Garden Route – Day 2 (Jeffrey’s Bay to Keurboomstrand)

Our next overnight stop is Keurboomstrand / Plettenberg Bay. It seems like there are a TON of great activities in that area but to get there from Port Elizabeth is a 2.5 hour drive (which in Canada isn’t a big deal, but considering the WHOLE garden route is around 9 hours, it’s a big deal). To help break up the trip a bit, we decided to stop in Jeffrey’s Bay for some surf action.

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Day 2 = PORT ELIZABETH > JEFFREY’S BAY > KEURBOOMSTRAND

Where? Arch Rock Chalets, Keurboomstrand, SA (http://www.archrock.co.za/plett_forest_cottage.php)

What? Lots of Driving. Surfing with Dane at Jeffrey’s Bay (http://surf-jbay.co.za/surf-lessons-jeffreys-bay/)

ITINERARY

9:00 am – Back to the airport to rent a car

10:30 am – Leave the airport towards Jeffrey’s Bay

12:00 pm –  2 hour Private Surf Lessons in Jeffrey’s Bay

2:30 pm – Off to Keurboomstrand

4:30 pm – Arrival at Arch Rock’s Forest Cottage for the night

Well to begin our day, we had to rent a car at the airport which took, as long as I expected (forever). We were able to get a little compact which is good because we were hoping to save on gas. Having the driver sit on the right side of the car and driving on the left side of the road….Terrifying. Probably not the best time to learn, however Port Elizabeth is pretty tame compared to other major South African cities. Within the first 3 minutes of leaving the airport the three of us were already bickering. The GPS was confusing and as co-pilot it was my job to interpret it. Let’s just say I didn’t do a great job..

We arrived in Jeffrey’s Bay (in one piece i might add) a bit early for our surf lesson so we wandered the beaches. We chose to stop at Jeffrey’s Bay because it was rated the second best surfing destination in the world. Apparently every year Billabong hosts a surf competition here because the waves are enormous. Originally we had contacted Wavecrest Surf School to do lessons (www.wavecrestsurfschool.co.za) and chatted with Andrew who was great about getting back to our enquiry and he even offered to do a private lesson since the set schedule didn’t really fit our timeline. We decided to go with Dane from Surf J-Bay instead because it was cheaper (did I mention how cheap we are?). Dane was really friendly and was great about slotting us in for our private lesson. He brought a collection of wetsuits that we rifled through before finding ones that fit. We also had a choice of a few different boards and found ones we liked pretty quickly.

Jessi had never been surfing and so Dane spent most of his time with her, while Dan and I hopped to it. Having only ever surfed in Tofino, on the coast of Vancouver Island, these waves proved a challenge. In fact it was a brutally windy day and the waves just pounded us relentlessly. I had around 5 “oh my god I am going to drown” moments during our session, but always came out alive (obviously). We were basically in the ‘kiddie pool’ section of the beach, so I can only imagine how crazy the waves are where the pros surf. We were able to get Dane to snap a quick photo of us at the very end, he offered to take some while we were actually surfing, but I was too nervous about leaving my DSLR on the beach unattended, and even more nervous about bringing it near the water.

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Afterwards we headed off to Keurboomstrand, an hour and a half drive away. Along the drive we passed through Tsitsikamma National Park and boy do I ever regret not booking activities / accommodation here. The park was unbelievably beautiful with the ocean to the South and lush forests, rocky crags and waterfalls to the North, we were disappointed we couldn’t stop to explore a bit. It is definitely on my list of places to go if ever I return to this beautiful country (http://www.tsitsikamma.info).

We arrived in Keurboomstrand and had great difficulty locating Arch Rock’s main office. Keurboomstrand itself is very small and straightforward, but I think there needs to be a bit more signage for this place. We eventually found our way to the main office and were greeted by the owners who directed us to our Forest Cottage.

ImageWe had a beautiful yard in front of the cottage with a fire pit and benches and then we could walk a short distance to get to the beach behind our place. I have come to the decision that self-catering cottages are the BEST option while traveling. Personally I feel ill if I eat at restaurants too often and I like to stay somewhere with lots of space, and these cottages provide both – You can buy all of your own groceries and cook your own meals (and save a bundle, I might add) and you always have a nice big common room, kitchen and bedroom(s) to lounge in.

After basking in the beauty of our accommodation and cooking up a quick meal, we took a hike down to the beach to watch the sunset. It was pretty quiet down at the water’s edge and the rocky cliffs were stunning in the orange glow of the dying sun.

ImageIf you are wearing sturdy footwear you can even crawl around the rocky outcrops for some spectacular views. There was also this great wooden boardwalk that gave us a nice view of the sea.

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We wanted to get a shot with the three of us, and it took a while before we saw another human. It turned out it was an extremely drunk fisherman, but considering how wasted he was, the picture was actually pretty decent!

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We then returned to the cottage, and while I was showering, I found a spider with long spindly legs hanging there. I was horrified (yes I have an irrational fear of arachnids) but the most horrifying part was that i noticed it resembled a spider that we had been warned about by a South African we met on our travels. It had a small elongate body, and long legs with white dots at the joints. At the time I didn’t even think to look it up, although I probably couldn’t have because the wifi was only available during certain times and you had to sit outside the reception area to access it unfortunately. So I became paranoid and searched the whole cottage in case there were more. I lost count after I discovered 20 of the same spider! They were hiding under lamp shades, under the beds, behind shelves and dressers too. I didn’t think I was going to be able to sleep, in fact I worked Jessi into a tizzy with my paranoia and the two of us were a wreck. Dan was unfazed, and found our fear both unfounded and annoying. We all slept, and survived the night. To say we were thankful to be spending only one night in this cottage was an understatement. However, I would like to note that apart from the ‘spider incident’ we LOVED this cottage and location, and I still haven’t found any evidence support the notion that these were ‘killer spiders’.

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