As university work has escalated and my desk has become my new best friend, I have been slipping into familiar day dreams of those scorching hot summer days up the West Coast, the freezing cold Atlantic ocean, soft white sand and surfing until you slip into a coma at 7 pm only to wake up and repeat the previous day. Whilst replaying some of these magical memories, my favourite most cringe-worthy West Coast trip kept popping up in my head. It was a road trip up the West Coast that is not easily forgotten. It was the perfect combination of beautiful scenery, laughs, smiles and exploring with my best friend and other half. So let me tell you about the time that Ben and I decided to go camping up the West Coast…
Due to Women’s Day falling on a Thursday last year, Ben and I were confronted with the decision of what to do on a long weekend in Cape Town. Naturally, we seized this opportunity by proposing a rustic camping trip up the West Coast as we had been endlessly talking of doing one for ages. One of the many amazing things with living in Cape Town is that you have a choice of easily exploring the East or West Coast each with their individual perks; warm or cold water, mainstream or deserted, dolphins or sharks. Obviously we chose the latter.
Scheduled to head out of Cape Town on Thursday afternoon after I had finished university for the day, things as per usual did not manage to run according to plan and we only managed to head out Friday morning. This could have quite possibly, maybe, most probably have been my fault. Ok, it was definitely my fault! In typical Nicole fashion I had not yet collected the tent, I finished university late and managed to break up a movie set on Milnerton Beach by running through the sunset shot that they had attempted to perfect for the third time whilst trying to rescue my brother after I watched him dislocate his knee surfing. For the third time. And there I was standing up to my knees in the icy Atlantic ocean, my jeans, new socks and carefully chosen shoes soaked through (that’s a lie, they were the first ones I saw in my cupboard that morning, they just happened to be a nice pair) watching a wave about to give into gravity on top of my helpless brother. It was with utmost Baywatch stealth and flawless slow-motion Pamela Anderson-like grace, that I turned and grabbed my brother’s board under one arm whilst hoisting him up with my other to try and drag him up the beach.
Friday morning: Ben and I are finally packed, sak en pak (Afrikaans phrase meaning packed to capacity) with surfboards, wetsuits, camera equipment, tent and camping equipment that I did not even know the Eddy household possessed. My dad, dressed in only sleep shorts and stolen hotel slippers, was furiously throwing equipment at us from the corner of the garage until we broke the news to him that we were only going away for the weekend, upon hearing which, retreated back inside the house.
Travelling up the West Coast is a lonely experience, in the good sense of the word if there were any. Not many other cars are encountered and people are rare sights apart from the occasional hillbilly that comes lurking out from the farm bushes. But that’s why I love it, the intense contrast of the hot white squeaky sand with the freezing clean blue ocean, amazing left hand point and beach breaks and the feeling that you are the first person to ever have been here, even though that is far from the truth. Whilst passing through a small West Coast town and having seen relatively few cars or people, we finally saw the open road in front of us that took us out of civilization. But excitement came to a brief and loud interruption. In the distance coming from somewhere behind our car, was the unmistakable sound of a police siren, and if I was not mistaken, was getting louder. I have never been pulled over in my life, although Ben was driving so technically HE got pulled over, and here we are in the middle of nowhere, just us, a police car and the open road. I’m still convinced that we should have tested how fast Ben’s rally car really could have gone.
‘Excuse me Sir, you went straight through a stop street. Can I see your license please?’ Crap! What stop street? Thank goodness Ben’s British accent made us seem like a couple of lost tourists, all we needed now was to complete the part by wearing a pair of Crocs and socks, together, finished off with a ‘tan’ that looks as though it could cook an egg in matter of seconds. Because we both do not own Crocs (thankfully) and we had had no opportunity to become red-faced and flushed yet, I decided to back Ben’s tourist situation by asking the officer if he could please explain and show us on the map where Elands Bay is, despite the fact that I have been there more than I can count as well as the huge sign in front of us which read ‘ELANDS BAY’ with an even larger arrow next to it pointing us in the direction. Somehow, our sorcery worked.
