The old coast road, which runs parallel to the Indian Ocean, is our path through the Dolphin Coast (named for the bottlenose dolphins that frolic in the waves year-round), also known as the Sugar Coast (for the sugar plantations backing up to the sea).

Avocados for sale by the side of the road

One of the pleasures of exploring is the unexpected. Today, as we were driving down the motorway, we spied people sell avocado; most in bushel baskets or piled into pyramids. One guy’s arrangement intrigued us: he had two vertical poles with a horizontal crossbar, hanging from which were bags of avocado. We pulled over — yes, the picture is correct, South Africa is a left-hand-drive country — so Carmella could inspect the greenery.

They were huge, tasty, and just the thing we needed on our road trip!

Gotta stop almost running out of gas

The distances between towns are far, and estimating gasoline usage is hard. Several times we’ve coasted into a town running on fumes. I’m as happy to see this gas station as is the soccer fan on the sign.

The guy pumping our gas is enchanted by the idea of two Californians coming to visit South Africa. He’s always wanted to visit California, so we had lots to talk about.

Inside, Carmella was chatting up the clerk, getting directions and local suggestions.

Later, confused by some point in the directions, we stop at the only open business in the area, a bar. The owner, a gruff Afrikaaner, was standoffish at first, but Carmella charmed him, and we left with a hand-drawn map to our next stop.

Fairmont Zimbali Lodge / Zimbali Estate, Zimbali Coastal Estate, Zimbali, 4390, South Africa / +27 32 538 5000

The Fairmont Zimbali Lodge & Coast Resort are two sister properties, one set in the trees, the otheralong the beach.

We’re staying at the lodge first. The lobby is over-huge, impressive, with a very western feel. It’s comfortable, in a luxurious way.

The view from our room looks out over the trees and the beach houses. Below, jumping from tree to tree, are several troops of monkeys.

The room is spectacular, what with its dark-wood-on-white theme, completely clear shower stall, and bathtub in the middle of the room. If that’s too open for you, hidden room dividers slide out from several directions to make an enclosed bathroom. It’s really one of the most inspired room designs I’ve seen!

Carmella is very happy with the accommodations, so much so that she takes the moment to highlight her hair.

The dining room follows the same design theme, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the tree canopy.

The breakfast buffet stretches across the horizon, so many choices, so few hours.

Carmella beams at the choices; she loves options.

Here’s my ketogenic breakfast. I’m pretty happy with the food options, too.

As amazing as the food and the surroundings are, the show is stolen by the monkeys running pell mell around the outdoor seating area.

They investigate every corner of the restaurant area, and not slowly. It’s the monkey equivalent of roller derby or bumper cars.

They’re everywhere. I can’t imagine the chaos if there were people (and their food) sitting out on the deck! I’m imagining staff stationed around, waving the monkeys off with palm fronds.

New video by Michael Sattler / Google Photos

This is our friend, sugar-eating monkey. We found him pilfering the dumpsters, stopping only when he found sugar packets. Then he’d rip open the packet, shake the sugar into his mouth, and — more agitatedly — continue the search.

New video by Michael Sattler / Google Photos

The monkey troop commutes past our hotel room balcony. It seemed that they passed by once in the morning and again in the evening.

New video by Michael Sattler / Google Photos

The walk from the Fairmont Zimbali Lodge, high up the hill, and the Fairmont Zimbali Estate, along the beach, goes through heavy vegetation. (Not really a “jungle”, but close.) This seems to be the monkey’s home turf, for they’re always around and ready to mildly interact with us.

New video by Michael Sattler / Google Photos

 

New video by Michael Sattler / Google Photos

Out of the “jungle” we come to the grounds of the estate, with its mowed grassy flats. Birds and mammals happily co-exist, always ready to flee should we step off the path, towards them.

The following warning signs are posted all around the estate grounds:

WARNING: Monkeys are wild and potentially dangerous animals. The feeding of monkeys is strictly prohibited.

Finally, the Indian Ocean! It’s the first time for me, and I’m excited to “drop a pin” into a new ocean :-)

Carmella captures the moment I plunge in. It’s not warm, this water. I’m out about as quickly as I went in.

I can’t remember where we found this great Indian food, the lodge or the estate, but this thali dinner was exactly what I needed — it’s been a while since I’ve had it, and it’s my favorite cuisine (or at least one of my favorites).

I’m all about the savory; Carmella, the sweet. The gulab jamun was perfect, sweet and juicy.

On the way back up the hill we pass another industrious monkey, looking all innocent.

Back in the room, after a hot bath, Carmella begins preparing those amazing avocado with salt and lemon. They were as delicious as they look, and I regretted not buying more, nor being able to go back; this is a one-way trip.

Next, we visit Bali in Natal.

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