To wake up each morning and to recognize that Lee and I have THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD is an understatement and a privilege! We have been travelling around the Eastern Cape for 14 days – Lee and co-pilot joined me on Day 7.
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Tai (my son) and I set off along the Garden Route to Myoli Beach (AFRO VIBE BACKPACKERS). It was awesome – on the beach, on the sand, with insane views of the beach. kite surfing, wake boarding, paragliding, surfing, diving, you name it they have it – a pro adventure operation,Phili Phili like I have not seen in South Africa. Lyle and Niels and all their staff were amazing. Young, fun and making a difference with their sport and mentorship program. The rooms were great, with awesome views. Delicious food served in the cafe. You need at least 2 days here.
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Day 2 & 3: St Francis Bay to a family friend who owns the most magnificent Beach House THE BEACH HOUSE ST FRANCIS BAY.
This old money chic Beach House is self-catering, comes with the most amazing chef, Sylvia and a housekeeper, Caroline who can arrange your shopping too if you like! Petrea and Lionel are world travellers and a must-to-meet couple.
From R10 000 per night sleeps 10 you will not be disappointed.
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Day 4,5 & 6 Grahamstown – University Town. Stayed at High Cape Corner Guest House – simple, friendly and clean. Mad Hatters Cafe next door is probably the best place to eat. Closed at night.
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Day 7 & 8: Caught a shuttle to Port Alfred to catch the Baz Bus. My first Baz Bus ever and boy I was blown away. Bus driver Jay has been working for the Baz Bus for 15 years. He is an absolute gem. Has a heart of gold – delivering bread daily to an impoverished village, subsidising it with his own money . He has many social outreach projects. Try sit up front – he is so excited about life, his job and his country. The Baz Bus is an excellent way to travel. Door to door. My word what else could an independent traveller ask for? Dropped off at one of my favourite spots, Bucanneers. Everyone loves this place and it is not hard to see why. (review on TA)
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Day 9 & 10: Setting off to Bulungula. Such excitement! 2 hours after leaving Bucanneers we arrived at Qunu, one of the 3 Nelson Mandela Museums. Wow! The lookout point is simply breath taking. The free guide tells you where Madiba lives, where he went to church & school and where he threw rocks from his favourite playing spot. A thought provoking art exhibition is the cherry on top. Artists trained at the museum. The drive to Coffee Bay is long and hard. You have to imagine playing a video game – perhaps called the Transkei Adventure – mind the goats, cows, donkeys while you are dodging the traffic overtaking you on the inside. Its an exciting ride. DO IT ON A SUNDAY! Dave from Bulungula says you can drive your car all the way to Bulungula car park. However, I would check first . If it has been raining I would never do it!
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Bulungula is MY NEW FAVOURITE PLACE – it is leading all of us in SA by being the fairest product of all. My review on Tripadvisor:
My words cannot describe my experience of Bulungula. On arrival we were given a tour of the rocket showers and compost toilets. Not only was it the best shower I have had throughout my whistle stop tour of the Wild Coast but Bulungula was spotless. No need for mirrors.
Bulungula operates at it’s own pace.
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Delicious pancakes served on the dunes at 4.30 at R30, Fishing at 8 am with Mkuseli R50 no luck with a fish but yet another opportunity to engage with the community. 10.30 am a vist to the Bulungula Incubator. The hub of social activism from their well looked after and organized pre school. A delicious lunch of Xhosa bread and jam. The menu is simple, the food is cheap and delicious. An afternoon massage R100 definitely well spent and sunset fishing. Everyone working at Bulungula is chosen by the community! I have never experienced a commercial tourist venture of this nature anywhere on my travels. Bulungula is Ethical, responsible, sustainable and so much fun. Totally synchronized with its surroundings. You can choose from so many activities: canoe, horse riding, visit to the village, woman power, hiking. You pay the guides directly.
You can do it all or just soak it all up. Check out their handmade craft – lemon grass soap , stylish bags, felt hats clothing, walking sticks, beads and water bottle crochet carriers. It is my new favorite place.
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Day 11 – Walk to Wild Lubanzi
3 Silver Bullets, Dave, Rejane and our guide Molwane set off at 11.
If we can do the hike, well then so can you! We had delicious sandwiches made at Bulungula for lunch and arrived at Wild Lubanzi around 3.30. Lubanzi is clean and friendly. They made a hearty meal for us all. The highlight was the bread making lesson at 6am with Rahel, Aidon’s wife. The only downside to this place, was the lack of community involvement after leaving Bulungula. I guess it was a shock for me. However, the bed was comfy, the view was awesome and an excellent overnighter on the hike to Coffee Bay.
HIKING TIP IF YOU ARE ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT OF THE BAZ BUS: Catch the shuttle to Coffee Bay and get Bulungula to pick you up. If you are planning to hike start at Coffee Bay, overnight at Wild Lubanzi and then onto Bulungula. Make sure you do it this way around – to end up at Bulungula. Tip: Guides – they get ALL the guiding fees, if you book a guide from Bulungula. The guide will walk to Coffee Bay to pick you up. We used Molwan – he is also a canoeing guide. Batman is one of the more well known guides and he LOVES helicopters.
