Friday, April 30, 2010

Baz Day 20: Durban (& Accom #33)

Sometimes your stop in a town is so brief (and your surroundings so uninspiring) that you never leave the hostel. Durban is one of those towns. We did not take a single photo there, if that is any indication of our feelings about it.

The little bit we did see was essectially retail hell attached to a noisy, overcrowded theme park. Surfboard rentals on the incredibly artificial touristy beach were a fortune. And we were firmly warned not to walk around pretty much ANYWHERE after the sun goes down. We retired to our hostel for a lazy day of interneting, reading, eating junk food and re-discovering the joy of boxed wine.

No photos of the hostel either, it was pretty standard. Apologies for such a boring post.

(Un)Baz Day 18-19: Swartberg

Remember those new friends I mentioned who we shared our house with in Coffee Bay? They are a group of three girls we kept running into along our South Africa route, until we finally decided that we're destined to be BFFs. When it came time to pack up and head out to Durban (where they, of course, were headed as well), they were kind enough to give us a lift in their rental car and spare us the ten hour Baz Bus journey. We hit the road at noon and expected a leisurely arrival around sunset.

Well, shortly after stopping for gas en route, the sun began to set. The road got darker, and seemingly longer as well. We started to get the feeling that maybe this wasn't quite right. Finally, a T-stop offered us a selection of two towns we had never heard of, confirmed that we had in fact made a wrong turn somewhere.

Out of nowhere, a truck pulls up beside us and rolls down their window. They tell us we passed our turn off about an hour back, but give us directions on our new scenic route. We are disappointed to hear it will be another three hours before we make it to our destintion. Have I mentioned how dark it is?

We travel a few miles further, and notice people keep flashing their brights at us. We don't know what this means. The truck who helped us is driving just ahead, and they put on their blinker and signal for us to pull over. We think they are going to clue us into what all the flashing is about. Instead, they ask where we are from. I catch a worried glance when we reveal we're British and American.

The guy warns us that the road we are on is pretty unsafe. Especially for tourists. Especially on weekend nights. Car jackers and drunk drivers abound. And heaven forbid we have any car trouble, cause we were about 80 miles north of the middle of nowhere. Cell reception, not so much. He tells us they have a farm just up the road, and offers to put us up for the night, free of charge. And wouldn't you know, supper will be ready upon our arrival.

At this point, we are faced with a decision:
A - Follow this kind stranger several miles up a dark dirt road. Um, have you ever seen the movie Touristas?
B - Test our luck on a much longer dark road, only mildly aware of where we are going.

If there is one thing I have learned about traveling, it's to trust your insticts. And we all agree that option A is slightly less likely to end in disaster. As we follow them up the winding dusty path, we joke about what our escape plan will be if he pulls out a chain saw.

You will be relieved to hear, there were no chain saws to be found. What there was, however, were polo sticks. Polo themed paintings. Polo tropies. Lots of them. Turns out our friendly host is a world famous polo player, former captain of the South Africa Polo team. Their 2,000 hectare farm is home to horses, sheep, pigs, wild zebra, a Shetland pony, and polo enthusiasts from around the world who come visit to stay and play on their private field. We enjoyed a night of home cooked dinner, generously flowing wine and conversation with their other guests. We awoke bright and early to the roosters cock-a-doodle-dooing on the porch. And despite our insistence, they wouldn't accept a dime for their hospitality.

Take THAT Baz Bus.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Chintsa & Coffee Bay, South Africa

Surf. Sun. Beers. Naps. Campfires and toasties.

For photos of Chintsa and Coffee Bay, click HERE.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


The Coffee Shack
Coffee Bay, South Africa
640 Rand (approx $87)/night - For a house, shared five ways

Coffee Bay itself is, in a word, so-so. A TON of hype surrounds this place, particularly the hostel we're staying in. It's situated right on the beach in what's been described as one of the "best locations in South Africa". So, coming from Chinsta, we had pretty high expectations. And our verdict? Chinsta's better.

It's a little rough around the edges here. I LOVED the ride out. But actually arriving was a bit anti-climactic. For one, I have certinaly stayed at better hostels. The facilities are very, how shall I say... basic. Especially for the price. And the moment you step off the gated grounds, you're accosted by a half dozen guys trying to sell you mushrooms. I supposed that's why this place's reputation precedes it. But, let's just say, it's not the type of place I'd want to be hallucinating.

We did, however, get a pretty sweet set-up. All of the double rooms in the main property were booked, so they put us in a little house on top of a hill on the other side of the beach. The second room and loft were empty, so we invited some new friends of ours to go in on it with us and rent the entire house together. Crossing the river to get to it is a thrilling task, particularly at high tide. But the view from up here is superb.

