March 4th 2018
Tsitsikamma National Park to Graaft-Reinet
Time: 6 hours including 1 hour stop at Langkloof
I woke up to the sound of crashing waves after a good night’s sleep. We sat on the veranda and breathed in the ocean air in complete silence. The bright morning revealed the lush green forest behind our cabin that stood over the Indian ocean. No sign of my luggage yet, I called the airline again, they confirmed my luggage was at Cape Town Airport. Yesterday, it was ‘on the way’ to Storms.
I wasn’t fussed. Unlike the hunter gatherers who first discovered Tsitsikamma thousands of years ago, we drove to the breakfast area, 5 minutes away on a winding road lined by a canopy of trees. The guide offered to deal with the luggage situation. While he was making a song and dance out of the situation, giving the guys on the other end the ‘big one’ with alternating crescendos, I wanted to be as far away as possible. We went for a hike on the Storms River Mouth Trail. We followed the path towards the mountain and continued upwards into the forest until the green laden gorge presented itself. It reminded me of the gorges in Thailand. Surrounded by the sparkling sea, we were in awe of the rugged coastline. There were only a few people hiking. We crossed the suspension bridge, and took a break on the rocks. The atmosphere was serene. While the birds were chirping, we just sat there and enjoyed the silence. A farmer and his wife took a break and were sat next to us. They drove here for the weekend and described what it was like like living and growing up on a farm and the potential dangers. They spoke of the mist engulfing the Western Region we were headed to. Feeling that his judgement was a bit clouded we moved on, bumping into other hikers/tourists who turned up in hordes. We were set to leave at 10am, headed towards Graaft-Reinet via ‘the Garden Route’. Instead, we took it easy and left at 11:30am.
One of the reasons we love a good road trip in SA is that there’s plenty of quaint towns on the way with a series of compact houses, a church and local eateries. If we’re short on time, the gas stations have decent meal options. Today, we made a pitstop at Langkloof at 2pm tucked in between a range of mountains. Clearly, it wasn’t part of the guide’s plan to stop here because he mentioned another town 40km kilometers ahead he thought was a better option. But then, he said ‘since we’ve come here to check out the views, they serve local food, so we might as well eat here because this place is great’. Perplexed that he never mentioned this before, we agreed to stay although we weren’t that hungry. In hindsight, he was winging it and didn’t know how far the next town was. Anyway, I had a burger cooked right in front of our eyes. The owner made sure all his guests, including a bunch of local cyclists, were taken care of. We loved it.
When we drove through Uniondale, the guide recounted a tragic tale of two lovers who died in a car crash right here in the late 60s. The ‘ghost’ of the lady apparently asks drivers for a ride and then disappears. He shared a whole lot of ‘chilling tales’ all over the country either SA is a spook fest or people are drinking to the point of seeing the afterlife and then some.
We headed towards the Outeniqua mountains and feasted our eyes on the vast interchanging landscape exposing a rich and fertile land in the Karoo region. The guide received a call to confirm that my luggage was on its way to Villa Reinet, our next address.
We arrived at 5:30pm. Graaft-Reinet is one of the oldest towns in South Africa surrounded by the Cambedoo National Park that used to be rife with game. Now, it’s a historical town with a ton of museums, art, and history to indulge in. xWhen we walked into the B&B, we immediately felt at home and were welcomed by the owner who shared a fascinating piece of info with us, nevermind Graaft-Reinet’s profound history and even his own living in Zimbabwe. His son is a chef at a famous restaurant in Dubai! Haaa.
Lock Stock and Barrel! ME: ‘WOW, it’s so hard to get a table!’ I thought it was the burger joint at Nassim Jumeirah, BLACK TAP. Five minutes later, I realized I was mistaken and hoped that LSB was equally popular. It is.
Finally, my luggage arrived. I felt relieved and more relaxed. It was time to clean up, change my clothes and enjoy my books without thinking about where my suitcase is. We dined at a local joint, Pioneers that served traditional Karoo food, lamb. I had the grilled local veggies because I wanted to keep it simple, I splurged all my calories on the burger anyway. The vibe was great despite the air turning misty. Farmer dude was right. We hoped it would clear up the next day because we were going to drive up the Valley of Desolation at the Cambedoo National Park for some epic views.