(75) Going along the gorgeous Garden route
Monday 30th September
We got up before Julie left for work and had breakfast. We sat with Veronica while their two scottie dogs sat by our feet waiting for any scraps. They were such brilliant dogs however Tim could only find one sock and they became the prime suspects. We soon found it half chewed, so with half a wet sock back on Tim’s foot we loaded the bikes and said goodbye to Julie as she headed off to work. She is such a great lady with an infectious smile that made us feel so at home. We were sad to say good bye.
We finished packing, saying goodbye to Veronica and heading off down the road. We decided to take a look at the town so turned up a very steep hill towards the coast. We looked back at the views down the coast with towering sand dunes that were awesome.
Tim realised he had left his bike stand / stick behind and we hadn’t actually gone that far so we continued around the loop and Tim popped back to the house. Veronica said she knew we would be back for something. She knew us so well! Tim returned to where Sharon was waiting after climbing a steep hill and continued on to the next small town. We rode in to have a look and popped into a Spar to pick up a couple snacks.
We were approached by a man called John who asked what we were doing. We explained our trip and he said his son would love to meet us as he had cycled around South America. We were keen to meet him too and followed John and his wife Carol a kilometre to his house. We met Mark and his wife Kieran who were both really nice and got chatting over a cup of tea. Mark gave us a lot of good tips about South America. We found out that Mark and Kieran had just returned from a walking trip that started in the east of Nepal and ended in the west taking 100 days. We were fascinated by their trip and wondered if that could be our next adventure! It was great to chat over a cupper and a toasted sandwich. They gave us some advice about the route ahead and just before we left Mark kindly gave us a copy of his book titled:
‘My Bike, my Buddha’ by Mark Crandon about his cycle ride in South America – if you’re interested in getting a copy please contact him at email@example.com
We soon reached the turn off for the gravel road that headed in the direction of the coast.
It wasn’t always easy to see the sea as the sand dunes were so big rising up above the horizon. With the odd glimpse of the blue expanse with white sea horses crashing in the distance the view finally opened out to reveal a huge ocean as far as the eye could see and sand dunes that looked like they had been relocated from the Sahara.
We felt like we were in a cross between Lawrence of Arabia and the goonies. They were huge and apparently because of the wind, the fastest moving dunes in the world. The road headed inland towards the town of Alexandria and we started to climb for a while before it levelled off and reached the junction for the town.
We picked up a few snacks from a shop near the garage and rode on the highway excited to see signs to Port Elizabeth. The wind was still on our backs so we were making good progress. As the sun started to set we looked for a good camp spot. We soon spotted a building on the side of a small hill and rode up it. We were met by two friendly dogs and the owner Chris who very kindly offered us a room. We met his wife Tanya and her sister Ida who was staying there. They had just made dinner and invited us to join them. We added our pies to the meal and enjoyed a lovely evening in great company. We would soon be in Argentina and just hoped that all these amazing people weren’t making us soft. We weren’t complaining though…
Tuesday 1st October
We got up and joined Tanya and Ida for breakfast. Chris had already left for work much earlier – he had gone to milk his cows at 4.30am while we were still snoring. While the kettle was on Tim went out to start loading the bikes. It was warm and only 8 am and with it there was a warm westerly wind. Tanya told us about the burg winds that sometimes blow bringing hot winds and high temperatures. We finished breakfast and said goodbye to another kind family.
We joined the road and were immediately hit by a strong head wind. We were pleased we had covered the distance we had the day before but it would still be another 20 miles to the turnoff for the N2 highway which should give us a tail wind. It took a while to reach the junction and we found a farm stall to take a break. We stopped to pick up a lemonade before joining the road south to Port Elizabeth. The temperature was rising along with the humidity and with the wind it made it almost unbearable, although the wind was pushing us along a little at last.
