Road Trip with Bae (Or Your Girl Gang!)

It’s that time of year when you start think­ing about your De­cem­ber break. Travel blog­ger Natalie Roos (@tail­so­famer­maid) gives you an in­side guide to the ul­ti­mate local road trip – from Cape Town to Cof­fee Bay

Cosmopolitan (South Africa) - - TRAVEL -

If the idea of mixing up beach days with bungee jump­ing sounds good to you, a trip up the Wild Coast is per­fect. My BF and I spent a week driv­ing from the Cape mountains through the green forests of Na­ture’s Val­ley, and up the Wild Coast to the rolling hills of Cof­fee Bay. We camped for most of the trip but stayed in ho­tels and guest­houses when we felt like we needed a long, hot shower.

We lis­tened to loads of pod­casts, stop­ping at lit­tle farm stalls for hot cof­fee and toasties along the way. Much of the trip didn’t go as planned, but that’s part of the ad­ven­ture – the best road trips are never over-planned. We had a ba­sic idea of what we wanted to see and we had a few book­ings, but we also had the free­dom to spend ex­tra time in places we loved, and leave early if we’d had enough.

Part 1 Cape Town to Na­ture’s Val­ley 550km | 6,5 hours

Na­ture’s Val­ley is a beau­ti­fully lush part of South Africa, where trees grow to record heights and wa­ter­falls tum­ble within the dense for­est. Wild Spirit Back­pack­ers Lodge is world-fa­mous, and vis­ited by in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers and lo­cals all year round. They have diff—er­ent accommodation op­tions, from camp sites to dorm rooms and even sa­fari tents, which have proper beds and electric lights. They do de­li­cious meat and veg­gie meals (book­ing in ad­vance is essential), but there’s also a farm stall across the road that stocks local cheese and fresh bread, fruit and veg­gies. Although the crowd is very hip­pie (think drum cir­cles around the ˜ire and free con­certs per­formed by travelling am­a­teur mu­si­cians), there are stun­ning beaches and hik­ing trails in the area, so days can be spent re­lax­ing or get­ting ac­tive. THE BEST PART The ex­pan­sive views of the for­est from the deck, and the speci˜fic smell of be­ing in the Tsit­sikamma for­est. There’s also a water­fall and stun­ning rock pools on the prop­erty for icy dips. ACCOMMODATION Wild Spirit Back­pack­ers Lodge: dorms from R170 per night, camp sites from R100 per night, pri­vate rooms from R500 per night, sa­fari tents from R360 per night. Wild­spir­it­lodge.co.za TRAVEL TIP Stop at Baleia Wines ( Baleiaw­ines.com) near Rivers­dale when you drive through. Also, make sure your food is locked up in the camp site to keep out ran­sack­ing ba­boons.

Part 2 Na­ture’s Val­ley to Port Al­fred 355 km | 3,5 hours

Port Al­fred is a small coastal town with a stun­ning river where you can swim, ski and wake­board. We rented a lit­tle house­boat from House­boats Port Al­fred: they’re rented on a self- drive ba­sis, and even if you don’t have a skipper’s li­cence, you can get one when you get there. (If you don’t know how to drive a boat, you get the hang of it very quickly.) The Kowie River is about 13km long but you can’t get to the ocean from the house­boat-safe route, so you don’t have to worry about be­ing dragged out into the deep be­yond. It’s per­fect for cruis­ing – or for drop­ping an­chor and re­lax­ing. We spent our time tan­ning, swim­ming, los­ing my hat in the river and gen­er­ally just hang­ing out. Although it’s not lux­u­ri­ous, the boat is clean and well kept, and has ev­ery­thing you need for a lit­tle break à deux.

THE BEST PART Sit­ting on the boat with a cold G&T, watch­ing the sun go down over the river. ACCOMMODATION House­boats Port Al­fred: from R1‚400 per night (up to R2‚800 per night over Christ­mas). House­boat­sportal­fred.co.za TRAVEL TIP Make sure you check the weather fore­cast (and es­pe­cially the wind) be­fore book­ing.

Part 3 Port Al­fred to Mor­gans Bay 275 km | 3,5 hours

We de­cided last-minute to spend a night half­way to our next des­ti­na­tion (Co“ee Bay). It turned out to be the best de­ci­sion of our trip – the half­way spot hap­pens to be a lit­tle coastal town called Mor­gans Bay. This small vil­lage is a favourite hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion for gen­er­a­tions of South African fam­i­lies, and af­ter vis­it­ing my­self it’s easy to see why: the beach is beau­ti­ful and ex­pan­sive, the peo­ple are friendly, and there’s an awe­some small-town vibe. For lunch, we dragged our­selves away from the waves for a few cock­tails and snacks at The Deck, which was packed with tanned hol­i­day-mak­ers. To camp, we found a spot at the truly won­der­ful Yel­low­wood For­est, just a kilo­me­tre away from the beach. The camp­ing grounds are in­cred­i­bly well cared for by the own­ers (who live on site). The bathrooms are clean, and there’s a lovely restau­rant where you can get pizza and beer.

THE BEST PART There’s a nat­u­ral pool a cou­ple of hun­dred me­tres from the camp site – great for a post-beach dip be­tween the trees. ACCOMMODATION Yel­low­wood For­est: camp­ing from R150 per night, fam­ily cot­tage from R750 per night, loft from R275 per night, bush camp from R340 per night. Yel­low­wood­for­est.co.za TRAVEL TIP Yel­low­wood For­est is a fam­ily-friendly camp site, so it’s not a big nightlife spot. We didn’t mind be­cause we were su­per- ex­cited to get, like, 10 hours of sleep on our hol­i­day – but if you’re look­ing for a party, try the other camp site near the beach.

Part 4 Mor­gans Bay to Co ee Bay 280 km | 4 hours

Re­turn vis­i­tors love Coff“ee Bay pas­sion­ately, and I’ve been hear­ing about its magic for years. It’s a small place, known for cows roam­ing the wild beaches, tra­di­tional huts on the sur­round­ing hills and warm wa­ter. It’s very pop­u­lar with surfers and no­mads, so there are some great back­pack­ers and camp sites to choose from. Make sure you book su­per-early, be­cause by the time we tried to book in May last year, al­most ev­ery­thing was full for New Year’s! We ended up at Coff“ee Bay Camp Site, which is right next to the beach. If back­pack­ers slam­ming te­qui­las at break­fast isn’t re­ally the vibe you’re af­ter, this one is for you – but if you want a jol, I highly rec­om­mend Co“ffee Shack Back­pack­ers ( Co ee­shack.co.za).

THE BEST PART I loved the beach. It’s not too crowded, even at the busiest time of year, and the wa­ter is the per­fect stay-in-and-swim tem­per­a­ture. ACCOMMODATION Coff“ee Bay Camp Site: camp­ing from R150 per night. Go­ing­where.co.za/co ee­bay TRAVEL TIP Even if you try to book ahead and ev­ery­thing is full, Coff“ee Bay is still worth vis­it­ing. There are al­ways can­cel­la­tions, and most places can make space for you. We ate a huge break­fast at Coff“ee Shack ev­ery morn­ing for R45. If you don’t want to pay bar prices, there’s a tav­ern that sells cheap beer nearby – just ask any­one to di­rect you. We also went to Hole in the Wall at sun­rise and it was re­ally quiet and ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful.

Co f e Ba Ca p Si e i d b a t u , a a h r h b t e b

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