Sedgefield – Garden Route
We had spent some nice days on safari and in Tsitsikama and were now heading down the Garden Route toward Plettenberg Bay after visiting Monkeyland. When we got to the hostel we intended to stay at they told us they were fully booked and that there was a big youth festival in town, so it would be hard to find free beds anywhere. We decided to drive on and in the South African backpacker’s guide book, Coast to Coast, we found a nice sounding hostel on the beach in the small town of Sedgefield. It was only a 30 minute drive from Plettenberg Bay, so we got there in the late afternoon. The Afro Vibe Hostel was really nice, with great rooms and a beach bar right next to it. We took a walk on the amazing beach before the sun went down and cooked some dinner and had a few drinks at the beach bar. I thought the bar was particularly cool because indoors and outdoors, there’s sand on the ground to stick your feet in.
The next morning we wanted to rent surf boards again, to work on our undeveloped surf skills! We asked in the surf school and rental shop right next to the hostel if we could get four boards and wet suits. We were told it wouldn’t be a problem to rent the boards, but the room where they kept the wet suits was locked and the guy with the keys was nowhere to be found. We were a little disappointed but didn’t want to wait for the guy to show up, so we shoved our bags in our little car again and drove on to the small town of Wilderness.
Wilderness – Garden Route
We got to the town of Wilderness and to our hostel Beach House Backpackers, which looked very nice but wasn’t directly on the beach, after a short drive. We wanted to go surfing that day and it was too early to check into our room, so we tried our luck with renting boards in that hostel. They had surfboard rental, for a great price as well, but we soon learned that they only had one board left that was still in good enough shape to be used. The rest looked pretty banged up or missing the leash. The hostel owner recommended we drive on to Victoria Bay, which was only 10 minutes away and would be better for beginners anyway, as the currents in Wilderness are very strong.
We hopped back in the car and drove to Victoria Bay where we found a little surf rental shop in the backyard of a house. They had enough good looking boards, but they were a lot pricier than the hostel – we paid about 225 rand (around $16) each for a two hour board rental and a wet suit. We grabbed our boards and headed down to the small beach when we noticed that there was a surf competition going on. We envied the very talented and mostly very young people that managed to ride the waves perfectly. Motivated by them we headed into the waves! The first hour we were struggling to get out to where the waves break and weren’t so focused on standing – or trying to stand – on our boards. The current was really strong, there were a lot of other swimmers and surfers in the water and almost right after getting in the water David got stung by a bluebottle jellyfish. The tentacles tend to stick to the skin and their poison really hurts. After a while we got better and even managed to stand up on the boards for a few seconds! Just when the two hours were over and I was getting out of the water, I got stung by the same type of jellyfish on my foot, which left a funny looking scar for over three weeks.
Pretty exhausted we returned the surfboards and drove back to our hostel in Wilderness, where we could check into our room. We enjoyed the great views from the hostel on the ocean for a while and then decided to meet up with a friend we had made during our stay in Livingstone, who was in Wilderness at the same time.
She came to our hostel and we walked into town to find a restaurant. After a good lunch we decided to relax and hang out at our hostel together for the rest of the day, so we went to the supermarket to buy groceries for dinner and a few bottles of South African wine. We sat on the terrace of our hostel, played cards and drank wine till it got dark, made dinner and then drove our friend back to her hostel.
The next morning we decided to go on a hike with our friend. The owner of her hostel recommended we go on the Kingfisher Trail, which would lead us to a nice waterfall. This sounded great, so we drove for about five minutes through Wilderness to get to the start of the trail. There was a sign saying that hikers were supposed to pay a small admission fee at reception, but reception was nowhere to be seen and our friend was told that nobody ever pays it.
After walking through some overgrown forests for about half an hour we got to a small river we had to cross. There are different ways to cross the river, either walking over some stones or using a small pontoon. We decided to go for the second option!
We successfully crossed the river and continued on the hike for another hour or so, which now led us mostly along a wooden pathway through the forest.
