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End of the Road

For our very last stop on our travels (not ever, just this jaunt), we ended up at Plettenberg Bay. These final days on South Africa’s Garden Route continued to impress with green rolling hills and deep canyons.

On the way in, we paused for lunch in the town of Knysna. East Head Café was in a beautiful little location, with a wonderful view of the sea cliffs guarding the lagoon’s entrance. We savored it all over some local craft beers and tasty food.

As if Africa was expressing its sadness about our imminent departure, the weather turned dark and Plettenberg Bay greeted us with torrential rains and some of the loudest lightning we’ve ever heard.

The weather was much better the next morning, but the skies were still threatening more rain. Nevertheless, we decided to try our luck one last time with some African animal sightings by heading out on a whale watching tour. What a disaster. Despite the very iffy forecast, the boat went out. No sooner than we had left the shelter of the bay, the rains starting coming down, the winds picked up, and we all held on for dear life as we were rocked around the growing swells while getting pelted with cold salt water and rain. If there were any whales to be seen, nobody could open their eyes to see them.

On the bright side, we did get to briefly glimpse the Cape fur seal colony on Robberg Peninsula before the weather turned. Oh, and we got about half of our money back when the passengers all revolted post-ride.

Thankfully, the weather cleared for our last day of round the world travel. We made the most of the day by taking a hike on the Robberg Nature Reserve, where we got to see the seal colony from above (and hear their nasty grunts and barks!).

The views were absolutely spectacular.

And we even spotted these beautiful blue lizards on our walk back.

To cap off the day, the South Africa trip, the Africa trip, the whole damn thing, we headed over to Keurboomstrand for our final supper on the road. We had a fantastic meal at Ristorante Enrico, knocking back a few Red Bridge Golden Ales and fresh wild oysters.

We ate outside and enjoyed the picturesque view, which was reminiscent of Stinson Beach in California. Call me sentimental but I was incredibly moved by what happened next: an enormous school of dolphins came out to swim across the bay. It was such a magical way to end our journey, watching as literally hundreds of dolphins swam by, jumping in and out of the surf and riding the waves.

From there we made the long, long journey home to LAX. For good! (more or less)

Practical Info

Plettenberg Bay is a popular holiday destination along the Garden Route. It was not swimming weather for our visit, but Plett sports some gorgeous sweeping beaches. It was a toss up whether to end our trip in Plett or Knysna. I don’t think you’d go wrong either way, but we were happy with our choice. We arrived a little too late in the year to catch the Southern Right Whales in the bay.

Transportation: We drove from Oudtshoorn, taking the N9/N12 through the Outeniqua Pass down to George. From there we took N2 through Wilderness, Sedgefield etc., and we had lunch at the Knysna Heads. We departed by car to Port Elizabeth airport, from where we flew to Johannesburg on Mango Air (budget, but perfectly fine). From Johannesburg, we took British Airways via London Heathrow back home to Los Angeles!

Accommodation: We stayed at Christiana Lodge. It is a beautiful guesthouse with attractive furnishings. It is located a short walk from Robberg Beach, and the drive to town takes ~10 minutes. Breakfast is included and very good. Dinner is served onsite only certain nights; I think Tuesday and Thursday.

Food and Drinks: We thoroughly enjoyed our seafood and pasta at Ristorante Enrico, overlooking Keurboomstrand. The great service and hundreds of dolphins surfing the waves nearby didn’t hurt. Lunch at The Fat Fish was good. We ate dinner one night at our guesthouse, and it was very good (R325 for three courses).

Lunch at East Head Cafe at the Knysna Heads was great. Some other places recommended to us include Zinzi, Nguni, The Table and Emily’s Moon River Lodge.

Activities: Hiking on Robberg Peninsula was fantastic. There are three loop options, we chose the middle one called Witsand (it took us 2 hours and 15 minutes with plenty of time for snacks and photos). The overall elevation doesn’t change that much, but there is a bit of up and down, some large steps, uneven rocks, sand, etc. It is not an easy stroll. The views are excellent, and from some points you can look down at the Cape fur seal colony. Entry to the Nature Reserve costs R40 each.

Whale watching with Ocean Blue Adventures was a lowlight. The weather was spotty and they probably should not have sent the boat out. We saw the Cape fur seal colony at Robberg Peninsula, and that was nice; the rest of the time was choppy seas and getting pelted in the face with cold water. Normally it costs R700 each, they discounted ours to R400 when we got back. Many thought a full refund was in order.

There are various places for hiking, kayaking, canoeing etc. in the area. We were sorry to miss Tsitsikamma National Park and the Storms River Mouth. There are also some animal activities, like Tenikwa, Monkeyland, Birds of Eden, etc.

November 3-6, 2014 (Monday-Thursday)

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