Renting a car in a British-influenced country usually means that I will not be driving on the “right” side of the road. And to make things slightly more complicated, the steering wheel also switches sides of the car. My mantra while driving quickly becomes “stay left, hug right” because I need to remember to stay on the left side of the road while still hugging the middle line to make sure I’m staying relatively centered in my lane.
Other thoughts from driving in South Africa are as follows: Big right turns and small left turns. Ride the shoulder to let others pass. Tip people who help you park whether you want the help or not. Every radio station begins each hour with news. Figuring out if gas at 10.5 rands per liter is a good deal or not (It’s not). Traffic lights are called robots.
The drive east along the Garden Route from Cape Town was beautiful, easy and relaxed. The drive back is a bit more intense. We go on roads that are slightly more inland, supposed to be a little faster, and take us through incredibly varied terrain. We pass through farmland, along vineyards, up and over mountains, and in the middle of vast open areas. Some of these roads are accompanied by sheets of rain so heavy at points that even the windshield wipers at full speed cannot keep up.
On our way from the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape, we make sure to stop at some of the most beautiful coastline that the Africa and the world have to offer. This stretch of coast is better known as the Garden Route. Some of the highlights include Mossel Bay Beach where we enjoy a seafood feast at a beachside restaurant called The Pavilion. Other pit stops include Wilderness and the famous Knysna along the way to our first night’s destination in Plettenberg Bay. In Knysna, we take a short hike to a beautiful spot to enjoy sunset. Clasmmates Jan, Carmen, Inessa, and I find a nice quiet hostel in this small town after enjoying a fun open-air dinner.
On the second day along the Garden Route, we begin by enjoying a relaxed breakfast in Plettenberg before continuing onwards. Our first stop of the day is at Nature’s Valley Beach. Nature’s Valley includes two parallel beaches, one next to a fresh water lake and the other facing the ocean. We walk between the two several times enjoying the warm water and the hot sun. This wide, sandy beach is a perfect start to the day, which ends at Addo Elephant National Park, where there is a bit of excitement upon arrival as we first go to the wrong entrance and then have to travel along a bumpy dirt road before barely making it in time before the park closes. We quickly order some food to be ready for us after an evening game drive through the park, and all proceed to pile into an open-air truck to see what wildlife we can find.