If you think of Nomad and of “being on the road” the first thing that springs to mind is the road crew – the guides, the drivers and the camp assistants with all the fabulous daily adventures and situations they experience. Being chased by wild animals, getting the truck stuck in mud and meeting the most amazing people… Ahhh, who wouldn’t want to be on that road?!
All good and well, but working for Nomad, there is also another side of the road, which is no less adventurous, tricky and filled with extraordinary people. This is my side of the road!
As a sales representative, my job is to spread the word about Nomad and the tours that we offer to the agents selling our tours. Like a modern day prophet – if you will – I usually pack whatever vehicle is available full of brochures, pamphlets and posters and off I go. Often my way leads me to Europe, other times I get to travel in Africa.
After two great years there are already so many funny and weird stories that it is hard to pick the best but our annual sales trips along the Garden Route with my colleague Anneliese definitely rank very highly. If you think that the Garden Route is a tame and rather quiet stretch of South Africa, you are wrong! Adventure lurks around every corner and anything that could happen to our road crew, did.
…Being chased by wild animals! Done that!
This episode happened between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, when Anneliese and I decided to spend our lunch time at the Knysna Elephant Park as we both had never been there. On arrival we received a bucket with some salad and vegetables which we were to feed to the elephants before being driven out to the resident herd. It is quite something standing so close to a full grown elephant. It was rather scary!
For the feeding, the elephants were supposed to stand behind a railing and wait for us to give them the salad. But elephants are not stupid, the smaller ones got pretty much out of hand and leopard-crawled underneath the railing towards us while the fully grown elephants snapped the buckets out of our hands with their trunks and made their way around the railing towards us. In the end there were elephants all around us and with faint squeaks (not to anger them) we made our quick retreat back to the vehicle. The guides still tried to convince us later to take a picture while touching an elephant. The attempt was rather feeble and I think in the end I was holding not more than an ear-hair. That experience got our heart rates up for pretty much the entire day.
Another fabulous wildlife experience was of course the suicidal warthog in Addo Elephant National Park, which tried to end it’s little life by throwing itself in front of our vehicle! Let’s just say, Anneliese and I ended up nearly dying of heart failure, while the warthog still leads a happy life in Addo. Sneaky warthog!
… Getting your truck stuck in mud! Done that too!
The first time Anneliese and I travelled the Garden Route together, she had to fly back to Cape Town from Port Elizabeth while I continued the sales trip alone all the way up to the Wild Coast. The Wild Coast is called exactly that for a reason – civilization is scarce and the roads are rocky. With the prospect of adventure staring me in the face, we decided in Jeffreys Bay that it would be best to organize a travel companion for me. What better travel companion can you find than a blue plastic shark made in China! This is the day “Sharky“ was born and to this date he still accompanies me on every trip I make.
After saying goodbye to Anneliese I continued my way up towards the Wild Coast. My destination was Coffee Bay. If you have ever travelled to Coffee Bay yourself you will know that the last 80kms off the N2 is most probably one of the worst roads you will find in South Africa. Riddled with potholes, suicidal mini taxi drivers and every form of livestock known to man, this road is already an adventure by nature. Before getting to Coffee Bay I had to make a detour to another backpackers – situated even more in the middle of nowhere. To make things more interesting, it had been raining for two weeks straight so that even the schools had to close in this remote area. After dodging potholes and goats for a while, I eventually had to get off the bad, but at least tarred road onto a gravel road, which by now was more like a mud slide. I was not sure if I was heading in the right direction so I stopped one of the locals from a nearby village to ask for directions. As it turned out the friendly man only spoke Xhosa, which didn’t help me much, so I decided to continue on this muddy road. After making it half way up the steep and muddy hill, the Nomad bakkie (for all non South Africans: bakkie = pick up truck) gave up the last bit of grip it had and started to slide down the hill. In a panic, I pressed every button the bakkie had to offer in the vague hope that it would turn into a 4×4. Not that I would have known how to handle a 4×4…
However, the bakkie slid into the side of the road and got stuck. Properly stuck. While I had been sliding down the hill, a group of kids from the village had come to see my sad little episode and was now gathering around the bakkie. The kids were on average between 6 to 8 years old and when they signaled to me that they would push me out, I really had to laugh. But what do you know, they pushed the big bakkie out of the mud in no time! To this day I am still thankful for those little kids.
When I finally arrived in Coffee Bay at the good folk of Sugarloaf Backpackers, my accommodation for the night, I was rather shaky and just wanted to spend the next hour crawled up in bed, watching a movie on my laptop. That dream came to a steady halt when I was advised by Judy, my lovely landlady, that lightning had struck the backpackers a few days ago and the plugs in the chalets didn’t work. What can you do?!
So I took my shark and went to the backpackers bar. It turned out to be one of the best nights ever. I got to know the owners of the backpackers, a lovely couple from the Netherlands and a surfer from New Zealand. All fabulous, fun people from all walks of life. Needless to say that the shark got totally drunk! Tsk tsk…
…Meeting the most amazing people! I still do, every time!
One of the things I still love most about travelling around Africa, are the people you meet along the way. South Africans are fabulous hosts, always open and welcoming, making you feel like you are part of the family. When staying in backpackers, you also meet the most amazing people from all corners of the world.
A great example was last year when Anneliese and myself stayed at Island Vibe in Knysna for two days during our sales trip. Within one day we met such a diverse group of people, which became like a family within only a few hours, it was truly amazing! I think I can speak for both of us when I say that we will never forget these people! Such inspiring stories and lives.
There was Lars from Denmark, a 2 metre tall gentle giant in his 40’s, who decided to quit his high profile job and instead ride his bicycle from Cape Town via the East Coast of Africa to Uganda, where he had purchased a couple of cows on a friend‘s farm. After seeing his equipment, which was not as professional as one might have hoped, I am still wondering if he made it all the way.
Then there was Christian from Germany, who came to South Africa to learn English and definitely caught the „Africa-bug“ and who ended up learning most of his English at the backpackers bar.
We met Erik and Frits (a.k.a Jesus) who had planned and prepared for years to drive their VW transporter from Holland via the West Coast of Africa to Cape Town and back up via the East Coast. They had given up everything to go on this epic adventure. Unfortunately the VW didn’t make it any further than the DRC, from where they had to ship it back to Europe. This of course depleted all their savings, which caused them to spend their last little stash of cash along the Garden Route. Frits got his second name thanks to their prolonged stay in the DRC, where the locals started to call him Jesus due to his long-ish blond hair and beard.
And then there were of course Helena and Claes, two friends and train conductors from Sweden, who came to South Africa to enjoy it the slow way! No stress, no full schedules – just relaxing and enjoying life. I am happy to announce that Helena and Claes are coming back to Africa to go on a Nomad trip from Vic Falls to Cape Town, where we will hopefully meet again!
At the end of the day, no matter which road you take, there will always be animals to run away from, mud to get stuck in and fabulous people to meet! And remember, always bring a travel companion along for the ride!
If you’d like to come and experience a Garden Route adventure with Nomad, you won’t do it like I did, but you’ll have just as much fun!! Find out more about it by having a look at our Garden Route Tour – it is offered in a camping or accommodated option and you can do it from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth or vice-versa!
Please contact us on +27 (0) 21 845 6310 if you’d like more information on any of our Nomad Tours! You can also email us on email@example.com