One year travelling anniversary in beautiful South Africa & a lot of Elephants

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February 17th 2018
Published: February 17th 2018
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So it’s been a year now since we left our comfortable work-hard-play-hard lives in London, where life was more or less all about work and trying to spend our free time as best as we could. We traded it in for another type of life, where now there is no work at all and all we do is travel.

To travel sometimes feels a bit like work we have to admit. For us it is clearly something different than holidays. We have been on the road travelling through 14 countries and we have stayed in 128 different places. We travelled 46.337 kilometres in total of which 22.100 with flights meaning around 24.000 over land and sea. The longest day of travelling by bus was 26 hours but we got really used to travelling long distances and we have all the time of the world so it did not matter at all. Moving every two or three days on average means we had to find a place to stay and make it our home 128 times this year which can be quite hard and tiring actually. We don’t miss home and the life that comes with it but we do miss our family and friends a lot.

Until now we have spent less than €91 on average a day for the two of us. For this relatively small amount we have tried to live a life that is simple but luxurious at the same time. It has been absolutely priceless to have all these experiences, visit all these beautiful places and meet all these wonderful people. We have managed to live this life on quite a tight budget, including some cheaper (El Salvador; € 53.10 average a day) and some more expensive countries (Namibia; € 150.77 average a day), including flights and rental cars, including buying a small tent (€53) at the local supermarket to save money on accommodation, including a fancy meal at one of the best restaurants of the world but also including some of the nicest and cheapest meals we could find (like a €20 lobster meal for two), including almost always having our laundry done (max €5 for a load) and including the necessary haircuts (not more than €3), including the best sunset beers at the Caribbean and getting a taste of the most beautiful wines in countries we did not even know they produced wine. Some moments we have to pinch each other and check with ourselves this is real because over and over it feels just unbelievable we are doing this and we have the biggest luxury of all: unlimited time.

The past month was again beautiful and passed by rather quickly and smoothly. We took our time at Bloubergstrand, close to Cape Town, relaxing and doing some great kite surfing at a famous spot with the Table Mountain view. We spent the week with a wonderful South African family via AirBNB which felt very welcoming and was also interesting to see how they live. Both white (and this something you apparently only mention in South Africa) but coming from different backgrounds (British and Boers) the man and woman had very different ideas about a lot of things in life in South Africa. They invited us for a braai which was very nice and we could see how their religions still have quite a lot of impact on life.

We then picked up Judiths’ parents in Cape Town, who had travelled for three weeks in South Africa and we spent an amazing week together, catching up and just enjoying each others’ company. We visited some beautiful wineries and we had the best meals together as a family, which after such a long time both was well needed and felt as good as if it was only a month ago we saw each other. We visited Robben Island together where the stories of the guide and former guard and the actual visit of the cellblocks and quarries made quite an impression. We had a few good family days at the beach and some fine dining. Saying goodbye was hard.

After Judiths’ parents left we swapped our rental car for a smaller one, packed everything, said goodbye to Wilco and hit the road. We travelled to the southernmost part of the continent and then up to the beautiful route 62 with stunning colonial towns like Swellendam with interesting but not always very beautiful history. We still feel very uncomfortable about the history of apartheid and slavery and the impact it still has on the South Africa of today.

We drove up some high mountain passes and through gorgeous canyons close to Oudtshoorn where we saw a lot of ostriches, had their egg for breakfast and ate their meat from the braai. We visited the Cango Caves which we never heard about before but were absolutely stunning and crawling through narrow caves was adventurous. We had lunch with some Dutch men we met at the caves and had a lunch spot overlooking some hippos in a waterhole.

We also met up with a German couple we met a few years ago in the Oman desert, what are the odds! They are travelling as well and it was cool to share stories and experiences over a glass of wine and braai.

From Oudtshoorn we drove to Knysna where we met with Hans and Dini, they are a lovely couple from the Netherlands, Hans was my (Merijn) dads’ best mate. Hans and Dini spend a few months every year on the sunny side of the world. It was great to see them and they enthusiastically showed us around Knysna and we had a great dinner and wonderful lunch together while catching up and sharing stories about our current lives.

We headed to Plettenberg Baai where we camped at a great backpackers place and we spent a day at the beach and a day hiking the Robberg. The hike was a good 4 hour hike around a beautiful rocky peninsula surrounded by clear water with hundreds of sea lions swimming and playing around.

Next was Nature Valley where we stayed at a bush campsite at Wild Spirit, a very nice place to stay, where the nicest people work and travellers meet. We pitched our small tent in the bush, which felt like true wilderness and found a scorpion under our tent the next morning. Judith joined an aerial yoga class as well as participated in Biodanza, both a first!

We hiked down the valley through fijnbos and old forests to the beach.

From Nature Valley we went to Tsitsikamma, which is the National Park in the next valley. Here we pitched our tent at the most beautiful spot possible, right at the wild shore of the rocky coastline. We kind of started to like this whole camping thing but the last night early in the morning it became very windy and a thunder storm was approaching so we quickly packed all our stuff including the tent before breakfast and one tent pole broke so we had to fix it with duct tape.

At Jeffreys’ Bay we got a nice room in a very social hostel Ubuntu, where every night they light the braai and we met a bunch of friendly travellers while eating our boerewors (farmer sausage) from the braai. This surfer town has some factory outlet stores where we replaced some of the worn shirts we had been wearing for 12 months. This felt like a happy shopping spree.

Then we ended up at Addo Elephant park where we could self-drive through the park, spotting mainly elephants but also all sorts of antelopes, lots of pumbaas (warthogs), zebras and bufffalos. We made three DIY game drives at different times of the day, and it was incredible to see so many elephants, some huge and very close, some babies escorted by their moms, some lone and some herds of a hundred animals. At the bonfire at the hostel we celebrated our one year travelling anniversary with a Rust & Vrede wine we were given by Judith’s parents.

After Addo we went to Graaff-Reinet where we visited the Camdeboo National park with spectacular views and geological formations that took about 300 million years to become what they are now. At Graaff-Reinet we went out for dinner at Valentines day and again celebrated life.

We continued to Hogsback after visiting the Mountain Zebra National Park, where we drove our small rental car through the park trying to spot one of the seven lions. We did not find the lions but again we were impressed by the wildlife and nature around us and of course all the beautiful zebras living in this park. Hogsback is supposed to be very beautiful and it is said that Lord of the Rings was inspired by its surroundings, but because it was cold, foggy and rainy and because this is not our thing we decided to move on to Chintsa after a nice pizza night at the bonfire outside the hostel.

At Chintsa we got back to camping, at a lovely bush campsite, close to the beach. This is where we are now, writing and waiting for the sun to show up so that we can go to the beach.

Additional photos below
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23rd February 2018

South Africa
We will be traveling to South Africa in the fall. Enjoyed reading along on your travels. MJ

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