I was recently invited to join a 5-day #shotleft excursion to the National Arts Festival in Makhanda, Eastern Cape. This journey had a group of us, exploring the Garden Route with multiple pitstops from George to Makhanda. Trust that we discovered interesting spots along the way, each one providing a unique South African experience.
This is what we got up to:
We landed at George Airport and after an hourlong drive, this was our first stop. Knysna is in the Western Cape province and popular for its outdoor activities like boat cruises, kayaking, surfing and paragliding. Got off the shuttle and checked into a restaurant named Cruise Café, for a quick bite. It offered a cool environment with a deck overlooking the Knysna Lagoon. Their menu consisted out of seafood and modern cuisine, spoilt for choice, I was left unsure of what to eat, so made it a point to convince everyone else to order different dishes, so that I could taste a bit of everything from their plates. Some of the top selections were Blue Cheese Spring Rolls, Venison Samoosas, Venison Fillet with grilled vegetables herb infused couscous and port sauce, Calamari and good ol’ Fish and Chips.
Also went for a sunset cruise on a paddle-cruiser, this was an unforgettable 90 minute experience, that had us in a relaxed atmoshphere with yummy sundowners on hand whilst taking in incredible 360 lagoon views.
After the sunset cruise in Knysna, we drove for 30 minutes towards Plettenberg Bay and overnighted at Redbourne Country Lodge, a 4-star establishment with amazing views of fynbos. Our welcome dinner is what stood out for me, because it was a classic braai buffet prepared with love by their in-house chef Sifundo, we enjoyed mucnhing on an assortment of meats and salads. Also appreciated that our rooms were spacious, clean and comfortable. Making for a peaceful night’s rest before hitting the road again.
Our drive continued for an hour and we finally made it to Tsitsikamma otherwise known as the ”Garden of the Garden Route” this marked our entry into the Eastern Cape – The Adventure Province, trust that this part of our experience gave us an adrenaline rush. A lot of activities were on offer, we took up a 60 minute Tsitsikamma Segway Tour, which began with a 15 minute training session then we embarked on a journey into the Storms River Village, ended on a route that had us two-wheeling in the indegious forest.
Another highlight was bungee jumping at the Bloukrans Bridge, which happens to be the highest commercial bridge in the world. We ziplined to the jump point, got harnessed according to our weight, danced to ease the nerves then plunged into the air to embrace nature’s beauty from 216m high. Here’s a full list of activities in the area.
ST FRANCIS BAY
This made for our fourth spot, only a 90 minute drive from Tsitsikamma. We overnighted here and indulged in amazing seafood at Christy’s Seafood and Grill for dinner. Everything was fresh and expertly prepared. I would recommend the following: a) for apptisers, Oysters served on ice with lemon slices and Tobasco Sauce or the Mussel Pot in a garlic and creamy white wine sauce b) for mains definitely have to go for the Captain’s Seafood Platter for 2 made up of Hake Goujons, Line Fish, Fried Calamari Strips and Heads, Grilled Calamari Tubes, Mussels and Large Prawns or the P2 Sushi Combo which consisted out of Sashimi, Nigiri, Roses, California Rolls, Rainbow Rolls and Maki.
Off to Jay-Bay we went for more adventure. I have always known it for its surfing events, but had a different activity planned for us on this trip. It took about 30 minutes to reach Featherfoot Horse Riding and Beach Trails. This is where we got matched with horses depending on skill level(beginner, intermediate and advanced), hopped on their backs and headed to the beach for a chilled 2 hour ride. We passed through indigenous fynbos and crossed a river and even spotted flamingos. Definitely something to try!
After an hour on the road, we arrived in this major port to discover a dope food spot named Two Olives Restaurant and Tapas Bar. This restaurant totally restored my faith in PE, as my previous experiences had no highlights beyond spotting churches on almost every corner. Two Olives’s menu had tapas and traditional food options and we tried most of what they had to offer. Top selections were the Tempura Prawns with a ponzo dipping sauce, Braised Oxtail served with puree mash and carrots, Portuguese Trinchado (spicy beef stew in red wine with olives), Lamb pizza( mozzarella, slow roasted lamb, onions, mushrooms and spinach) and cheese springrolls. Deliciousness galore!
Another one of those 90 minute drives saw us in Makhanda formerly known as Grahamstown, the final destination of our roadtrip. This is where we would attend the National Arts Festival and learn more about the performing arts: dance, music, theatre and comedy. Downloaded the app and personally signed up for shows that would feed my culture and live music cravings. Particularly enjoyed Umthombo, a professional high energy dance theatre production with awesome costume designs. It narrated a tale of African culture and traditions. Walked out of there feeling proud of the local talent and standard of quality performances that was maintained throughout.
Would definitely sign up for this again!