Before moving to Uganda, I’d never purchased a one-way ticket anywhere. I found it nerve wracking. But things change. I lost my job, and was thankful to not be locked into a forced itinerary. Then we purchased one-way tickets to South Africa. And we just purchased our next one-way ticket to Nepal. I have to say, if I had to do it all over again, I’d do the same thing. Tossing a strict itinerary out the window opens up the possibility to have more flexibility in your travel. To travel freestyle. You can rent a car for a week and explore the coast. Or maybe just for a day to go see the penguins at the Cape of Good Hope. You can spend the an afternoon exploring museums and local markets, or hang at home reading and watching movies. You still have a loose plan, of course, but aren’t beholden to alarm clocks, timelines and agendas. It’s an amazing way to travel, especially if you are traveling for more than a few days like we are.
A prime is example is that we decided to rent a car and spend a week traveling along South Africa’s Garden Route. However, even though we saw and did a few cool things (and ate a few mouth-watering meals), we were underwhelmed with the area. Our first stop was supposed to be Mossel Bay, but when we arrived, Jay and I both looked at each other and shook our heads. We did not want to spend any time there. So we spent the next 45 minutes calling every guesthouse, B&B and hostel between there and Plettenberg Bay listed in Lonely Planet. Everything was booked. And then we remembered our friend Petra (meet Petra in And Then We Drank Wine) had recommended Two Angels Lodge in Knysna. We called, and they had one room, their “lovers’ cottage” available for about $100 a night. A little more than we wanted to spend, but figured we were pretty desperate, we’d give it a whirl. When we arrived at sunset, we were awestruck. The property overlooked the lagoon, and our cottage sat right on the ledge with a stoop (we call them porches) hanging over the water.
What was going to be one night quickly turned into three. We spent mornings drinking coffee/tea on the stoop. I ran along the water every day. We ventured over to Plettenberg Bay to spend time at their beaches as well as explored the water canyons via kayak and lilo in Tsitsikamma National Park. We started on kayak in a protected cove of the Indian Ocean before proceeding into the canyons you can see in the pictures below. Once into the canyons, the ocean water meets a fresh water source so it becomes almost still compared to the crashing waves we maneuvered at the start. We kayaked for about 30 minutes before beaching our kayaks and boarding lilos, rafts that you lay stomach down on and paddle with your arms, for another 15-20 minutes. The guides took us to some manageable cliffs for a little cliff jumping – which even I did, though I need a little coaxing to push myself off the edge.
After a few blissful days at the Two Angels, we deviated our return route so that we could stop by Oudtshoorn and the Cango Caves. I’m a little weary of tight spaces, so we took the non-adventure tour, but as you can see, was still incredibly stunning without having to cram myself in any tiny crevices. The caves themselves have only recently been preserved – there is evidence of graffiti and broken stalagmites from ranchers who would come in and use it as target practice – but now the local government has really stepped up their game to make sure generations to come will be able to enjoy the caves majestic formations that take hundreds of thousands of years to develop.
After our road trip, we were hungry to just take things down a notch and just hang out for a week. And cook our own food. So we rented an 10th-floor apartment via Airbnb in the city center of Cape Town. We did laundry. Saw a few museums we’d missed out on. Went to the gym. And I am embarrassed to say, watched Game of Thrones. The weather is slowly turning more like winter here, so most of our days were conducive to a more recluse lifestyle.
On our few nice days toward the end of the week, we rented a car to drive to the Cape of Good Hope, saw the African penguins in Simon’s Town, and visited Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. A nice way to wrap up our three-week stint in South Africa.
We leave tomorrow for Nepal. So far, the only thing booked is our flight. I’m really starting to embrace this freestyle travel, thanks of course to my co-captain of travel, Jay. Stay tuned as we explore Kathmandu and trek through the Himalayas. And where to after? Your guess is as good as mine, as I learn to sit back and let this accidental world tour take me to places I had only day dreamed about just a short year ago.