A few years back I had the incredible opportunity of spending almost two months in Oahu, Hawaii during the peak winter surf season. Hawaii blew my mind with its natural beauty, incredible people, and rich cultural history, and by the time I left, I realised one thing though: South Africa is without a doubt the most beautiful country in the World.
I had long suspected that our vast coastline, plethora of mountain ranges and of course a cultural magnitude that is so greatly diverse, all culminated in a potjie pot exploding with richness and splendour. Now for the first time, I had the chance to traverse more than 1800kms from the East Coast of sub-tropical Kwa-Zulu Natal to picturesque Cape Town, and then do it all over again to return to the North Coast of KZN.
An adventure of this kind required two vital necessities – great company and quality transport. What better way to road trip than with my best friend and beautiful wife, Natalie (a.k.a. Missus Smith) in a brand new 2016 Mini Cooper S, thanks to my friends at SMG Rocks, in Umhlanga, Durban. My wife is one of my favourite people to travel with because she is primarily so much fun, and always ready & willing to explore. She’s definitely the only girl I know who loves adventure as much as I do, which is probably why she’s such a great mom to my two wild sons.
The two of us, faced a journey that can at times be quite treacherous thanks to some terrible roads through parts of the Transkei, and cars & drivers that easily rival some of the most lawless streets in the World. But attitude determines everything, and we both agreed that no matter what, we’d have fun and be complete tourists in our own country – how could we not have fun when we were cocooned in one of the World’s most fun brands, Mini.
Typically, when you’re younger, travelling tends to sway in favour of the destination as opposed to the actual journey, and you, “just want to get there“. As you get older, the company you share and the actual journey are the fundamentals for epic memories, often more so than the final destination itself. This is probably true for life as well…
So we hit the open road without any time constraints or deadlines, reveling in not only the comfort of the new Mini Cooper S but also the insatiable speed and grip this little car possesses. As we worked our way out of KZN and into the Transkei, we witnessed heavenly colours eplode across the sky as the African sun climbed above the Indian Ocean. As if in slow motion, we marveled at the vast expanse of rolling hills through the Transkei, secretly envying the desirable simplicity with which the local people lived. It didn’t feel like it, but after almost seven hours of driving we entered East London – a sleepy little town that shaped the early years of my 20’s, ultimately lead me to a world of professional commentating in the surf industry, and left me with one of my best friends to this day. To say I am fond of ‘Slummies’ is a mild understatement. It was with childlike excitement that I took my wife to the histroic Windmill Roadhouse for food, overlooking Eastern Beach, before topping our brief visit off with a world famous Friesland double-thick chocolate milkshake.
Serene coastline and rolling farm hills with grazing cows adorn the road as you wind your way from East London to Port Elizabeth, and as we continued on our coastal route, we passed pretty Port Alfred before stopping at Nanaga Farm Stall, just outside of Port Elizabeth. I absolutely love this historic gem and now into their 43rd year of business, Nanaga is an absolute must for every traveller going to, or coming from PE. Lamb & Mint pies are the stuff of legends and so are the sinfully good Mud Pies that will entice you to new levels of gluttony!
Through Port Elizabeth and onto the famed towns of Jeffrey’s Bay and Cape St Francis, where my wife and I shared a bench together in front of the towering lighthouse at Cape St Francis, watching the surfers and basking in the warm, fading light of a spectacular sunset. Bliss, I tell you.
We eventually forced ourselves to clamber back into our now very familiar Cooper S, and completed the last remaining 170 kilometers to our first stop, Plettenberg Bay in the Western Cape. It’s along this stretch where you start your passage through the astonishing Garden Route, and where we witnessed the most unreal sunset over European-like forestry. In probably 20 minutes of driving we said a handful of words to each other, and they were nothing but adjectives trying to process the beauty we were witnessing. I will fail miserably if I try to explain to you the sublime scenery that caused my heart to swell with appreciation for life, love and incredible beauty during that very moment of blissful driving.
All in all, it took us a total of 16 hours to get from Durban to Plett. It wasn’t all driving as we stopped multiple times, but the entire day felt like a movie, and although tired, we couldn’t wait to kick off the next day of driving and head through to Cape Town. Check the video below to see what I’m talking bout…
To be continued …