The Garden Route is a straightforward title for a spectacular stretch of coastline that hosts an incredible range of habitats. The word “garden” doesn’t prepare you for the beauty of this stretch of road flanked by a wave-battered coastline on one side and mountains thrusting out of the earth on the other.
For me, an Australian, it was an introduction to South Africa, and for my partner it was a farewell of sorts – at least for a while. A few months ago we decided to pack up our lives in London – where we met and lived together – and move to Australia. But on the way we would travel around South Africa before arriving at his parent’s home in Pietermaritzburg to spend some time with his family.
The Garden Route has many different starting points, depending on who you ask. Some will tell you Witsand, and some say Albertinia. However, we will start our tale at the beginning of our journey: Cape Town.
Our journey began in Cape Town, where Matt and I were reunited after three months of being apart. I had been in London, working and packing up our life, while Matt had been in South Africa awaiting his Australian visa application. It was an emotional reunion after a very trying time in our lives. I felt like I haven’t stopped moving in 3 months, and Matt has been so far away.
The sun and heat are both overwhelming but the light is fantastic. It’s so gloomy in London, I’ve got a permanent squint.
First stop from the airport is Kalk Bay, a tiny fishing village on the coast of False Bay. This seaside town is only a 30 minute drive from Cape Town’s city centre, but it is a world away from the busy city. The town is wedged between the rocky coastline and the mountains that rise up almost immediately behind it.
Whilst not a bustling city centre, Kalk Bay is dotted with lovely restaurants and antique shops. Fishermen sell their wares on the harbour, and we stopped to watch them throw the scraps to capering seals.
We stayed in a lovely rented apartment called Casa Loui, a stone’s throw from the water. Our only complaint was the noise from the main road – Kalk Bay may be a fishing village but we discovered that it’s not ‘sleepy’. It seems there are people on the road at all hours coming out of pubs, or starting early trade in the morning.
Chapman’s Peak Drive, Hout Bay, Cape Point Nature Reserve
From Kalk Bay, we drove to Hout Bay, via Chapman’s Peak Drive, which is touted to be one of the world’s most scenic mountain drives. This 9km route boasts 114 curves as it skirts Chapman’s Peak and follows the coastline to reveal stunning views with many areas to stop and take photos along the way.
|Beautiful and windy (in both senses) drive|
We stretched our legs at Hout Bay, a spot teeming with tourists and over-priced markets. There are plenty of operators that offer boat trips to Seal Island in a glass-bottomed boat. We chose Circe launches, one of the cheapest operators, and found it to be fun and informative. The crew brought the boat within metres of the island, where we could get some really close up photos of the Cape Fur Seals resting on the rocky island.
Sadly the conditions were too murky for the glass bottom that day, but there was plenty to see from the deck.
Back at Hout Bay we grabbed some fish and chips (huge serving sizes!) and drove on to Cape Point Nature Reserve.
Cape Point is often mistakenly referred to as the southern most point of Africa. In fact it is the most south westerly point, the most southerly point is, Cape Agulhas, approximately 150 kilometres (90 mi) to the east-southeast. It all gets very confusing.
|Yep, we walked that hill to the lighthouse and it was a HOT walk.|
Stretching from Cape Point to Cape Agulhas is the place where the cold Atlantic Ocean and the warm Indian ocean collide. There is no obvious ‘line in the ocean’ where the seas look different to each other. There are, however, dangerous swells and currents – which have resulted in countless shipwrecks over the centuries.
Cape Point is situated within a national park, which is wild, undeveloped and a haven for wildlife. Look out for seabirds and wild buck. Oh and baboons. They will try to steal your belongings if you’re not vigilant.