Our HUGE travel fail #3 happened on the drive from Port Elizabeth to Jeffreys Bay. During this drive was the first time in my life I was incredibly fearful of what may happen.
Before arriving into South Africa I had tried to explain to Maynard the concept of “This is Africa“. Different precautions and different safeties may need to be taken at different times. Stores, such as gas stations, are not in abundance as in Europe or the US. As we left Addo Elephant Park I reminded Maynard that when you see a gas station get gas. We saw a gas station, and he assured himself he didn’t need gas. I should have known to push the situation and filled up the tank myself.
About half way through the drive the sun was setting, and it was getting pitch black dark quickly. Our gas gauge was lowering fast, and we seemed to have found the stretch of road with absolutely no gas stations. Basically, the last hour of the trip was spent trying to find an open gas station in the dark. The enormous problem was our need gas light was on, and we were driving extra miles in the hopes to find gas which we were not able to find. We were driving in remote areas with nothing for miles but wilderness and the unknown. Our GPS was on the blitz, we had no cell service and we hadn’t seen another car for quite awhile.
We both started to freak. If we ran out of gas what would we do but wait until morning and hope that someone drove by. That scenario I could have lived with, but then we started to notice the absolute darkness. We couldn’t see even a flicker of lights of any town, tower or street from any direction. The overwhelming silence broken by random animal noises from the side of the road reminded me of a really bad horror flick. We knew there were animals and didn’t want to drive too fast and hit one, but we wanted to get to civilization as quickly as possible.
The last 45 minutes of the drive were by far the worst 45 minutes of any trip. I was pissed at Maynard for not listening and getting gas, I was pissed at myself for not insisting he get gas, I was terrified we were going to be stranded and either robbed by strangers or attacked by wild animals. To make matters worse, Maynard was scared too and I could visibly see he was scared. We spent alternating times yelling at each other with pockets of dead silence.
Finally, we were able to see the lights of Jeffreys Bay. The stress started to lift a bit, but we still had to get into town. As we approached the city edge we basically ran out of gas and coasted into the gas station.
As we filled up the tank, we both stared at each other relieved but very disappointed in ourselves. We were so lucky nothing horrible happened. We were so exhausted; we found our hotel, Supertubes Guest House, crawled into bed and hoped to wake up and find it was a horrible dream.
Instead, we woke up to the most amazing beach view and one of the best towns of South Africa. It was easy to see why surfer’s fell in love with this place after its rise to fame from the 1966 movie Endless Summer.
I loved Jeffreys Bay. It was the perfect sun and surf location on the ZA Eastern Cape. It was small, quaint, laid back and relaxing. It was exactly what we needed after our drive. The views are beautiful. The locals and the other visitors were friendly and happy. It was one of those lovely down to earth make your comfortable type of places.
We spent the day on the beach walking the surf, playing with local beach dogs, watching surfers, eating and window shopping in town. JB reminded me very much of the California coastline surf areas. I felt at home and safe in JB.
Why had I not gotten gas when we stopped at the station an hour earlier? All of the reasons at the time now seem futile and my actions foolish. It was a pitch black night, no moon in sight and an almost imperceptible amount of light trickling down from the stars. All this only served to amplify the dreaded aching feeling in my stomach. Now thinking back, I can clearly remember when we were first planning this trip Glinda had told me that going to Africa is not like visiting Europe or being in the States, you have to account and plan for the differences. The simple fact that we were now staring at an illuminated gas light on an abandoned road, an undetermined amount of miles from our destination was proof that I didn’t take her warning seriously.
We were driving to Jeffreys Bay along the N2 freeway in what would be called the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Glinda had decided to take a nap somewhere near the beginning of our journey, as car rides tend to make her sleepy, and I noticed that we were starting to run low on gas. I got the seemingly logical idea to use the handy dandy GPS to find the closest gas station. Bingo, just a few km’s off the main road so I exited the freeway and followed the directions to the station only to find that it was already closed, and pay at the pump was not an option. So I sifted through the GPS again and found the next closest station, only to be greeted with yet another closed sign and this one looked to have been closed for quite some time.
I had attempted to get us more gas, but I had only made matters worse by driving around randomly. The GPS indicated if I made the next left we could follow an old two lane in to Jeffreys Bay, so feeling like I had no other cards to play I turned onto the road and silently prayed for us to make it. About a mile in we could start to make out the lights of the distant city perched on the edge of the coastline, which lessened my dread ever so slightly. The next 30 or so kilometers were grueling at best. We made it into town, found a gas station just in time and we filled the tank with a sigh of relief. We found our hotel eager to put that night to bed.
The next morning as the sun rose and we got our first glimpse of Jeffreys Bay and inviting is the first word that springs to mind. The sun felt great as its rays warmed us and there were surfers riding the wave’s one after the other. A couple of dogs that were there with a family joined us in the hunt for seashells and critters in the tide pools. The atmosphere was soothing and the sand and sun returned us to a relaxed state. We had pulled into J-Bay on a wing and a prayer, but now that we were there it all felt so right. Later I would come to find out that Travel+Leisure had named Jeffreys Bay on of the world’s coolest surf town, and that was easy to see, if I hadn’t known any better I would have thought I was standing on a beach in a surf town in California.
Logistics: The closest airport is in Port Elizabeth about 50 miles (80 km) away, and cars are available for rent in Port Elizabeth. If you are coming from outside of South Africa chances are you will have to fly through either Cape Town or Johannesburg. Baz Bus offers transportation options for traveling along the Garden Route in South Africa and is ideal for backpackers. It is a hop-on/hop-off service and more information can be found on their website.
Lodging: JB has all sorts of options for lodging from hostel to resort style. We stayed at the Supertubes Guest House and loved it.
Getting Around: Easily walkable. If you need more speed bike rentals and taxis are available in town.
Money: South Africa uses the Rand (ZAR) and the best exchange rate is given at the ATM. You would be advised to carry a mixture of cash and cards. Cards will be acceptable almost everywhere, but if the occasion calls for cash ATM’s are not as readily available outside the major metropolitan centers. Keep foreign transaction and conversions fees in mind when making transactions. Using travel cards that have no foreign transactions fees are advised for all international travel.
Recommendable: ABSOLUTELY! This is a great sunshine and surf getaway for singles, couples and families. Lots of daily activities available for all levels.