2008 took us on a road trip from Cape Town to Durban and back in just over 2 weeks, to visits friend in Cape Town and family in Durban. This was my first experience of South Africa and Lee’s second so thankfully this wasn’t a completely novice trip. When we generally embark on an expedition of this kind we like to book the starting point and the finish point and leave the rest to wherever the road takes us, and this is where the road took us.
On arrival in Cape Town first on my list was Table Mountain, I needed to see it and I didn’t want to wait anymore. Every turn of the road my neck stretched to yet another awkward position to look up out of the car window to check if it was in view yet, much to my disappoint a bloody big mountain was playing hide & seek.
Due to the wind and the rain I finally got to the summit of this famous landmark on day 3 of our trip and experienced something that will stay imprinted in my memory forever – if you stand on the top of Table Mountain and let one rip, it echo’s round the whole of the mountain and everyone and I mean everyone except the culprit turns in my direction………Thankfully I was saved from the echoing silence by the evacuation alarm that indicates the imminent arrival of the table cloth.
Number 2 on my list was Robben Island, as a child I remember the day that Nelson Mandela was released from prison like it was yesterday. To be able to wander prison grounds, see his tiny cell and the spot where the infamous Long Walk to Freedom autobiography manuscript was hidden in order for it to be smuggled out. Our guide through out the day was a fellow prisoner of Mandela’s and was one of the last to leave the island. This was and still is one of my poignant holiday moments.
After a few days it was time to bid farewell to Cape Town and say hello to the Garden Route up ahead. I would be telling a fib if I could remember all of the places that we spent a night in, they all started to merge into one by about night 4 or 5. There were a few stand out events if you could you call them that.
The first thing you notice on a road trip is the roads & traffic, I didn’t expect the roads to be perfectly tarmacked, give way signs adhered to and let alone obeying traffic lights but I was far from ready for the Friday afternoon chaos in Mthatha. A major crossroads in the middle of a town that didn’t take any notice of traffic signals. Nose to tail for an hour just trying to edge your way in front of the car next door, whilst remembering you are in a hire car with huge excess and dodging the locals that have now resorted to scooting past us in shopping trollies at high speed. Surprisingly enough the lovely South African wine was consumed in excess that evening and I saw that I never wanted to do that again forgetting that we had to drive back through in a week or so.
Our stop over that night was a little coastal place in Port St John, a welcoming family that served us dinner and wine in their front room whilst listening to our plans for the following days journey to get us to Durban. In the wine haze we vaguely remembered the guy telling us that we would be lucky to get to Durban the following days as snow was forecast over night…..snow in South Africa, it never snows there – well it bloody does and it bloody did. Driving along the mountain roads in snow and flip flops is not something that I wish to ever repeat.
Sadly we didn’t make it to Durban, we had to call it a day in Margate and yes to all the Brits who read this it is every bit the same as the ‘tourist trap’ on the south east coast. With the journey abandoned and in the driving freezing rain we bedded in for the afternoon/evening in the local Cask bar attached to our hotel. 10 hours and 40 scratch cards later we were fully emblazoned in Castle beer memorabilia and Lee had a full braai cooking kit that he is adamant is coming home with him.
The return journey was now underway, stopping again anyway that looked vaguely inviting and open in the quiet off season along the long costal road. As we left Jeffrey’s Bay we would have to drive over Bloukrans Bridge which at the time was the highest bungee jump in the world, me being me I wanted to stop for a little look. A look turned into a couple of questions, a couple questions turned into me parting with some holiday spending money. A couple of minutes later I’m walking through a cage suspended from the underside of the bridge with the metal flooring merging with the greenery 216m beneath me. Once on the bridge the music pumping, staff chatting and high fiving you don’t realise until your arms are up toes on the edge 3,2,1……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………BUNGEE.
From the tips of my out of place hair to manicured toe’s my whole body ached from the momentum of being snapped back like a yoyo in the hands of a over enthusiastic child, I decided that evening that I was to under no circumstances was I to be dragged away from the bar, unless a whale decided to wave his tail fin in my direction. 2 hours later a shout comes from the whale watcher (smoker outside) to announce that not only was there a whale 20m from the rocks outside that the hotel it was indeed proudly displaying its fine and huge tail fin.
My memories of the trip included the state of the overfilled minibus loaded with Kaiser Chief fans stopping for anyone waving the team flag at the side of the road whether they wanted to travel to the match or not. The people we met along the way, including the young kids we saw trying to sledge down a hill in black bin liners in snow no deeper than a couple of mm. Finally the weather, I never thought in my wildest dreams that we would have to abandon our trip due to snow blocked mountain roads.
No matter how many sunglasses, flip flops you pack in your excesses luggage, just for free you can always take the weather with you.
Thank you for reading.