After a quick surf on a hollow and potentially board-breaking shore break, we continued driving, to where we weren’t sure but the direction was affirmatively North. About 350 km up, we stumbled upon Strandfontein, ‘the Jewel of the West Coast’ and that it was. A beautiful small town with an amazing camping site right on the beach, sheer cliffs dropping into the icy ocean below and endless kilometers of deserted beach stretched beyond what our eyes could see. As we drove into the camp site, it appeared that Strandfontein was a popular holiday destination for Afrikaners, and if there’s one thing that Afrikaners know how to do well, it’s camping. You name the item, they had it, from showers, to cupboards, to beds and board games. We swallowed our pride and briefly immersed ourselves in our thoughts whilst delaying our time sitting in the car, plotting ways of how we too could make ourselves like experienced travelers.
After getting out of the car at the pace of a snail grazing on the freshest green grass, Ben managed to attract the campsites attention on us by knocking the water container to the ground resulting in water being sprayed from every direction and the echo resonating throughout the campsite. Brushing our noisy arrival off, we continued to weasel the tent out of its cover. After much debate and turning the tent every angle that it could possibly go to find the door, we finally got it ‘sea-facing’. Trying to wipe the excited grins off of our faces, I heard a murmur coming Ben’s direction that sounded something like: ‘You did pack the tent poles right?’.
At lightning speed that not even Usain Bolt could keep up with, we stuffed the tent back into it’s cover and drove off on what seemed to be longest road of my life, heads down and windows wound up. I would like to publicly apologize for letting the South African community of avid campers down. Camping rule number 1: ALWAYS check you have the tent poles and pegs! If you happen to forget the poles: Just breathe and embrace your homeless situation!
After harassing the nice lady at the municipality, we managed to find ourselves a snug self-catering accommodation in a six-sleeper house. Plus side was that the rusks were on the house. After a quick laugh at my stupidity (that’s the only way to handle these situations in life) we went exploring the endless dirt roads which followed the edges of the cliffs and it was here where we found some amazing caves and watched nature continue to run it’s course. We sat tucked away watching the seagulls sculpting their way through the sky whilst he waves crashed against the cliff faces below with a magnificent African sunset in the background.
The next day we decided to explore further North in the reserve along the sandy and dusty dirt roads especially since we both felt like we were fully capable rally drivers due to the car that Ben got given to use while he was here from England was a GWM H5, a replica of the Dakar rally version with stickers larger than life promoting the Dakar Rally.
On many, if not all of the roads that we took, sensible Nicole was irritating the hell out of me telling me that this was a idiotic idea but adventure Nicole was screaming so loudly to take the plunge that sensible Nicole was drowned out and eventually forgotten. She really should have shown some commitment to her cause and shouted a little louder because it was not long after that we found ourselves wedged deep in sand in a tidal area.
Thankfully, we got rescued. Thankfully we got rescued again 2 minutes after.
After bush cook-ups, cold water swims, cave exploring, rusk eating, rain dancing and lizard catching adventures, we found ourselves on the road home (that was after the visit to the winery of course). Sitting in the passenger seat trying to keep my peepers open, the rain was splattering down and dissipating on the red dirt roads racing from underneath us. The dust was swirling and settling behind us as we passed it by until the next car took our place. The waves continued to break, the clouds continued to roll over and we continued to make our way back to civilization where the hustle and bustle of the city lights were waiting to engulf us once more. It was one of the best and most simple weekends of my short-lived life, leaving me with a hungry desire to explore further and discover the waves that continue to peel perfectly off the rocks and settle into the bay until the water is pulled back out to sea and eventually finds it’s way to other shores.
Just like the waves that roll across the ocean and into the bay, we ride the ebb and flow of life, trying to race through the sections until we reach a new one, trying to push our limits and aim straight for the barrel. Sometimes we need to break free from our tunnel vision and race until we find a smooth and mellow section, reflecting and remembering how good the ride has been so far.
(All photos taken by Ben Brown)
Watch Ben’s Visual Vibes video version of our trip here