Tsitsikamma and rain

Friday 11 to Saturday 12 November

After finding breakfast in Port Elizabeth, we started our road journey on the Garden Route.

Our first stop was Jeffrey’s Bay, one of the world’s great surfing spots. The Supertubes here are legendary.

J-Bay, as it is locally known, was made even more famous during the J-Bay Open 2015 finals when Australian surfer Mick Fanning punched a shark in the face to escape its attack.

We wandered around the surf shops – much like Sorrento and Torquay at home and found some coffee in a cute hangout. The weather was dull and the surf was not running. It was a BTDT (been there done that) moment.

The weather remained dull, grey and almost raining.

We followed the advice given by our travel agent and made a couple of stops for photo opportunities.

The Paul Sauer Bridge on the N2 at Storm River was designed by Riccardo Morandi of Italy was built in 1953. It is a reinforced concrete archbridge and quite elegant.

The Big Tree at the Tsitsikammen Indigenous Forest was our next stop. We had to pay to see the tree. It was a 3km round trip on the Ratel Forest Trail to walk to the big tree and back again. The walk was through a forest on a board walk. I really appreciate the fact that we are not damaging the environment, walking on stilts through an area that has quickly recovered from the invading path way. The yellowwood is big and stately, standing 36m tall with a circumference of 9m at its base. It is estimated to be 800 years old. Nearby was the remnants of a similar tree that had fallen over 20 years ago, a silent reminder that nothing lasts forever. It is left to decompose and release nutrients back in to the soil.

We reached the Tsitsikammen National Park, unsure of what to expect. Tsitsikamma means ‘place of many waters’. We signed in and were given keys to ‘Honeymoon Lodge 17’. This turned out to be a rather extravagant free standing lodge consisting of a large lounge with kitchen and a massive bedroom with en suite.

But the best part of it was the view. From two sides the wild ocean waves crashed onto rocks in front of us.  It seemed a shame that we were occupying this amazing space for just one night.

Dinner was at the only restaurant in the park. Most people come here for more than a single night and would self cater.

We walked down for dinner and found our way back in the dark. We had a pre-dinner drink on the deck and enjoyed a magical sunset. The restaurant promised tenderly cooked steaks which should be ordered rare. Unfortunately the spiel was better then the real thing and the service was worse.

The morning brightened up – our first bit of blue sky in South Africa. After a make do breakfast from the parks poorly stocked shop, we set off to walk on the Otter Trail to a waterfall. The first part of the walk was enjoyable, twisting through scrub and finding flowers and creatures along the way.

We were then scrambling over large boulders, often having to climb up and slide down. It was a challenging walk.

Then the skies turned grey and the rain started.

We are used to changeable weather, but this happened so quickly and we had not brought rain coats.

Wet rocks are no fun – they were slippery to a point of being dangerous, so we decided to head back, very disappointed.

We made it back to the car and then to the coffee shop. The coffee was about as disappointing as the steak last night.

Not to be beaten, we decided to walk to the swing bridge on the Storms River. The path took us along to a boardwalk. Trees were hanging over the path and flowers everywhere.

We climbed down hundreds of steps and on to a wobbly suspension bridge which crosses at the mouth of the Storm River. The wild sea was pounding on massive pebbles, creating its own chorus.

As we returned to our car we were entertained by dassies or Cape hyrax rolling around in a sand bath and chomping on agapantha flowers.

We realised why this is called the Garden Route.

It was a short drive to our next stop at Knysna.