Wednesday, December 6

The Garden Route, Day 1: Vineyards and The End of the World

Of all the things that I felt I missed out the most on during my last trip to South Africa, it was The Garden Route that really piqued my interest. It's not like I knew what was actually on the garden route (I knew it wasn't flowers), but more how it was sold as The Road Trip To End All Road Trips, a rite of passage for those heading into maturity. And so just like with some of the other parts of this trip that were serving to fill in the gaps, I was pretty excited to finally be able to go on the drive between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.

Although we had an early start we didn't actually leave Cape Town till later in the morning, having made a quick stop off at the Botanical Gardens. As with most of the road trips I've been on, I've found the trick is to balance the leaving of space to follow unbeaten paths, while knowing where to spend that precious time as you find those hidden gems - I knew that there were a fair few miles (or rather kilometres) between here and our first stop in Mossel Bay, so I did hope that we wouldn't miss those few hours spent in the gardens (which wasn't actually that bad either).

Stellenbosch was our first port of call, and we chose the Tokara Vineyard to stop at. Although it's tough to justify the value of visiting a vineyard to a Muslim Family like ours the views were spectacular, and the offer to partake in olive tasting tempting enough. But time was against us anyway so we moved on pretty quickly.

We then had a choice - to go to Ceres for fruit juices or Elgin for some apples. We chose the latter which turned out to be a bit of a bust, even though we found the Appletizer factory and stocked up on some concentrate. A pretty random road trip so far then.

After a bit of driving we stopped at Hermanus, a lovely little seaside town, for some tea and cake. It was a nice place to take a break; it was quiet, cute and intimate, and it was here that I finally started to regret not having as much time today as I would have liked - it would have been nice to have just lounged around town for a bit but we still had a way to go and another stop to make.

That last stop was L'Agulhas, the southernmost tip of South Africa and the place where two oceans met. Unfortunately the weather had deteriorated by this point, and I reckon the place would have given a much better impression of scale and geography had I the time to let it all sink in. But by now the sun had gone down along with our collective energy and so we called it a day and carried on to our hotel in Mossel Bay.

All in all aside from some brilliant views it was a pretty unenthusiastic start to the Garden Route today, although I'm told it only really begins from where we've laid our hat today. I do hope so.

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