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At a semi-secret rivermouth somewhere between Mossel Bay and Knysna the right conditions can produce some of the best left-hand (a wave breaking from left to right if you look at it from the beach) barrels in South Africa. Those usually happen in winter conditions, when a clean west swell is groomed by a fresh northwesterly wind.

Sharks, of course, are a concern, but statistically you are more likely to be killed by a mosquito and, with the seasonal migration patterns of the Great Whites (closer in-shore during the summer months) and reliable information on their whereabouts from good friends in the shark diving industry, the risk is no higher than at any other break.

To divulge the details of this special place would be to break an unspoken code – only those who know are allowed to go.

However, with some 200 kilometres of coastline, the Garden Route boasts diverse, world class surf spots. Some are remote and demanding – the realm of the most experienced board riders only. Others are more gentle, with rollers perfect for learning. From west to east, here is a handful of the finest:

1. The Point, Mossel Bay
There are two main breaks at the area known as the ‘the point’. Outer Pool works on a low, incoming tide. It offers an easy take-off, before bending onto the reef and turning steep and hollow. This breaks is for experienced surfers only.

Inner Pool is better on a higher tide and usually a lot more forgiving and fun. The take-off and paddle out can be hairy and the inside can get shallow. There is also a rather unfriendly rock mid-break known as ‘peanut’, but, ask one of the friendly locals to point it out and you’ll be fine. It breaks best in small to medium south to southwest swell and light offshore (northwest to southwest) wind.

The Point, in the beautiful Mossel Bay

Ex professional surfer Llewellyn Whittaker [www.wavesschoolofsurfing.com] is the unofficial mayor of the town and your go-to for coaching, advice and equipment rental.

2. Victoria Bay, George
‘Vic’ as it is known in surfing circles, is your classic pointbreak setup in miniature. As with Mossels, the take-off and paddle out can be tricky and on lower tides the inside section of the reef does get shallow, but in general it’s an easy wave. It works  best in south to southwest swell and light offshore (northwest to southwest) wind. The locals rule, so smile and wave and try stay out of the way. Contact www.vicbaysurfari.co.za for lessons and equipment hire.

3. Lookout Beach, Plettenberg Bay
When the sandbars are just perfect, this spot can produce some of the most dreamy sand-bottomed right handers in South Africa. Many have likened it to the ‘Superbank’ on the Australian Gold Coast. Machine-like perfect in warm, clear water. Go to to Google and drool.

4. Seals Beachbreak, Cape St Francis
Jeffreys Bay may be one of the world’s best waves, but the long, hollow pointbreak is far from easy to surf and the crowds (and locals) can be rather intimidating. Travel the extra 30-odd kilometres to Cape St Francis, where, depending on conditions, ‘Seals’ (after Seal Point) offers a variety of waves, from the pointbreak near the historic lighthouse, to the sand-bottomed rollers of the beach break. Show respect in and out of the water and we guarantee you’ll have some of the best surfs of your life.

Seals Beachbreak, Cape St Francis

5. Jeffreys Bay
When asked which is the best left-hand wave in the world, surfers will always give you a few different answers: Desert Point or G-Land in Indonesia, Hawaii’s infamous Banzai Pipeline, or, perhaps Skeleton Bay in Namibia. When asked which is the top right-hander, the answer is always ‘J-Bay’. In fact you can’t rightly call yourself a surfer until you’ve paddled out at the keyhole (the gully in the reef where you enter the break), sat in the revered ‘Supertubes’ line-up among pros, locals, ballies (respectful name for the older guard) and grommets (surf slang for the future stars), stroked into an overhead wave and rode it all the way through the carpark section.

That all will come. First you gotta learn to stand, bru. Graduate out of the foamies with Wavecrest Surf School, situated at Main Beach, just round the corner from Supers. It’s a beachbreak, so much gentler than Supertubes.

073 509 0400

www.wavecrestsurfschool.co.za

Written by: Jazz Kuschke

How to turn you holiday happy-snaps into proper travel images and become the Instagram hero you really want to be.

