December Road Trip

It’s time to hit the road. Tomorrow we embark on an epic South African road trip.
Johannesburg – Graaff-Reinet – Plettenberg Bay – Cape Town – Colesberg – Bloemfontein – Durban – Johannesburg
A total of 3886km, excluding the local trips in each destination. That takes care of nearly the whole of December.
And so I got to go pack and catch some zzzzzz’s…

Mozambique Road Trip – Prelude

Back from another road trip, this time to Mozambique which stretches out on the East coast of Africa, bordering South Africa to the north-east.

On my return to South Africa, I decided to make a day trip into the Kruger National Park, although I’ve been there several times before. For me each experience in the KNP is totally new and it ranks as one of my favorite attractions to visit in South Africa.

I entered through the Crocodile Bridge Gate which is on the south-eastern side of the park near the Mozambique border post through which I had just exited. I caught this picture of birds frolicking in a water bath at the Lower Sabie Rest Camp in the park.

Lower Sabie Rest Camp

I’ll post more photographs and describe some of my experiences, and impressions of Mozambique, over the following weeks.

My Latest Road Trip: Part Deux

It’s been a week since the end of my road trip, but I’ve been somewhat lethargic to write about it. It’s not that it was not good; it’s just that I don’t really know what to say about it. So I’ll just give it a shot; maybe some photos will help.

After leaving beautiful Saint Lucia behind, I spent a few days in Durban, and you’ll remember that I was off to the Eastern Cape and the Tsitsikamma Forests. My stop-over in Beacon Bay, East London brings back horrible memories of the err, uncomfortable drive down to the Tsitsikamma area, probably due to some dodgy Sushi I ate there that night, but I won’t forget the wonderful conversation I had with my hostess at the Parrot Peek Inn.

I’ve been almost everywhere in South Africa, and had the privilege to gaze in awe at some of the most stunning scenic beauty that nature provides, but the Tsitsikamma is beyond spectacular. In fact, I’m going to stick my neck out and proclaim that this region in the most beautiful in South Africa; topping even the magnificent Cape Peninsula. It has everything; rich forests with ancient trees, jagged mountain ranges, flowing gorges and a pristine coastline. The early morning mist hanging thick in the air gives the area a surreal and other-worldly look and feel. It’s quite simply, astounding.

Tsitsikamma Mountains

Tstitsikamma Scenic Routes

For my Tsitsikamma adventure, I was based at the Otters Nest in a little village called Storms River. Tsitsikamma is a Khoi-san word meaning place of water (or place of many waters depending on which translation you trust), so I was a little surprised, when my host Jaco informed me that I was to use water sparingly as restrictions were in place. However, this did not prove to be any problem at all.

Natures Valley

Storms River Mouth

Tstitsikamma National Park

Various activity operators offer the adventurous traveller an abundance of adventure-sport such as hiking, zip-lining (The forest Canopy Tour is a firm favorite), abseiling (also known as repelling), boat tours and bungy jumping (the Bloukrans Bridge claims to be the highest commercially operated pure free-fall jump in the world at 216m, but I have since found that the Verzasca Dam in Switzerland is higher, but only just, at 220m). For the less adventurous, gazing at the majestic beauty around you while getting a massage at one of the Spa’s, is a good alternative.

Canopy Tour

I did manage to drive down the East Coast one day, to Knysna which is also quite breathtaking, although there has been far too much development in the Knysna Lagoon area since I was last there many years ago. However, a boat cruise out to the Heads is always a great way to take in the natural beauty of the place. There is also a wonderful upper-floor tapas restaurant at the Knysna Waterfront, the name of which escapes me at the moment.

Knysna Heads

On my way back, to Storms River, I stopped at Plettenburg Bay, and all I can say about this place is that its absolute rubbish. I suppose it was once as stunning as the other locations on the East Coast, but once the developers got their grimy hands on this place at the behest of South Africa’s rich and not-so-famous, it became a shitty little town, just like Margate on Kwa-Zulu Natal’s south coast. Plettenburg bay has been turned into a home-away-from-home for those with too much money; the big inner-city transported to the coast with all its ugly buildings and conveniences.

Ugly Plett

I won’t forget the wonderful evenings dining out at quaint little restaurants, and especially the evening with my host Jaco and his forester-friend Charles, at the backpackers around the corner from the Otters Nest. What a wonderful evening we had, chatting, drinking and shooting pool with the locals and a bunch of German backpackers, with a warm log fire burning in the bar. And afterwards, a drag of Tsitsikamma’s finest – not exactly Durban Poison, but enjoyable all the same, since it’s been such a long time since I indulged.

I found it hard to say goodbye to Storms River, but Port St. Johns and the Wild Coast beckoned. I will definitely come back to Storms River one day; real soon. There was more to see on my way back North, but that’s a story for another day…

My latest road trip: Part 1

I haven’t posted anything in a while, since I’ve been too busy enjoying the road trip I’m currently on.

