Elandsbay: Budget weekend break and a fresh perspective

We easily underestimate the weekend break. It may seem redundant: being somewhere nearby for two nights and back at your desk on a Monday morning like nothing happened, but it can mean so much more.

In The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton writes:

“It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, who may not be who we essentially are.”

Weekends are never a complete break from what we encounter during the week. We always end up checking our mails, doing a bit of work, shopping for essentials or fixing something in the house. And while this is the only time we have for it, sometimes we also need to get away from these things.

Being away lends a little perspective. It gives your senses something new to enjoy. It usually gives you easy access to nature and an opportunity to discover a new corner of the earth, or rediscover a forgotten one.

The weekend break doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to involve heaps of planning. Besides, when you spend a weekend in the city, the restaurant and drinks bills add up, whereas a weekend like this one, in Elandsbay, is simple and affordable, yet removes you entirely from your every-weekend setting.

Budget weekend break to Elandsbay

Elandsbay can’t really be defined as a town. The only establishments worth mentioning are the slightly dilapidated hotel, the very basic camping grounds, the liquor store, backpackers and a couple of corner shops. The rest of this sleepy West Coast settlement consists of unassuming residential houses, all of which are walking distance from the ocean.

The first trick to the perfect, budget weekend in Elandsbay is renting one of these houses. They’re privately owned, affordable, and range from 4-sleepers to 16-sleepers. Most of them have everything you need to live comfortably, but with none of the unnecessary things like entertainment systems, air fryers and garlic crushers.

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Being such a small place, it’s virtually impossible for the beach to be crowded, yet you’ll be surprised at the amount of people you’ll encounter down here.

Elandsbay, small and undeveloped as it is, is one of the best surfing destinations in South Africa.

The seal-like bodies sway with the current until the wave breaks. They paddle furiously to reach the wave’s peak, before riding it out, often with a few fancy tricks up their wetsuit sleeves.

The surf breaks very close to the beach, so heading down to the sea to watch the surf and sunset in the late afternoons is really what an Elandsbay weekend is all about. Nature’s very own off the grid entertainment.

Because there aren’t many options for dining out in Elandsbay, and because I like my weekend breaks cheap and cheerful, the second trick to the perfect budget weekend here is to take your own food. We were a group of seven people, so each prepared a side for everyone and brought whatever they wanted on the braai. Add a simple breakfast of oats and fruit and we had more than enough food for the price of one restaurant meal.

The fire was almost always burning in the fire pit. When we weren’t lounging at the beach, we were lazing on the front porch. We cooked food together and sauntered to the corner shop for ice lollies bought with spare change. We chatted, we played board games, and we shared our wine. Apart from taking pictures, we didn’t use our cellphones. We sat in silence reading and we brewed endless cups of coffee on the stove.

Come Sunday afternoon, we eased ourselves back into our domestic worlds and shook the sand off our shoes. On Monday morning we might not have had a completely new view of the world, but we had a memorable picture of something other than the view from the living room couch or the local bar.

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