Holly and I are leaving Cape Town in just a few hours. We spent the past number of days driving east down along the Indian ocean, through coastal towns that have been manicured for tourists and past townships of corrugated iron shacks on the fringes of each of them. The physical beauty of the country is stunning around each turn of the road. We were either driving on the edge of rugged mountain slopes hugging the inside to avoid getting too close to a drop down to the ocean, or we were passing fruit and wine farms in the valley of mountains passing into a semi-dessert past dried-up ponds and flocks of ostriches.
We traveled at just the right time in South Africa: the slowest time for tourists all year. This worked out perfectly for us because we could find places to stay for under half their usual price, allowing us to spend two nights in sea-front guest houses. The first night we were in a two-story self-catering cottage made for 4-6 people with upper and lower decks facing the ocean. On the second night we stayed in a penthouse suite with a wrap-around deck, full glass walls and sliding doors, and a view east that provided an incredible view of the sunrise from our bed. I can’t imagine what this place would cost during peak season, but we paid much less than we could pay for any hotel room in Canada.
Our last night was spent in a small town called Montagu which is known for its dried fruit and wine vineyards. This town was really out in the mountains, and interesting enough had the same feel as some of the small towns in northern Ontario. We stayed at a guesthouse with its own brewery and walked the vacant streets at 8 o’clock at night. We did find, however, that there was a pool competition going on at Uncle Sam’s Pub, a place whose decor and customers reminded us of the Arlington hotel in Maynooth. The crowd ranged from 18-60 yrs old, and people moved slowly with their cigarettes and beer as they navigated from one person to the next while waiting their turn at the pool competition.
Later in the night we had a locally brewed beer with the owners of our guest house who told us their stories of how they came from Cape Town to Montagu. Hearing people’s personal stories of life in South Africa has been one of my favourite things to do here, as they all reveal something different about the country. This couple told us about dealing with the gangs and corrupt police as they ran a restaurant in Muizenburg, a popular surfing spot. They also spent three months working for a game reserve in the Northern Cape, but they had to quit that job because they couldn’t deal with the racism of their boss. They were now in Montagu trying to get into the tourist industry there. I am sure they will do well, as it was the one Holly and I picked after touring several other places to stay.
We have many more stories to tell from our road trip, but we will share them later, maybe in person.