One week into my road trip, and I’ve left beautiful Saint Lucia behind; one of the last unspoilt stretches of land in South Africa. I’ve concluded a long-held wish to visit about the only place in South Africa, I had not been to before. And I’m glad I did, because it’s well worth visiting.

Kayaking in the Saint Lucia Estuary, getting up real close to the hippos, crocodiles and varied bird species, is a truly magical experience. The experience will leave me forever angry at organized religion which prised heathens away from worshiping nature. This is the only thing worth praising, or worshiping for that matter.

St. Lucia Estuary 1

St. Lucia Estuary 2

St. Lucia 3

But even people can make a place special, and worth visiting again. A special mention therefore to Joyce, a cheerful Dutch woman of Indonesian origin, at the Afrikhaya Guest House whose gracious hospitality added that little extra to the whole experience. [Thanks Joyce]

Some day, I’ll be back at St. Lucia to partake of its many other wonderful delights. But for now, it’s time to push on to the Tstitsikamma forests in the Eastern Cape…

Travelling Alone – Part 1

A third speeding fine, accumulated while on my recent road to Cape Town, was posted to me on Friday last week, and it reminded me that I had not quite got down to writing about it (my road trip that is), as indicated in an earlier post.

It’s not procrastination or laziness; I’ve been busy upgrading my video editing software and catching up on some developments on my project at work, among other things. It has also become a nasty habit for me to get distracted by anything and everything that’s going on elsewhere on the internet; which inevitably leads me on diverse tangents to my original bearing.  However, so far I’ve managed to stay away from Twitter and am trying really hard to wean myself off Facebook. And if I can only find out how, I’ll get shot of Plaxo too.

Back to those traffic tickets. Most law-abiding motorists would be hard pressed to regard them as real traffic violations. I mean, I was barely over the (60Km/h and 80Km/h) speed limits on all of them, and I do make a concerted effort to not drive fast. Anyway driving slowly is obligatory these days as I nurse my four-and-a-half-year old Peugeot sedan along, to prevent anything further from breaking. You see, Peugeot in South Africa, charges the most outrageous prices for parts, while it takes forever to replace (note, I said replace because it seems the technicians have not been trained to repair), and to add insult to injury, the service you get is really wretched.

Again, about those so-called speeding violations; the damned traffic police in this country are just lazy, fat-arsed, bush-hiding, camera-hugging, intellectually-challenged, revenue collectors, who think that wearing their badge and jack-boots, gives them power over ordinary motorists. And I’m just another poor sucker who hasn’t got the time or inclination to go to court, defend myself and expose this revenue-generating ponzi scheme masquerading as the policing of road safety.

Ah, I digress yet again. But we’ll get to the road trip in Part 2…hopefully.

Back from my road trip…

Well, the road trip’s over; I’m back and still in one piece. So many experiences, so many good memories; so much to write about.

Where do I start? I don’t really know. I’m still piecing it all together; figuring out how to tell the tales (none of them tall). Should I use some of the hundreds of photographs I captured? I can’t really use the many hours of recorded video, here. I’m currently looking into something called netGallery, which allows you to record your travels with route maps, pictures and words online in a sort of journal.  Looks cool, but I have to explore some more of it.

I should have an angle sorted by tomorrow or so. Until then…

All set for my road trip

There was a time when road trips were not planned. You just jumped into your car and headed out for a particular place. With the world-wide recession in full swing, people all over the world are looking at more cost effective ways of taking a holiday or break, and road trips have become more appealing; only now, a fair degree of planning is advisable.

Which is why I have spent the best part of a month preparing and getting ready for my road trip starting tomorrow, from Johannesburg, South Africa to Cape Town, via the magnificent Karoo; a journey of about 1400 kilometres. I chose to drive, as I had about two half weeks leave time available and only needed to be in Cape Town at the end of the month for the inaugural Free Society Institute conference co-hosted by the International Humanist and Ethical Union. And driving will give me a chance to re-acquaint myself with the most beautiful arid landscapes in South Africa, which I can barely remember from the last time I went through this way, more than 10 years ago.

Preparing, however has been pretty costly; getting my 4-year old French car into shape for a long trip has busted the bank somewhat. Full service, new clutch kit, new brake pads, new tyres and replacement of cracked windscreen. Then there were the other important bits like the new back-up memory card for my Nikon DSLR camera, new DVD discs for my handy-cam, new Gorillapod, and new maps for my Garmin GPS. And not to mention the many hours on-line looking for interesting places to visit along the way, over-night accommodation and mapping out a route.

I feel like an excited little boy again, about to take his first trip into the country. Not to mention, that I’m itching to try out some new photographic techniques and my Gorillapod. But most of all, I’m particarly excited about the tour of the little town of Sutherland, the chance to visit SALT (South African Large Telescope, at the observatory) and engage in some stargazing.

Hopefully all this will lead to some sort of photo-essay or journal which I can share on this blog.