Dolphin Coast to Cape Town (2016)

Adventurous 2000 km along the coast. 

The third part of the trip will take us partly to areas that we already know, but could not yet enjoy extensively. These 3 weeks we want to keep quite flexible. We have booked neither accommodations nor golf courses and just let everything come to us.

We drive more than 2000 km along the coastline, on back roads with many stops, until we reach Cape Town. Our starting point, after saying goodbye to Sabine's family, is Ballito in KwaZulu-Natal. We drive along the North Coast (Dolphin Coast) and the South Coast (Hibiscus Coast) and change to the Eastern Cape province. There the coasts are called Wild Coast and Sunshine Coast. Via the well known Garden Route we will drive to Cape Town, where we will spend a few days with our friends Gabi and Allan. Golfing and wine tasting are on our agenda too.

On the map you can see the most probable way. 

 "All Okay" is not good enough ...

The first day without family takes us to the Royal Durban Golf Club. It was founded in 1883 and is now located in the middle of the city. Interestingly, there is a horse racing track all around the course. So your ball may not be "out of bounds" but "on the turf". Inside the racetrack, there is an Indian celebration going on with appropriately loud music. Durban is home to the largest Indian population outside of India. 

In the evening we go again to the restaurant "Mo-zam-bik", according to Tripadvisor the No. 2 in Ballito. As a surprise, Brett, the owner, personally invited us to eat at his restaurant again.

The invitation was due to a remark Sabine had made during breakfast when Herbie had asked her how dinner at Mo-zam-bik had been. She said:  "It was okay."

Herbie called his friend Brett. Brett, owner of 8 Mo-zam-bik-restaurants in South Africa and trained in Switzerland, wasn't going to take this lying down. According to his philosophy he wants completely satisfied guests and ok is not good enough. Therefore he personally welcomed us the following evening, looked after us, the waiters took care of us.... (This is how a restaurant tester must feel!) The food was, of course, excellent. Among other things, seafood at its best. Even our wine selection was turned down by Brett: "I've got something better for you guys...".

Guest at the luxury resort

Today we booked Zimbali Golf again. We already played the course last year. It is one of the top courses in SA (No. 25), impresses with its excellent condition and is only 2 km away from our accommodation. Despite the weekend, we snag a start time at 11:30 a.m. at the local rate (total 33€ for 2, including GPS cart). After the round, we chat for a long time on the clubhouse terrace with two South Africans who were on the round before us. Both have German roots, one is called Krause, the other earns his money with the rental of truck cranes. Business seems to be good. They just bought a game farm ("nothing big. Just a few hundred acres!") and each own a very spacious cottage here in Zimbali, supposedly the most exclusive golf resort in SA.

Laundry and hanging out...

We stay one more day in Ballito. Laundry is not done until Monday around noon. So we take Herbie up on his offer, stay an extra day and book another golf course. The Umhlali Country Club, is also a resort course and we like it almost better than Zimbali. There is no compulory-cart-use. We are allowed to walk, even if only at a snail's pace. We play right behind the local "Ladiesday". (Four ladies, two carts and two caddies per flight).

Highway to hell

The journey continues. We leave Ballito in the direction of the Wildcoast. We have chosen Port St. Johns as our destination. Thanks to we find an overnight stay at the "Delicious Monster". Saying goodbye to Herbie and Erika turns out to be longer than planned and we don't get on the road until about 9:30. According to the navi the journey should take about 6.5 hours.

After Port Edward the drama begins. The R61 is a mere construction site. The condition of the road is catastrophic and about every 5 kilometers we have to stop for 20 minutes. In the meantime we are at 1000 m and in the middle of the clouds. Visibility is less than 30m, cars are driving either without lights or only with parking lights. No guard rails at the serpentines. At nightfall we finally arrive in Port St. Johns after 9 hours of driving, totally exhausted.

After the Navi had sent us once again on a wrong track, we finally managed to find our accommodation "Delicious Monster". According to the guidebook it is run by dropouts. Decoration is very colorful and reminds us of a small backpacker hostel. It is situated wildly romantic in the middle of a tropical garden on a "jungle slope" with a view of the ocean. A great place to relax and unwind.

