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Port Elizabeth to Knysna

SOUTH AFRICA | Sunday, 24 March 2013 | Views [262]

Coffee Bay to Port Elizabeth (commonly referred to simply as PE) and 12 hours on Baz Bus to get there! It was a really long journey with the sun relentlessly piercing through the window, and no shades/curtains to prevent it - at times it was unbearably hot. With no air conditioning we had to keep the windows open and at least the warm breeze provided some small comfort. By the time we reached our hostel at almost midnight, we wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed.

Island Vibe in PE is a fabulous hostel and that it is referred to as a ‘flashpackers’, is not without foundation and yet at no extra cost. The building is spacious with a large jacuzzi in the courtyard and a huge swimming pool in the back garden. Our room was a generous 4-bed dorm with its own bathroom and TV. The mystery was why there was no door on the bathroom when there was plenty of space available for one. I was disappointed that we had to leave so early the next morning as after the ‘Hippie Coast’, it was rather nice to find all the creature comforts of home, kept in pristine condition. However 7am and half way through the first morning cup of tea, the minibus arrived. Not for the first time I was pleased to have my thermos to hand.

The ‘short hop’ to Plettenberg Bay still proved to be a 5 hour journey and I confess to feeling at little ‘bussed out’. Our shuttle to the hostel African Array, courtesy of owner Matthew was waiting for us. This new hostel is situated up on a hillside above the dam with the bay in the distance. The house is large and airy and the huge windows and veranda allow for some spectacular views. Several outdoor areas such as the braai (BBQ) area, the deck and the veranda with its bar and sofas around a fireplace create a feeling of space and yet serve as communal areas for people to exchange stories. The only downside is the lack of a pool or access to the beach. However, there are numerous activities in the area and Matthew was only too happy to drive us to the Peninsular and collect us a couple of hours later.

The Robberg Trail around the peninsular is about 8kms south of Plett Bay. Robberg is a nature reserve and marine protected area and we were keen to see the Cape Fur Seals that gather on the rocks there. We opted to do the 2 hour hike which took us up the rocky trail and down the sand dunes onto the beaches on either side of us. It felt good to stretch our legs and enjoy the sea air.

Back at African Array we were delighted to see that the evening meal on offer was in fact a whole menu. Without doubt the food was head and shoulders above any other hostel we have stayed in. Sitting at a table outside in the cool evening breeze with a glass of wine in hand and a fabulous cooked to order meal, felt like luxury at its best. The choice is varied and freshly cooked by Matthew while Vicky made sure the bar was well stocked and welcoming. Needless to say, we enjoyed an equally delicious breakfast this morning.

Matthew told me that some years ago they were heading for Knysna when their car broke down in Plettenberg Bay. They have been in Plett ever since and it’s not hard to see why staying wouldn’t have been a difficult decision! The hostel is clean and well maintained, however I would not have knowingly opted for a 16-bed dorm, although fortunately it wasn’t quite full.

I was surprised to learn that following the World Cup here, tourism has in fact dipped. Apparently this is often the case. I am at a loss to understand why South Africa is not a bigger tourist destination. The exchange rate is very much in our favour, £1 buying a little over R14, hostel accommodation costs an average of R130 per night which is less than £10 and the overall cost of living is also lower than in the UK. Australia, my next destination seems to be just over double the price for accommodation and the Australian Dollar is currently very strong against the Pound. An increase in tourism would provide more desperately needed jobs here and allow tourists an amazing and affordable holiday.

Meanwhile Baz Bus will be arriving soon and within half an hour we will be at our next destination, Knysna (pronounced Nyzna). Today it is raining, the sort of drizzle that would make any Northern European feel at home. Hopefully it will be short lived.

Tags: african array, baz bus, hiking, plettenberg bay, robberg

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