Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The last few days became a blur as we covered so much distance from Knysna to Cape Aghulis to Capetown in 2 days - but what a couple of days with so much to see.  

The colours of the scenery are varied and spectacular

From Knysna we travelled through wonderful scenery though the countryside was dry.  We stopped for a visit to Ronnie’s Sex Shop which is not as the name infers.  The story goes that it’s original name was Ronnie’s Shop, but some wag painted the ‘Sex” into the name, and it stuck.  It’s sort of a biker’s (or anyone’s) drop in for a coffee or a beer, and to give it character, over the year bikers have left T shirts and the female visitors have left either bras or knickers all of which now adorn the ceiling of the place.  It’s a tacky, dirty place in the middle of nowhere, but apparently it’s a ‘must do’, so we did.
Geoff checks out the tropies at Ronnie's Sex Shop
A hundred or so more kilometres and we reached Cape Aghulis which you should remember from your Social Studies lessons at school is where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet.  If you didn’t know that, you’re not alone.  When we arrived there was a strong Westerly wind blowing which tried it’s hardest to knock us off the road, and the sand was whipping our faces.  It’s a windblown, rocky, ruggedly beautiful spot, so we only stopped for the obligatory photos, then paid a quick visit to the lighthouse which had been built in 1846.  We climbed the stairs and a ladder to reach the top for a look at the view, then headed for our guesthouse for a nice warm shower to wash off the dust of the road. 
Windblown but excited to be at Cape Aghulis where the oceans merge
Our last day of riding took us from the Cape to Capetown, about 450km which is not a lot, but we stopped off so often I lost count.  Again we found ourselves riding through more spectacular countryside dotted with lush green vineyards which contrasted sharply with the bare harvested maize and hay fields.  It was all beautiful and while we had started out in cloudy conditions, the sun came out and we ended up with perfect conditions for our last riding day.  
We were following the coastline most of the way and the water was a very deep blue and was breathtaking against the colour of the sand.  Lunch was on a high cliff overlooking an amazing view and to get there we rode up a twisting, winding road with steep dropaways not for the squeamish, then it was back on the road for more of the same.  Luckily it was Sunday so traffic was relatively mild.  In one small town we came upon a group of baboons just walking alongside the road as if they owned it. 
Spectacular view while we enjoy lunch
We stopped to see penguins who nest alongside quite a busy residential area.  They were so close we could have touched them.
Cute little guys and some of their chicks

'My darling, you're looking especially lovely today'
 Another hour or so riding and we entered the Cape of Good Hope National Park where we once again did the obligatory photos, though this time we didn't have to rush quite so much as we were enjoying the beautiful day.  Just look at the clear blue sky.
Cause for celebration, we've reached the Cape of Good Hope and the sun is shining
The sun glistening on the waters of the Cape of Good Hope
We reached Capetown around 7.00, still in daylight and exhilarated to be finished the ride without any problems.  
Today we’ve been playing tourist on the Red Bus.  We rode the cable car up to Table Mountain and the view from the top is spectacular, and tonight we’ve enjoyed a nice dinner by the waterfront with the group we’ve spent the last 3 weeks with.  How lucky are we to have been able to travel with a group which melded well, laughed a lot and enjoyed each other’s company which made the whole experience just great.

Guess where!

These things have a revolving floor and open windows so you can look back at the view as you go higher and higher

How clear is this water - looking down from Table Mountain

Nice plate to enjoy a dinner with new friends before we all head home.

Tomorrow we start the long journey back home and it will be great to be back on Aussie soil, where we don’t have to live behind razor wire and electric fences.  It’s been a great experience.     

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Knysna to Outdshoorn

South Africans are carnivores and love nothing better than to cook up a ‘braai‘ (barbie to us) as you can see by the quantity of meat our tour leader Darryl is cooking up on the Weber.  We had more food than we could eat but it was delicious

And this was only half of what Darryl cooked up for us
Today we took to the gravel back roads enroute to Oudtshoorn.  The scenery is more rural now with beautiful farmlands surrounded by mountains.  We only rode around 200km which was a short day for us for a change.  
Hills and mountains surrounding us made for great curves and sweeps as we rode through the passes

