Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Grand South Africa Road Trip - West Coast and Garden Route

We backed up early and met with our host, Derek, the checkout.  Accommodating, as usual, he left us with his Cape Town private address to receive our duplicate passports when the arrive.  We drove to the airport and changed out our car for a bigger there will be room for five people, all the luggage, and our supplies.  It was another great experience dealing with Bidvest car rentals.  The whole process took less than 20 minutes and they cut us a really nice deal.  Instead of an additional $2,500 USD, it only cost us $1,300.

Our drive up the coast in the bright sunny day was beautiful.  Wildflowers graced the hills as we wandered through the glistening white sand dunes.  We reached West Coast National Park at noon and drive up the peninsula to a beautiful beach where we enjoyed a picnic lunch watching the surf pound the rocks and sand.

Our first day destination was Paternoster, a sleepy resort town dating back to 1647 and today, a thriving toursit resort hotspot.  Remincent of Mykonos and it's white stucco homes, Paternoster is an alcove set on a long, white beach.  80% of the homes are vacation rentals and this is where Cape Town goes in the summer.  The crayfish (African lobster) industry has long vanished and only local fisherman set traps.  We booked a really lovely beach cottage...very upscale...for two nights and settled in.

We wandered the village and Bobbie took a couple of long walks on the beach.  What a peaceful spot for a two-day respite.  Andi read and I completed another drawing.  We scored some local crayfish from a roadside vendor, along with some mussels and had quite a feast using the indoor braai on the balcony

We bid goodbye to our host the following morning and headed inland to Worcester and the village of Nuy where we would spend four nights on a working vineyard and farm.  Set against the rugged mountain of the Worcester Valley, Audrye's Vineyard Cottage was a little piece of heaven as well.  For $100 a night...a bit more than our budget this time...we got a lovely three bedroom, two bath home with a private garden.  Set in the middle of a working vineyard, we met Audrey and Andre and they showed us around, gave us a few pointers about the area and we were checked in in a snap.  Dinner made in the big country kitchen ended the day.

Our visit to the wine country was not based on wine tasting...Andi does enough of that for all of us.  The Karoo National Botanical Garden is located here and is the only one in the world devoted entirely to succulents..and indeed, what appeared to be baby mums and daisies, turned out to be succulents as well.  It was a short drive from our place and we spend a few hours walking the grounds.  October is the end of the flower season...South Africa's springtime...yet there was a load of color and few visitors.

On the way back we decided to take our host's suggestion and drove further up the valley on a gravel road to the local water hole.  This was a huge surprise.  The Saggy Stone...built and run by a few local women and what a nice oasis.  The girls had a flight of beers and we enjoyed the shade.

For our last day we drove over the moutains into the next valley and the town of Wellington, named for the famouse British duke.   The mountain pass was stunning. 

There we visited the Ashia Cheetah Sanctuary.  This was a lovely visit, seeing the cheetahs and LEOPARDS, and learning of their breeding and reintroduction program.  We spent about three hours with a private guide and a volunteer.  Really lovely grounds were full of beautiful flowers.  The park was a guava farm four years ago and the enclosures have been buildtg incorporating the trees.  Quite unique and so nice for the critters.

 This cheetah is named Alpha and he was HUGE...and will be used to breed large, strong animals for release in the wild.

 This black leopard...Pantera...was neutered due to an illness and now enjoys a pretty layed back life.
 Twin brothers being prepared for release soon.

 A beautiful cafe and gift shop.

 Andi and our guide/volunteer.
On our last evening, Audry and Andre invited us up for drinks at sundown.  It turned into a two-hour visit with cocktails and food,.  What a lovely couple.  We had a late departure and decided on a longer route, over into another valley, and then back again and to the coast.  The landscape was awesome with some stratal uplift that was pretty dramatic life the one below.
 A fun short tunnel following a bridge over a deep canyon.

 We stopped at a roadside table for a picnic.

At the last summit, we enjoyed some great views of the canyon.

 Some monkeys ran across the road...first wildlife we have seen in over two weeks.
 Coming out of the mountains we traversed wheat fields for about 40 miles.
 A passed several ostrich farms...this is common in this area.
 Reaching the coast and the village of Witsand, we scored again with a lovely beach house.

Witsand is also given the name, "Whale Nursery" because of the huge number of Southern Right Whales that migrate here from the Arctic and Antarctic each year for birthing.  This was the reason for our visit and sadly we did not see any, on our first day.  Instead, we enjoyed a beautiful white beach and pleasant weather.  The next day we saw our first real rain.  We made a fire indoors, grabbed a book and hung out.  In the afternoon we took a short walk on the beach in between showers.

Our drive over the mountains to Oudtshroom was three hours of rolling farmland, hills, then canyons and a high pass.
On the other side was the Karoo again.  A semi-arid desert with lots of vegetation.  The town of Oudtshoorn in the Cango Valley is considered to be South Africa's ostrich capital.  We booked a tour of the most popular farm and it was a blast.

 The ostrich foot as two toes...the one with the nail for digging and defense...the other for balance.

 The tour included a three-course dinner.  Ostrich carpaccio appetizer.
 Ostrich steak, potatoes, and veggies...followed by a coconut cheesecake...I passed on the later.

We drove another 15 minutes to our home for two days.  It was a lovely income unit attached to a much larger suburban home.  Comfortable and quiet.

Ostriches, caves, and wine is what Oudtshroom has to offer...we'd had enough wine, certainly, with more to what was left were the caves...and they did no diappoint.  About fifteen minutes outside of town are the Cango Caves...the more popular of the Karoo desert collection.  We booked a tour and wandered with a great guide who really knew geology.  We've been to so many over the years and it never gets old.  As claustrophobic as I am, for some reason, I really like long as there is plenty of room and a visible way out.

We departed the Cango Valley and drove two hours to the coast the seaside town of Knysna (the K is silent).  There we rented a smart Airbnb in a private "all white" enclave.  The place was nice, the division of labor distressing.  And someone stole something of ours from the deck in the early I guess it's true what they say about having to lock everything up everywhere.

We booked an eco-tour to the Featherbed Reserve.  it was a nice four-hour outing that included a boat ride, a 4X4 truck ride to the top of the mountain, a lovely downhill walk through the reforested area following the 2017 firestorm, then along the beach, and a ridiculous "cruise style" luncheon back at the beach lodge.  Very POSH.

The next morning we departed for Port Elizabeth to meet up with Hans and Marie.