Yup, apparently New Zealand and Australia don’t HAVE four way stops. So when we came up to one, and Kelsi blew in front of another car out of turn, with me yelling from the passenger seat, it was quite a shock. From that point forward, it was my additional responsibility to help with four ways. Yes, we are disasters. How we made it through the week is beyond me.
Our goal was to avoid hitting any roads twice (or as much as was possible). So the usual, efficient, N2 route to Port Elizabeth was out of the question. Instead, we decided to head the more local R62 route from Montagu to Oudtshoorn and then follow it South East to Kruisfontein. This route also just happens to be the longest wine route on Earth. It is surprisingly very un-touristy (with more popular wine routes in the Stellenbosch area) and a quiet, scenic route to drive along.
So off we went, up to Bellville and Durbanville, then off route to Stellenbosch for breakfast. We opted for a healthy breakfast choice of burgers and fries. (It was the only cheap thing open early Monday morning in the sleepy university town). Then we headed back up through the mountain passes on our way to Worcester and the N9.
Wineries lined the highways. You couldn’t look one way or another without spotting an idyllic little vineyard. We were so excited to stop in at something along route 62. However, as soon as we hit route 62 and passed Montagu, the wineries stopped. What kind of a wine route was this?! We had over 200 kilometer of driving to find a winery and we couldn’t see ANY!
At first it didn’t matter. It was too early to try a tasting for us anyways, and we wanted to get moving after our off route stop in Stellenbosch for brekkie. But, by the time we saw signs for Oudtshoorn nearing, we were getting a little upset. “How is this a wine route?! Have you seen ANY wineries at all?”
Then all of a sudden we spotted a sign: Gruienheim.
“A winery!!! Look, look! Let’s go!! Turn in! A winery!” We were ecstatic.
We pulled off the main road into a gravel path. A couple turns and a few kilometers later, we pulled up outside a deserted vineyard.
“What do we do? Do we just go in?” All of a sudden we felt ridiculous. We parked the car and wandered around the front farm house. No one was in sight. “Maybe we should just go”
Nope! We’d driven the entire length of route 62 we were sure as hell going to stop at ONE winery.
“Hello?” We called out as we stuck our heads inside one of the buildings. Inside was a small room with a bar along one side. The bar was full of wine bottles and liqueurs. I think we found the tasting room.
We heard a lady talking on the phone in the next room over so we stuck our heads in. She looked up and stuck her finger up as if to say “silent!” I gave her a quick smile and went back to the tasting room to peek around. There we found a map of the riute 62 region with all the wineries on it. there were LOADS of them! at least 20 right on the route that we had just driven… apparently we are just visually impaired.
Soon after the lady on the phone came in “Yes? Can I help you?”
“We were hoping you’d have some wines here!”
“Yes, we do, here is the price list” she hands us a piece of paper and then walked behind the bar.
Okay.
Then all of a sudden a little old lady walked in the room and her face lit up when she saw Kelsi and I
“Oooooooh!!! My darlings! How are you?! Are you here for some wine tastings? Where are you from? Are you sisters?!” She was not much taller than five feet and barely stood above the bar on the other side. She was the most pleasant lady I’ve ever met, with a cute little South African accent and a passion for her vineyard. Her and her husband owned the vineyard and all their stuff was sold locally. She was adorable!
“If your looking for dry wines I’m sorry, we only do sweet things here, like ports and liqueurs.” Oh no, I am NOT a sweet wine person. How did we end up at the one winery that doesn’t make dry wine?
“Come to think of it” she said “no one in the area does dry wine here, just not the right place for it I’m afraid. But we do have some excellent ports! Do you like port?”
“Of course!” We lied. It’s not that I don’t enjoy port. It’s just not what I normally go for. But, when in Rome!
To admit, we did try some delicious ports! They were smooth and sweet and as long as you think of them as solely desert wines, then they are delicious. Afterwards we tried the liqueurs: milky ones, honey flavored, rose petal flavored, they were all excellent and unique! And when all was said and done, we couldn’t leave without buying a small pack of something. It would have broken my heart to say no to this little old lady who was telling us the whole history of each thing we tried.
“Where are you staying in Oudtshoorn?” She asked as we were leaving.
“Oh we’re not, we are driving to Port Elizabeth.”
“Port Elizabeth!!!” She exclaimed. The way she said it you would have thought we’d told her we were driving to the moon. “But it’s so FAR! You still have 5 hours at least of driving ahead of you, and it will be dark when you get there. Don’t do that my dears, just stay here in Oudtshoorn. It’ll be much nicer. Wait. Ill get the name of a lovely little place to stay. It’s a youth hostel, you will love it. I’ve heard so many great things about it! Hold on right here a moment. Marylin! Marylin! How do you get to that youth hostel again?”
We stood there dumbfounded, not quite sure what was happening. Then she rushed back in to the room.
“Okay. Here we go. From my front gate you take a right, then a left then a right again at the main road. When you hit Oudtshoorn you will hit one light, then another then another. Then you will turn left and you will be in the vicinity. Okay? So right, left, right, one, two, three, left again and you are in the vicinity!” All this was explained to us with rapid hand movements from the right to the left.
“Okay, say it with me now. Right, left, right, one, two, three, left and you are in the vicinity!” For the rest of my life I will remember these directions. She was so precise with her movements, practically bouncing up and down with excitement as she explained the directions to the VICINITY of our supposed hostel. She was so cute I wanted to put her in my pocket and bring her to Port Elizabeth. But she thought we were going to Oudtshoorn, so that was out of the question.
We said goodbye and thanked her for the directions as we left “remember now, left, right…” We could hear her shouting to us as we walked out.
“So, Port Elizabeth?” Kelsi said
“Yup”
It was so lovely for her to give us directions, but we had already lost a day and had way too much to see. So we continued down the highway on our mission to PE.
It was just as she had said, about 5 hours later we reached the outskirts of Port Elizabeth, and it was dark. Maybe we didn’t entirely think this through. Driving up into a city we don’t know, in South Africa, without a place to stay and without a city map. Only retrospectively was this a bad idea. At the time, everything seemed totally normal.
Luckily for us, while we were in Victoria Falls, I found a travel book for backpackers in my room. It was all about South Africa and the places to stay along the way. It didn’t have maps, but it had one or two suggestions of places to stay with the vaguest directions I’ve ever heard. But it was something. I dragged that book around for a month, and it was finally going to come in handy!
Unfortunately, with zero city maps, finding anything was difficult. We stopped at a gas station just out of town to ask for directions.
“How do we get to the city center of Port Elizabeth?” We asked the attendant
“What?! You can’t go into the city at night!” He said
“Well we have to stay there tonight, we need to go”
“Okay” he said reluctantly, and he gave us some basic directions.
I was reading the guide book as Kelsi rounded the last bend before hitting downtown.
“Wait a second, these directions look much easier” I said “we could stay in the neighboring town of Summerstrand, avoid driving around the city, and wake up on the beachfront! And there’s the turn! Go right!”
So we pulled a quick right, found Summerstrand and a lovely cheap hostel for the night. Even in the night you could see how gorgeous the coastline was going to be in the morning. It was worlds better than aimlessly wandering the city streets for a place to stay, and a great way to end our first long drive of the trip.

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