The Garden Route, South Africa, part one


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Wilderness Bay. South Africa.
The Garden Route was a nightmare. Drunk, shrieking, over privileged, young white South Africans partying from the time they got up to dawn the next day.   Camp sites that turned out to be postage stamp sized with tents joustling for position. Couples having sex in one of the two only the showers.   Communal kitchens littered with left-over food and sinks overflowing with dirty dishes.  Having travelled extensively in Southern Africa I can truly say that South African hostels had the dirtiest kitchens of all.  The Mamas had the thankless task of cleaning up after them all the time.  I don’t think I had one night of uninterrupted sleep in 3 weeks.
Luckily the scenery was amazing but you could have been anywhere in the world – the towns were sterile, public transport non existent and food expensive. My advice would be to travel out of season or give the whole coastline a miss and head up to the Wilderness Coast which is truly spectacular.
The first stop was Swellendam, a twee inland Germanic town, where we hoped to catch up on some sleep. Fat chance the walls were so thin they could have been transparent. I could hear every grunt, sigh, footstep and intimate toilet habits of the occupants next door. The owner, a sour faced white South African, who clearly had had enough of the trade, ticked guests off for asking for more washing up liquid and smoking, She woke us up early in the morning by shouting at her staff in front of our door.

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However, the scenery was lovely but it was expensive to walk in the national park.  There were a lot of houses of sale –  the type of place someone night retire to and  then realise that there was more life in a cemetery

Next stop Mossel Bay.  The beginning of the Garden Route.

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Sterile, over-crowded, no public transport to beaches close by.  A bird park that had me contacting the equivalent of the RSPCA in England and a dodgy member of staff who took an acquaintances money for accommodation, gave them no receipt then denied he had ever  received it.

We moved onto Wilderness Bay which was stunning and will be the subject of my next post

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29 thoughts on “The Garden Route, South Africa, part one

  1. I always enjoy reading your posts. This one had me laughing out loud. I’m sorry to hear it was so miserable, but your descriptions were priceless. The photos seem to belie the experience, though.

  2. So sorry to hear your experience was so bad. Not all South Africans are like that, so I hope that the rest of hour experience is better and the people you meet redeem themselves. One thing I agree with is that young (white) South Africans don’t know how to clean up after themselves. They have always had servants. But even that is changing with the changing economic circumstances. All the best for the rest of your trip.

  3. I agree with heyjude. I have a B and B in Swellendam and the hostel in the town is definitely not representative of the kind of hospitality you can expect from most of the places in town. And we are cheaper! There are many affordable things you can do in Swellies, you can walk in Marloth Mountain reserve for nothing, hire bikes from the tourism office really cheaply, taste liqueurs at the Berry farms free, have treatments at the Rainforest spa…. And much
    more. If you get the chance to come back, please contact us and we will give you a complimentary stay to try to change your mind. We moved here from UK 8 years ago, and we absolutely love it!

  4. Quite a different experience to mine, though granted we didn’t stay in hostels, but B&Bs run by local people. Accommodation, food and drink seemed very cheap compared to UK prices, and travelling in the shoulder season (April) meant that the entire Garden Route was fairly quiet despite it being Easter. I’m sorry you had such a hard time Sue, bad stuff happens, spoilt kids ruin many a location and it always sours the experience. Hopefully the scenery made up for some of it?
    Jude xx

    • Hi Sue, I agree with Jude and Amanda here. Your bad experience in Swellies and the adjoining coastal belt is not the norm although admittedly the December holidays anywhere can be a little extreme, especially in caravan parks.

  5. How sad that you have had a generally bad experience. I really hope that you enjoy the rest of your trip and take home some good memories.

  6. I hope everyone reads this…The photos would fool one into thinking it was fabulous. Thanks for the warning, and I hope the next leg of the trip is fabulous, fun, and puts rest in the right part of the day for you. 🙂

    • But it is fabulous Sheri – perhaps not during the Christmas break, accompanied by spoilt white South African students, but the scenery along the Garden Route is stunning. Just time it right.
      Jude xx

  7. sorry to hear that you had such a bad time, your photos look super! especially the 1st one. Do you think your experience was typical? or just bad timing/luck for you personally?

  8. Sue it is heart breaking to hear about all the problem you had! Yet we have to live with that…. As you say the scenery is breathtaking! Hope you can have some good times too. From Cape Town

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