The second last day of our trip, Newcastle to Port Elizabeth, was an epic drive of 1100km. It took us about twelve hours, rising up through the Drakensburg mountains, past the entire country of Lesotho, and ending on the southern coast of the African continent. We’d been driving for weeks, and couldn’t wait to reach Cape Town to relax.
At the petrol station early in the morning, we watched in fascination as a couple who had locked their keys in their car were easily helped by some friendly strangers – who whipped out a coat hanger, slid it down the car window, and pulled open the door.
We were truly in South Africa. The rest of the day went fast. We spotted a pair of hunters at a roadside diner eating their lunch, as a massive kudu carcass was slumped in the back of their truck outside.
We slept our final night on the road at the White House in Port Elizabeth, encouraged by Jan who wanted us to take a fancy hotel. We were just in time for their buffet. Plates were piled high with roast meat, ham, salami, pasta and anything else we could possibly fit in our bellies.
A massive meal for a massive day on the road, and dirt cheap. The waiters and waitresses were speaking Khoesan, and we were listening to the way their language incorporated clicks of the tounge into the sentences. It was very mesmerizing to listen to.
The Garden Route
The last day was a massive 800km push, all the way to Cape Town. It would take us through the beautiful Garden Route, a scenic drive along the south coast, passing exclusive bays and expensive houses, and through lush forests and surfing hotspots. Along the way we stopped at Bloukrans Bridge, one of the highest bungee jumps in the world.
The bridge spanned an almighty ravine. We stopped on the other side of the bridge and got out to take a look. I couldn’t bear to walk out over the bridge, the height was too much for me. Jeff and Wessel walked over onto the bridge, to the centre, and looked down. When they came back they told me the height of the bridge over the valley was insane. Looking down, they said it warped their vision, skewed their perception of distance.
It was around 9pm when we entered Cape Town, the last port of the journey. We had a last beer at Wessel’s old favourite bar at Stellenbosch University, where he studied his arts degree. Then, back to where we started it all.
Pulling into the driveway that five weeks ago we had left from, naive and uncertain about what lay before us, we now felt like conquerors. We had driven through seven countries, and we estimated we covered about 12,000km.
We drove through flowing rivers, spotted wild elephants on the highway, crashed motorbikes, ate nshima with our fingers, camped near a pride of lions, bought dodgy steaks from village butchers, and a thousand more unforgettable moments. Inside, we opened three celebratory beers and toasted, taking a final group photo, the end of the road. We called uncle Jan, owner of the car we used, who was still in Kenya, and thanked him for the incredible, amazing opportunity that he had bestowed upon us.
The next few days we spent in Cape Town, visiting Robben Island and Mandela’s prison cell, bars and restaurants, the castle, and Wessel’s gallery. Regrettably, we couldn’t climb Table Mountain due to bad weather (low lying clouds, the ‘table cloth’ covered the mountain that day). We spent a few nights having dinners with family.
On the final morning, Wessel drove us to the airport and we said our final goodbyes. Jeff and I dearly wanted to stay. We all agreed it was more than a holiday; it was special, unique, adventurous, uncharted, unplanned, once-in-a-lifetime. With great sadness but incredible memories, we stepped off African soil, and onto the airplane, vowing to visit again someday.