Live the adventure at Tsitsikamma
Nothing comprehends the sheer beauty of mountain landscapes and crystal clear water in the midst of nature’s most popular tourist attraction; Tsitsikamma – a place you have to experience once in your life.
We were never going to fully explore Tsitsikamma in all the glory of the adrenaline activities it had to offer; river rafting up Storms River Mouth, ziplining across treetops or, quad biking around pine trees. No. We were taking things slow. Easy. Peacefully.
But in order to get to Garden Route National Park, we needed to enter the Eastern Cape; one of nine provinces in South Africa; ticking it off as our third province.
The drive from Plettenberg Bay is only 64km but exactly 7 hours if you’re leaving from Cape Town which doesn’t sound like a glamorous attempt to me. Many do though.
Staring right in front of us is an enormous structure with several beams. Oh yes. The toll gate. South Africans really do love their toll gates. R47.50 for a passenger car like ours.
The roads are clean and well-maintained; admiring the thick canopy of trees as tall pine trees stick out like sore thumbs.
Alas, ‘Welcome to Eastern Cape’ the board read before witnessing a few baboons along the sidewalk.
We stopped to take a picture as the brisk sun emerged from nowhere but heightened by fear that baboons might sneak up on us. We made it quick. We can’t leave without supplying evidence that we are indeed in the province.
A few meters ahead is the infamous Bloukran Bridge constructed between February 1980 and June 1983 with a height of 216m above the Bloukrans River. This is home to many fearless jumpers. Bungy Jumpers might I announce. Not leaving out that its the highest commercial natural bungee jump in the world. If those few words don’t scare you then you much braver than we are.
However, it was originally an activity we wanted to do but quickly got removed because we just weren’t quite ready yet to throw ourselves off a bridge but that didn’t stop us from watching others flung themselves off, right?
Time to move it along. Next up. The anticipated Garden Route National Park home to Tsitsikamma Mountain. I waited for this moment all my life. Okay, not my entire life but you catch my drift.
A little further on, we saw the sign directing us towards the 5.6km stretch to the entrance gate sighting before us the queue of cars all waiting to experience Storms River Mouth leaving us with no choice but to wait with other inpatient motorists in the blistering sun for a half an hour because the park will full to capacity. R98.00 later and we were in.
By now it’s 13:39 pm and the wind begins to pick up; moving the car left to right. I pack my carry on with water bottles, the camera and a few munchies for the walk we about to endure. The night before, I showed Courtney images of the Suspension Bridge built across Storms River and in a paranoid state after looking at one image that looked as though the bridge was in the water, he flat out told me his not participating in this activity – the only one was doing at the Park but I calmly assured him that I was doing it and he can just sit and watch me walk along the planks. He agreed.
Then came the hurdle for us two unfit human beings. Taking the Mouth Trail, negotiating several steep steps that lead us to the bridge. The pathway covers 900m overlooking magnificent views of the ocean and the forest itself. With thoughts of ‘Are we there yet running through my mind’, we could see the bridge from afar.
With a span of 77m, the bridge was originally built 1969 but San-Parks rebuilt it due to its weak stability. It now hangs over 7m above the river where tourists like ourselves can enjoy this simple piece of engineering. After seeing it up close and watching many others cross this construction, he agreed that it would be fun to do so himself too.
As we both held onto the steel strings as we moved one foot after the other across the bridge but stopped halfway to at least capture the moment. Getting towards the end, we sat at the end of the bridge, watched others walk along and had a bite to eat before crossing over again to two smaller ones while the wild waters churn against the rocks.
The walk back was even harder as my heart began to jump out of my chest climbing up steep stairs but we took it slowly; watching others coming in the opposite direction.
In total, the walk there and back took about 50 minutes canceling the time we sat eating away. At our endpoint, we sat on a rock and listened to the Indian waters crash against rocks before heading towards the car, calculating the time it will take to our next accommodation.
When to go: All year-round but the wettest months are May and October, and the driest are June and July. If you unsure, contact them on +27 (0) 42 281 1607.
Getting there: The easiest is by car. The nearest airport is Port Elizabeth International but you would still need to hire a car in order to get there since it’s 200km apart.
Value for money: Definitely! For South African citizens it’s R49.00pp while for Internationals it’s R98.00pp for entrance into the Park. Other adrenaline activities on offer are at a separate cost.
Must-see sight: Of course the Suspension Bridge but there an array of birdlife as well as the magnificent Tsitsikamma Mountains and the tranquil Indian Ocean.
Where to eat: There’s a Cattle Barron restaurant at the Park where you can enjoy Breakfast and Lunch. There are a number of restaurants just a few kilometers West of the Park.
Find out more: Go to https://www.sanparks.org/parks/garden_route/ and www.tsitsikamma.info/listings/activities/tsitsikamma for more information on the Park and what activities are on offer.
Until the next adventure.