Friday, 30 May 2008

South Africa 2008: Knynsa, Ostriches and Caves

It has been about 15 years since I last visited Knysna. It used to be a sleepy quaint fishing village with rustic bars and an emphasis on oysters. It’s now really commercialised and touristy. I didn’t particularly like the place any more, but Milord and the others had never been there before and so still found it charming. Anyway…

Knysna lagoon looking towards the heads:

On Monday 7th April Milord and I woke up slowly. It was the first day in perhaps weeks that we hadn’t had to be somewhere or do something. We were startled to discover that we’d slept to late morning and had to rush to meet the others for brunch! In fact from that moment on I slept like a log for the rest of our trip – I was exhausted I think. Even though the wedding had gone without a hitch it is still a lot to deal with.

The others had been out for a boat trip to the Knysna Heads, and they met us for lunch in the Waterfront. Our table was next to a sort of porthole window looking out onto the marina.

My plan for the day was to take the Knysna Tjoe-tjoe (pronounced choo-choo), an old fashioned steam train, to and from the town of George. The train tracks follow the coast and cliffs, practically in the water sometimes, and I had heard it was fun and beautiful and had always wanted to do it. Sadly, once we got to the train station I discovered that the Tjoe-tjoe hasn’t been running for some years since a flood washed the tracks away. Gee, now what? Luckily everyone was also feeling a bit jaded, so we picked up several dozen oysters, raided the deli for nibbles, and went back to our balcony for a decadent afternoon and evening of food, wine, laughter and leftover “wedding-cake” cheese. It was actually wonderful to just stop running around for a day! I have no idea what time I went to bed, but I think it was early.

This seagull made himself at home on our balcony railing for most of the afternoon. Cheeky bugger.

I woke up refreshed on Tuesday, and we all met for breakfast. I had decided to take the Aussies to a couple of the local attractions: the Cango Caves and an ostrich farm! “Caves?” said one doubtfully… “Ostriches?” said another. “Trust me!” I cried. We drove a couple of hours inland to Oudtshoorn over the mountains, and I am sure they were not really looking forward to my planned itinerary.

We got to the caves mid afternoon just as a tour was starting and ran to catch up with it (the tour takes about an hour). I’ve been to the Cango caves a number of times since I was very small, and I think they are absolutely spectacular. Tourists are only allowed in about 5% of the caverns, and these areas are huge and spacious with awe-inspiring rock formations growing all around and through them. My favourite bit is where you follow this torch beam through the inky tunnels, and once they have you shepherded into a certain spot they turn on the lights and you discover you are in a massive cathedral of stone columns. Really wow. Luckily my Aussies thought so too!

Then we went to the Cango Caves ostrich show farm. Ostriches are quite a big thing in South Africa, and Oudtshoorn is the centre of the ostrich farming district. In the past people became millionaires through selling the feathers, but now it is the lean red (yes, red) meat that they are farmed for. It’s really good meat, and makes superb biltong! At a show farm you get told a lot about ostriches, and you get up close to them, and you get to feed them, and to ride them. Yes, you can ride them! If you’re under 75kg anyway – which excluded all the men, but a woman and a couple of kids had a go (not me, it’s not really my thing). It was hilarious. Other folk fed them, and Milord stood on some eggs. It was enormous fun, and my Aussies raved about the experience! My caves and ostriches were a hit!

And then back to Knysna again for our last night in town and our last night with the others. We were flying up the coast the next day and they were going to the Addo National game park. During the drive back I wasn’t feeling too good… “Too much biltong, I’m dehydrated” I thought, and drank some water. “Gas, this seatbelt is constricting me” I thought, and shifted about uncomfortably. By the time we got back to town I was feeling rotten, and went for a lie down. Then a bathroom visit. Then a lie down. Then a bathroom visit… The others summoned us for dinner but I wasn’t going anywhere and Milord decided to stay in and look after me – isn’t he grand? The rest of the evening was awful, but I started feeling better at about midnight. It must have been a fast-acting virus.

Milord started feeling rotten at about 1am… I’d given it to him! The poor guy got it worse than me too, and by 7am when we needed to head to the airport he could barely drag himself to the car. Luckily I could drive by this time, and we headed off to Port Elizabeth airport. During the drive the sun rose and the mist lifted and we were crossing deep chasms through sub-tropical rainforest. It was beautiful. Milord didn’t see any of it, curled into the foetal position in the passenger seat!

Our flight to Durban was uneventful. At the other end we picked up another hire car and drove to Sodwana Bay, the diving mecca of South Africa just south of the border of Mozambique. I still wasn’t 100% and I’d had hardly any sleep the night before – after an hour or so I began getting tunnel vision and begged Milord to drive for a while. By this point he was feeling much better, and he drove us the rest of the way. I think it took us about 3 hours to get to Sodwana Bay, and we reached the resort at twilight. I’m glad we got there in the light, as it is incredibly remote and rural. Milord got really jumpy at one point when we went through the little shopping strip of Sodwana and he surrounded by black people. He actually freaked out a bit and did a u-turn back on to the main road and I had to do a lot of convincing before he would take the (only) road to the bay!

We finally got to the Sodwana Bay resort and checked into our cabin, which was a gorgeous free-standing bamboo hut with a big balcony overlooking the bush and an en-suite bathroom with a spa tub! We had a bath, a quick light meal in the resort restaurant (excellent), and were asleep by 9 I think!

1 comment:

caitlin said...

your house looks like like gran's old house in pretoria before the alterations. but you guys will make it geat.
i love you guys.