1. Know your audience

Who are you shooting for? Answer that question and you’re more than halfway there. Is it purely for Insta glory? Or is it to show your family when you get home. Or, are those images destined for an online library or blog (you can tease that through your Instagram feed – more on that in an upcoming piece), magazine or book? Or for your own records alone. Understand your audience and then set yourself a brief and shotlist around your consumer.

2. Know your kit

Whether you’re sporting the shiniest new mirrorless or DSLR camera, or are shooting on a smartphone, make sure you know exactly what you’ve got and how to use it – from the basic settings to battery life and how many images can you fit on your memory cards. A well-known shooter once famously quipped, ‘the best camera is the one you have with you,’ so don’t feel constricted by your equipment either.

3. Know your location

Research is the key to bringing back good travel images. Study the weather patterns, culture (such as how locals react to being photographed), festivals, places of interest and the like. If you’re shooting wildlife, know the habits of what you’re about to ‘shoot’. Look at postcards and see what others have photographed.

4. Pack smart

If on DSLR, choose your lenses wisely. Going to the bush? Wildlife? Birds? Take a long zoom lens. Heading to the mountains and want big vistas? Go for a wide angle. For basic travel and the comfort of not having to lug too many lenses around, invest in a zoom lens of 24-105mm. Make sure you can carry everything in a daypack and use a bag that doesn’t shout “cameras”. My go-to rig is a 16-32mm and a 70-200mm.

5. Bring your friends

Beanbags and tripods are your best friends (even if it’s one of those tiny kit ones) for getting your shots pin sharp and in focus.

6. Grab the golden hours

You’ve heard it before, and for good reason… If you want that shot, get up early or stay until the sun sinks low. Set aside time for shooting rather than just ‘taking pictures’ as you go along. One good shot of one subject a day is better than 10 bad ones.

7. Polarise

Buy a polarising filter: it cuts out glare, saturates blues and greens (making the sky look a lot better) and gives portraits character.

8. Choose the right subject

Good travel subjects include landscapes, portraits, sunsets, night scenes and action.

9. Take the other angle

If the light is right and you’ve found a good subject, work it. Work it hard. Shoot the standard shot everyone takes, then try to find at least five different angles – macro, abstract, high, low, backlit and so forth.

10. Slow it down

Those fancy shots where it looks like the waterfall or river is moving or the line of red light as traffic runs along a road are easier to take than you think: put your camera on a tripod and experiment with slow shutter speeds and long exposures. Once you’ve got those down, graduate to star trails.

BONUS: Learn your software Everyone hates and over-processed image, but modern software is unbelievably powerful and can make a good image, ‘great’.

Written by: Jazz Kuschke

Pulled over some 500 metres up from the well-known hairpin bend on the pass famed travel author TV Bulpin referred to as “a classic piece of old time road making with dramatic views and the indefinable elegance of its curves…” the Forest was dense, bathed in dappled summer dawn light and full of things with names like Mountain Waxberrys, White Stinkwood, Kamassi and the beautifully flowering Cape Chestnuts. Somewhere a Knysna Turaco hollered its raucous kok-kok kok-kok.

It was difficult to believe that not too many kilometres away on the N2 highway, holiday makers in fully-loaded SUVs where snarling at each other as they made their way home from summer holidays – trailers, caravans and who knows what else in tow. Perhaps though, we should return to that same N2, for it is there where the context to all of this lies.

The Garden Route N2 between Mossel Bay and Port Elizabeth has been an integral part of my life from early memory. There were the family holiday trips early on, heading from home in the Eastern Cape to go fishing with grandpa in Hermanus. In high school it was associated with contest surf trips – stressfully competitive missions down to Vic Bay and Cape Town. Then, as student at Stellenbosch University, it was the way home during vacations – each landmark a step further away from the books and lecture halls.

The older I got and more I drove it, the more I started wondering about the backroad routes on the same stretch. I’d always been taken by the area’s history and haunted by the Forest (which should always be spelled with a capital T, as in Dalene Matthee’s works). I found myself seeking forays and glimpses without having to make a real effort, or stretch out the the trip home too much.