Peaking out the front door

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Baz Day 15-17: Coffee Bay

We had a hard time tearing ourselves away from Chintsa. Surfing, beer pong, candle-lit dinners, afternoon naps in a breezy tent to the sound of the ocean. After just three blissful days, we decided it was time to move on up the coast. And now, we have finally found ourselves in the "real" Africa. Up to this point, South Africa has reminded us a LOT of California. Beautiful, to be sure. But not very "foreign" feeling. En route to Coffee Bay, we began to see glimpses of the Africa we imagined before touching down in Cape Town.

The Baz Bus dropped us off at a gas station off the main highway, where a shuttle was awaiting us for the two hour journey to our hostel. Swerving past cows and donkeys, around potholes the size of station wagons, our fearless driver expertly snaked his way toward the coast. Through tiny villages and vast farmland. Barefoot children chasing chickens in a field, looking up to wave with curious excitement at our passing van. Woman transporting massive buckets of water on their heads from the nearby well. Uniformed kids piling in the back of a beat up pick-up truck for the ride home from school. Men gathered around small local taverns drinking xhosa beer. And, as far as the eye can see, hillsides dotted with round mud huts painted in bright pastel shades. There was a beauty in them so captivating, I realized, because it's the first time in a long while I've seen something so different from anything I've seen before. As the sun set and cast a golden glow over the rolling hills, we felt like we've finally arrived.

Friday, April 23, 2010

They're like assholes.

I have a pet peeve. Many of them actually. In fact, Reece and I are learning a lot about one another's pet peeves, and we plan to compile a master list for your enjoyment. But that's for another time. Now, I would like to vent about one pet peeve: Opinions.

Everybody's got em. Alot of them.

One of the biggest things we looked forward to on this trip was the ability to fly by the seat of our pants. The opportunity to learn about a fantastic place from a fellow traveler, and actually go there instead of saying, "Oh that'd be nice but we have a flight to catch." What I didn't realize, is that opens us up to ALOT of opinions, differing and contradicting opinions, about the must-see and must avoid-destinations.

It's actually more stressful than you'd think not knowing where we are going. Granted, this is a fantastic problem to have and I am certainly not complaining. But waking up every day to a thousand decisions - what should we eat, where should we go, what do we do, where to next - get's a little overwhelming. Creatures of habit, it's still pretty mind-blowing not having a routine. And deciding between that "awesome little beachside town" and the "incredible rural forest retreat", between taking the Baz Bus or renting a car, between Mozambique or Malawi or both or neither, is enough to drive us mad. Throw in a few, "Malawi is AMAZING, it is NOT be missed" and "Malawi was a HUGE disappointment, SO not worth the trip", and we're lucky if we ever make it out of South Africa in the first place.

My favorite type of opinion, the one that really strikes my pet peeve chord, is the one from the resident know-it-all. You know him. Fairly well traveled. Fancies himself an expert on all things. And his advice, more often than not, is merely an opportunity to tell you about all of the things he has done. I appreciate the thought, sir, but I probably won't make it to that diamond mine at the end of the rainbow in Unicorn Town (where you volunteered teaching albino midgets to ride unicycles). And he REALLY wins the Peeve Award when he is forceful and authoritative in his opinions. "Skip such-and-such, it's much too touristy. Instead you need to go here and there and make sure you do this and call that person and stay here. Any straying from the itinerary I have layed out for you is a complete waste of time and your trip will never recover." Thanks dude, I'll make a note of it.

Wow, I've managed to work a unicyle into two blog entries.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Baz Day 12-14 & Accom #31

Remember that eco-lodge we were on our way to? Um, yeah. We got a little side-tracked. Change of plans.

We found it nearly impossible to get a reservation there. And en route, we met some fellows on the Baz Bus who spoke very highly of a town called Chintsa and the hostel they work for there. I use the term "work" loosely. Mostly they smoke a lot of pot and serve themselves from behind the bar.

Anyhow, the spontaneous adventurers that we are, we decided to take a detour. And boy are we glad we did. This place is amazing. Here is the hostel, slightly visible between the trees on this hillside.

It's a maze of accommodations, nestled in the forest overlooking the ocean. We've opted to rent a fully equiped "safari tent" here, and enjoy afternoons lounging in our deck chairs with an incredible view of Chinsta's picturesque cove.

The hostel has a fantastic pool and two bars, ping pong tables and volleyball courts, free canoes and surfboards to rent. Roof decks and balconies are sprinkled amongst the property, and the staff can arrange just about anything you could want to do. The food here is great too.

A 45 second walk from our bed finds us on a beautiful white sand stretch of beach, with crystal blue waters and not a single other person as far as the eye can see. It's pretty much paradise.

Our walk to the local market is across the river and down the beach. Quite the commute.

Oh, did I mention they have a spa with massages, a jacuzzi and sauna? In case you need to unwind after a stressful day of watching the waves roll in.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Hippo Backpackers
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
280 Rand (approx $38)/night

Are you getting tired of posts about hostels yet? I am. We're moving through places so quickly on the Baz Bus, I feel like I am writing more entries about where we're sleeping than what we're doing. Though, I can't really complain about the pace... In the past 11 days we've been wine tasting and shark diving, in a cave and on an ostich, surfing and safari-ing. It's the only way we could see such a vast part of the country in just under a month.

