O George this is the portal to the Garden Route, and not only is it the portal to this beautiful area but it must be the prettiest one in South Africa. When flying into George it’s normally with a wide sweep and you need to hold yourself back not to stay glued to the window. I guess if airline carriers had balconies you could hang over to get a better look; this would definitely be the place to do it. It is the portal of oceans, mountains, forest, farmlands and Karoo with fynbos synergies and a mumble jumble of smells on these salty air covered scrubs. Unspoilt by the human touch and with miles of natural land and beaches that you can visit without bumping into another soul, it all adds to the endless beauty that the area has to offer, however , do not be to misled, George is not without the infrastructure of modern man. But we are not here to shop; we are here to venture into the unmistakable allurement of this region. So let’s take a closer look at what it has to offer. Wearing a pair of slip slops and throwing some comfortable walking shoes into a backpack we head out to the seaside, the countryside and the back roads of George.
Our first stop is Wilderness’ famous outlook called Dolphin Point, it overlooks the Kaaiman’s River Mouth and the rusty remembrance of the Kaaiman’s train bridge that has piggybacked many tourists along this old scenic track. The dark waters of the Kaaiman’s and the ocean blues meet here at the base of its foundations, along with pods of dolphins and a few paragliders that hang over the point during the summer season, you only can imagine what it must be like to see this sight for the first time. A definite must see, it’s like an introduction to the George area.
We then wandered into the village of Wilderness and took the picturesque drive to the viewpoint called Map of Africa; it is here that you can see how the Kaaiman’s has cut its way through rock and stone to shape the point of Africa, it’s like the river knew that we will one day be looking down on her from above. It’s lush and green with natural forest and you can hear the birds sounds echoing from lower down while watching the dark river winds its way around the loving curves of this African shape.
After taking in all that beauty we meander our way back to the small Wilderness village and soothe our thirst with an ice cold drink and some dinner at a local restaurant called Cocomo and this while listening to the strumming sounds of a guy and a guitar
We end our day at Surfari, a hostel type of accommodation, elevated over Victoria Bay, also known in the surfer’s community as Vic Bay. First, you think “hostel” but don’t be fooled, this little place with it’s a clean edged finishes, retro decor, and crisp white linen puts it into a category of its own, maybe something like a 5-star backpackers. A very cool place indeed and with a fabulous view and throw in a room with a huge comfortable double bed, en-suite bathroom and it’s just what one needs when travelling to adventure paradise. Surfari has a communal kitchen in typical backpacker’s style, with its complimentary coffee and tea, which always comes in handy. But what I love about this place is that you meet other like-minded travellers and chat about your travels or about the swell and the righthand break at Vic Bay.
Early morning and the sun edges its way through my window, I bolt straight up, scramble for some kit to wear, throw it on, dash out the door with camera and phone in hand. A sunrise at Vic Bay is not to be missed. The east facing bay captures this moment perfectly and upon arrival we found a couple of sleepy surfers are already kitted up and all set to take on the crispy ocean. You cannot describe sunrise to people, you just have to soak it in and watch as the day unfolds into another picture display of colour. I understand why people love this place so much, it’s a personal feel, almost like a community of surf babes and dudes, of ALL ages, then throw in a couple of fisherman with tall tales, as few holiday makers and organise a “braai”. That’s Vic Bay!!
After a hot steamy shower we left Vic Bay and head out for the day. Our next stop is the Hoekwill Country Café for a wholesome breakfast and good coffee. And man, do people in this region know about good coffee! There is a large coffee culture in the Garden Route and it definitely shows; no matter where you stop there is always a fine coffee on offer.
Sitting at this corner cafe relishing every bite of my delicious meal I notice that most people walk, run or cycle here. Although the small parking lot is full of cars, most people arrive on foot, shopping bag in hand, purchasing local produce and chit chatting with each other before continuing with their daily lives. I had to, of course, leave with freshly baked bread under the arm before hitting the 7 Passes Road towards the start of the Outeniqua Hiking Trail that begins at the foothold of this mountain range, in a place called Beervlei.
