Friday, August 13, 2010

Postings from Pretoria #38

13 August 2010

Hello there... Rodger French here. Still.

Photo Update Alert:

“Cape Town/Table Mountain” “Garden Route” “Garden Route 2” “Klein Karoo”

Longish Posting Alert: Our excellent Western Cape adventure continues.

Day 5 – About that fog… geographically, the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountains separate the verdant Garden Route from the arid semi-desert Klein (“Little”) Karoo. So, depending on temperature and prevailing winds… Voila! Le fog. But we persevered and so made our way to Mossel Bay, which was first “discovered” by Bartolomeu Dias, a Portuguese explorer, in 1488. A museum dedicated to this momentous event includes an actual full-size and seaworthy replica of the caravel Dias arrived in. (It’s amazing how small those vessels actually were.)

Making our way through a twilight zone of fog and roadwork, we arrived at Wilderness, where Anne had booked yet another fabu beachfront accommodation. A walk on the beach, some Italian food, and surf sounds for sleeping. Nice.

Day 6 – Since we were staying two nights in Wilderness, we had a day to tool around, starting with a drive to Plettenberg Bay, an upscale vacation/retirement haven for people with boatloads of loot. Then we went to Knysna (“nize-nah”), a former timber port and shipbuilding center. To enter the harbour, one must navigate a narrow passage at “The Heads,” an extremely dangerous proposition for any sizable vessel. The views, however, are splendid. After lunch (including some of the famous and very tasty Knysna oysters), we hung around the waterfront until it was time to head into the woods.

The Wilderness National Park is not far, and we had our choice of easy or ridiculous hikes into an old growth forest. It being late in the day, easy seemed appropriate. The highlight of our stroll was “The Big Tree,” a majestic yellowwood estimated to be 800-900 years old. We paid our respects and made our way back to the beach in time for sunset.

Day 7 – Up, breakfast, and off to the Klein Karoo, with a brief stop to visit the Outeniqua Transport/Railway Museum in the town of George. (I love these places.) Then it was off to Oudtshoorn (roughly, “oot-shoorn) – “The Ostrich Capital of the World.” But first… a brief side trip to Cango Caves, some 30km up the road, where we had a choice of the “standard tour” (one hour, user friendly) or the “adventure tour” (three hours, lots of crawling and clambering about). One hour later, we emerged.

[Sidebar – For thirty years, concerts were held regularly in the large chamber, but had to be discontinued due to audience members vandalizing the caves in search of souvenirs. That’s just sad.]

Back in Oudtshoorn, we sought out Lugro Ostrich, a specialty leather shoppe, where we expressed curiosity as to why ostrich leather goods are so damned expensive. Our answer came in the form of a factory tour led by the proprietor, who offered technical explanations concerning the breeding, harvesting, and processing of these odd creatures and their hides. Our query satisfactorily answered, A.J. and I, not wanting to appear rude, purchased a couple of modest items.

Continuing the theme, we spent the evening at De Denne Guesthouse, located on a working ostrich farm owned by Louise and Johan Keller, a 4th generation ostrich rancher. Our dinner featured ostrich steaks grilled on the braai accompanied by a zillion stars and the calls of male ostriches making romantic overtures; a sound very much like a roaring lion. What a great night.

Day 8 – We awoke to a clear, cold, and perfect dawn. After a short walk around the ranch, accompanied by Bruno the dog, we had breakfast and set off west on Route 62 Scenic Highway through the heart of the Klein Karoo and molto spettacolare scenario. At Montagu, a pleasant village on the edge of the Karoo, we happened upon a weekly community sale at the local church, where I encountered possibly the best sandwich ever: Grilled lamb, crusty bread, and spicy sauce, all homemade.

We continued on to the Jan Harmsgat Guesthouse, a 1723 vintage spread ensconced in the foothills of the mighty Langeberg mountains, where we were treated to a “sundowner” drive and tour of the new plantings (including 32,000 pomegranate trees) followed by a 5-course “slow food” banquet that lasted three and a half hours. Great food, great conversation, molto Italiana.

Day Last – The drive back to Cape Town started off quietly enough, but the unpredictable Cape weather soon engulfed us in showers and often torrential rain. We took heart, however, in seeing four complete rainbows along the way… or maybe it was the same rainbow encouraging us on… yeah, let’s go with that. Obviously, we made it back OK, returning to Pretoria to continue preparations for our move Stateside in September.

Anne and I have been most fortunate to be able to take advantage of this and the other touristic opportunities afforded us over the past two years. (We have already started compiling our “when we return to southern Africa” list.) But, well intentioned though these Postings are, they can offer but a superficial overview of these amazing journeys. A tasting, if you will.

When we meet again, I’ll tell you more, perhaps over a bottle of South African wine.



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