We looked for a shaded spot for lunch but with no trees higher than our bikes and the sun high in the sky it was almost impossible to find shade. We finally saw a truck and decided to use it as a lunch spot. We were soon stopped with the kettle on and more trucks arriving. The guys were nice and left us to cool down as the temperature topped out at 44 degrees. We packed up and rode on in the heat. There was nowhere to pick up a cool drink and with our water bottle now containing hot water we were keen to find a small shop. As we neared Port Elizabeth we saw a cycle path next to the highway and pulled our bikes through the sand to join it.
We saw a way of getting to the beach and decided to have a dip to cool down. It was so nice although the water was a bit smelly and when a fish wiggled under Tim’s foot it made him jump and run out the sea.
Once cool we rode on and soon arrived in the outskirts of the city and rang Brian who was a friend of Wesley who we had met north of Hogsback. He gave us good directions and we were soon climbing a long steep hill towards his house.
We arrived at Brian’s and were warmly greeted by a great guy. His house was amazing and our room was stunning and comfortable. How do we keep landing on our feet like this? We were soon joined by a friend of Brian’s called Stephen and soon the Braai was on and along with it fillet steaks, chicken and all the trimmings and of-course endless glasses of wine. We had a great evening and were joined by Larry another great guy. We had been made to feel so welcome and felt like we’d known these guys for longer than just a few hours!
Wednesday 2nd October
We woke up about 8ish and had bacon and eggs. We were booked in for a haircut with Stephen who was a hair dresser. We got a lift with Brian and Shaz got her first cut since Turkey – Stephen so kindly did it for free and gave Tim a trim too. Fab!
We headed into town and climbed a lighthouse which was fun. The views of the city were great and Stephen gave us a 360 degree tour.
We headed for lunch at a restaurant which had a terrace bar and a lovely view over the ocean. We had a selection of pizza, burgers and a glass of wine or beer then popped to a cycle shop to get Tim a new pair of pedals.
We headed back and Brian cooked a delicious Spaghetti bolognaise and Shaz made an apple crumble with custard, ice cream and cream. Larry came over and we sat and watched TV with our dinner on our laps – heaven! We said goodbye to Larry and Stephen who lived nearby and walked the dog to unwind before heading to bed.
Thursday 3rd October
After a great night’s sleep we got up and joined Brian for breakfast. Brian had been a brilliant host and again we felt so lucky to have met him and his friends. Although we had a fair way to ride we spent time breakfast having felt so at home. We loaded the bikes and said goodbye and like all our kind hosts hoped we would meet again somewhere in the world.
We soon found Cape road and headed west slowly climbing. We had a very slight tail wind making the road feel flat and as a result soon reached a height of 250 metres.
Averaging around 12-14 mph we were ticking off the miles faster than we thought. Tim entered Jeffreys bay in the GPS and it showed only 20 miles. It was only 11am so we would be there just after 1pm if we stopped for a short break.
We came off the highway and saw a garage and so picked up a pie and coke. The pie was so good giving us the extra energy to ride on to Jeffreys. As we entered the town we noticed there was little or no surf and being one of the best surf spots in the world it was a disappointing.
We stopped at a green and made a cupper watching the odd wave come trying to work out if it was big enough to have a go. Sharon watched what she thought was a whale for ages only to find it was a guy snorkelling – we only found out after zooming in on one of the many photos taken and the ‘whales fin’ was a snorkellers fin and he was diving for oysters!
Once we finished our leisurely lunch we decided to head on to Cape St Francis and try the surf there. We had seen it on a surfing film called Endless Summer (really excellent film about the first people to surf in Africa in the 1960’s) and really wanted to visit. It was still quite a way so we rode on heading inland before joining the road down to the cape. It was a good dirt road and we passed a large ostrich farm and spent some time watching them. They were very curious about us so it was amusing watching them watching us!
As we joined the main road we were flagged down by a guy called Jono. He had spent time cycling around southern and east Africa a few years ago and was interested in where we were heading. We arranged to meet the following evening for a beer and so exchanged numbers. By the time we reached the village of St Frances it was just before 7pm as we ended up having to return to the village as we found out there were no supermarkets at the cape.
