Thursday, November 21, 2013

Part Two of the Garden Route

We arrived in Jeffreys Bay an hour after leaving Tsitsikamma and found Dolphin Beach.  The sun was out now, although quite windy, so we took a quick stroll on the beach to touch our toes in the Indian Ocean.  I like being at the tip of a continent so I can touch two different oceans.

I saw the tourist information office close to where we parked and car and decided to go in and ask what there was to do in Jeffreys Bay.  The woman in the information office asked if we'd seen "surfer's village".
"no, we haven't"
"oh, it's just down the street.  All the surf shops are down there and a few restaurants.  
Well, Jeffreys Bay is one of the best surf spots in the world.  It's where the Billabong surf contest is held every year.  Since it's summer here the waves weren't so big.  People come from all over the world to surf, shop in the surf shops (Billabong, RVCV, Quicksilver, etc), and hang out at the beach.
We had a fabulous lunch at In Food.

We were really enjoying our time in Jeffreys Bay but I was told to be at the game reserve by 2:30.  Not thinking we really had to be there exactly then we didn't leave until 2:00.  Much to my surprise, when we arrived at 3:30 we found out the first afternoon drive started at 3:00, hench the reason to be there by 2:30.  What's ya gonna do.
We were greeted by the owner who checked us in and then drove us to meet our group and guide, Andrew.  There were already 8 people on the jeep and we made 10.  We stayed with Andrew and the group for the 2 days we were there.  After the first night a couple from Sweden left and then we were 8.  A couple from Switzerland, and the other two couples from Germany.  

On our first drive of the day we saw rhino, giraffes, buffalo, antelopes, wilde beast, impalas and hippo eyes.


The first drive went until 5 then we stopped for tea and snacks in the saloon.  Our next drive went until dinner and after dinner we had another drive.  Unfortunately the rain started during this drive so we ended earlier than we should have.

This game reserve, Schotia, named after the Schotia trees on the property, has been in the same family for 6 generations.  Originally a cattle farm it took nearly 12 years to turn it into a game reserve.  What I discovered, much to my dismay, was that the animals on private game reserves are not native to the area, they are purchased at auction and brought to the property.  Animals in the national parks are from the area, such as Kruger Park. 

Next to Schotia is Addo Elephant national park, where we went on our second afternoon drive.  I thought the animals were from here but was informed that they are all native to the north and brought here as well.  Because it's a national park there are more of them.

We had a different guide take us to Addo, Christo, who told us we were very fortunate to see so many elephants at the watering hole.  Baby's, mama's and papa's.  It was so cute to see the little ones playing in the water.  I gained a new appreciation for these gentle giants.  The one thing I wish I could have done was have a ride on one.


I believe there are other animals in Addo, but primarily they are known for the elephants and that is all we saw.

On our return to Schotia we stopped at a farm stall to have lunch.  There are many farm stalls along the roads in South Africa.  They are very nice road side stops for travelers with restaurants and food from the farm for sale.  This one didn't have very good food but we did stop at other ones during our journey that were much better.  For some reason these farm stalls reminded me of  Lancaster county, PA.  
The rain had subsided while we were at Addo but began again when we returned to Schotia.  Emily and I said we wanted to take a rest and not go for the afternoon drive and then everyone decided to join in a rest period.  
Our game reserve package included 7 drives but we only participated in 5.  It's a lot of drives for a short period of time and with so much rain it was plenty.  I will say that I was happy with the number and variety of animals we saw during our stay.  

We had 2 night drives as well looking for the lions. Lions are very lazy animals and sleep about 21 hours a day.  There are three lions, one male and two females on the reserve.  They had more but the lions eat the other animals so they needed to get rid of some of the lions to help protect the others. 

We had all our meals in the lapa, where they cooked the food in cast iron pots and pans and used coals as the heat element.

the toaster:

We had our last breakfast, said our goodbyes, packed the car (in the pouring rain) then headed back toward Cape Town.  We had one more night on the road since we didn't want to drive the 8+ hours straight back.
About 10 minutes into our drive Emily asked me to get her phone that was in her purse so we could listen to music.  I couldn't find her purse in the car and as it turned out she'd left it at Schotia.  Oy, we turned the car around and went back.  Fortunately the purse was there and we were so glad we hadn't gone further than we had before figuring out her purse was missing (with her passport and wallet).
We certainly have travel angels following us.
Back on the rainy road to our next stop in Wilderness and last night on the garden route.  Emily wanted to stay on the beach and we were lucky to find this B&B, Sea Paradise, situated right on the beach.  Pity the weather wasn't better.  

