Three busy days in Knysna left us wanting more, there is so much to do in and around there. But the rest of The Garden Route awaited us.
A short drive out of town will bring you to the famous Knysna Heads which consists of beautiful cliffs and beaches that can be, and should be, viewed from up top or down below. This is a free attraction, with the only cost being a few rand in tips for the ever present parking attendants. There is really no such thing as paid parking in South Africa, but it is never free, and most of the parking attendants are such lovely people that you can’t help but tip them.
Knoetzie was a small beach that had been recommended to us, and was just a short drive from the Knysna Heads, though not a fast drive, most of it on a dirt road. We parked the car for “free” again and headed down the steep road and steps to the beach. Even with the great weather we had, the beach was deserted. It had mostly luxury homes as the backdrop, but for some reason they all looked like renovated Scottish castles.
On the other side of Knysna was the small town of Sedgefield, with a nice long beach for walking and the river running inland to the lagoon that is actually warm enough to swim in. If visiting here, don’t miss out on some fresh fish and chips for lunch at Mr Kaai’s, just off of the highway by the old train station
As in all of South Africa, there was no shortage of good places to eat in Knysna. As our hotel was on the waterfront, we ate at the restaurants there every night, and they did not disappoint. From great seafood at The Drydock Food Company, to pizza at Cafe Mario, everything we had tasted was great and all with such beautiful presentation, and of course the price was right. On our last night, we decided to check out Bazala, the traditional South African food restaurant right next door. I was thirsty after a long day of exploring and ordered a beer. Well, the place hadn’t been open long and didn’t have a liquor license yet, but our server offered to go down the street to the store and get me one. I saved him the walk and ran back to our room and got a nice bottle of wine from our fridge, and two glasses and a bucket of ice were waiting on my return. As I really had no idea what any of the food was, I just took our server’s recommendation and ordered the bobotie.
It was kind of like a South African version of shepherd’s pie but with very different flavors, both sweet and savory. I would definitely be ordering this one again on our trip.
Our server was not a skinny guy by any means, so I trusted him on his food recommendations. With many different desserts to choose from he recommended the apple crumble, Really? I can get apple crumble at home, so we decided to split a milk tart. Now I’m not sure if his English wasn’t that good or I’d had too much wine or he was just trying to up sell, but he bought us both a milk tart and an apple crumble. Now I like my desserts so didn’t really argue, and if you had seen the apple crumble you would understand why. It was made with tiny South African toffee apples, came with a tin cup of fresh whipped cream, and even came with a couple of warm caramelized apples on the side, kind of dessert for my dessert and a perfect ending to a great meal and our stay in Knysna. Even with a very generous tip for our great server, our bill still was less than $20US !
Our next destination after Knysna would be the town of Mossel Bay about 200 km away. We again passed through Sedgefields but Mr Kaai hadn’t arrived with his fresh catch yet, so no early fish and chip lunch for us today.
We continued on to the town of Wilderness, and stopped to do a short hike in Wilderness National Park, part of the Garden Route National Park. The guy at the entrance gave us a map and recommended the waterfall trail, and easy two hour round trip hike. The trail runs alongside a nice river and for the most part, a boardwalk has been constructed through the rain forest all the way to the waterfalls making it a pretty easy trail. At one point it does get a little adventurous when you have to board a small raft and pull yourself over to the other side of the river. Many people we saw had also rented kayaks to paddle up the first half of the river, this looked like a fun way to go. At he end of the boardwalk was a big no trespassing sign as we had reached the park boundary, what about the waterfall we had come to see??? We decided to take our chances and ignored the sign, quickly found out everyone else had done the same, and arrived at the gorgeous waterfalls.
After a quick walk and raft crossing back, we explored the rest camp at the park a little. This looked like a wonderful place to spend a few days, lots of individual cabins of various sizes set on the banks of the river among lush gardens, just wish we had more time.
A quick supermarket lunch on the beach in Wilderness was all we had time for before hitting the road again. We headed to Victoria Bay as I had read great things about it.
Today was the first day of the Christmas holidays and I think everyone else had got the same idea as us. We found a “free” parking spot and walked down to the beach. At the bottom of the road they had security guards searching people heading to the beach and we were no exceptions. I asked what they were searching for, alcohol and firearms was the reply, luckily I had neither with me today. The beach was crowded and overall a big disappointment, so after a quick ice cream, we got back in the car for the final stretch to Mossel Bay. The road goes inland from here so not much to see on the way, so we were soon navigating our way to downtown Mossel Bay and our hotel for the night, The Protea Mossel Bay.
We had one again paid for the hotel using 2500 SPG points, and once again because of my status from the credit card, we were upgraded, this time to a three level apartment, maybe the nicest hotel room I have ever stayed in. We had a king sized bedroom with an amazing bathroom, huge living room, full kitchen, an extra loft bedroom, and two ocean view balconies. Why had we only booked one I kept asking myself??
After a few hours exploring Mossel Bay we both realized that one night would be enough. It is a very old town with not a lot going on and almost everything was closed by 5pm. We took a quick walk on the beach and ate an early dinner down by the harbor, fish and chips yet again. By 7.30pm, Mossel Bay was a ghost town so we figured we should just head home and enjoy our nice hotel. I did manage to find a liquor store that was still open until 8pm and picked up a cheap bottle of chenin blanc to enjoy on the couch with a movie.
There was no reason to get up early in Mossel Bay, so we slept in for a while, then I headed to Checkers to pick up something for breakfast to enjoy on the balcony, before hitting the road to our next destination, Hermanus.
Hermanus is a bustling little beach town about 4 hours drive from Mossel Bay. Our lodging for the night there would be equally spectacular as we had been invited to visit the homeowners we house sat for last year in Johannesburg. We took the scenic route there through some spectacular wine country and arrived at Barbara and Graham’s house just in time for lunch, a wonderful mango chicken salad accompanied by plenty of good wine.
As we discovered last year in Joburg, Graham love to play tour guide and does a great job at it. This tour, a lot more scenic than our tour of Soweto last year, was to visit some of the famous wine estates in the area, and there was plenty of them. After several tastings at the more popular wineries, we got off the beaten track a little and end up at Domaine des Dieux for a glass of MCC in a spectacular setting. MCC stands for Methode Cap Classique, South Africa’s version of Champagne, and is quite delicious.
Hermanus also has a very popular hiking trail along the coast for about 12km and is very popular for whale watching. Unfortunately this was not whale season, and it most definitely was not hiking weather when we got up the next morning. Our hosts were also heading to Capetown that day so we got an early start and went for a walk on the beach, which I’m sure is just as nice as all the other beaches we have been to if the sun was shining. It was not!
We took the coast road from Hermanus to Capetown and stopped at a few cloudy, rainy beaches on the way. The sun did come out for the last stretch of road into the city, and the stretch approaching Gordon’s Bay was truly spectacular, but the wind was blowing so hard we couldn’t even get out of the car without risking being blown away to sea. This a road we will have to revisit in the near future on a better day. We managed to get out of the car in Gordon’s Bay for a quick lunch before the final stretch and the traffic of Capetown.
After 8 days and about 1200km of driving along the Garden Route, we finally arrived at our destination and home for the nest 3 1/2 weeks, Woodbridge Island, Capetown, and what a great “home” it would turn out to be.