As we arrived we asked a guy on his balcony where the campsite was and he invited us in to stay. Dirk instantly made us feel so welcome – he worked for a Volkswagen dealership and was due to be away for the weekend at his father’s farm. He told us he would give us the key so we could enjoy the house for the weekend and if we wanted to stay until Sunday he would then take us out on his boat. Well, that was an awesome offer that we couldn’t refuse!!
Friday 4th October
We said goodbye to Dirk who was heading to the farm and spent the morning relaxing but it wasn’t long before Tim was in the water with Dirk’s surfboard. He had given us the key to the garage and told us to help ourselves to ‘his toys’. Shaz enjoyed taking photos and had a short walk on the beach.
We spent the afternoon doing some chores before heading out in the evening for a beer with Jono. He was such a great guy and we enjoyed listening to his stories about his African adventures by bike. He picked us up and dropped us back from Dirk’s and we promised to meet up for coffee before we left.
Saturday 5th October
After a long lie in we got up and had breakfast. It was so nice just chilling out not doing much until lunch when we got the boards ready to go for a surf. We headed to the beach and had fun in the waves. Shaz splashed about a bit and got scared of being wiped out so swam instead! Tim said he didn’t think he would be chosen for the next Endless Summer movie as his surfing was a little rusty but maybe for the wipe-out section. We went back to the house and we did some work on the blog before relaxing in front of the TV knowing we had planned a number of rest days to take before Cape Town and enjoy the Garden Route. We made dinner for us and Dirk who had arrived back from his trip away and spent the evening in front of the TV with us. We tried warthog and cheese sausages which were interesting to say the least! Dirk was such a great guy and so laid back which made for a relaxing evening. He invited us to stay another day so he could take us out in his boat – weather permitting.
Sunday 6th October
Our day started with a lie in followed by breakfast. The weather was bad so instead of taking the boat out we went oyster fishing. We were soon ready and made our way into St Francis. The white surf was coming in, the waves were different than the film with Dirk telling us how the sand no longer blew down the beach due to the amount of houses that had been built and the grasses which has adversely affecting the surf that used to roll in from the point all the way to St Francis in one continues wave after the other . We kitted up in wetsuits and snorkelling masks and went in search of some oysters.
Dirk was an old hand at oyster fishing and as the waves pounded in making us surge in and out with the swell making us both start to feel a little sea sick. We headed in to the pickup while Dirk stayed in looking for more oysters. While we waited a group arrived for a baptism and started to sing. It was very interesting watching them take in turns to be lowered into the sea.
Dirk returned from the water and we headed back to the house to try some of the sea food. Along with some periwinkles we had squid and a large sea snail. It was all very tasty.
Before it got late Dirk headed out to get rid of the shells to stop his house smelling while we went to look at the light house and the penguin house. This was a place where penguins come to get better from illness or oil spills. It was so much fun watching them and could have done so for hours.
Tim walked out to watch the waves crash against the rocks before we headed back to relax. Dirk prepared a potjiekosa which is a traditional Afrikaans stew made with meat and vegetables and cooked in a cast iron pot which was delicious. We spent the evening watching a film and enjoying a relaxing night. It was going to feel strange being on the bike again.
Monday 7th October
We both woke from our dreams by Dirk calling us – he had overslept. We got up and joined him for breakfast. We didn’t have to leave at the same time but we wanted to be there when he left to thank him for being an amazing host. We had been made to feel so at home and felt had we skimmed the surface of what Cape St Francis had to offer. Dirk headed off to work and left us to pack the last of our things. The cleaner arrived and within 5 minutes transformed the place in to a show home. We said goodbye to her and headed off to St Francis.
