We woke up to the sound of the ocean. It was so refreshing and perfect. The B&B was quiet except for the occasional clanking of dishes from the kitchen down the hall. We ate through a huge, delicious breakfast from our host that included a mountain of fresh fruit. She recommended a short hike that was 10 minutes down the road, insisting that a past guest had called it the “most beautiful hike she’d ever been on”.
It was called Robberg Nature Reserve and it definitely falls into my top 5 favorites. You have the option of doing the shorter or longer hike, but unfortunately our time restrictions left us with the shorter one. A wooden boardwalk snakes through oceanside hills that are surrounded with water on both sides. When you round a corner, you are greeted by jet blue and piercing turquoise. The wind was intense and the sun piercing. We walked down a creaking staircase to reach the sand as the waves rolled in, glossy and gliding across the beach like liquid glass being poured onto a table. It really envelopes you.
Back on the road, begrudgingly, it wasn’t long until we were away from the ocean’s view and deep into the countryside. By the afternoon, we started seeing schoolchildren walking along the sides of the road with backpacks. There were rows of swanky houses in quaint towns and then clusters of loosely constructed shacks adjacent to them. The parceling of wealth is so visible everywhere you go.
On the way to Swellendam is the town of Knysna, which is home to an orphaned elephant sanctuary. They have tours every hour so we figured we could make it into a side trip. Zebras roamed freely in the parking lot when we pulled in, necessitating calculated parking skills. The tour takes you out into the open reserve where you can feed elephants from buckets of fruit and vegetables. The elephants came trotting over eagerly at the site of the food, and we spent the next hour quietly and cautiously roaming around in the hopes of getting close. As long as you don’t stand behind them, or kneel in front of them, they don’t have issue with human beings putting a hand on their side or gathering nearby. It was surreal to be so close.
After a short stop for lunch at a little seaside town for some teriyaki aubergine (eggplant—popular all over the country), we rolled into the little village of Swellendam.
It took us a minute to find our B&B host, wandering aimlessly through his unlocked door until we found him watching sports in a back room. He was quirky and friendly, much like the town itself. He told us that it was totally safe to walk at all hours of the day and night because there was no crime in the town. It was also the first town we had been in where the houses weren’t all surrounded by courtyard walls and electrified fences on top. Feeling settled, we walked to dinner at Powell House and melted into a plate of venison fillet with juniper berry sauce and some local hospitality. The streets were whisper quiet at night as we made our way home while snacking on free homemade fudge from the restaurant’s host. A stray cat wandered through a street side gutter and the stars glittered over the town’s mountain backdrop. It reminded me vaguely of Utah or Colorado. It was easy to drift to sleep to night sounds, tucked into that hidden space and feeling on-the-road peaceful.