We had a nice dinner at Pomodoro in the quaint town of Wilderness.  I would come here again and spend time.  It's a nice little village across the street from the beach.

Sadly we made our way back to Cape Town for our last night in South Africa.  I can't believe how fast 3 weeks went for me.  Emily was sad to leave her host family but ready to get back to America.
We had a last dinner with Emily's host family (Gail, Armian and Talia) at Beluga, a very hip sushi/dumpling restaurant in Green Point.  On Sunday's they offer sushi 1/2 price.

I was so happy for Emily and the White family that they'd both had great experiences with each other.  Gail was so sweet and gave me a parting gift of a beaded giraffe.  This was the first time they had hosted an exchange student and due to their good time with Emily, signed up for another student to stay with them for the next semester.  I know it doesn't always work out for students and their host families to get along and know that Emily and the Whites will remain in contact.  I hope they will visit us in Santa Barbara some time in the future.  Thank you White family for taking such good care of my baby.

Our last night was spent back at Balu's house.  Another wonderful angel sent us here and we felt as though we'd been long family friends.  We all got along so well that we discussed meeting in Greece for a family vacation.  
Balu recommended we have dinner at a rather new and hip restaurant, The Pot Luck Club located in the Old Biscuit Mill.  OMG, this was by far the best meal so far in the trip and one of the best meals I've ever had.  Every bite was filled with flavor and spice perfectly blended.  Hard to describe but believe me you want to eat here if ever in Cape Town.
Rachel on the left, Georgina on Emily's left and Balu to the right.  Unfortunately, Ian, the dad and David the young son were unable to join us.  David had water polo practice.  Next to Rachel is Sean, a friend of Georgina's.

Time to say more goodbyes.  Hugs and kisses all around then Balu drove us to the airport for our flight to London.
South Africa, for me, was a wonderful experience filled with new adventures, interesting people and lots of culture.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bats and cheetas and other wild things on the Garden Route

Since I didn't have much internet for our week long visit along the Garden Route I've put the week together.  
Sunday we left Cape Town and headed towards Oudtshoorn, a small mountain town known for Ostrich farms.  It was a long 5 hour beautiful mountainous drive on the N1, that took us through the Huguenot tunnel that is 2.5 miles long.  You cannot hold your breath through this one.

Our B&B, The Gumtree, was very comfortable and in a good location near the Main Street.  Oudtshoorn is not very big but due to the high tourism has over 100 B&B's.  

Monday's agenda included a visit to The Canga Wildlife Ranch. This is a place where they rehabilitate many different animals from all over the world. First stop on the tour was a visit to the bat cave.

Crazy. They always hang upside down except for when they go to the bathroom.  The bat below is carrying a baby bat. 

A little bit creepy.  Outside the bat cave was Dolce and Gabbana some kind of designer pigs.

Next stop lemurs. Oh so cute. Love the strips.
The mom carries both of her children on her back. Now I know us parents do that figuratively but here is nature at its best.

Emily testing her wing span compared to a vulture.

We had a great guide with a fabulous sense of humor.  She went to feed the croc so we could have a show and take photos.  On the tour with us was one other couple from Germany.  Our guide spoke fluent German, lucky for them, so we had a bi-lingual tour.

In case you wanted to see those teeth a little closer

Even though we were in the Ostrich area this place had a few loving Emu's.  There weren't any ostiches here as the Ostrich farm was further up the road.  

The main attraction here is the Cheetas.  After the tour you can visit, pet and take photos with the Cheetas, for an extra fee of course.  Being that I didn't think we were very likely to have this opportunity again we went for it.  Also, the money is used to help rehabilitate the animals.

Not really being a cat person I will say it was a very cool experience. 

Next stop Knysna.  Again we drove through the mountains to get back to the ocean.  This was one of my favorites drives so far.  The terrain was so beautiful, it felt a little like the Swiss Alps.

The weather changes quite rapidly.

