South Africa #12 - Backpacking Chicks (II), Dreams are Made of Elephant Pee

We left off on the previous post with our lovely heroines arriving in Jeffrey's Bay (JBAY) expecting to find shelter and adventure. Little did they know... 

Day 7: JBAY, Addo Elephant Park

What Nadine and I looked like after a night at Island Boogers (gah, Vibe!)
Nadine and I tried our best to confine our driving times to the day light hours (for good reason), but we cruised into JBAY, the town in the Eastern Cape known internationally for their lekker waves and surfer chill vibe, in the early night. Previously, the first hostel/campground we inquired at in a town was the one we stayed at. Not in JBAY - the first one seemed to be in a state of chaos ("Ya, hey man, we don't have power, internet, phone service, but we might have a bed for you"), and the second one was the definition of 'dodgy' ("Lo, how about this one?" "Nadine, no way are we leaving Carlito here. It's so sketch I want to pick the locks on my own car"). So, we rolled into Island Shit (sorry! Vibe! Island Vibe is the name of the place!)... thunder crackles in the background. 

OK I'm being dramatic, but this place was awful with the exception of secure parking and some pretty good pizza. The bunks we stayed in were like 85% chance of bed bugs, the staff kept trying to touch and 'flirt' with us (I don't usually consider asking girls to 'ride me all night' flirting, but I can't think of another term), the showers were cold, etc. The WORST part however was the all night rave that happened outside our dorm with zero sound proofing. So when Nadine and I left for Addo at 5 AM after a sleepless night, we walked out to college students still raving it up... right outside our door (THANKS BROS). Nadine said we were due for a bad experience, so I guess I'm glad we confined all the bad of our trip to Island Vile (shoot! Island Vibe!).

Car + Elephant [from the internet]
But it's OK, because the 5 AM start (this time Nadine approved!) meant we got to Addo at 7 AM. The Addo Elephant Park is an enormous nature preserve outside Port Elizabeth where visitors can either do a self-drive safari or hire a guide. We opted to brave it with Carlito. Once again, #AfricanSafetyStandards, we paid our entrance fee, were given a 'map' of local restaurants outside the park (you would think a park map with the roads would have been useful), and not informed that honking at elephants or leaving the car was both extremely dangerous and prohibited. It's OK, there aren't pictures on the internet from elephant-car interactions like the one above at all.... !

"Hi, I know I'm totally adorable" 
If your heart didn't just melt, you probably don't have one
This was the coolest poo-rolling insect I've ever seen
Nothing slows down traffic like a herd of elephants
We had an amazing time in the park. We saw approximately 10 million warthogs (after the seventh one they are less exciting), zebras (!!!), oxes, dung beetles (which are freaking awesome for the record) and elephants ( > 60!). We saw individual elephants, herds, babies, teenagers, etc. For those of you who are my facebook friend, you've seen the video of the bull elephant walking toward our car and Nadine and I peeing our pants (in fear, for clarification if that wasn't obvious). We casually drove around the park for about 6 hours, following a herd of elephants for a bit and spending A LOT of time cooing at the baby zebra above.

Probably the coolest experience we had was just watching a watering hole for about an hour on our way out. First off, watching elephants drink water through their trunks is cool enough. However, when you sit and just watch for a while... the personalities emerge. For example, there was a teenage female elephant who was picking on the baby elephant shown above (the momma elephant didn't like that at all). A little fox, desperate to get water, played a game of chicken with the wart hogs for an hour. Nadine and I were kind of making fun of the fox for being such a wuss, but the fox was playing a game of survival in reality. A misstep meant his life... and those are high stakes at a watering hole.

Day 8: Oudtshoorn and Mountain Biking

Our buddy Daniel! Hi Daniel! 
From there, we were (understandably) exhausted and decided to head to our home for the night in Oudtshoorn after lunch at an amazing organic farmstall (how did we keep finding these?!?!). Our stay for the night in Oudtshoorn, known for their ostriches, was a place called 'Backpacker's Paradise', and by golly, it was paradise. Nadine ran into her crazy German friend she met in Cape Town at a hostel who had since then been mugged at gun point. It's kind of hard to follow that kind of story when he asked how trip had been ("Yeah, we just saw baby elephants today?")

I'm laughing in all of these pictures, that's how you know it was a good trip
We decided to do a 54 km mountain bike down a nearby mountain the next day before continuing along Route 62 to Hermanus. We picked up a friend for this portion of the trip - Daniel, an Australian guy who had been traveling the world for years. We had an amazing ride down here looking across the mountains and the plains. We saw many ostrich farms, and we stopped at one of them to get lunch (did you know 1 ostrich egg = 24 chicken eggs?!). Unfortunately, the restaurant didn't have ostrich omelettes, but Nadine did try an ostrich sandwich while her veg friend ate some carrot sticks.

After our somewhat leisurely bike ride home, it was once again time to move on... but as we were leaving, our hostel owner ran out and knocked on our window. We rolled it down, and he cryptically whispered "Stay tonight at a place called WarmWaterBerg Spa". So of course, Nadine and I thought this sounded like a great idea.

