When we eventually left Hermanus we moved on to Wilderness, the next stop along the Baz Bus route, and supposedly a pretty chilled place. To claw back some time we only booked to stay there for 1 night which when we arrived realised was plenty!
It was a beautiful spot with a nice sleepy little town but there wasn't much to do, and although our hostel was good it was empty. We walked into the nearby village and had a look round (which took 5 mins as there was nothing there!) Before sitting outside the only pub for an hour watching the cricket (that's how exciting this place was! :-) ). When we got back to the hostel we discovered a group of 15 or so 13 year olds had turned up on a school hockey tour and as I was a few wines down and feeling pretty sociable, I started chatting to one of the teachers who was in the kitchen making dinner. She was actually really nice and we spent a good couple of hours outside by the fire drinking more wine and chatting while she told us about life in South Africa. We had checked into a dorm but while we were outside the owner came out and started chatting to us as well and she gave us a free upgrade to an ensuite double so we could hide from all of the kids! It was really nice of her! I suspect she was 3 sheets to the wind herself as she kept hugging me for some reason! Still i'm happy to give a few hugs for a free upgrade! :-)
In the morning after we'd hid from the kids while they packed to leave, we got up and went out for a walk that the hostel manager had told us about the night before, to a cave nearby that was being run as a homeless shelter (after all the wine I can't remember much about the conversation so kept pointing things out to Grant that he already knew about! At least one of us was paying attention!)
To get to the cave you walked down an old no longer used train track, along the cliff edge next to the sea. At one point going over a rickety bridge about 50 meters long and about 25 meters above the sea, so it was pretty freaky! I wasn't convinced it was going to hold! When we got to the cave I was stunned by how beautiful it was, and how intricately done it was. It was decorated with thousands and thousands of little shells and stones. The guy who lived there, and ran the homeless shelter, came and met us outside and took us for a tour. He'd built shelves, beds, cupboards and pathways and even a kitchen out of things he'd found and although it was a cave with no doors, each area felt really private. I was very impressed with what
he had done. He was a bit odd, but I guess thats what you get for living in a cave! After the tour we carried on walking a bit further down the train track to the little town of Victoria Bay before heading back, over the scary bridge, to the hostel to chill in hammocks and read until the Baz Bus came to collect us.
Our next stop was Knysna, a popular destination along the garden route. We arrived in the afternoon and checked into a pretty crap and empty hostel. Luckily we had booked a double room for the night as the dorms looked pretty depressing, and in actual fact our room was pretty decent. After chilling out for a bit we went for a walk around and I was immediately aware that the atmosphere and safety felt a lot different from the places we had been so far. The town itself wasn't much to write home about either! No idea why it's so popular! After a bit of a walk around, it started to get dark and not wanting to be too far from the hostel we found a bar / restaurant that had live music outside and sat down for a couple of beers and a not very exciting dinner. The band were pretty good tho, playing oldy songs that I embarrassed Grant by singing along to and dancing in my chair :-)
The next day we had booked a trip to Knysna Elephant Sanctuary which although was expensive was definitely the highlight of the town, it was awesome. We were driven to the sanctuary by a private shuttle and then when we got to the sanctuary we bought buckets of fruit and were driven in a tractor to find the elephants. The sanctuary was set in massive grounds and the elephants were allowed to roam where ever they liked, and then at night were shut in a barn so they could be monitored for health ect and fed. Apparently they got themselves to the barn at the same time every night as they wanted food! It was actually a real sanctuary for orphaned elephants from the game parks in South Africa, rather than a glorified zoo, and you could tell the elephants were happy which was lovely to see. When we got to the elephants they knew we had food as they immediately lined up waiting for us to feed them! When the buckets were done the elephants walked off but you were allowed to follow them, and they were just about tame enough that they would let you touch them, a couple of times the bigger one's didn't look overly happy about it and freaked me out a bit but there was a guide with you to explain how to not annoy them. It was lovely, and we spent a couple of hours with them, watching them have mud baths and play with each other.
