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.


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