One car, four people, two weeks and three countries

So there we were…when Becky screamed STOP! Luckily, the car skidded to a halt inches from a 2,000 pound Rhino that looked up, stared us down and then trotted across the road right in front our car.
 
Hanging out in Johannesburg was not on the top of our list while traveling through South Africa, but we were excited to get there because two important people were coming to meet us. Laura, Jason’s mom, and Stephanie, Becky’s best friend, made the long trip from Arizona and California to spend a few weeks with us on the road.
 
After meeting up with them, we quickly left Joburg and headed straight for safari time at Kruger National Park, just a few hours away. Being able to self drive this safari just like Etosha, made it easy for us to get around for a few days. We saw all the usual suspects; elephants, giraffes, different antelope species, buffalo, rhinos and a few lions. As well as a few new animals like wild dogs, mongoose, hippos (up close), a honey badger (in our camp) and even a male lion guarding a recent giraffe kill, something that does not happen often.
 
 After a few days exploring the park, we headed out to Blyde River Canyon taking the scenic drive on our way to Swaziland, a small country inside South Africa that borders Mozambique. We ventured into Swaziland on the western side of the country and unknown to us, the road we entered in on was for 4×4’s only and when it rains, it is impassable for many vehicles. In our Toyota Corolla (sshhh, don’t tell the rental company), we romped and scraped over the dusty, dirt mountain road into a beautiful valley of green hills and amazing scenery. With only a few days there, a canopy zipline adventure was the best way to experience some of the untouched wilderness. Zipping through a beautiful gorge, it was a great day of thrills and fun.
 
Heading back out to South Africa, we made our way through Zululand to the Elephant coast enjoying a day near the beach in St. Lucia and then in Ballito Bay before moving onto Durban. Arriving in Durban, we were on the hunt for two things, Bunny Chow (delicious Indian curry in a bread bowl) and cheap souvenirs. Luckily, we found both! The Victoria Street Indian Market (Durban is home to second largest Indian population outside India) kept us busy for hours hunting for good deals we just couldn’t live without (sorry Jason, you should know what you were getting into when you take three ladies to shop!) .
 
After getting our shopping fix we were all excited to get away from the city, so we headed north to the Drakensberg mountains, also known as the “dragon mountains” in the local Zulu culture. Staying at the base of the Sani Pass, a windy, rocky road that takes you over into Lesotho (another small country landlocked within South Africa), we explored the area in two different ways. Jason and Laura decided to drive to the South African border and hike the steep 8 km to the Lesotho border, while Becky and Stephanie took the 4×4 driving tour over the pass and explored further into the country. Both of us ended up at the highest bar in Africa where we all enjoyed a quick drink before making our way back into South Africa.
 
After exploring the southern area of the mountain range, we headed to the northern Drakensbergs and did a great day hike all together.  Spectacular views, the second highest waterfall in the world and shaky chain ladders made for a wonderful/hait-raising day of hiking to finish out the trip.  Thank you to Stephanie and Mom for coming to visit us, we had an AMAZING trip!
 
Highlights
  • Having Stephanie and Mom visit from home (and the great goodies they brought!)
  • Romping the Corolla through some rough terrain (never seems like fun until you have made it without messing up the car)
  • Hiking through the Drakensbergs, one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world
  • Yummy bunny chow and Portuguese food
  • Crossing in the Lesotho border by foot after a steep hike
  • Visiting the Apartheid Museum in Joburg – it was educational and very emotional

Lowlights

  • Laura passing a man with a gun pointing it at several men laying on the ground in the middle of the street in Johannesburg when she arrived from the airport…what a start to the trip!
  • Getting lost while driving in Joburg – slightly scary
  • Saying goodbye to Africa after four wonderful months
Wild Dogs - Kruger National Park
Yawning Hippo - Kruger National Park
Enjoying a beer while watching the animals in Kruger
Blyde River Canyon
Ziplining in Swaziland
St. Lucia beach at sunset
Sani Pass road through the southern Drakensbergs into Lesotho
Hiking in the northern Drakensbergs
Top of the hike northern Drakensbergs
Advertisements

The Garden Route

So there we were…exploring the inside of the caves, riding an ostrich, hiking to a waterfall and surfing along the coast.
 
Soon after our friends left Cape Town, we continued along the western cape of South Africa. Taking the popular ‘garden route,’ we set off to see what fun activities we could find along the way.
 
Following the coast, we recovered from our time in Cape Town with a few days by the water and then headed inland to a small town up in the hills. Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of the world, was a wonderful place to stay for a few days. We rented some mountain bikes and made our way by shuttle up Swartberg pass. Being dropped off at the top of the mountain, we were left to explore the area for the 50 km bike ride back to the hostel. With a few stops in mind along the way, we set off crusin’ down the dirt road.
 
 
Stop number one was the Cango Caves, a large, impressive cave system found in an unexpecting hillside. Stop number two was of course to the ostrich farm. No visit to Oudtshoorn would be complete without this. After a quick presentation about the farm, we went around back where Jason was brave enough to let one of the animals take a small pellet of food from his mouth and Becky was able to actually ride on the back of the ostrich! (Jason was too big to ride unfortunately, they can only hold so much weight)Next stop was the small town of Wilderness, where just as the name suggests, a huge, green forest surrounds the town which sits just back from the ocean. We found a great little hostel set back in the trees with easy access to a small walking trail to a waterfall.

