Road Tripping South Africa

Here comes my second post as promised in the last one. It’s quite a long one so it took me longer to finish than anticipated. Sorry for that!

The past two weeks, the German volunteers and I took a road trip along the South African coast. You can find a map with all the spots we visited and our route at the end of this post.

We rented a car from Moshoeshoe airport in Maseru and drove across the South African border near Mafeteng. Unfortunately, we couldn’t cross the border in Maseru as a couple of us needed their South African visas renewed and needed a longer visa than just for one week (in South Africa you get a visa for three months when you come from a European country but once that expires and you’re coming from Lesotho, you only get one for one week) and a couple of people had told us that it was more likely to get another three months when you don’t cross the border near Maseru. However, as usual, crossing the Lesotho-South Africa border was a walk in the park: the officials at the border hardly looked at us, put a stamp in our passports and the ones who needed it, simply got their three months South African visas renewed. Cannot believe how easy it is for us to enter these two countries. I’d really like to see a South African or Basotho enter a European country that easily.

After what seemed like a twenty hour drive (but was really only (!) about 10 hours long ;-)) past dry hills and then through an increasingly greener landscape, we finally made it to the South African coast at Port St. John’s in the dark. The backpacker station we stayed at was really, really nice and the people there were cool. Actually, in every backpacker’s we’d come to stay in those two weeks, the people were nice. I really love how some of those South Africans speak: slowly, melodic and just a lot of ya’s and ey’s after every sentence. However, it’s possible that the South Africans I met only spoke slowly because they already smoked weed in the morning :-).

The first evening, we were all tired (especially my flatmate and I because we went to a house party in Maseru the Friday before and still hadn’t fully recovered yet…because we were tired not because we had been so drunk [hello mum and dad! ;-)]) and we went to our dorm rather early. We didn’t go to bed before eating the most amazing curry though. That’s something worth mentioning about South Africa. The food there is amazing and – as the country is quite multicultural – you can eat food from everywhere around the world. It’s also quite cheap compared to Europe. I think in the two weeks in South Africa, we mostly ate amazing food: Italian, Indian, African etc..

Our first proper day on holiday started great. We got up, the sun was shining and we were anxious to go to the beach. I got up, put on some shorts and a sweater and quickly walked down the hill. Lucas and Max were waiting for me but wanted to take a different path through the bushes (Snakes and ticks: No thanks!) so I ran down the hill on a little path, looked up to see where the others were and just fell… into a three metre deep and open gully, I really hadn’t seen coming. Thankfully I landed relatively soft on a blue plastic bin and on my feet. However, on the way down, I had ripped open the sides of my left thigh and also parts of my right lower leg. Needless to say it burned like hell, I was bleeding and still in the damn hole. I panicked as I couldn’t get out and I started yelling for help (Of course in German. You always yell in your own language first in these situations). Eventually, I saw that there were some sort of steps so I managed to climb out. Lucas and Max had come running by then but I really didn’t feel like going to the beach anymore. I could hardly walk as it burned too much and wanted to get some antiseptic. So I walked back to the backpacker’s and their reception. After crying some tears when the antiseptic touched the open wounds and getting some needed sympathy, a cup of tea and a cigarette (again, sorry parents!) from the nice people there, I was almost good to go again (not even a figure of speech in this case). However, I was annoyed about this happening on the first day of our holiday as I was actually in pain, the wounds got infected as foreseen by a South African woman and I had to take antibiotics for a couple of days. Moreover, literally everyone asked me what had happened and I had to keep telling the same story (A couple of times, I joked around saying I got attacked by a shark or lion because I didn’t want to keep telling the same boring story. Plus, falling into a hole is not really a good story to begin with).  I also couldn’t swim or surf as it hurt too much and my friends kept freaking me out about sharks attacking me if I dared to go in. Sharks actually seem to be quite a big issue along the South African coast and in Port St Johns, for instance, we were advised not to go into the ocean at all. It was all good though because that meant I gave reading a more serious go and read some amazing novels on holiday ;-).

So our first stop was at Port St John’s at the Wild Coast and we stayed there for two nights. We sat on the beach, read, talked to people, joked around, ate good food and just enjoyed being there. In the evening, we sat at the cool bar at our backpacker’s (see photos). Port St John’s was actually one of my favourite spots of the holiday as the landscape was really beautiful. It reminded me of photos of Brazil.

The next stop was Coffee Bay. Compared to Port St John’s, the landscape looked completely different there. It was like travelling from Brazil to Ireland in just a couple of hours. However, it also rained and was relatively cold so that might be one of the main reasons why it reminded me so much of Ireland ;-). We found a nice backpacker’s station for 120 Rand/Night including breakfast (around 8,50€). It was relatively small and there weren’t as many tourists, which was great. Paulina and I slept in two beds in a cool big tent. The people there, mostly Xhosa, were among the funniest people I had ever met and really laid back. They played drums most of the day and the way they spoke also sounded like a slow drum being played and very rhythmic;-). I even got taught basic Xhosa by some South African guy. However, the language is just way too difficult for European tongues. You know a language is difficult when you cannot even pronounce the name of the language ;-). We also could have gone swimming if we had wanted to, as we were assured by the locals that sharks there were “vegetarians” (lols). However, in the end, we didn’t go because it would have been too cold to swim anyway and a fisherman told my friends he accidently caught sharks instead of fish almost daily. It is ridiculous how many German tourists there are around the area. One of the guys we met was married to a German. Another one was half Xhosa, half German (never met his German father but said he really wanted to meet him so he could ask for his German passport (haha)). Additionally, just in the small village we stayed in, there were like twenty German volunteers.