We went a different way only to find we had to turn around and go back the way we had come. We soon reached the village and stopped at the spar to get phone credit. We rang Jono who met us for a coffee and while we waited for him to arrive we got chatting to a few very nice locals who had stopped to say hello. Jono arrived and we took down details of a friend of his in the town of George who we could stay with. He was a great guy who shared the same passion for cycling and we think we gave him itchy feet and wondered how long it would take before his bags were hung back onto his bike. We said our thanks and got on our way. We had left late but it didn’t matter, we only had around 50 miles to cover along good dirt roads.
The going was good with the odd climb and glimpse of the sea over the green fields. The trees were getting bigger and the birds were singing louder and the scenery was getting more impressive.
The red sand track gave a great contrast to the green fields and with a bank of mountains approaching it was stunning.
We stopped at one to have beans on toast and while Tim had the tea on the go Sharon rested from feeling tired and a bit fluey. We took it easy and got going once Sharon felt ready.
The track went on for another 10 miles before it re-joined the N2 highway. Our speed increased and with very little traffic made it quite enjoyable. The mountains started to become more dramatic as the clouds rolled in leaving deep shadows as if painted from dark grey oil paints. Dirk had given us a contact that was in about 10 miles so we checked if it was still ok to stay. He made a couple calls and soon we were off the highway heading to the farm. We stopped at a shop for a coke and found they sold some amazing souvenirs but as always we couldn’t carry them. It was only ¾ mile to the farm so we picked up a cake and rode on to meet the owners. They were lovely and offered us a Rondaval (a round house) to sleep in as the ground was wet. It was so kind and so soon we were unloaded and sat in our nice room ready to cook tea before we got an early night.
Tuesday 8th October
We both seemed to have strange dreams in the night and we both felt tired. We had slept well but Sharon still wasn’t feeling too good. Tim loaded the bikes while Sharon had another 5 minutes and joined Erma in the house for breakfast. She had such infectious energy and was a lovely lady to be around. We took our time as Storms River mouth – our next stop – wasn’t too far. We said our thanks and with the sun shining over the brightly coloured verges we headed west.
There were flowers of all colours in all shapes and sizes and a lot were ready to bloom. The scenery was absolutely stunning.
We crossed a high bridge and stopped to have lunch. It was a nice place to stop but we really wanted to get on to the river. We were soon on our way only stopping to check out a huge yellow pine. It was very impressive and towered above all the other trees. We took a back road towards Storms River and arrived at the park gate.
We had been told it was 55 Rand (about £3.50) to get into the park and we asked if there was any leeway on the price. We were told as we were international visitors to the park it would actually be 120 Rand each to enter and 270 Rand to camp even with our own tent – making a total of just under £40. Seeing as we would only have 4 hours of light left and would be leaving early it was just too expensive. We turned around and headed off down the highway towards a bridge we had been told about where they do bungee jumping. The Bloukrans bridge is 216 meters (709 feet) above the Bloukrans River and claims to be the highest bungee bridge in the world. Tim would have loved to have had a go but we settled for a beer and an ice-cream to make up for it – we watched a few crazy individuals jump.
We met some lovely people called Max and Marieta who were on holiday and while chatting to them we arranged to meet for a beer in Platternburg bay the following day where they were staying. We enquired about how much camping was at the entrance and with it being still way too expensive we headed off looking for a place in the bush. Tim spotted a road heading out towards the sea and it turned out to be a track that led through a beautiful forest.
We came through the trees to see some fantastic views across to the bay in front and the cliffs and mountains behind. With the sun setting it was perfect. We took a while to find a good spot to pitch and once again we were back in our little home cooking off our stove. Great day.
Wednesday 9th October
It had felt a long time since we camped in the bush and getting up with the sun we were soon starting to feel what it’s like to be a boil in a bag. We got up and loaded the bikes at a slow speed but It didn’t matter as we didn’t have far to go. We sat and ate toast and jam when a vehicle drove down the track towards us. At first we thought we were in trouble but we waved and smiled and got chatting to them. They were rangers working on the track that lead down to a hut down the hill put there for walkers. We showed them how we cooked which they were very impressed with.