We share kitchen and living room with Romina and Hendrik from Berlin. We have dinner together and exchange ideas. They also rented a Toyota Corolla. We just managed the steep driveway to the accommodation. Maybe next time we will rent a 4x4 for the whole period; that would be more relaxing from a driving point of view.

The next morning we hike on a steep path on the slope to the 3rd Beach. From there we watch a huge swarm of dolphins surfing, just beautiful.
In the afternoon we "hike" the local 9-hole golf course. The club has only 25 members and Shepherd, the most talented youth player of the club, accompanies us. The course is certainly not a destination for a club outing. It is used by the students of the nearby school as a hangout during breaktime. We enjoyed the interaction with the guys and all the trappings.

 Fish River Sun - Complete Golf Package 

From Port St. Johns we drive back southeast through the mountains, this time without fog and significantly less stress. Our destination is the Fish River Sun Hotel, respectively the associated golf course. One of the older Gary Player courses, which we had to skip last year because a bigger tournament was taking place. The hotel itself is a bit outdated but the golf course made our hearts beat faster. Top maintenance, beautiful views and a balanced mix of typical Gary Player pot bunkers and challenging water hazards. Breakfast and dinner were included so we didn't have to worry about anything.

Bushman Sands - Golfing in Nowhere Land.

After the good round at Fish River Sun, we were hot for Gary Player courses. The next course was only a 2 hour drive away, in a place called Alicedale (population 3000). To get there we even had to overcome 30 km of (well maintained) gravel-sand road in the end. Not quite ideal for our Toyota Corolla. In the small village there is no gas station and hardly any other infrastructure. All the more astonishing that a hotel with a golf course has been built there. Surprisingly, our room was more like a suite with a huge bathroom (2 showers, free-standing bathtub, etc.), which was not to be expected at the very moderate price. 
The golfing was not quite as relaxing. The fairways were brown and correspondingly hard with many "blind spots". There was no birdie book, so that many a ball disappeared in a previously unexpected water hazard or bush. As hotel guests we paid only about 8€ green fee/person. That reconciled again. The railroad line runs right by the course. The world famous and very exclusive Blue Train offers its passengers a short stay here and the opportunity to relax during a round of golf.  

Addo Elephant Park - finally animals again

Another, previously unmentioned, reason for going to Bushman Sands was the proximity to Addo Elephant Park, the third largest animal park in SA. The Addo Park is a very popular starting or ending point for all Garden Route tourists and therefore accordingly busy. There was no accommodation available in the park, so we combined the pleasant with the useful and entered the park from Bushman Sands from the north. At the entrance we stood in a rather long car queue. It was Sunday and many day trippers were on the road. There is a maximum number of vehicles allowed in the park at one time. Obviously, the maximum number had been reached. Only when one car left the park was another allowed to enter. We expected a long wait. Since we are wild card holders (annual pass for all state wildlife parks) we were waved past the line and allowed to enter.  

Unfortunately there is no possibility to buy food or drinks except at the entrance, so we could well understand how the animals are doing during the dry season.

Port Elizabeth - Start of the Garden Route

From the southern exit of Addo Park it is only about 50 km to Port Elizabeth, our next stop. The booked accommodation is located in a quiet area, Summerstrand, and only 5 minutes drive from the beach promenade. Here we wanted to play the Humewood Links Golf Course, where we had not been able to get a starting time last year. The course doesn't open until 11:00 on Mondays, so we teed off at 11:10. Those familiar with the course strongly advise early morning tee times because after 10 a.m. the "westener", a strong coastal wind starts its business. The club manager warned us right away: "Enjoy your game, but don't expect to reach any green in regulation against the wind". He was right. Nevertheless, we played decently. The course has a nice links-course-layout but is not too narrow. It is officially one of the top 10 courses in South Africa.