We arrived in Knysna in the late afternoon at our next B&B, 9 on Heron.  The location was a bit out of town and although it was a nice place and the owners extremely kind, I wouldn't stay in Knsyna again.  We enjoyed other seaside towns; Plettenberg Bay, Jeffreys Bay and Wilderness much more.
This is outside our room at 9 on Heron.

We had a nice fish dinner at the oldest restaurant in Knysna, The Anchorage. After dinner we drove down to the waterfront  then back to our B&B for a good nights rest.
Tuesday,  another animal highlight, Knsyna Elephant Park.  Here you can visit, feed and photograph the elephants.  When you pay the entrance fee you can also pay for a bucket of food.  The elephants eat all kinds of vegetables, beets, carrots, potatoes.  They are so gentle, but you need to listen to the trainers very carefully and they stay very close to you.

For someone who isn't an animal person, Emily really got into feeding and talking to the elephants.

Felix, our guide, was very good with my camera and took excellent direction on how to take photos. 
Way to go Felix.

I think the elephants are so cute when their ears are flapping.
When our visit at the Elephant park was over we headed into Plettenberg Bay for lunch.
Omg, what amazing views this town has.  We had lunch on the beach at the Lemon Grass restaurant which is attached to the Milkwood Inn (where we wished we were staying)
This is what we had to look at while eating a wonderful meal.

We sat outside and enjoyed the wonderful sunshine.

The hotel is behind the tree, not bad, eh?

A view of Plettenberg from above the town

After lunch we went into the small town of Plett (as the locals call it) to the craft workshop for a little shopping of local art.  Emily found some paintings she liked and picked this one held by the vendor.  He was also selling wood cuts that were printed on elephant dung (dried of course).  These prints were not so cheap, as we were told, the elephant dung prints are not as common as all the other paintings.

We were on a bit of a timeframe because we had booked a catamaran ride back in Knysna for 4:30.  When I purchased the tickets earlier in the morning I was told there would be 5 people on the cruise, but when we got to the boat it was only us.  The weather was glorious  today and we had a lovely 2 1/2 hour sunset cruise steered by Leon, a local Knysan boy.  We were served a "snack" tray by the other two crew members on board, that was enough food for 10, that included all kinds of cheese, crackers, shrimps, yummy stuff.  It filled us up so much we didn't need dinner.
We sure had a relaxing time.

Our boat ride was around the Knysna Harbor and out to the headlands.  Unfortunately due to it being low tide we were unable to venture out to the Indian Ocean, but Leon took us to the entrance where this old lighthouse is.  

I thought it was a sorry looking lighthouse.  He told us that this is the only harbor in the world that Lloyds of London will not insure boats due to the dangerous ocean current in trying to enter or exit the harbor.  He also told us that many boats make it in but never make it out.  

There are some incredible private homes along the shore.  There is a road that takes 45 minutes to get to the house or you can take a boat from the harbor in about 20.  I could live here.
Leon was intent on our seeing the sunset before returning us to the harbor and what a beauty it was.

The end to another very full day.
Our next adventure Wednesday morning took us to Robberg Peninsula, the largest Bungy Jump in the world and then to The Tsitsikamma forest where we took a canopy tour.

The water and rock formations along the coast make this one of the most naturally beautiful places I've ever seen.  Some of it reminds me of the Chilean coast in Vina Del Mar.  
Our first stop this morning was the Robberg Peninsula which sits just south of Plettenberg Bay.  We had a nice walk for about an hour along the trail and down to the beach.  You can spend many hours hiking here but we didn't have that kind of time.

Back on the road to the next stop,
You have to see this to believe it.

Emily told me that if someone offered her 10 million dollars she wouldn't jump.  I'm with her.
I have a great sense of adventure but it stops here.
On to where we did have our adrenalin rush, zip lining through the canopy of the Tsitsikamma forest and our one night at the Tsitsikamma Inn.

Our guide Yolo was another crack pot and our tour consisted of just us.  How fortunate to be getting all these private tours. I'm starting to think that tour guides in SA are given comedy classes in order to engage the tourists, or maybe it's just us that brings out the good humor.  Our two hour canopy tour across the forest was filled with screams and fun.
Included in our canopy tour was a lunch served in a restaurant that is part of a collective that also runs the tours.  I have come across many organizations that have been started to help people make a better living.  

that's a lot for now I'll post the rest of the week tomorrow.