the garden route
After spending a day with the elephants of Addo, we repacked the car and headed south toward the Garden Route – South Africa’s answer to Big Sur. Spanning some 300 kilometers (almost 200 miles) from Storms River to Mossel Bay, the Garden Route traverses several parks, with the main N2 highway sometimes running along the Cape shoreline and at other times winding inland into the mountains.
Coming from the Eastern Cape, as we were, the route’s beginning at Storms River presents some of the most striking scenery to be found along South Africa’s southern shore. We had driven through some sad-looking towns and desolate landscapes to reach the N2, and the views improved considerably once we crossed over the Storms River bridge into the Crags. In fact, the vertiginous view from the bridge was so beautiful that we parked and walked the length of the span twice to admire the verdant canyon far below us from both sides of the bridge.
Our first three nights on the Garden Route we stayed at AfriCamps in Ingwe – the newest of several “glamping” properties scattered throughout the Cape. Our “tent” featured a rustic kitchen, full bathroom, comfortable beds, and a wood-burning stove. We had underestimated just how low the temperatures would drop at night, and the chilly weather provided all the reason we needed to get a campfire going every evening, introducing Munchkin to the joys of roasting marshmallows. At the height of the tourist season, our campsite – situated on a wooded ridge – also afforded total privacy. We neither saw nor heard any other tourists, and from our little perch could watch the sun set on one side of the forest before the full moon rose over the tall trees on the other.
Though a bit less dramatic in terms of scenery than Big Sur, the Garden Route proved quite beautiful in a number of places and very pleasant to drive throughout. Ingwe itself is a nondescript dot on the map, but it served as an excellent jumping-off point for visiting Tsisikamma National Park, hiking the striking Roberg Peninsula, and visiting Nature’s Valley, which just might be our favorite place in South Africa.