We had our car washed the day before and parked it under a palm tree at the clubhouse. When we returned from golfing, it was filthy with bird droppings and the right side mirror was hanging down smashed. We suspected that another golfer had been a bit careless when parking out (supposed to happen). However, nothing was reported at the office. The club manager looked at the damage and found that the wind had torn off a palm branch that had fallen right on the mirror.

He called AVIS for us, we drove to the airport and the car was exchanged. A great service! Comment at AVIS: "They should cut all these palmtrees".     

Jeffries Bay - Surfer's paradise 

Due to the car exchange we arrived a little later than planned in Jeffries Bay, our next destination. We have never been here before, because surfing is not one of our sports. In the meantime, however, Sabine has already hinted several times that she wants to learn it. Without me! The town has a special flair. The pubs are funky, everything walks around in appropriate leisure-clothes and flip-flops and our accommodation was called "Funky-Town". It was much better than the name would suggest, though. It is worth mentioning that we were picked up for the restaurant visit in the evening by a free shuttle service and also brought home again. The shuttle owner and driver was a young Swiss man! 

Hermanus - where are the whales?

We want to visit Gaby in Cape Town. This was a goal of the trip from the beginning. In the meantime it has turned out that Gaby will be back at a school in Germany during the planned time window. So we decided to meet her before she flies off and therefore had to speed up to reach Cape Town in time to say good bye to her. The stretch between Jeffrey's Bay and Knysna is new to us.  We skipped Tsitsikamma Game Reserve and leave it for next time. 

The N2 is framed by blooming fynbos and lush green; great setting for an expressway.
From Knysna on we are on familiar terrain. In Wilderness we stop briefly for coffee and an award-winning cheesecake, then we continue.

We approach Hermanus via the Overberge and Walkers Bay. Magnificent, newly built wineries line the road, along with huge fields of grain being harvested. 

Stanford, an old town with Cape Dutch architecture surprised us positively. Here one restaurant follows the other; it looks like a doll's house. The guidebook doesn´t even mention it, but Google enlightens us; Stanford is a favorite weekend-spot for Capetonians. They don´t mind a 120 km drive in exchange for a good dinner. That sounds so interesting that we include it on our travel list for the trips to come. Also Hamilton Russel and some of his winemaking colleagues can be found here. One reason more to come back.
In Hermanus we check in quickly and walk directly to the platform. There is no whale to be seen. With stormy seas and strong winds, I wouldn't show myself either. They tell us that the whales have already moved on and only single ones are cavorting off the coast. Never mind, we take the photos from our last visit!

The city has more to offer besides the whales: great art galleries, beach, coast, nice weather and excellent golf courses.

Cape Town - Reunion with Gaby and her family

As mentioned at some point, we had decided to "skip" the Garden Route, except for the small stopover in Hermanus. We really wanted to see our dear friend Gaby Noble again before she gets on the plane on 11/4 and disappears to Germany. She will be doing an internship at a school in Heilbronn. We leave Hermanus in the early afternoon and soon the heavy traffic is the sign that we approach the city of Cape Town. The after-work traffic in the greater Cape Town area is really something to behold. Gaby's house is right below Table Mountain, but it's not so easy to see from a distance because of the tall trees. We took a photo from Lion's Head and I marked the spot (small yellow circle).

Cape Town

Friday we spent with Gaby, her husband Allan and daughter Tallita. In the morning we visit the "Deutsche Schule Kapstadt", where Gaby normally teaches. We look around a bit, have nice conversations with colleagues and the principal. One important topic was the school festival coming up on Saturday. It is put up in a big way, there are posters in the city and they expect about 10.000 visitors. 

In the evening, when Gaby was on her way to the airport with her family, we met Mischa and Jana Pick (Rieschweiler, Hitscherhof) for dinner and exchanged travel experiences. Mischa and Jana are here for the first time, did the classic Addo Park, Garden Route, Cape Town in 2 weeks and fly back on Sunday. The food, wine and conversations were so good that we smoothly forgot to take a photo. To compensate, some of the Cape Town views taken from the Lionshead.