Monday, February 22, 2016

Garden Route, South Africa: A Road Trip You Must See In Your Lifetime

Shoutout to my friend Sam, who has reminded me that my blog updates are very late.

From Cape Town, we rented a sweet ride (i.e. the cheapest vehicle we could find) to start a cross-country road trip across South Africa.

What It's All About:
We drove an incredibly popular route called the Garden Route, which follows S. Africa along its Southern coast and is known for its mind-blowing views (and the huge, huge range of scenery).  The scenery literally changed wildly every hour - from amazing wheat-y farm country, to thick, dense mountainous forests, to amazing rolling green hills, to beautiful coastline/beaches.  The route itself is a little over 300km: and the change in views, topography, plants, wildlife, and vibes were like driving through 10 separate countries every day.  I can see why so many people like driving this route.

Our sweet little Datsun Go; a car I never even knew existed until we rented it.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Our first stop on the way out of Cape Town was to the city of Franschoek, this ADORBS coastal city that is kind of reminiscent of Stellenbosch, in that it is flanked by gorgeous mountains and has tons and tons of wineries. And it's got tons of delicious restaurants.

In Franschoek, we maybe squeezed in one last winery. This is La Motte and its tasting room - I was attempting to show how fancy the tasting room was.

The gorgeous outdoor seating area, La Motte's personal highly-rated restaurant (with glass-enclosed floor-to-ceiling windows), and their own country store!  Wineries here are basically giant, multi-functioning fancy estates.

The wineries of La Motte

  • Late afternoon, we departed from Franschoek and continued our way west over the mountains. We spent the night in an adorable little stopover town called Swellendam.

Terrible photo; but basically just to show you how amazing the vistas were as we were driving over the mountains out of Franschoek.

Then we drove through a bunch of Arizona-looking climate

......then large swaths of prairies (and sheep and cows!)

Day 2, and we left Swellendam to drive through crazy mountain-y forest

  • Around mid-afternoon, we reached a city on the coast called Wilderness (love the name). We made a quick hour-long pit stop at the gorgeous stretch of beach.

Apparently people don't really swim here because the waves are huuuuuuuge, but it is so gorgeous and there are little inlets where you can splash around without worrying about getting swept out to the sea.

Huge tides don't bother you when you lie on a beach and feed yourself grapes

Powdery sand, crashing blue-green waves, and pine tree-covered mountains all around. Wilderness is the prettiest.

Apparently other people think so too, because the beachfront is full of these super-baller, super-rich mansions

  • By lunchtime, we hit the city of Knysna (aggressive underuse of vowels, South Africa). This is a gorgeous city with a really well-known harbor - it's also a popular backpacker town because it's got zillions of outdoor adventure sports you can do. We just swung through for lunch, but it was so pretty that I wished we were staying there for the night.

This is the gorgeous harbor of Knysna, which had a very East Coast preppy summer vibe. Like being in New England in the summers. Think outdoor cafes, harbor views everywhere, small boutiques, etc.

And I bought myself a hat! NEW HAT NEW HAT

Continuing on our way. it feels like we're in rural Amish country or something!


  • That evening, we reached the town of Storms River. It's this adorable little town tucked in an area called Tsitsikamma National Park, which is known for its Colorado-like hiking.

Arriving in our hostel parking lot in Storms River, we realized that everyone rents the same 4 cars in South Africa: the Datsun Go, the Chevy Spark, the Hyundai I-10, or a VW Golf/Polo.  They all basically look the exact same, and they're always white.  Jesse is confused which car is ours.

We took a little sunset cruise in our sweet ride to where the locals of Storms River live


The little guesthouse next to ours. I was completely charmed by Storms River, and kind of obsessed with staying there. It was seriously one of the most peaceful places I've ever been.

Storms River sunset

  • So the entire reason we were even staying in Storms River is because of a famous bridge about 20-minutes away - called Bloukran's Bridge, this bridge has the world's highest bungee jump* (*for commercial use off a bridge).  It's 216 meters high, and Jesse had been super-dedicated to doing it for weeks.  I had planned on watching as a supportive bystander (they have a bar right next to the bridge, where you can watch videos of people as they jump).  However, at the time, I was incredibly excited about the Broncos and their recent momentum, and was dedicated to find a place in South Africa to watch the Super Bowl (which, fun fact, airs at 2:30AM on a Monday morning) - Jesse preyed on this knowledge and convinced me to say that if the Broncos won the Super Bowl, I'd do the bungee jump as well. At the time, I was thinking it was NBD, because if the Broncos won the Super Bowl, I'd be so happy that a little bridge jump wouldn't really matter.
  • Ok, so we all know what happened with the Super Bowl.

Pre-bungee meal, a.k.a. The Last Supper. Storms River's main street is only like, 3 stores long - one of which is this very cute, incredibly random, huge 50's themed diner - complete with outfits and retro cars. Inexplainable.

Driving to Bloukrans Bridge, we saw this roadside fire. OMEN?!?!

This is Bloukrans Bridge. You can see in the very, very middle at the top, is the equipment for the bungee jump.

The bridge from above

  • Bloukrans is smart because they make you pay for the bungee at their storefront before you go on the bridge. And after you pay, there are no refunds. Which honestly, is enough to make me just go ahead and do it because I am NOT wasting that money under any circumstances. Then they death march you onto the bridge.

Looking down into the canyon below

They make you walk across a see-through wire plank the entire walk over to the middle of the bridge

  • So I didn't purchase the photos of my bungee jump (only have video but we know that doesn't work on Blogger because Blogger is the worst), it was basically terrifying. The video is on my insta, in case anyone cares (@wangconn). The company is so business-like that I looked over the edge and chickened out and the men didn't blink an eye; they basically just gently nudged me over the edge. You didn't even get more than 4 seconds to collect yourselves and your thoughts (or properly back out, which was my original intention).  

This is Jesse jumping; he did have photos

A fuzzy screenshot of my jump.  Very appropriate that I look like I'm dead.

  • It was an amazing experience - I've never felt total free-fall like that. But it was also terrifying, and I fully plan on never doing it ever again. Bucket list, check. And Peyton Manning, I hope you appreciated that. 

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