…following Kruger Park (South Africa), my journey continues to Swaziland, and later some spots from the coast of South Africa
South Africa / Swaziland
Left Kruger Park after breakfast on our way to Nelspruit via Blyde River Canyon, where we stopped to admire the breath-taking huge rock spirals rising out of the far wall of the canyon – The Three Rondavels. The drive towards Nelspruit was beautiful. I never saw so much greenery and orange trees in my life. After a couple of hours we arrived at Nelspruit Backpackers only to find out they had no accommodation for the night. A French guy who was at reception suggested we take the baz-bas http://www.bazbus.com/, which was heading towards Swaziland. Three hours later and we were in the Kingdom of Swaziland. We did not do anything special that evening, so after dinner got some rest at Legends Backpacker Lodge (Elzuwini valley), which looked anything but a lodge. We compared it more to prison cell, gas chamber or refugee camp.
We visited the nearby crafts village – quite a shabby place. Day continued with a cultural village tour and a visit to the Manzini waterfall. And later to the centre of Elzuwini town, where we managed to sort out new accommodation at Lidwala Lodge http://www.lidwala.co.sz/, had some dinner and planned tomorrow’s activities.
Paragliding and Quad Bikes booked, we got the local combi (bus) to meet Richard, the guy with whom we were doing the activities. The combi ride was such an experience…everyone on the bus greeted us curiously. During the half hour we heard about marriage traditions in Swaziland, the Swazi Reed Dance, orphanages, AIDS victims. We met Richard in Mbabane and headed towards the mountains. We got to know our guide/instructor better…actually we heard the story of his life, how he ended up Swaziland from England. Then we heard the magic question: “did you ever use a quad bike before?” …ohh well no, we seen a couple around though, and we are fast learners!! We did have a bit of difficulty in the beginning but then we handled the bikes very well and did it all the way. It got a bit windy towards the end, but we survived that too…..except for the fact that we could not paraglide 🙁 We headed back to Elzuwini, grabbed some groceries from the Gables and back to Lidwala Lodge. For dinner, we prepared different dishes with some of the guests in the Lodge. We chilled on the patio and off to bed for our last night in Swazi.
Bazbus picked us up from Lidwala, for the long journey to Durban, South Africa. We arrived at around 7pm, and had some dinner. Durban did not look quite safe, in fact we hurried back to our hostel.
At 7am we got the Bazbus again for town of Port St. Johns http://www.portstjohns.org.za/. Such a laid back town, full of hippies. Had some lunch and later watched sunset on top of a cliff….we did not take our camera here ….view was fantastic! Evening spent with the locals around the fire with some beer and some local herbal treat.
At around 10am we joined a mini-tour to see the caves. Ate some fantastic fried fish and enjoyed the most beautiful truck ride of our lives, passing through forests, greenery…..At 1pm it was time to get the Bazbas again. 5hrs later we got to Cintsa (Chintsa) http://www.sa-venues.com/attractionsec/cintsa.php. Most of the travellers on the bazbus stopped here at this backpackers’ village Bucaneers’ Backpackers http://www.cintsa.com/index2.asp. We had a beautiful lodge overlooking the ocean. There was the possibility to go the nearby town by walking a couple of kilometres, only if the tide was low though, otherwise you are in the middle of nowhere.
Woke up to a beautiful sunrise. We took it easy in the morning and sorted out some laundry. After we walked towards the village, and explored the whereabouts of this place. In the evening we chilled on our veranda and cooked our own dinner on the barbeque provided.
We took it easy today as well….stayed by the pool, played some billiards, had some beers and prepared for our departure later that afternoon….next stop Port Elizabeth where we planned to spend the night. We actually arrived quiet late, so there was no option where we could have a bite. We slept (sort of) in a room with about 10 bunk beds, which were all occupied. I was not amused.
We left Port Elizabeth at around 7am. During the journey we stopped for snacks and for the first time in my life I had a divine Whimpy http://www.wimpy.co.za/ burger for breakfast ! Bazbus stopped in Storms River http://www.stormsriver.com/, which our fellow travellers on board the bazbus described as adrenaline packed. The highest bungy jump in the world was located here! Unfortunately we had other places to visit, before reaching Cape Town so we remained in our seats on our way to Plettenberg Bay http://www.plettenbergbay.co.za.plesk4.glodns.net/. This is by far the most beautiful and safest place we visited along the route, highly suggested by guide books when doing the Garden route. We stayed at Nothando Backpackers lodge http://nothando.com.plesk4.glodns.net/. A beautiful place even though we slept in dorms. The owners were very welcoming, the staff very helpful. Since it was getting late, we opted to visit the snake farm. After that we visited the stylish town, which looked more like a small French village rather than African. We actually shared a very good pizza here! We went back to the lodge, had some cocktails, and off we were again along with some other guests from the lodge to have dinner. We ate sushi at Fushi Restaurant…I will never forget the amazing taste and freshness of the sushi http://www.fushi.co.za/. We actually took the menu as a memento (http://www.fushi.co.za/fushi-menu.html): feisty morsels on a distant cloud, winged flights of fantasy, angry samurai…..had a couple of drinks after and back to lodge.
