Another trip off the bucket list..Wilderness NP, SA

Yes, I’d been here before when I was working as a tourist guide but I’d never had the opportunity to stay a couple of days with friends. Very chuffed I was when my friend told me that she’d just made a booking to go for the long weekend, end of April. South African public holidays come to a climax in April. There’s not 1 full work week so it’s the perfect time to explore. March and April are my favorite months. The weather is quite good but it’s not too warm and it’s not too busy. I never understand why not more foreign tourists visit during this time of the year. A South African Autumn really is quite beautiful.

We departed EARLY and when I say early, it is VERY early. I’m a morning person but leaving at 5h30 to get to the market in Sedgefield (450 km) on time seemed a bit outrageous. Nevertheless, I know this market from a few years back and I think it’s the mother of all Saturday morning food markets in South Africa. It’s a good one. I’m a sucker for good food and wine so off we went, 5h30 in the morning. Enjoying the sunrise over the Overberg, the early wake-up call was very much appreciated. Ah, we live in a stunningly beautiful country. How privileged we are! A quick coffee & toilet stop at one of the quirky farm stalls along the N2 and at 10h15 we arrived at one busy market place just outside Sedgefield, Wild Oats Community Farmers Market. You will easily spot it from the N2 when you’re driving from Wilderness to Sedgefield. A well deserved breakfast was now more than necessary and we agreed on Eggs Benedict.

Eggs Benedict at Wild Oats

While my friend was queuing I couldn’t help myself and got a Greek Pastry, a small Prickly Pear tartlet, just lovely and just enough to fill my sweet tooth. Grocery shopping we would have to leave for later because most stalls were already sold out of all their produce. I was still craving for ‘something sweet’ but somehow never made it to the pancakes…

Off we went to check-in at Ebb & Flow in the Wilderness National Park. How exciting, we got an upgrade and now could stay in a wooden cabin with 2 bedrooms, our own kitchen and bathroom. And a lovely deck to take in the beautiful mountain scenery. Wilderness has it all: Indian Ocean with endless beaches, mountain forests, the Touw River and beautiful lakes. I could easily have stayed a whole week.

Our cabin on stilts

After we checked-in we went for grocery shopping to the Garden Route Mall in George which is about 15 km away. Wilderness has a really dodgy Quick Spar which I can’t recommend to anyone. Sorry, we’re Whoolies girls… Don’t think I would live in South Africa without a Whoolies. The Garden Route Mall is quite impressive and I was almost tempted to shop till I drop but we managed to just buy food for 3 days for the 4 of us. Great braai sessions were awaiting us!

BRAAI TIME!!

The rest of the afternoon was spend enjoying the sun and views from our deck, reading and watching movies on the Ipad.

It was Saturday and we wanted to go one more time to the Firefly Eating House, (www.fireflyeatinghouse.co.za). Somehow this had become a yearly event whenever we visit the Garden Route. Although the food we had (Starters, Malay Prawn & Chicken Curry, Prawn Curry and Beef Curry) was still testing all our taste buds, I wasn’t so excited anymore. It was a bit boring to see the same items on the menu as last year August. The Bobotie Springrolls for starters and the Ostrich Samoosas were top on our list, again!

Sunday morning we headed out to hike to the waterfalls. The information given by SANparks tells you that it will be about 3 – 4 hours to hike although it’s not clear if this is one way or a round trip?? It took us about 1 hr to reach the falls. It was a BEAUTIFUL walk. There are no difficult parts as mostly you walk on a fantastic boardwalk. Hiking boots are not even necessary. I remember that the paths were closed for quite a long time some years ago because they’d washed away after a storm. Well, they’ve been beautifully repaired in such a way that it is accessible for most people. The fun part is to cross the Touw River on the pontoon. This is also a great place to bring kids. I guess I will be blogging about that a WHOLE lot more in the not-so-far future…

beautiful boardwalk through the forest

Crossing Touw River on pontoon

the reward..

The waterfall is beautiful with several rock pools, ideal for swimming. Ideally you bring your picnic basket and spend the afternoon here. We were the only ones there when we arrived but on our way back we ran into few people going. I even ran into some friends of friends! By the time we got back to the cabin, it was time for an outrageous breakfast of eggs and bacon. I was taught a way to prepare scrambled eggs in the microwave without using any oil or butter.. Super fluffy! Not bad at all.

Late in the afternoon Wilderness Beach was the place for a long, very long, beach walk. If you want to see a beautiful beach in South Africa, this is the place to be. There were a few massive jelly fish on the beach. I’d never seen jelly fish with ‘little ones’….

Beach bums!

I love exploring local pubs. Wilderness is not much of a village but surely they have some local pubs and eateries. We found one but after 1 drink we just wanted to get back to the nature reserve and start our braai. We’d shopped VERY well, if I may say so, Whoolies chicken kebabs and Ostrich fillet and tons of roast veggies and salads. Healthy but hearty, just the way we like it.

Monday, another day of relaxation, jeez, we’re really starting to get used to the long weekends. Little walk in the morning. I guess it was a bird watching walk, very flat, which was supposed to take 3 hrs but it took us only 1 hr of brisk walking (as they say in all those magazines talking about exercise…).

We still had too many plans… I’d really wanted to visit my friends Kevin & Elsie in their beautiful guesthouse, Interlaken but somehow I never made it that way. Breakfast at Ile the Pain in Knysna has to wait till another visit (we convinced ourselves that our homemade breakfasts were just as good and I DO think we came close…) and Zuccini restaurant will remain on the to-do list for our next visit.

On our way back yesterday we made the mistake of not immediately leaving the N2 in George and drive back to Cape Town via the Outeniqua Pass, Oudtshoorn, R62 and R60 and then N1. We got stuck BIG time in road works and an overturned truck. The first 100 km took us about 2.5 hours. At Riversdale we took a little leap of faith and just headed in a direction of which we thought was kind of the right way. We ended up on this beautiful mountain pass, Garcia Pass. Wow!! No cars, just us, mountains, pine trees and endless vistas. What an unexpected treat.

No idea where we're going but we're getting there FAST!

At some point we had to turn off the main road onto a well maintained dirt road to end up in Barrydale which was then definitely lunch time. The Country Pumpkin is the well known place and we ended up ordering delicious Bobotie. Next time in Barrydale, I REALLY would like to have lunch or breakfast at another place so please let me know if you have any ‘must-eat’ restaurants that you can recommend in this area. To go 8 years to the same place, please, that’s normally not how we roll but convenience took over (we were HUNGRY by 1pm) and the Country Pumpkin is always a good bet.

Back in Cape Town by 5pm. Great road trip, again.

www.sanparks.org for all bookings into Wilderness National Park. Get a Wild Card for a year and don’t pay any entrance fees. There are different types of accommodation so check the web site: from camping to fully equipped self catering family homes.

Oh dear, I forgot to write about the lovely canoe trip down the river… 1 hour, R100. Easy peasy lovely.

Canoeing down the Touw River, very shallow, perfect to swim too!

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