Anyhow, here is the place we stayed for one brief night in Port Elizabeth, before moving onto the Wild Coast.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Here, kitty kitty!

One part of our safari-venture day was so cool, it deserves it's own separate entry. The Kragga Kamma game park, our first visit on our tour, has a small fenced in area with three young tame cheetahs you can get to know a little better. Totally the highlight of my day.

Oudtshoorn & Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa

Ostriches, caves and waves. For photos of Oudtshoorn and Jeffrey's Bay, click HERE.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Baz Day 11: Port Elizabeth

Kruger National Park is the most popular place to do a safari in South Africa. It is the #3 tourist destination, after Cape Town's Waterfront complex and Table Mountain. This also means that it's remarkably over-hyped and incredibly expensive.

In our discusions with locals, we've learned that there are numerous game parks throughout the country where you can view all of the same animals for a fraction of the price. Two such parks happen to be en route from Jeffrey's Bay to our next stop, Port Elizabeth. The owner of Cristal Cove was kind enough to take us on an impromptu safari tour, and we were blessed with a beautiful day for wildlife viewing.

There is not much we care to see in Port Elizabeth, so we head out at the crack of dawn tomorrow for the rural Wild Coast. If all goes as planned, we will be in an electricity-free eco lodge for a few days. We'll miss you facebook.


Cristal Cove
Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa
225 Rand (approx $32)/night

I am starting to notice a theme in South Africa. We are loving the accommodations. Maybe it's cause we're stuck where the Baz Bus drops off, aka the more expensive options. Maybe it's cause South Africa just knows how a hostel is done. Maybe our standards are rapidly falling. Whatever the reason, we loved loved loved this place. A former furnished apartment complex (built by the friendly owner, Gary, for the droves of summer surfers), you basically rent one of the two bedrooms and share the common kitchen/living area. It felt like being in college all over again, hanging out on your mismatched couches watching Endless Summer with your roommates while the BBQ heats up. We were booked for just one night but decided to stay three. If it weren't for our tight bus schedule, we would have been sucked into this place for a LONG time.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Baz Day 8-10: Jeffrey's Bay

Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa (or J-Bay as they like to call it), is known as one of the top five surfing detinations in the world. Every summer, thousands of surfer bros descent upon it's shores for international competitions and the like. It was dreary and rainy when we were there, but that didn't stop Reece from taking the opportunity to get his feet wet. On his birthday he took his first surf lesson, and the day after I joined him on the windy beach to photograph him in action.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Today, Reece bids a tearful goodbye to his 20's (for the fourth time).

Happy birthday to my favorite adventure-seeking, mountain-climbing, wine-tasting, glaciar-hiking, shark-diving, picture-taking, white water-rafting, guinea pig-eating, sun-bathing, beer-drinking, cave-exploring, waterfall-swimming, mountain-biking, ostrich-riding, travel-loving companion.

You make the whole world even better. I love you :)

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Backpacker's Paradise
Oudtshorn, South Africa
270 (approx $38) and zero Rand /night

Here is a photo of our bed on the evening we arrived. Pretty, huh?

And here it is the next morning.



I don't recall if I wrote about our first encounter with bed bugs, back in Buenos Aires. Let's just say, it was disgusting. The worst part wasn't the bites themselves (well, those were pretty terrible), but the sleeplessness for a week after. We were like crackheads up all night, convinced there were bugs crawling all over our skin. Three hostels later and still getting new bites, we didn't know if we were carrying them with us or if the new ones were from mosquitos. We investigated, stressed and obsessed over it for days. Finally, the bites subsided and the sleep returned. We were relieved we wouldn't need to burn all of our belongings and come home.

Now, we are pretty diligent about checking for the little fuckers. So as we settled into our comfy little room and Reece felt the familiar tickle that something might be crawling on him, we were on our feet, flashlights in hand. The flashlights were unecessary however, cause we immediately noticed about a half dozen hateful critters crawling on the wall behind the bed. Our theory is that the tremendous amount of bug spray we'd coated ourselves with had sent them running for the hills.
We immediately alterted management and were moved into another room. Our new digs were free of bugs and free of charge.

The moral of the story however, is that you really can't anticipate where you'll encounter such misfortune. It has very little to do with the cleanliness of a place. Bedbugs aside, the hostel was great. But one person stays in one infested room for a while, and they spread the love to every new spot they visit. Kinda like herpes. Especially on a route like the one we're on - Thousands of people are hopping up and down the coast staying at the same handful of hostels along the way... it's a varitable orgy of infestation.

Anyhow, we're not gonna let it bother us too much. Luckily we got out of the first room fast and so far show no signs of having brought any eight-legged passengers with us. We continue to keep a keen eye out, and may sleep with a flashlight closeby just in case.

Oh yeah, and here are some photos of the rest of the hostel. Cute, huh?