Posted by: Gideon | September 8, 2010

South Africa with Kids: Up and Down the Garden Route.

We left Cape Town for our next match, this time in Port Elizabeth.

The Garden Route needs very little introduction to anyone interested in visiting South Africa- a world famous drive from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, regarded by many as the equal to Highway 1 in California.

Impromptu mountain climbing - Garden Route

I have driven the Garden Route many times – I’ve seen the Cango Caves and Octrich Farms in Oudtshoorn, stayed at Skeiding Ostrich Guest Farm, been to Arniston, hiked day one of the Otter Trail at Tsitsikamma National Park – perhaps the best coastal day hike anywhere, seen the signs for the ziplines and the Elephant Sanctuary and watched other crazies bungy off the Bloukrans Bridge. But this trip was a bit different – we were following the soccer and so we drove past all these world class attractions making for our soccer “basecamp” of Plettenberg Bay.

“Plett” is the most developed resort on the Garden Route. While it has grown up over the years, it still feels small and has wonderful beaches, accommodation and some excellent restaurants – kind of like a South African Carmel. It’s a very touristy spot but the attractions are unique – an Elephant Sanctuary, offering rides and other elephant experiences with mighty African Elephants, a monkey sanctuary and a bird sanctuary – the African equivalents of theme parks perhaps.

Plett as with most of the coastal towns, is agreat spot for kids – the warm Indian ocean and long empty beaches make for a great playground. This was midwinter, but, with the exception of one very windy day, we had excellent weather and we happily swam in the ocean. Granted, not many locals were entering the water, but this was warmer than we get in Vancouver in summer.

It is only two hours from Plett to Port Elizabeth. PE is known as both the Windy City and the Friendly City. It is pretty unspectacular, but as the terminus of the Garden Route it does receive its fair share of tourists.  The best thing about PE (and it does have some nice beaches), is that it is so near Addo Elephant Park. We didn’t have time for Addo this time round, but Addo is the most accessible National Park of almost any in the country to a major city, and one is practically guaranteed of seeing elephants, and lots of them.

Drumming on PE Beachfront

South Korean supporters before their team crashes out.

So what did we do – we found our way to the very impressive new stadium and saw Uruguay defeat Korea – second round already but the stadium was far from full.  Neither team was very highly ranked and that must have been the reason. We ended up having an extra ticket and with no demand outside, lucky Eitan (aged 5) got to see his first world cup game. I had been waiting decades for this tournament – and was afraid it would be wasted on him, but he was enthralled by the atmosphere, the vuvuzelas, the crowds, the flags and the game on the pitch.

Things were heating up in the World Cup now – we turned the car round and headed for Cape Town for our next match!

PS These days I am helping families plan great trips to South Africa. If you’d like to see how I can help you, click here.

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