We drove through the Outeniqua Mountains, again marvellous scenery until we reached George on the Indian Ocean. After reaching the ocean we headed along the coast passing the most fantastic beaches. We had a couple of stops where we were able to go for a short walk and take in the wonderful views before arriving in Knysna in time for lunch. Knysna is the oyster capital of South Africa, it's situated on a lagoon and is a popular holiday destination for both foreign tourists and South Africans.
After lunch there was the option of a walk on the Robberg Peninsula,an afternoon lazing on the beach, or doing absolutely nothing. I chose the third though I decided after a while to walk along the edge of the lagoon into Knysna.
I did the lagoon walk on my own and enjoyed seeing the various wading birds and colourful small birds as I walked along the path into town. People greeted me as I walked and I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon. OH chose to do the Robberg hike, part of which was down a steep sand dune to a fantastic large almost empty beach.. He said that they all ran down the dune and he was overtaken as if standing still by Jacques our guide. I think there was a bit of friendly rivalry going on. But OH was over 30yrs older than Jacques (his excuse anyway) Other members of the group had chosen to laze in the sun on another of the areas fantastic beaches.
The next day we headed for the Tsitsikamma National Park. On the way we stopped to watch people jumping from Bloukrans Bridge, the worlds highest Bungee Jump. The park has lots of forest and lush vegetation with a choice of walks. We chose to walk to the Storm River Suspension Bridge and then had a lazy afternoon sunbathing and swimming at the beach.
Next day we headed back along the coast towards the Mossel Bay area and then inland to the Botelierskop Private Game Reserve, a huge area with steep hills and trails. We were taken round the reserve in an open sided safari vehicle and over the next four hours saw lions, zebra, giraffe, different antelope, elephants, monkeys and birds. After lunch we headed for Swellendam where we were to spend the night. Late in the afternoon we were given the option of visiting a local township. The township(Railton)was literally on the other side of the railway tracks and we were met by a local resident Meisie who would be our guide. We walked through the shantytown area where houses were constructed of corrugated iron, cardboard and just about anything that could be of use. We visited the home of a healer, a sjebeen where the locals were just hanging out playing music and we met some of the ladies who were doing their washing in a central area. We then visited the more permanent area where locals lived in brick built houses provided by the local government and Maisie took us into her home. Meisie ran a program for the local children where they were able to go after school and we were treated to a program of songs and dancing by some of these children.
After retuning to our Guest House we enjoyed a Braai (BBQ) which consisted of delicious steaks and boerewors(spicy sausage)plus salads, delicious.
The next day we headed along the 'Whale Route' to Cape Town. We stopped at Cape Agulhas and walked to the southernmost point in Africa, the point where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans officially meet, before driving on to Hermanus. Hermanus is regarded as one of the premier spots for whale watching in Africa, unfortunately not in February. Despite the lack of whales the town was worth a stop. We then headed for Cape Town via Betty's Bay, Gordon's Bay with spectacular views across both Walker Bay and False Bay.
The next day was our last in South Africa, after packing we headed down to the Waterfront one last time. We spent a couple of hours walking round the Aquarium then had fish and chips sitting in a restaurant in the marina area watching the boats and people with Table Mountain as a back drop. We returned to the hotel to retrieve our luggage before being taken to the airport for our flight home.
Did I like South Africa, yes I loved it. I had always wanted to visit but wouldn't consider it during the apartheid years and I'm suprised that it has taken me so long to get there. What will I remember most of all about my holiday? I think number one would be the people, the smiles, the willingness to help, nothing seemed to be too much trouble. The scenery is outstanding. The food and accomodation second to none.
The country really is a rainbow nation. I'm not naive enough to think I'm anywhere near an expert on the country after just one short visit but I learned a lot during that short time. It's a country of haves and have nots, I saw areas of absolute luxury where people were living in multi-million rand houses and people living in abject poverty in shanty towns. Whether the two will ever meet peacefully remains to be seen. There is a feeling of positivity in the country that I liked.
Will I return? I hope so.
The travel company that I used was Explore, I like to use ones that adhere to the responsible travel idiology, using local companies, people and accomodation where possible. Many of their holidays are quite active but there is usually plenty of free time to do your own thing. We had a very good guide, Jacques, who was a wealth of knowledge about South Africa and it's troubled past and his presence on the tour certainly helped make it the success that it was.
I hope that I haven't bored the pants of everyone reading my report and for those that have stayed with me till the end thanks for your interest.