After spending some time up in the hills, we headed back to the ocean. Jeffery’s Bay (also known as JBay), is one of the surf capitals of the world. Billabong holds their annual Pro surf competition there and while we didn’t surf (it was cold and windy), we did enjoy all the good shopping deals at the local factory stores (Quiksilver, Billabong, Rip Curl).

Our last destination, not quite on the garden route, but still along the coast, was the much-anticipated Coffee Bay. We had heard stories about this small, beach community and the hostel, The Coffee Shack, that we HAD to visit. After 12 hours of traveling, we arrived to a welcome beer from the hostel, a big bonfire, good food and knew we had found a place we would enjoy. The next morning we headed out for a couple of hours of surf lessons on the beautiful, secluded beach and ended the day with a hike along the cliff side, following the water. We definitely could have stayed longer, but it was again time to move on to meet some more visitors in Johannesburg…

Highlights

  • Riding an ostrich (for Becky), so random, but so much fun!
  • Riding our bikes through the pass and into the town of Outdshoorn, it was long, but we had a great time passing through the open green hills and ostrich fields
  • Surf lessons at The Coffee Shack, nothing like rolling out of bed knowing all you have to do today is head to the beach
  • Yummy breakfast in JBay while looking at the ocean (hashbrown/egg tower = awesome)

Lowlights

  • How many hours it took to get to and from Coffee Bay, it is out there, but worth the trip
  • The Santos Express, a hostel built in a stationary train, the rooms are the size of an ACTUAL train sleeper car and we could barely fit our bags or each other in the room
  • Rainy weather in several places, something we hadn’t really had to deal with so far along the way

 

 

Biking down Swartsberg Pass

 

Ostrich riding

  

Jeffery's Bay

 

Waterfall in Wilderness

  

Beautiful Coffee Bay

Cage Diving with JAWS!

So there we were…shivering in the freezing cold water of the Atlantic when the razor sharp teeth of a 15 foot great white shark came into view through the murky water.

The main purpose of our road trip out of Cape Town was the shark cage diving. Gainsbaai is one of the world’s best places to view white sharks and was something we had been talking about since Luke and Lindsay had arrived.

Our first great white shark appeared off the bow of the boat within a quick five minutes after anchoring. The smell of blood from the fish chum had attracted it almost immediately. We all stood in awe as it circled the boat which got our adrenaline pumping before we had to jump in the water. In total we saw eight of these giant misunderstood predators. There is not much else to say except that it was an AMAZING experience and we hope you enjoy the pics:)









Cape Town – The Mother City

So there we were…pulling into the bus station after a long 24 hour bus ride through rain and fog when the sun started to shine, the “table cloth” faded away and The Mother City revealed herself.

Settling in for a week wasn’t hard to do and we quickly headed out to explore the area.  Hiking Table Mountain was first on our list.  The massive, table like mountain (hence the name)sweeps the coast line and sits smack dab in the middle of the city.  The hike was well worth the four hours of rock steps to reach the dramatic view from the top.  Cape Town wraps itself around the base of the mountain while beaches dot the coast and the sea looks like it goes on forever. 

After getting some exercise, it was time to explore beyond the city and venture out on the road again.  The group decided to rent another car and we headed to the southwestern most point of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope.  Winding our way through the never-ending hills and stretches of beaches was a wonderful experience.  Driving back up north, we did a quick stop over to visit the furry colony of penguins at Boulder’s Beach, did some whale watching while having sundowners in Hermanus, and then continued on to our final destination for the night, Gainsbaai.  We spent a restless night there having nightmares of Jaws preparing for our shark adventure the following day (next blog will have more info of our day of shark diving!). 

Making our way back to the city, it was time for another adventure.  With Luke and Lindsay only on holiday for a few weeks, we tried to make the most of our time together.  Stellenbosch, about an hour away from Cape Town, is home to hundreds of beautiful wine estates.  We booked a wine drinking – I mean wine tasting tour though our hostel which we had heard about for days.  With a great group of new friends from the hostel (and old friends from the states), we spent the day tasting at four different wineries while our great tour guide Gregg kept us content in the shuttle with plenty of extra beer and wine in between our stops.  After a few too many glasses of grape juice and a hilarious bus ride home we arrived back in city where we finished off a great day with a steak braai (bbq) and a trip to the bars on Long Street.

The time eventually came when our friends had to head back home to Arizona.  Thank you Luke and Lindsay for sharing so many great memories with us, we hope you enjoyed the trip as much as we did!

Highlights

  • Ten amazing days in Cape Town, easily one of the best cities in the world
  • Reaching the peak of Table Mountain and viewing all of Cape Town from above
  • Watching Southern Right and Humpback Whales perform acrobatic jumps in Hermanus while having beers and watching sun go down
  • The entire day of the wine tour (at least what we remember of it)

 Lowlights

  • Fitting all four of us in the smallest car ever, a Kia Picanto, for our road trip
  • Becky losing her favorite pair of Reef sandals, it was a sad day
  • The insane amounts of huge shopping malls, they are everywhere!
The top of Table Mountain
Waterfront Cape Town
Southern Most Tip of Africa - The Cape of Good Hope
The Cape of Good Hope
Whale giving us a show
Penguins at Boulder's Beach
Winery in Stellenbosch