When we left Coffee Bay, we went to see the Hole in the Wall but regretted going there because the hole was a little disappointing (really just a hole in the wall) and, most of all, the roads there and back were really bad. It took us three hours for a 10 km drive as our car kept getting stuck in potholes on the way. We needed help from some children who came running to watch what the weird foreigners were doing and eventually helped us push our car out of a pit. We really should have rented a 4×4 instead of a normal car. After that ride and also hitting a couple of speed humps (oups), the bottom of our car didn’t look too good (there was some plastic hanging from the bottom, which kept touching the road as we drove) and we had to exchange it at Port Elizabeth airport.

On our way to Chintsa, we also had a weird and slightly scary experience. We passed a small town, where we wanted to go for lunch. We went to KFC and as we were literally the only white people in that whole town, we got stared at pretty badly. You can just feel South Africa’s past at times. Whereas people are curious about you in Lesotho, black people are openly hostile towards you in some parts of South Africa. There is just too much racism on both sides. We talked to a white South African woman near Chintsa, who asked us if we were German volunteers working in the townships. Instead of appreciating their work, she made townships sound like hell and everyone voluntarily going there either suicidal or completely crazy. However, there is also (very understandably, given the history) racism on the side of black South Africans. So we were at KFC and one of the staff there comes up to us and tells us that he overheard some guys talking about us and that they are waiting outside, planning to mug us. You’d expect this to happen during the night but it was 1pm! We also had all of our stuff (including our passports and other valuables) in the car and had already been gone for 20 minutes. Hence, we were nervous and I think neither of us enjoyed their lunch too much. When we were done, someone of the KFC staff accompanied us to the car to make sure that we were safe. The car was still there (thank god!) and we drove off. At a red traffic light, we had another strange experience when some guy looked into our car and then tried to make us open the doors as well as tried opening them himself. It goes without saying that we were relieved when we finally left that town.

The third stop was Chintsa – our last stop on the Wild Coast. I am not too sure whether we stayed there for two or three nights but definitely longer than we stayed at Coffee Bay. Again, we slept in beds in a tent. The view from Paulina’s and my tent was great (see one of the photos I took). I enjoyed the landscape and scenery a lot. It is a relatively wealthy area and honestly, I was pretty bothered about the fact that you could only see Germans at the backpacker’s and only white people around that area. In South Africa, you generally never see black people in wealthy areas and hardly ever see white people in poor ones. We had a truly amazing time there though. Saw some people we already knew from Lesotho (small world!!!), played ping pong and beach volleyball and went swimming. The others tried to surf but it was simply too windy to do so and Max had to be rescued by some surfers because he drifted off (haha).

The next stop on our list was Kidd’s Beach. We stayed a couple of days in a house that belongs to the family running the Trading Post in Roma. As Paulina and Malte work for them, we were allowed to stay there for free. Kidd’s Beach is a small town near East London and there’s not much to do but it was nice to relax, cook great food and save money for accommodation after all the time spent driving around in the car. We also spent one night in a backpacker’s in Jeffrey’s Bay, also relatively close to the beach. The best stop along the coast was by far Wilderness. We first thought about staying in Knysna but I am glad we changed our minds and went to Wilderness instead. Wilderness really IS wild and you have everything there (rivers, woods, beaches, the ocean etc. etc.) and when you’re in the woods, you feel like being somewhere in the jungle in South America (see photos). We went to the beach in the evening and some place for dinner. The next day, Paulina, Malte and I went for a hike in the woods in the morning, while Lucas and Max went bungee jumping in Tsitsikamma (crazy people!). In the afternoon, we went kayaking as well as to a waterfall, where we went for a swim (best spot ever to go for a swim). Later, we had a barbecue (“braai” in Afrikaans). I enjoyed Wilderness a lot but was excited to leave for Cape Town too.

On Wednesday, we left relatively early in the morning and after another six hours in the car, we arrived in Cape Town in late afternoon. We stayed at a backpacker’s hostel on Long Street. Long Street is one of Cape Town’s main streets for going out and you can find all the good pubs, restaurants and clubs there. In my opinion, Cape Town is simply the best city in the world and I am not surprised I couldn’t forget that city and almost thought about it daily since I had last been there about nine years earlier. I also felt quite strange going back as I spent lots of time there during my childhood. It was really a trip down memory lane for me as, in my opinion, nothing much about it has changed in the last ten years. We went to Waterfront, Sea Point (saw the house where my family used to live), went to the coffee place, where we always had breakfast, went to the beach in Camp’s Bay and to the same restaurant, my family and I used to go for dinner. We also wanted to climb Table Mountain but it was closed as it was too windy, cloudy and dangerous to go up (shame) but the view from a parking spot up there was beautiful nonetheless. In the evenings, we went out on Long Street with some people we met at the backpacker’s (locals and expats). Those were by far the funniest and greatest evenings of our holiday (sleepless in Cape Town – very much so!). On our last day, we went to Boulder’s beach to see the penguins and also had planned to go to Cape of Good Hope. We eventually decided against the latter though as it would have cost us 105 Rand to go there. We left Cape Town at 5pm on Saturday and then just drove back to Lesotho (around 13 hours in the car). We arrived back safely in Maseru at 6am on Sunday and I just went straight to bed as I was really exhausted and we all had to go back to work on Monday.

All in all that was one awesome holiday. Thanks to Malte, Max, Lucas and Paulina for their company and making it so great :-).

Favourite quote of the holiday:

“I speak English, Xhosa, Afrikaans and crap”

Here is our route:

Here come some photos:

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