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Staycation Garden Route

By Jennifer Stern

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Staycation Garden Route

By Jennifer Stern

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4 min read

We’re allowed to travel internationally – weehah! But then, think about it – why would you want to? The Garden Route is one of the best tourist destinations in the world, and you are already here!. So – if you need a break (and we all do) – take one in your own back yard. It’s time for a fabulous staycation. Perhaps stay home and do some day trips, or take time out to really appreciate the great opportunities just down the road.

Delightful day trips

Have you ever wondered what the Garden Route used to look like? Well, take a trip back in time and travel the Seven Passes Road – slowly! Some parts are tarred, some are gravel, but all are narrow and twisty. And you are as likely to meet a hiker, horse rider or mountain biker as you are another motorist. Take time to admire the fabulous bridges. If you’re feeling peckish, you can stop at the Hoekwil Country Café, (044 850 1037) which was once renowned for selling the best cheesecake in the world. They still sell cheesecake, and it is good – but it’s not the best it the world. If you want to feed your imagination as well as your tum, it’s worth stopping at Totties Farm Kitchen (044 389 0092) in Reenendal. It’s an old shop that’s been there since the 1920s,

and is still in the same family. They had a bit of a rough time during lockdown, so they are only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and they’re not quite up to full strength yet, but it’s a great place to stop. (I always think any place that has a bike cleaning station in the parking lot has got to be good.) Every second Sunday, the Knysna Model Steam Train Association offers train rides for kiddies.

Other good stops are the Daleen Mathee memorial (no elephants, unfortunately), the Big Tree, and the abandoned gold mines of Millwood (but you’ll need a permit from SANParks for the latter).

If it’s a Saturday, take the N2 out from George to Knysna in the morning so you can stop at Wild Oats Market where you can buy – among so many other yummy things – Aidan’s Cheesecake. And this one is the best cheesecake in the world. Then do the Seven Passes back to George. If it’s not a Saturday, you can get Aidan’s (the best) cheesecake (in the world) at Pomodoro, Blue Olive or Green Shed in Wilderness. Aidan’s Cheesecake is just one of the things that makes living on the Garden Route so fabulous.

Weekend wonder

Another – much longer – but very scenic trip that will make for a great weekend away – or even just a one-night stand – is to head inland, moving from the garden route to the Little Karoo to the Great Karoo. You can do this as a circular route via Oudtshoorn, de Rust and Meiringspoort – a fabulously scenic pass with 25 river crossings and a beautiful waterfall – to Prince

Albert. This ever-so-lovely town has become quite the foodie capitol of the Great Karoo – you can visit one of two olive farms (oforolive.co.za, princealbertolives. co.za), a fig farm (figfarm.co.za) and a Guernsey dairy (gaysguernseydairy.com) so you can come back loaded with olives, cheese, figs, jam and preserves.

Drive back via Swartberg Pass, and admire some of Thomas Bain’s spectacular drystone retaining walls – in some cases a high, steep section of 120-year-old drystone wall is the only thing separating you from the abyss – and oblivion. It’s so worth the trip. Once you hit Oudtshoorn, eschew the quick, slick Outeniqua Pass and stick with the dirt, opting for the narrow, twisty, scenic gravel Montagu Pass. Completed in 1848, this is the oldest, unchanged, unrenovated, un-rebuilt pass in South Africa.

You could do this route as a day trip, but it’s at least six hours of driving, so it’s best to stop over. And – hmm – you’re going to have the most delicious meals for the next few days – or perhaps just one lovely picnic – so it’s worth stopping at Redberry Farm to add some strawberries or raspberries to your treasure trove.

Take a walk on the Wild Side

Using less than a tank of petrol, you can take a short trip that will make you feel like you have travelled a thousand miles in space, and a hundred thousand in time. The Oystercatcher Trail (oystercatchertrail.co.za) is a gentle, guided, catered coastal slackpacking hike from Mossel Bay to the mouth of the Gouritz River. It’s usually done as a four-day trail, but you can decide to do only a section, as they will tailor each trail to their clients’ needs.

You can do an optional visit to the Point of Human Origins at the beginning, which is where the time travel comes in. Humans have been living here since way before the ice age just over 100,000 years ago that almost wiped us out. Yup – it’s believed (with some very good evidence) that every human on the planet is descended from the small group of people who survived the ice age by living on fish, shellfish, fynbos and the odd bokkie on the Southern Cape coast. The trail takes you through some lovely little villages with thatched, whitewashed cottages, and miles of unspoiled beach. Each night is spent in a comfy cottage, and you get to sample some fabulous seafood – after all, that’s what we evolved eating.

Do something completely different.

C’mon – take a step out of your comfort zone, and try something you’ve never done before. The Garden Route has two extreme experiences – the world’s highest bungy jump, (faceadrenalin.com) and the world’s longest ocean zipline (mosselbayzipline.co.za). We’re talking serious adrenaline rush here.

You’ve probably driven over the Kaaimans River a thousand times – and almost certainly admired it immensely. Well, you can abseil down a waterfall into the lovely dark water, or do a kloofing trip just upstream from the road (eden.co.za). And you’ve almost certainly seen those colourful paragliders flying over the waves, checking out the dolphins. Well, you don’t have to envy that sense of freedom. You can do a tandem paraglider flight or – if you’re really feeling adventurous – learn how to fly independently (cloudbase. co.za).

But if you want an adventure without too much adrenaline, you can rent a canoe and explore the Wilderness Section of the Garden Route National Park (eden.co.za), or do a gentle yacht trip on Knysna Lagoon (springtide.co.za).

Too much choice

We haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s available on the Garden Route, and you probably knew quite a lot of this anyway, but it’s good to be reminded of just how clever you were to decide to live here, and that you don’t have to go far to have a fabulous holiday.

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