Saturday, 18 April 2009

Road Trip - Part 6

Saturday 21st March – Addo to Chintsa

We got up, had some breakfast and took pretty unpleasant showers in the highly sulphuric water at the backpackers. If you have ever smelt a stinkbomb you will have some idea of what the water smelt like! Hopefully we didn't smell as bad once we were finished!

We set off with the aim of reaching Chintsa near East London and the highly recommended Buccaneers Backpackers.

We decided that we would take the most direct route back to the N2 highway then head for Grahamstown. As with most of these routes it swiftly and unexpectedly turned into a gravel road, not favoured by Elaine! Unfortunately this one was about 70km long so she had a bit of a nervous hour, gripping the door handle tightly and taking sharp intakes of breath very time the road got really rough. The roads themselves are generally not too bad but the dust and noise of flying stones and sliding tyres can be a little unnerving.

Eventually we got back onto the highway and made good progress towards Grahamstown. The scenery had changed again. Gone were the lush green forests, replaced by towering Aloe Ferox and various cacti. Even the trees were noticeably different as we headed towards the more tropical environment.

We stopped in Grahamstown for some lunch and to stock up with supplies. This is the area where the ‘1820 Settlers’ were granted land and equipment by the British Government and Cape authorities, one of the largest settlements of British people in Africa. Many of the settlers turned their back on agriculture and moved to the towns, hence the visible Victorian/Georgian influence in Grahamstown today.

After an interesting hour walking around the city we continued our journey via East London to Chintsa on the Wild Coast, overtaking a fine array of vintage cars en route which were taking part in some kind of rally.

Again we had to negotiate a very rough track to get to the backpackers, fortunately it was only about 1km long, but what a boneshaker!

We arrived at the fabulous Buccaneers Backpackers and decided to get a safari tent. This cost only little more than pitching our own tent with the added luxury of a proper bed and a wooden deck with views of the lagoon, beach and ocean. We signed up there and then for the traditional Xhosa (the dominant black tribe in the Cape) feast on offer that evening at a very reasonable R60 (£4) including as much wine as you could drink. They also told us that breakfast was free to everyone on a Sunday morning, and that there was free canoe and body board rental too, what a result!

We unpacked the bakkie and made ourselves at home in our very spacious tent. It was at about this time that we noticed that the front registration plate on the bakkie was missing! Oh well, not much we could do about it there and then we’d just have to keep our eyes open and see we could see it on our way out, if not it was probably somewhere near Grahamstown and lost forever! More on this later.

We got into our beach gear and headed off to explore the nearby amenities. First we came to the lagoon and could see the canoes which were free for us to use. Then we came to the wonderful beach, golden sand stretched round the bay as far as the eye could see and the ocean was a deep blue. We walked and watched the local Xhosa children playing in the surf and kite surfers speeding over the waves pulled by the wind.

Having topped up the tan and had a good walk for a couple of hours it was time to get ready to eat and drink! There were plenty of takers for the feast night and the large room had quite a buzz about it as dish after dish came out to load up the buffet table. The food was great, corn bread, chicken, lamb, rice and lots of things that I simply didn’t recognise. Elaine and I joined forces with a Swiss couple to show the large group of Americans just how to abuse the free wine situation, suffice it to say that Team Europe & Africa slept very soundly that night!

When we woke the following morning we decided that the previous day had been so much fun we would stop for another night, which we booked before taking advantage of the free breakfast and lots of coffee to combat the strange headaches we had developed, must have been the sea air!

Another day on the beach followed, collecting masses of shells for Elaine to put to good use in a future project and a bit of canoeing thrown in for good measure. If you look closely at the view of the backpackers from the beach you will see the safari tents poking out of the hill surrounded by the rest of the backpacker’s buildings.

We enjoyed a spaghetti bolognese at the backpackers in the evening and spent some time in the bar afterwards rounding off what had been a very enjoyable and relaxing stay.

We will definitely be back.

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