Thursday, June 07, 2007

Off the Beaten Track: Stillbaai and Gouritzmond

I have this fantastic, indispensable travel companion for South Africa, called Touring in South Africa. It's such a great resource for road trips, but not surprisingly, there are lots of great road trips that you won't find in the book - one of which, we stumbled upon yesterday.

My in-laws stayed in Stillbaai a few months back. Since I hadn't yet been there, and it's just over an hour away (from where we live in Mossel Bay), I suggested they take us there for the day. I wasn't expecting much, since all I've heard about Stillbaai is that it's "very, very quiet".

The nice thing about having low expectations, is that your often pleasantly surprised. Stillbaai's remoteness makes it a safe, clean little town, with incredible beaches and and extensive network of coastal hikes. As far as eating is concerned, I'd suggest bringing a picnic lunch. The café we ate at ("Matchbox") had a nice ambiance, but the meals and service left a lot to be desired. It was a great spot for kids though; the little enclosed playground, complete with chickens and ducks, was great fun for Lukas, and was surprisingly tidy (are the birds potty trained?).

Not wanting to take the same route back, I called a friend to see if the coastal route (marked ("Gouritzmond") was safe to take. She said it was a "very good road" - which I understood to mean "paved". Wrong.

Although a good portion of the road is gravel, it was so beautiful that we soon forgot that we were on a dirt road. And for most of the journey, we had the road to ourselves, allowing us to stop whenever we wanted for photos and fresh air. The air smelled sweet, like honey, which we soon realized was coming from the white flowers lining the side of the road. Coupled with the protea-filled fields (which were in full bloom), and large flock of Blue Cranes (which is coincidentally the South African National Bird), the journey was truly a full-sensory experience. We enjoyed every minute of the trip, and were so glad that we decided to take the road less traveled.

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