Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sunshine Coast to the Wild Coast, South Africa: The Coolest Little Villages

What It's All About:
We continued our road trip past the Garden Route to the Sunshine Coast, which is the coast you pass after exiting the Garden Route - and after the Sunshine Coast comes the Wild Coast.  Here, the Southern Coast of South Africa starts to get less populated and developed, and most of the coastline has gorgeous beaches and more nature. Many of the small towns are known for their surfing due to the intensity of the waves, and as expected - even more amazing views.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Finished up our time in Tsitsikamma National Park with a quick hike to see some giant trees, and then some zip-lining (which is not nearly as exciting after you've spent the previous day jumping off a giant bridge bungee) (but still fun).

We hiked to "The Big Tree", which is this GIANT yellowwood tree (see a tiny me standing in front for scale) that is believed to be almost 1,000 years old.

There were crazy neon mushrooms on the path

More normal-colored, but still crazy amounts of mushrooms

Are we out of the woods yet are we out of the woods yet are we out of the woods yet are we out of the woods

Jess crossing a fancy footbridge

And then we went zip-lining
It was cool zipping over canyons and trees and stuff

  • That evening, we drove from Storms River out to Jeffreys Bay (cooly referred to as "J-Bay") to meet up with Jesse's friend Kevin, who he (who he? whom he? I never can remember that rule) knows from English teaching in Korea. Kevin happened to be in South Africa for a wedding, and was also doing his own cross-country road trip with a friend - and our schedules aligned to meet up.

We went to, oddly enough, a Mexican joint for dinner. All I can say is cheese. The theme of the night was cheese. No complaints from me, but holy cheese.

Snapchat artist, present

  • J-Bay is known for its sweet surfing, but the wind was ridic the next day. So we went to the beach and built a sandcastle.  Oddly enough, the other thing J-Bay seems to be known for (despite the big foreigner surfing scene) is crime. We seriously got warnings from everyone in the city, who all had their own lurid tale of some crime or story they'd heard happening in town.  Charming. 
Kevin and I created the foundation for the castle

And then Jesse wanted in. Note the stunning castle gate, adornments on each tower, and shell bling. 

I'm sure some child destroyed this immediately afterwards

  • That afternoon, Kevin hitched a ride with us on a couple hour drive to the city of Grahamstown.  It's a super charming/quaint little university town - Kev was meeting a friend there, and Jess and I stayed in the city for a night as well. Unbeknownst to us, it was actually the very first week of university - and we'd hit up one of the most happening college bars in town (in our defense, I think there's only one or two bars).  So we were right in the middle of tons and tons of college kids. Add to the fact that the legal drinking age is 18 here, and I was in the bar staring at some of the kids because they looked so young; in fact, way too young to be wearing what they were wearing and drinking what they were drinking. Grandma Wang here.
This is the only picture I managed to snag of Grahamstown - hotels were super unavailable (given the first week of university thing; I think all the parents were staying in the hotels to drop off their precious bar-loving children) so Jess and I ended up staying at this mountain-top studio, and it was gorgeous and amazing and I stayed up all night watching movies on the TV (given it's the first time I've had a TV in my room in......forever). This was the view of the sunset from atop our mountain.

  • The next day, we bid adieu to Kev (he was leaving SA to go back to work), and continued on our way up the Wild Coast. We chose to stay the night in a town called Cintsa. We stayed in a backpackers looking right over the beach - they also had a fun communal all-you-can-eat BBQ (brai!) that evening. 

Walking on down to the beach in Cintsa
Yes, I am drinking a light cider and reading a trashy book

Watching the sunset on Cintsa beach - local boys playing soccer to the left, a vicious cow who tried to eat me as we passed to the right.

  • From Cinsta (we are moving at breakneck pace here; keep up), we drove out to this tiny, very remote area called Coffee Bay. This area lies on the coast - but getting there involves driving over an hour down a super winding road through tons of zig-zags and hills, not to mention the zillions of cows that are lazily walking across the road with no concern whatsoever about oncoming cars. Add tons of sheep to the mix (which I'm gonna be honest, they don't seem so smart). Not the most efficient drive.

Driving to Coffee Bay!  This area is super remote and village-y, so the locals still live in these traditional round-type houses called rondavels.

The scenery driving down was breathtaking.

  • We got to our backpackers called Coffee Shack, which we'd heard a lot about.  I can see why. I kind of loved the place. You get to Coffee Bay, and it's super undeveloped. But backpackers come here because it's on the coast (so water sports!), it's gorgeous, and there's tons of hiking and cool things you can do that are pretty off-the-beaten-trail.

Our first night, we signed up for a local village dinner.  We sat in this village lady's rondavel (which had no electricity)

People in this village are from the Xhosa tribe, and their language consists of cool clicking noises and words. A bunch of the women did traditional dances and songs for us. And then fed us traditional food.

A chicken runs through

A gaggle of foreigners crammed into this lady's hut

  • The next day happened to be Coffee Shack (the hostel)'s 15th anniversary, so they were having a huge party. Seriously, other employees from other hostels around SA and such came all the way to Coffee Bay for this party (we recognized an employee from our hostel in J-Bay, which at this point is like a 7-hour drive away).  During the day, the hostel offered a discounted anniversary hike and cliff-jumping excursion, which a huge group of us joined for.

The hike itself was surreal. Coffee Bay is gorgeous.

It was cloudy and there were tornado-force winds

And we scaled cliffs and rocks

Some of the descents were like death traps

Arriving onto the rocks

Inside this cave was a bunch of incredibly stinky bats. The locals come to collect the guano for fertilizer

And then we got to the top of a 7-meter cliff for cliff-jumping. Maybe it was 10. I can't remember.  It felt like a million meters, however, because the wind was so strong that the waves were crashing super scarily and I was pretty freaked out to jump in and drown. But most of us made it. 

This is one of the guides, Daniel, doing an even higher cliff jump. Which you do by climbing up that rock face. Um no thanks.

Jesse and I both survived the jump. And then we hiked out of the canyon - magical

On the way home, this little local girl came out to greet us. She was the cutest - she was shouting "good-bye!" and waving at all of us - and then Jesse pulled his camera out to take a picture, and she started posing in a zillion different poses like a supermodel.

Naturally, I copied her.

The skies cleared up on our walk back and it was so, so stunning.
More rondavels and cows.

  • The 15th anniversary party at Coffee Shack that evening consisted of free oysters/mussels from the ocean (NOM NOM I think I downed an entire plate single-handedly), free gin/tonics for a couple hours, and thumping beats (they erected an entire party tent), which I'm told lasted well into the wee hours of morning. Which Jesse and I didn't witness firsthand. Because we are fuddy-duddys who went to bed early - but it was because we signed up for 7:30AM surfing lessons the next morning!  The waves are better in the morning. Also, a 2-hour lesson was 50 rand - which is like, $3. And it was one of the best lessons ever - our guide Daniel was the shiz, and I had the best time ever, and now I want to continue to surf forever.
  • Coffee Bay marked the end of our Sunshine Coast/Wild Coast road-trip adventures - next, we drive more inland to the majestic beauty of Drakensberg National Park!

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