December 29 – January 1, 2006
Plettenberg Bay, South Africa
“The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast and you miss all you are traveling for.” – Louis L’Amour
Plettenberg Bay is a place I was totally unfamiliar with before planning this trip. One of Josh’s students told him it was just like paradise. Paradise had a nice ring to it so that’s where we decided to end our one-month of travel togetherness.
Plettenberg Bay is located towards the eastern region of the “Garden Route” and runs parallel to the southern coast of South Africa. My favorite company, Imagine Africa, booked the hotel so for obvious reasons I was a wee bit worried that they weren’t going to pull through. Mallard River Lodge had a name that could have gone either way. They did good this time. Don’t pay any mind to their super cheesy website, www.mallardlodge.com. It’s atrocious. Owners Simon and Diane Valentine and son, Mark Valentine, have finer taste than the previous owners who put the site together. They’re supposedly changing the name to Harvey Mallard’s River Lodge or something like that and doing a brand and identity overhaul but I just checked the site and no changes to date.
The Valentine family assumed ownership early 2005 and remodeled several of the rooms and restaurant completing the project before Holidays 2005. They opened for prime time in September 2005. Mark is an avid traveler and collector of African and India furnishings. Sophisticated and artful decorations adorn the rooms, pool area and restaurant giving it an ethnic and homey feel. They have already built three new rooms and remodeled the cottages. We stayed in one of the remodeled rooms. It was lovely. The decor reminded me of a “poor-man’s” version of Diane Keaton’s home in the Hamptons in Something’s Gotta Give. A much smaller version, of course, and hardly a poor version but comparatively speaking, that is.
Mallard River Lodge is slightly off the beat and path from the beach but still easy proximity to sand and waves. The hotel is situated on the Bitou River overlooking a bird estuary. You could sit on your private back porch and pass the time slowly bird watching or if you’re into Polo there’s a field adjacent to the estuary. Polo is very big in South Africa. We just missed the finals between South Africa and England.
I had a hit of nirvana on a hike through Robberg Nature Reserve. Actually, I wasn’t even in the mood to go for the little two-hour hike and after about 45 minutes into it and much inner dialog about wanting to quit I suggested turning back. Boy am I glad we went a little further or else I never would have discovered Whitsand Beach. What a precious find! Beautiful crystal clear water drew in my sunburned body. It was slightly chilly but after the initial shock I was wide-awake and enthusiastic!
Plettenberg Bay is known as the Oyster Capital of the World so naturally we had a mission to be the judge of that claim. OK but nothing to write home about. (They didn’t come close to the Rock Oysters I ate later on in Sydney, Australia!)
A few more days of Plettenberg Bay’s Whitsand Beach, Robberg Beach and poolside at Mallard River Lodge would have been nice. Wanting to stay longer in a place is always a good sign and after all, all good things must come to an end.