Day 9: WarmWaterBerg Spa and Barrydale

Thanks for the pro-tip Fern! 
Before we went to WWB, a woman at the fireplace the night before named Fern recommended we check out this 'cool rock formation place in the middle of nowhere'.  On a journey filled with totally random adventures, we decided why not. The pictures don't show it, but this place was breath taking. We drove for miles through these incredible and colorful rock formations that bent and twisted in all directions. All places have their beauty, but South Africa seems to have more than it's fair share sometimes ;)

It was hard to drive when there were such beautiful sunsets to watch :D 
Just as the sun was setting, we pulled into WarWaterBerg Spa, a spa resort with natural hot springs. Nadine and I were concerned that this meant "$$$", but we were AMAZED when they offered us a caravan for the same price as camping (which was less than what we paid at Island Crap!). This was the first time that I felt it was advantage to be two young women traveling together.. the lady at reception gave us a massive discount and she clearly just wanted to help the innocent heroines out in any way she can (cue a non-condescending "Bless Her!" from Nadine, haha!)

Not a rainforest, so no snake face!! 
Home sweet home!
I can't even make this up either... we dropped off our things at the caravan and went to the resort restaurant where we drank tea/beer, ate an amazing dinner, and watched lightning from an outdoor porch overlooking the mountain valley beneath the spa. Like really, it's amazing Nadine and I didn't start making out, that's like the stuff romantic movies are made of. We were too busy laughing and having fun instead while relaxing from a long day of biking. Of course after dinner, we went and relaxed in the hot springs, which were pretty close to perfect too, under a starry night sky. Then Nadine and I went back to our Caravan and read like and old married couple for a bit before we went to sleep.

Hipster Americano Nadine
The next day, I let Nadine sleep in and went for a morning stroll along some of the hiking trails as the sun rose in the desert (seriously, I have dreams about this kind of stuff). Nadine chilled in the hot springs (well, maybe not chilled... ) while I was off wandering. We then enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with some 10/10 omelettes (seriously bangin'!) and rooibos on the outdoor porch. Then we went for a nice desert hike before (extremely reluctantly) we left for our lunch stop town, Barrydale.

Does this come with the purchase of a book? 
We had heard rumors that Barrysale was a hip place, and since we're hip people, we thought we'd check it out. Quirky, definitely. We ate at another organic granola-esque place (but seriously, where did they all come from?) and then wandered through the town. We found book store called "House of Books" which was like 2 houses pseudo connected and filled to the brim with books and an extremely energetic and love-needy puppy prone to pee on the floor. Usually it was me pulling Nadine out of places, but she really had to drag me out of that book store (oh how the tides turned!).

Day 10: Montagu
Not a bad view to be woken up by your unfortunately morning-person friend
Our last night on the road... we spent on a pecan farm in Montagu, a town 2 hours from Hermanus famed for their climbing routes. Nadine and I split up (amicably!) for the night again, with Nadine sleeping out under the pecan trees with mountain vistas and I slept in a pretty cool dorm that was a converted Barn (but don't ask me about the crazy Germans in that dorm... seriously, South Africa has more than their fair share of crazy Germans too).

Before dinner, we wandered town and found ourselves drinking wine at Hick's Gallery. Sounds fancy right? Well Hick is a guy who has converted his entire house into a massive art gallery with his and 20+ other artists' works. It was amazing to just casually walk through someone's home and see art on every surface... it felt oddly weird and comfortable simultaneously. We then, once again, went to dinner and had men at nearby tables listen to our conversations (yeah, we mean you Tristan if you decide to read this blog)... seems to be another odd motif of this trip.

Yeah, wow, right? 
The last full day of our trip culminated in a 16 km hike on the Bloupont trail in the surrounding mountains of Montagu. It was an awesome hike, pushing us up into the mountains overlooking the town. There was some snake face going on, but overall, it was a beautiful but somewhat spooky hiking. We took a few detours for waterfalls, and made it back to the car just in time for the rain to start (sweet timing yo!). After enjoying the last moments of our trip in a coffee shop, we headed back to Hermanus, getting in late. I made Nadine pack her bag (our first fight... and it involved me saying "Don't make me wake you up at 5 AM" O.O).
Mountain girls just enjoying another perfect day :D 

Day 11: The End in Hermanus
Match made in heaven
On Nadine's last day in Hermanus, we returned Carlito (which was amazingly non-chaotic... we're still sorting out the bill from that rental car but I'm hoping the end of that saga is near). We got our last round of Americanos/Lattes and headed to the coast to look out on the ocean again once more together (tear!).

And then Nadine left... and of course, I miss her and our adventures terribly. Traveling together was an amazing experience not only for the content of this blog, but it really strengthened our friendship and helped us grow as people. It's amazing to find someone who sees you at your best/worst and still loves you through it, and Nadine and I have that. No silly, it doesn't need to be romantic, but I feel so completely lucky to have such a wonderful person as a close friend now. Here's to many more trips, Nadine and (a hopefully long) life time of adventures (hopefully several of them together!)  :)

I would highly recommend our trip along the Garden Route to any outdoors-loving person who has a great companion(s) and a yen for crazy adventures! As Nadine kept saying, I can't believe how much South Africa has exceeded expectations and how many terrific hikes/kayaks/bike rides we had. I think De Hoop was my favorite, but Addo and WarmWaterBerg Spa (along with every other aspect of  of the trip minus JBAY) are close seconds.

I am now in my last 9 days in Hermanus... there will be two more blog posts about my time here... Thanks everyone for reading!

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