Arriving around lunchtime we headed for the Canga Ostrich Farm to learn about these huge ‘feather dusters’.  I’ve never had much time for Ostriches, but must admit they’re characters and will do anything for food.  Geoff was first to cuddle up with a friendly female who wrapped herself around him trying to get the treats on offer from our guide.  There were families with Mum, Dad and several chicks, and the stock which they pluck the feathers from for a variety of uses.  They looked a bit like huge turkeys ready for basting, where their feathers had been plucked. They had other birds which were penned separately and we were invited to saddle up for an ostrich race - hmmm.  The best part was the neck massage which involved backing up to the fence with a bucket of treats while half a dozen ostriches tried to get to the food.  That was an interesting experience and I thought I would lose my sunglasses and earings.  Then to get even, we ate ostrich kebabs for lunch which were delicious.

Mum, Dad and the kids

I'm in there somewhere and about to lose my sunnies

We followed that experience with a visit to the Canga Caves with huge stalactites and stalagmites.  The caves were very well set up and quite warm at a temp of 20 degrees which they maintain all year round.
To wind up the day we rode on more gravel up through the mountains for a spectacular view over the valley below.  We were surrounded on all sides by beautiful mountains, and in the valley were farmlands, it was wonderful.  We headed back to our lodge which turned out to be the best accommodation we’ve had to date and it seems a pity that we have to saddle up again tomorrow and head for Cape Agulhas, the most Southerly point on the continent where the 2 oceans meet.  I expect we’ll see more great scenery.

Who's the Queen of the mountains?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

St Lucia to Knysna

We’ve had about 5 days without any internet service so all the group has been a bit twitchy because their Iphones didn’t work but we’re back into a large town where we have Wifi - yeah!
After our trip to Durban we managed to return to St Lucia in time to take the hippo discovery trip late in the afternoon when the hippos are supposed to be coming to life.  While we did see heaps of them, they were still not ready to put on a show and were still waking up before heading out for a night grazing on the grasses near their river territories.  

A face only a mother could love
They didn't move just kept watching us
Next morning we were off to Oribi Gorge which was to be our next overnight stop.  Our lunch stop was at a beach where the muddy river water turned the surf a spectacular shade of brown.  The surf just didn’t look at all inviting. We arrived at the gorge late in the afternoon after a long day on the bikes.  It's a spectacular place and there are some adventure playthings for those who want to follow that path, though none of us was up to taking a swing out into the middle of the gorge.  We did however take a walk across the suspension bridge which was fine as long as the guys weren’t shaking it all over the place.  
It's a big drop on a swing
Anyone for a swim, it's not at all inviting
These pretty coloured houses dotted the hills for miles and miles.

Up and off again to our next stop, Coffee Bay for a couple of nights.  This area is quite remote and off the beaten track and the only white folk we saw were the hotel owners, and when we arrived on Sunday night the young people of the town were ready to party after a day spent going to church.  We made our way through the packed streets to our hotel situated right on the beach and our room overlooked the surf which thankfully was not the colour of coffee.  It was lovely going to sleep with the sound of the surf breaking outside our rooms.

A room with a view
The houses along the road are painted all sorts of colours - whatever takes the owner's fancy

Unfortunately many people still live in slums on the outskirts of many of the towns
There wasn’t a lot to do in this small village but some of the group had met a lifeguard who was a tour guide in his second job, and he offered to take us to visit his village and see how they made the local maize beer.  True to his word he turned up at the gates to our hotel at 4.00 and led us up the goat tracks to his neighbour’s house.  There were about 20 people from the village inside the rondavel he took us to, about 4 men and the rest were women and children.  The women of course had blankets filled with necklaces they had made and were keen to show us, and of course we were expected to go shopping.  Then the serious business of tasting the local beer and one of the guys volunteered to be chief taster.  There was quite a routine involved, but eventually all of the men tasted the maize beer and gave it the ‘thumbs up’.  It was an interesting insight into village life for us.
Miriam and friend
Now which necklace would you like to buy - untangle this lot.

Today we're in Knysna and it's raining so I don't think we'll be doing too much.  We had an eco tour planned, but the weather is ugly and we don't need wet, muddy clothes to cope with, so I think we'll pass.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Swaziland to St Lucia

We have access to faster internet today so I’ll add a few more photos from Kruger.  We were up close to so many of the animals and yet felt reasonably safe in our vehicle.  One large bull elephant was only about 20 feet away from us and walked straight toward us.  

