• Kate Williams

Ladies, Gardens

The Garden Route to be precise. A 300 km strip of southern coastal road stretching from Mossel Bay to Port Elizabeth. All sweeping white sands, crashing surf and rugged coastline. Most people drive it but our only careful lady driver (no prizes) had spent too much time reading the Foreign Office advice page. Local transport was a definite no-no so we opted to take the Bazbus, a backpacker-orientated hop-on hop-off service all the way from Cape Town.

Another chill Cape Town day dawned as we boarded, along with the realisation that we were older than the average bazzer by a good 20 years. As we trundled along the highways, our fellow passengers bemoaned the lack of on-board Wifi, debated the world's best bungy jumps and rated hostels by the amount of adventure sports bookable therefrom. We bemoaned our various ailments, lack of alcohol tolerance and unpredictable menstrual frequency, thus ensuring we always got a seat to ourselves.

Our whistle stop tour took in pretty Knysna (don't even try to pronounce it) with its sheltered lagoon, national park and million-rand waterfront properties. We were a little underwhelmed with our forest hike (no views) until we realised later that thick jungle is a novelty in SA, so we thought ourselves lucky instead.

Back at the apartment, the power in our apartment went (a result of dodgy wiring and a broken tea cup incident). We went to bed early wrapped in our clothes, drinking Fat Bastard wine (purely for warmth) and reading by head torches. And this was supposed to be the luxury part of the trip...

Out on the choppy seas, we oohed at one-tenth of a humpbacked whale bobbing along like a mysterious grey sea beast. Whale watching is a odd thing to do: never has so much been paid by so many for so little, and yet it's still the coolest thing ever. The demure whale refused to breach for us but did treat us to a little tail flick for that all-important Facebook post.

In our next stop, Storms River, we stayed in a backpackers with more character than Oliver Reed: free shots of an unidentifiable brown liquor on arrival, a goat on the dinner table and a horse in the bar. Our three-bed room was an intimate en-suite, the intimacy owing to the non-existent bathroom door.

We hiked down through Tsitsikama national park to the river mouth, a towering vertical slit of a gorge narrowing quickly into darkness. Indiana Jones-style bridges clung to the side of the cliffs and spanned the inlet where the sea attacked the entrance to the gorge. The weather turned wet so we holed up in a tented restaurant to listen to the ceiling flap and the sea boom as it erected foam skyscrapers against the rocks.

The following day we scrambled along the coast and over boulders on the Otter Trail (so named because it helps if you have four legs) to a waterfall. Though not full, it was proudly and majestically African, water streaming from its wide shelved ledges into the sea.

Sadly bidding Toast the dog, Baz the goat (no relation) and the horse (no name) goodbye, we boarded the Bazbus for the last time to Port Elizabeth. From there we would catch a flight to Durban for the next leg of our trip.

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