We said goodbye and made our way up the track through the forest with the high peaks as a backdrop. It didn’t take us long to reach the highway and start the descent to Natures Valley. It was a great descent through the forest and down to the sea. It was such a pretty place but we didn’t stay long and after a short walk on the beach we headed off.
We wanted to get on to Platternburg bay which involved a climb back out – it was going to be hot work but with only 240 metres of altitude we hoped it would feel nothing compared to the climbs we had already been on. We stopped on the odd occasion to cool in the shade and finally reached the top, spotting a farm shop that sold delicious cold cloudy lemonade.
We rode on with 15 miles to the bay and started the decent taking in the sea views as we went. We stopped on one corner when 3 guys on motorbikes arrived. Within a few minutes one was ringing his wife asking if we could stay on their farm on the outskirts of the town. We couldn’t believe it – we’d only known them a few minutes! They were all on their way to a festival and so didn’t hang around. We rode on down into the town and called in at a supermarket to pick up some bits for lunch.
While Tim was in buying all the chocolate in the shop Sharon sat with the bikes and got chatting to a lovely lady called Philippa. She had offered us a place to stay as well and as we hadn’t been to meet the other contact we had been given we rang to thank her for her offer but we were going to stay in the town. We rode on to central beach where we met Simon, Phillipa’s husband and followed him back to the house where we met their son Jack and dog Sally. We were soon showered and changed and headed out popping in to see their new house that was being renovated; it was amazing with stunning views over the ocean where you could see the whales breach across the bay.
We left the house and headed to a bar next to the sea where we had also arranged to meet Max and Marieta from the day before. It was a stunning spot and we were soon joined by them. We spent a lovely time chatting.
Left to right – Max, Tim, Merieta, Jack, Phillipa, Simon and Shaz
We headed back and spent the evening at Simon and Philippa’s home enjoying a delicious home cooked meal.
Thursday 10th October
We got up early and took ages to get ready as Sharon’s back was bad and doing anything felt like hard work. We said bye to Simon and Philippa, left the bay and climbed a long steep hill out of town which opened up the view behind us. We joined a dirt road but Sharon’s back was feeling really sore. We rode on at a slow pace and stopped for break once we reached the Tarmac. We sat in the sun letting it warm up our faces while we drank tea and ate biscuits. We soon reached the highway and after a few ups and downs we reached the last summit and enjoyed a great descent into the town of Knysna.
We rode into town to pick up food and followed directions to the holiday home of Kobus and Marieta who we stayed with on our first night in South Africa. It was on what is called ‘the Heads’ which involved a massive steep climb. It felt like it went on forever and with the ton of food we were carrying, it was really hard work.
We finally reached the top feeling triumphant and we went in search of the key. We descended to the house and arrived at the most amazing house – they had told us we could stay until Monday at absolutely no cost and we had the whole place to ourselves – we were continually amazed at the hospitality of the people in this country.
We made ourselves at home, Shaz got straight in a hot bath to soothe her back and we put the wine in the fridge. The window hosted a stunning view of the golf course and ocean and we spotted the odd whale making its way along the coast. Magic!
Friday 11th October
Sharon could barely move and spent most of the day lying on the floor. We were so grateful for this space to relax especially as Shaz was hobbling around and not in any fit state to get near a bike. We watched TV most of the day and ate well enjoying the food we’d bought the day before.
Saturday 12th October
Sharon was starting to feel better with the rest so we ventured outside for a walk down to the beach. It was wet and windy but great to get some fresh air. We walked down through a pretty wooded area and finally came across a secluded beach. The waves were crashing against the bay and we could feel the power of the ocean.
We headed back up and enjoyed the rest of the day relaxing in the warm. We started to pack as we planned to head of the following day if Sharon had recovered enough.
We had really enjoyed the Garden route so far and were continuously amazed by the generousity of the people in South Africa. Our route would now take us inland to some caves and stunning mountains before heading back to the coast towards Great White Shark territory where we were hoping to don our wetsuits…
Thanks for reading!