Beervlei is neatly nestled at the edge of a pine forest and host one of SANParks offices. This is where you leave your vehicle and head up through the pines forest to start of the hike. The trail is a 7 day full on backpacking trip over and around the Outeniqua Mountains, with scenic drop downs into valleys and breathtaking elevated views. Or you can do one or two hour hikes here and just enjoy indigenous forest with trees that are almost a thousand years old and is surrounded by delicate intricate structures of moss, ferns and fungi.
Once in the forest you are left in wonder as the sunlight filters through the maze of greenery and leaves a magical glow all around. Hiking in the area is a definite do, even a short forest stroll is recommend, it’s just good for the soul.
Next we head back to the town of George, and travel along the 7 Passes Road built by Thomas Baine in the late 1800’s, it’s an undersized road but a very scenic drive, and every now and then you stop at one of the pass crossings and admire the bridge building of that time. Watching the dark tannin water flow under these historical bridges, it reminds me that it’s due to the lack of limestone in the area that the water never changes colour here. Yet you can still cup you hand into it the river and drink the sweet coca cola like water.
Barely back in town and we wind ourselves back up the Outeniqua Pass towards the northern slopes of this mountain range, for a stopover at a farm stall called Hop Valley. This little spot is very well-liked by the local community and if a local whispers in your ear about a place you have go to, well you go.
It’s not a typical farm stall, first of all, its smack bang in the middle of hops country, so everything you drink has some form of fermentation and beer aspect to it. I immediately grab a ginger beer, as it appeals to the old fashioned farm girl in me, but there is a variety of other interesting fermented drinks you can try out, among them the famous Khoi “karrie” beer that is made from honey, so pick and choose your favourite flavour as you go along.
On the other end of the farm stall, tucked in the corner, is a little section where they make pizza. It is here that Bobby and Ria bring forth their slices of delicious oven baked Italian pizza. Order a few and sit under the trees while you sip on a tall locally produced drinks.
We had to drag ourselves away from here as the next stop awaits us, Herold Wines.
An interesting little wine farm located on the Montagu Pass, where the sunlight caresses the northern slopes of Cradock Peak and the Karoo starts edging its way into the fynbos district. Originally a hops farm it now flourishes as a wine farm after the first vines were rooted here in 1999. Herold Wine Farm was not without its challenges, namely bush pigs, birds and baboons being the biggest ones and it was a rather lengthy process that eventually brought them into the synergy of nature versus man.
The vines here grow at 650m to 700m above sea level, in the changing seasons of the Outeniqua, making it on of the highest positioned wine farms in South Africa. Herold has a homely warm farm type environment where you can sit and chat away with the darling of the tasting room, Ingrid and take in her knowledge of the wines and the area. Herold Wines also offer a few guest cottages, so if you feel like kicking off your shoes and relaxing in this mountainous environment of the Outeniqua, with numerous hiking paths and bird life, this is definitely the place.
After hopping back in the car we decided to wind our way back to George along the historical Montagu Mountain Pass that curves through this area like a large snake, it is a beautiful drive and recommended for the adventurous wanderer that visits the area.
Beer tasting awaits us in George and besides, what’s the point of visiting hops country if you can’t at least have a craft beer made right here in the hops valley region.
Robertson Craft Brewery is where we have our last stop for some beer tasting. Beer with tones of citrus, banana, and other interesting flavours delight the tastebud. I love beer, and the Robertson Brewery is right up my alley, sipping on the tasters and rolling them around in your mouth until you find one that agrees with your palate. Then, of course, ordering tall ale and having a chat to Kevin Robertson about his beer making and all the craft beers that are popping up in the area. It definitely is such a treat enjoying this simple pleasure of ancient nectar and the philosophy behind it. A good way to end a day ….
George a place to visit, to step back in time, to enjoy the old fashioned hospitality of people and a place to just breath …
‘Thank you to Cheapflights for making our #CheapflightsExplorers trip around George and the Wilderness possible.”
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