Today we were booked for an Ocean Safari http://www.oceansafaris.co.za/. Life jackets, safety regulations…..and off
we go. A couple of miles out at sea, and we immediately spotted dolphins, many of them, jumping and dancing around the boat (apparently it was mating season) ….but they were too fast to capture on camera. Soon after the guide started shouting whale! whale! Amazing…the only f*** up was we could not get close enough as shown on the brochure. The mother whale had the little one beside her so there was no way they were going to get closer. Hard luck! More dolphins on the way…and then again…another whale and guess what?!….this one also had baby whale accompanying her. Then came the seals…..milllions of them lazying around!! Time was up so boat started heading back. Round about one we were waiting for the bazbus again…unfortunately !! If only we could have stayed longer here! An hour later we arrived at Knysna http://www.visitknysna.co.za/, which also looked like it s going to be a favourite. We were soon out to explore this magnificent town, which we heard is famous for its oysters. In fact there are many oyster farms in the area. On our way to the Waterfront we visited some shops, ate some lovely oysters and seafood.
We woke up for the bazbus, waited as usual, and it finally approached but instead of stopping as usual to load/unload….it proceeded at full speed ! We found out later that we were never booked by the receptionist at our lodge http://www.islandvibe.co.za/. We were meant to visit Hermanus http://www.hermanus.co.za/?gclid=CNrC9OGj450CFUGNzAodCxXhNQ, famous for its whale watching, unfortunately we had to skip and head straight to Cape Town, where we would spend our few remaining days of our holiday. We made arrangements to leave by the local bus that same evening. So until that time, we went round the shops before heading to the shopping centre…where we experienced one of the biggest frights in our lives. Whilst in one particular shop choosing items to take home with us….we heard some shooting….in few seconds the shops put on the shutters, police were everywhere….some time later we managed to go out….and to calm down from the big fright we consoled ourselves with lunch at Nando’s http://www.nandos.co.za/. Later that evening we left the lodge to get our bus to Cape Town, where we would arrive at around 5am. This was also another experience not to be forgotten….bus was full of locals, dirt was everywhere…I mean it was a modern coach….also with a climate control problem. Temperature was rising to tropical temperatures at one point and nearly freezing point 30 minutes later. We tried to sleep but it was not possible.
If there is one thing I hate is arriving in a new place when it is still dark. Cape Town looked so dodgy and nothing like I have imagined it to be. It took us till the last two days to familiarise ourselves with the city…..for which reason is still a mystery to me! We spent the first two nights at Long Street Backpackers, as recommended by Lonely Planet Guide Book. It’s true we were centrally located but the place was horrible, horrible as in old, shabby with an awful and unbearable smell of old cigarettes, and it was not cheap, plus we had to share the bathroom (gas chamber style). In the meantime we sorted out a couple of tours and accommodation in a designer hotel Daddy Long Legs in the same road….http://www.daddylonglegs.co.za/, for our remaining days in South Africa. We got a taxi and visited Canal Walk Mall http://www.canalwalk.co.za/generator03.aspx?Page=1. Later that evening we had some drinks in one of the bars on Long Street.
Today we visited Stellenbosch…for half a day of wine tasting! The scenery in the Western Cape are is marvellous. We visited four wineries in all amongst which Tokara Winery and Olive Farm www.tokara.co.za Plenty of cheese, wine and a fantastic lunch. Following the tour we headed down to V & A Waterfront http://www.waterfront.co.za/Pages/Welcome.aspx. We were continuously warned not to ttempt to walk in Cape Town, but instead catch the comby or a rikki (taxi).
Early start today! We were going on our last adventure — Shark Cage Diving in Gaansbai. Two hours drive from Cape Town through Hermanus, followed by breakfast and on board the fishing boat. In the beginning it was all plain sailing…and that was until we stopped at the Shark Alley. The air was soooo cold, how were we going to undress and put on the wetsuit?!!…and to top it all we started getting motion sickness….sea was very rough!! The crew on board threw bait and three minutes late…….there he was….shiny and massive ….a great white shark ! The cage was being prepared and the first five courageous divers jumped into the cage which was then immersed in water. The movement of the cage caused more movement to the boat and to my stomach and half of the other members on the tour. I mean It did suffice i spotted the great white shark, but would have loved to jump in the cage too, it was always a dream. Instead I jumped on the speed boat which came to the rescue of those on board who could not take another four hours at sea. We visited the town and the coast of Gaansbai. In the afternoon we went to V & A Waterfront again.
checked out and moved our luggage to Daddy Long Legs Hotel. We got a taxi and headed to Table Mountain http://www.sanparks.org/parks/table_mountain. The top can be reached by cable car or by trekking up and abseiling down. Later in the afternoon we visited once again V & A Waterfront — it is where it felt safe!
A packed-full day awaited us today. We arranged with one of the locals to drive us to the remaining places we wanted to visit before flying back home the next day. He arrived later in the day, exactly after lunch, with a wreck of a car. Never mind, we had no choice….We drove down to Cape Point (Cape of Good Hope), walked around amazed with the astonishing views of the ocean. Then it was time to visit Simon’s Town http://www.simonstown.com/ to spot colonies the African penguins (as mentioned in the guidebook)….but there were only THREE, which ran as fast as they could to hide when they felt they were being watched. Later that evening, we went towards the bars / clubs area in Cape Town (De Waterkant), where we had amazing time dancing and singing to live soul music, and more.
Last day! Transfer to airport and flight to London, and back to Malta.
Some word of advice to those who want to travel to this part of the world:-
- Be cautious and follow the locals’ advice
- Be prepared and read in advance
- Be flexible and ready to alter your route
- Be patient
- Be adventurous
- …and most of all have a fantastic time!
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