When we finally reached the waterfall we were pleasantly surprised! It was a beautiful waterfall, running down some crazy looking rock formations. The waterfall had different steps and pools, where you can swim or jump from the rocks above! The whole area looked amazing and there were quite a few people there enjoying it but it wasn’t crowded. We spent almost an hour at the waterfall, swimming and jumping into the refreshing water before hiking back toward Wilderness. We packed our things and then drove on to our last stop on the Garden Route: Mossel Bay.
Mossel Bay – Garden Route
We got to our hostel, Mossel Bay Backpackers, pretty late so we dropped our bags and went for dinner at Sundowners Bar a few meters from the hostel. The next morning we got up early to start another action packed day! We booked a sandboarding trip for the morning and skydiving for the afternoon. The guide from the sandboarding company came to pick us up and we followed him with our car to the privately owned area where the dunes are. A few places along the Garden Route offer sandboarding, but the Dragon Dune in Mossel Bay is the longest to be found in South Africa at 320 meters (1,050 feet). We parked our car at a farmhouse and then jumped on the back of a 4×4 which drove us on some sandy roads to the dune. We picked up two boards for each of us – one normal snowboard and one short plastic board with a handle, which we would use to go down the Dragon Dune laying on our belly.
Our guide assigned a board to each one of us, depending on experience and size, and explained how to ride a snowboard on the sand. We went up a smaller sand dune and tried riding down one after the other while the guide took pictures! To me it felt pretty shaky the first few times, but David knowing how to snowboard was doing great. Sandboarding feels different than snowboarding as you basically ride straight down the hill and doing real turns is difficult, but it is good fun!
After going down the small dune for quite a while, we headed over to the longest dune. Most of us wouldn’t be going down this dune on a snowboard but on the smaller boards we’d lay on. The guide explained to us what to do and down we went one after the other! We lay flat on our belly and held on to the handle and then the guide gave us a little push down the dune. It was really fun, the boards went down the sand super fast. The only less fun part was when we had to climb up the 320 meter sand dune again, carrying our boards up the very hot sand. After the first trial a few of us went down the dune again, this time racing each other and David got to go down on the snowboard, as he has a lot of experience. About two hours later we got picked up by the 4×4 again, which brought us back to our car.
From there we drove back toward Mossel Bay, where we had a quick lunch before heading toward the Mossel Bay airstrip to go skydiving with Skydive Mossel Bay. My friend Miri and I had never been skydiving, so we would do a Tandem jump for 2100 Rand (approx. $130). David, who is certified to jump on his own unfortunately couldn’t jump there because he didn’t bring his very heavy logbook with him on the trip, which you need to jump alone.
We did the paperwork and put on jumpsuits before getting a briefing on what to do once we jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. I was growing more nervous by the minute, but there was no going back and I was excited to do what David loves so much. When we were ready we got on the tiny little Cessna that would take us up to 3,050 meters (10,000 feet). The plane was super small and old, which didn’t help my nervousness at all.
We were pretty cramped in the small plane, already attached to our instructors. I was sitting right next to the entry, where there was no door. The flight up to 10,000 feet took about 20 minutes and wasn’t as scary as I feared with some incredible views over the whole area and the ocean. When the instructor called the one minute countdown, I was shaking all over, but before I knew it we moved toward the exit and jumped! The first few seconds we stumbled a bit before falling in a straight line. The feeling was amazing and over far too quick. The instructor opened the parachute after what felt like seconds and we started flying down toward the landing zone. After a minute or so he apparently thought I needed some more excitement and started spinning the parachute around, which felt like being on a roller coaster. We flew for about five minutes and then safely landed next to the hangar, where David was waiting for us.
The skydive was such an incredible experience and I could finally understand why David is so excited about it. Right after touching the ground I would have gone up again to jump more if I could!
We returned to the hostel after a very action packed and exciting day, where our other friend Steffi was waiting for us! The next morning we would have another early start to drive toward Hermanus and stop for a safari in a private game park.