Driving Through The Changing Landscapes of South Africa’s Famous Garden Route.

I love the freedom that driving in foreign country gives you and there is no better way to see South Africa’s Garden Route.  Francesca had driven it once before with her friend Tiffany in 2004 and was so impressed she wanted to share it with me.

We had four days and the plan was to get as far as we could in four days, stopping where and when the mood struck us.  We had no reservations, only ideas of things we wanted to do, like Great White Shark diving.  Just get in the car and go.  Very liberating.

Since we had already exhausted most of the tunes on our iPods we decided to give South African radio a try, but every station seemed to be an advertisement or discussion of the 2010 Soccer World Cup. It seems that South Africa is uber excited to be hosting the games and everywhere you look there are posters and ads promoting the tournament.  I have never been to the World Cup in person, but I definitely wouldn’t mind coming back to South Africa to see a few games and take part in the mayhem and merriment and perhaps (just perhaps) see the US of A bring back the trophy!

The most impressive thing about driving the Garden Route is the amazing diversity of landscapes.  At one point you are driving though a Las Vegas desert landscape and the next you are in the rugged mountains of Colorado or driving along quaint beach villages in Malibu and still other times you are driving through Tuscany (see photo below).

While driving the first afternoon along the Garden Route Francesca and I noticed something we thought was very interesting.  There appears to be a car passing etiquette that I have not seen in any other country.  Since there is often only one lane and, due to the twisting and turning of the roads, no opportunity to pass a slower vehicle legally, what slower drivers do (definitely truckers but others as well) is pull over onto the (very generous) shoulder which allows you to pass almost without going into the opposite lane.  Once you have passed them you put your hazard lights on (just for a second) as a gesture of thanks and they, in turn, will flash you their brights to say “you’re welcome”.

It took seeing this ritual a couple of times before we caught on, but then we got so into it that we were passing cars we normally wouldn’t have (ie at tremendous speeds well above the limits) just so we could participate in this amazing, cooperative car-mmunication.  And of course, we got indignant when a passee failed to flash us his or her brights.  Franny would deride them saying “Tourists!  Probably don’t know any better.”

Our first stop was Kleinsbaai, near Hermanus,  for some Great White Shark diving which was a terrifying yet exhilarating experience.

Click here for a separate posting about the shark diving with more photos and a video of me nose to nose with these beasts.

Then we stopped off at the town of Outdshoorn to visit an ostrich farm. We had been seeing herds of them for miles on farms along the roadside, but I really wanted to ride on one.  Francesca had ridden one on her trip in 2004 and so, of course, I had to try it too!

To be honest, it wasn’t all that fun.  You ride these huge birds by hanging on to their wings and, although the “rangers” say it doesn’t hurt them, it feels kind of gross and I couldn’t help feeling sorry for these rather sad looking birds.

Then we drove to the town of Wilderness where we enjoyed a lovely afternoon hike to a waterfall.  Actually we never made it to the waterfall since we left rather late in the afternoon and had given ourselves a hard stop at 5:30pm to turn around – whether we had made it to the falls or not – in order to make it back before dark.

The hike was a loop.  The outgoing leg was a somewhat taxing uphill climb (with the payback of great views) finishing up with boardwalk assisted walk through verdant foothills and valleys inhabited by clans of baboons and other creatures.  The return route was flatter and, hence, quicker.

After our long hike we treated ourselves to sunset dinner and drinks at a newly opened restaurant called “Sails”.   Sails, come for the food, stay for the sunset.

We had hoped to get as far as Knysna or Plettenberg Bay before turning back, but we had to head back after Wilderness in order to arrive in Cape Town in time for our flight to Namibia.  We vowed, however, to come back again to drive the entire Garden Route at a leisurely pace.

As we approached the outskirts of Cape Town we saw again the shanty towns that line the highways of South Africa.  Based on the incredible numbers of Africans walking, biking and hitch hiking along the highway, it would appear that not many of these people have cars to take them to or from work.  We often saw people walking or hitch hiking in the direction that we came from where the nearest town was over 20 or 30 miles!  We felt badly and considered picking some of them up (the ones who were going our way that is), but made the decision in the end not to do so.  Mamma always said “don’t pick up hitch hikers.”

Now it’s off to Namibia for some horseback riding and sandboarding….

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5 Responses to “Driving Through The Changing Landscapes of South Africa’s Famous Garden Route.”

  1. Happy New Year,

    Hopefully all your dreamswill come true on the west coast !!
    At least you fullfilled all your travelling dreams so far.
    Believe me you will get other dreams once you are infected by the travelling virus, and you are ! Remember, that there is allways a place for you when you want to visit Holland.
    Have a good time and enjoy it all the way. For now there is no tomorrow.

    cheers, Cora&Ron

  2. Great write-up. I run South Africa Travel Online and we’ve chosen this as our travel blog of the week – love the photos and the write-up. I’ve linked to it from our travel newsletter. This also means you’re in the running for blog of the month. Keep up the great writing.

    • aroljahns Says:

      Thank you for your compliments about my blog. I am glad you deemed this posting worthy of linking to your cite. We loved our time in South Africa and would like to share our blog with as many people as possible. Best, Dan & Fran

    • aroljahns Says:

      Thank you for your compliments about my blog. I am glad you deemed this posting worthy of linking to your cite. We loved our time in South Africa and would like to share our blog with as many people as possible. Best, Dan & Fran

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