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Coffee Bay is not for sissies. If you love psychedelic colours and all things from Goa, then you have to go to Coffee Bay. Coffee Bay has a variety of accommodation, if you are not wanting to party and go wild and want a comfortable bed and good food, we recommend you stay at Sugar Loaf.
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If you want to party you can choose between BOMVU BACKPACKERS which has had a serious facelift and crazy Karl has been banished to his drumming and travelling and his daughter Denise has taken it over. The layout is amazing, the food is good and the staff are super friendly. I heard some of the best drumming I have ever heard.
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COFFEE SHACK is where we stayed. Book the “ENSUITE” which is across the river and away from the party. They make great coffees and all their staff are incredibly friendly. Plus they are Fair Trade so you know your money is ending up in a good place.
Day 13: Off to Hogsback and Away with the Fairies. The drive takes about 5 hours and if you are interested in SA’s political history you will enjoy the ride through Dutywa, Butterworth, Bisho (where Steve Bikos’s remembrance grave is), King Williamstown, Alice and Hogsback. Stunning views from Away with the Fairies. A great place to hike, mountain bike and look for fairies. The backpacker could do with a facelift. Book Fodors Nest if you stay there or try TERRA KHAYA an eco lodge 5kms out of town.
Hogsback, Fort Beaufort ( Fort Hare University – the only University where Black South Africans could attend during Apartheid. Both Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko graduated here), Adelaide, Bedford, Cradock. We tried to visit the Remembrance Garden of the Craddock Four. One of us spooked while driving through an enormous cemetery so we turned around! Damn!!
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Day 14: Owl House Nieu Bethesda – you Have to go there. The drive in (we took the dirt road) is worth it. A village in the middle of no where made famous because of a crazy, creative and awesome artit Helen Martin. Photos can’t describe this place. Our hosts, Ian and Katrin are characters and have created so many beautiful spaces, from their craft shop, restaurant – Ian you are a Master Chef mate, pub and of course the variety of accommodation they offer. Lee reckons you have the STYLISH BACKPACKERS IN SOUTH AFRICA, and I reckon you have the best beds, pillows and you get simplicity right. Their craft is simply amazing – the cheapest mohair scarves (R120)
Day 15: Lee has to be the best driver and finally I have learnt that the backseat is a much better place for me and the driver. I am the world’s best backseat driver. The roads, or ribbons as Lee refers to, are incredible. There are so few cars, no trucks, taxis and the sheer emptiness of the roads, allows you to really enjoy the open spaces.
We woke up early, and thankfully Ian found us petrol and some rather handsome farmers place. Went back to the N9 along a tar road (so there are 2 ways into Nieu –Bethesda). The Silver Bullets cruised into the Valley of Desolation. A breeze in our flip flops and parasoles. Snakes –concurring our fears. It is simply breath taking and I can only imagine what the Four Corners must be like.
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We glided through Graaf Reniet, Aberdeen, Willowmore, De Rust (direction), Prince Albert. -The craft shopping along the way is just the best. The tannie at The Dagga Boer Farmstall half way between Aberdeen and Willowore reckons she only sells Dagga before 6am and that day she had sold out! The craft in her shop was the best prices for mohair shawls – for a beautiful shawl/blanket.
We visited the Jewish cemetery – it was the most well kept, pretty Jewish Cemetry I have been to. Ian recommended we stop and have lunch at Sophias in Willowmore.
Another “you have to stop here” – Sophia’s shop is an experience, filled with boere remnants, wedding dresses, lights, furniture and delicious home made lunch. Once again super driver Lee excelled and we drove through the Meiringspoort Pass. Wow!
Sophia recommended Vergeet My Niet. A gem in Prince Albert – a small farm, with a beautiful pool in a stunning garden. Had dinner at the Gallery thanks to Brent the owner who found a table for the 3 Silver Bullets – it was Valentines Day. Every meisie in every town wore red. The food was delicious. Lynden and I put the pilot to bed and dashed off to Marion and Brian Finches’ new spot. What another treat. A haven for bikers, rock n rollers and people who love Jack Daniels. Brian you rock and Marion you too have created a unique spot.
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Day 16: Homeward bound. Early adventure up the Swartberg Pass – it is something every South African (and visitor) must do at least once in their lives. Chjoo it is scary but beautiful. Meandering through Calitzdorp and Barrydale where Lee – the best shopper in SA, found exactly what I was looking for. Handwoven Cotton. Heaven on earth. R180 per metre for handmade. Lynden by now has had enough or Lee and I stopping at each and every craft shop from Hogsback to Montagu. SUPPORT LOCAL CRAFT – it is cheap and to die for. Iced Coffees with Phillipe (ex Oak Lodge) and his beautiful kids.
Can’t wait for the next trip!