After a lot of detours I realised it was just about possible to travel the Garden Route all the way by staying off the N2 (with the odd short transfer here and there). Bloukrans Pass near Nature’s Valley became a favourite detour. As did the historic Seven Passes Route between George and Knysna.

At first I drove the Seven Passes purely for adventure’s sake – to be making a part of the journey so many holiday makers are, on a dirt road – now as a resident of the Garden Route once again after too many years in the big city, this 75-kilometre road which traverses Phantom Pass and the Homtini Gorge (of which I speak above) and crosses the Karatara-, Hoogekraal, Touw-, Silver-, Kaaimans- and Swart rivers as they drain the Outeniqua mountains to the sea, has become a favourite day trip.

Instead of the usual 90-minutes it takes to drive if you just go, my young family and I often now spend an entire day on the route. Here’s why:

Driven from east to west the route starts with a right turn off the N2 immediately after you’ve crossed the bridge over the Knysna lagoon. It doesn’t take long to realise you’re off the regular tourist rush and even though you’re not quite onto the first pass yet (and the road is still tar) it’s obligatory to slow down – downshift – so to speak from driving with ‘getting from point A to point B’ in mind to pleasure cruising.

Rather than a ghost, as most would suspect, Phantom Pass was named after the white Phantom Moth found in that area. However, the pass is charmingly wound in mythology anyway.

The 7,4 kilometre route from the Knysna River to the top of the pass and the regional tar road to Rheenendal takes more-or-less 10 minutes to drive. The pass is gravel and narrow with glimpses into the beautifully forested Knysna river valley on some of the hairpins.

Portland Manor, Barrington’s old estate is now a luxury lodge and lies off the road to Rheenendal. We always make time on this tar section to stop at Spookasem, a delightful farm stall and the home of the Kamma Kamma (for ‘make believe’ in Afrikaans) rag dolls. Then we have brunch at The Red Barn at Fern Gully Farm (www.theredbarn.co.za) a little way down the road, where the kids can run wide-open while artisan cappuccinos follow free-range bacon and eggs.

After Rheenendal you reach the Homtini Pass, my favourite of the seven and the one where I always take time to pull over and wind down the windows to let the Forest and its sounds and smells, in. Aside from the bridge (all the timber bridges were replaced with concrete in the early 1900’s) the pass is as it was almost 150-years ago when constructed by master road engineer Thomas Bain and his brother-in-law, Adam de Smidt.

If the river is not flowing too fast, the brown waters of the Homtini (stained so by the ubiquitous vegetable matter and roots) are ideal for a dip. The best place to stop is off the road on either side of the bridge, from there follow the trail in whatever direction you fancy.

The next pass is Karatara. The wacky name and sad history of the small settlement is enough reason to drive it. Karatara is where the woodcutters settled after the 1939 complete withdrawal of their woodcutting permits. Their descendents live there still.

From here the route follows a pattern of pastural farmlands on the plateau, some pockets of forestry plantations and then the spectacular indigenously forested river valleys. The next valley is traversed by Hoogekraal Pass. The pass was built by Adam de Smidt in 1874 and due to its lesser gradient and depth was perhaps the easiest to construct. Similar to drive.

After Hoogekraal you reach the settlement of Hoekwil, a hamlet fast becoming trendy among urbanites in search of coastal country charm as well as retirees. From here the route takes you on the ‘Forest Road’ to George. It is more than aptly named with the forest starring rather than the passes themselves, as it takes in the Touw River Pass (sometimes confused with the Duiwelskop Pass a 4×4-only trail higher in the mountains) as well as the Silver (which is tarred), Kaaimansgat and Black River Passes (also tarred).

Those all still lay ahead. Right now bugs and beetles of all manner provided an orchestral backdrop as the Forest in the Homtini valley stirred as the day began to heat. The dust two descending mountain bikers had kicked up earlier added to the scene. It all seemed right out of Dalene Matthee’s Circles in a Forest and it would’ve been fitting if Oupoot had walked across the road right then.

Written by: Jazz Kuschke