When we got back into town we wandered down to the waterfront which the hostel receptionist had recommended for somewhere to eat. It was a much nicer part of Knysna but with that comes cost so was also pretty expensive and we settled for a couple of tapas dishes for lunch, sitting by the lake. The Baz bus was arriving about 4pm so we took a nice slow walk back to the hostel to pick up our stuff and wait for the bus.
The bus took us to Jeffrey's bay, another popular destination, especially with teenagers and surfers. Apparently they host the world surfing championship there every year.
We had been told that it was an awesome hostel but very much a party hostel, and we got there to find it was exactly that! The hostel was lovely, sat right on the beach, with its own massive bar. We checked into a 4 person dorm, which luckily had no one else in it, and went straight to the bar to see what all the fuss was about. The bar was pretty rammed with people playing the ring of fire card game on one side (people who have been travelling will know what I mean!) and loads of 19 / 20 year olds get battered at the bar the other side. We sat in the middle feeling very old and not really sure if we were hoping to get into the party spirit or give up and go to bed! After a few rounds we started on the shots to try and join in and a few shots down one of the random 19/20 year old - who was actually 17! - plonked himself down at our table and started some random conversation. After that the night got pretty good (in between me shouting at all the 17 year olds, "you're half our age!") and although I'm sure it wasn't exactly deep conversation we ended up spending the evening with the kids getting battered and getting to bed at 4.30am, well done us! :-)
We were even more grateful that no one was in our dorm the next morning as we laid in bed feeling like s***e, managing to drag ourselves up about mid day and back to the bar, passed a couple of kids passed out on the grass in their clothes from the night before, for a fry up.
We'd ran out of money and needed some supplies so although we didn't feel much like it, after lunch we went for a walk into town to find an ATM and see what else was about. It was a Sunday so everything was shut and we ended up eventually finding a service station which had a shop with a few bits before heading back to the hostel to chill out in the garden in the sun. That night although we tried to stay up in the bar, the kids had left and there wasn't much going on, plus we're too old now to do 2 nights in a row, so admitted defeat and had an early night in our dorm, luckily with no one else still in it.
The Baz bus wasn't arriving until 8pm the next night so we had a full day to fill. As J'bay is a surfers town all of the major surfer type clothes company's; billabong, ripcurl, O'Neil etc, had factory outlets so we thought it would be a good opportunity to get some cheap clothes. We had a nice breakfast in the only cafe in town then wandered round the shops and Grant bought me a T-shirt and jumper for my birthday :-) There wasn't much else going on in the town so we walked along the beach watching the surfers then sat in the hostel garden again blogging until the bus arrived.
The Baz bus has compulsory stops as there is only one bus a day and it stops when it gets to 10pm. It also doesn't run every day so sometimes you get stuck somewhere for 2 days when you wouldn't normally stay that long. One of these places was Port Elizabeth, which we weren't that fussed about going to at all as we'd heard it wasn't that great a place, but as it was compulsory we thought we'd make the most of it and booked a double room instead of a dorm. We arrived late and checked into our room and were glad we had gone for the double, the room was massive, and had the biggest bathroom you'd ever seen, and more excitingly, had a TV!! It had been ages since we'd watched the telly!!
Being very unsociable we sat on our room, watching the movie channel while the others from the bus sat in the kitchen for a bit chatting, but we didn't feel guilty at all it was lovely!
Port Elizabeth has a reputation of not being a particularly safe place so we didn't want to venture too far the next day. Luckily we had booked a hostel in a pretty decent area, near the seafront with a nice walk to a shopping centre with cafes and a cinema. After trying for a nice lie in (we can't do it anymore! We're used to getting up too early. I so used to love getting up at lunch time!) we went for a walk along the coast, had a wander round the shopping centre and found a nice cheap cafe for lunch. We had been talking about going to the cinema for ages and we wanted to see World War Z so as there wasn't much else going on we took the opportunity and spent the afternoon in a completely empty cinema, which is quite strange but quite cool as well not having to whisper! I guess Tuesday afternoons aren't a popular cinema time! We were back at the hostel before it got dark for a pasta dinner, some internetting, a bit of sociability and another evening of watching movies in our room ready for a 7am pick up by the bus the next day!!