He just walked toward us as he munched his grass

This guy was cooling himself off by flapping his ears and giving himself a mud bath

We passed through Swaziland very quickly with only one night spent there and didn’t see a lot of the local people unfortunately.  We stopped and bought candles unique to Swaziland at a craft market, and all spent a long choosing which ones to buy then  continued  on our way to the border where we expected we could be standing in the sun for a couple of hours before being allowed through the border back into South Africa.  Apparently there can be long waits when busloads of tourists arrive at the same time, but we were lucky and got through in about 30 minutes.  The temperature started climbing and the thermometer on the bike registered 38.5 degrees so by the end of the day we felt pretty sticky and dirty so it was great to have a shower and freshen up when we arrived in St Lucia. 

These ladies were beading necklaces

Making candles

Lots of the women have their hair braided
Smoko stop

Heading for the gravel

These huts are all along the road

Wonderful scenery as well - great
Today we have a rest day but Geoff and I are driving to Durban to see some clients so we’ll have a long day, but this time we’ve hired a car so it should be an easier trip than doing it on the bike.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pretoria to Swaziland

I’ve only put a couple of photos together for this update because the internet is just so slow or non-existent where we’ve been in the last couple of days.  
We’ve hardly had time to think since leaving Pretoria and our days have been full, but the highlight would have to be our half day spent in Kruger National Park.  We were picked up at 5.00am so that we could beat the busloads of tourists. and our guide was smart and made no promises that we would see any animals.  

Once we were in the park we saw giraffes and zebras and elephants feeding on the sweet grasses and new leaves on the trees since they had their first summer rains within the first couple of kilometres - things were looking good. How could you not get excited?  We came across a lioness laying in the middle of the road surrounded by vehicles, and she had no intention of moving.  Not ten feet away from her was a prospective lover who was trying to stake his claim and not let her out of his sight until he had had his way with her. 

Living in hope

Kruger Park is huge and there are roads leading everywhere and our driver’s partner called on the radio that he had found a leopard, which is apparently very rare so we hightailed it to where they were watching her.  She was straddling a branch in a tree about 20 feet above the ground.  We stayed and watched her for ages and while she was aware of us she was quite happy to just enjoy her siesta.  
We saw elephants having mud baths, heaps of antelope, hippopotamus and another rare sighting - a black rhino who was hiding behind some shrubs.  The sightings just kept on coming and by the end of our time when we sighted a giraffe, we got to the stage where  we thought ‘ho hum, not another giraffe’.  

What's a girl to do when she's had a hard day

I’m struck by the colours here and particularly love taking photos of the women with their bright clothing and headbands.  No matter what colour they wear, against their dark skin it is a striking contrast.  

We’ve been entertained by singers with beautiful voices and high energy dancers with lots of drumming and foot stamping.  They  danced barefoot and kicked and spun and stamped their feet on the hard packed earth - awesome.  
The views we’ve seen have been spectacular - green lush valleys, high cliffs, we’ve climbed through rainforest and today we rode 20 kilometres of gravel and rocks with steep up and down sections and deep ruts from rain washing out the road.  It was challenging and got the adrenalin rushing, but once we were through we were covered in red dust, hot and sweaty and smelly, but what a rush and luckily we didn’t drop the bike.   

Friday, November 25, 2011


I've been mindful of the many requests I had before we left to get lots of wildlife photos, and with that in mind, you'll be thrilled to hear that today I flattened the battery taking 'happy snaps' of lots of cheetahs and other endangered animals when we visited a Cheetah Conservation facility not far from Pretoria.  We also patted a Cheetah while it purred like a kitten, what a buzz! 

We were driven through the animal enclosures where they also had Vultures and Antelopes, African Hunting Dogs and even a brown Hyena who was like an old drunk staggering to come to the fence and see what was happening because he had just been roused from a deep sleep. 

Just beautiful

Nice Kitty
Waiting for his feed
This handsome fellow was looking out for his girls and chasing off any amorous young bucks that dared to come too close
The girls could enjoy their dinner in peace
A bit of posturing going on here
I've never been a fan of the African Hunting Dog but these guys had such colourful coats and they were very handsome and in top condition
Notes on protecting self while in Africa:  Cover your ankles with insect repellent to ward off the biting ants which I discovered really hurt and draw blood.  They swarm over your shoes and attack your legs, and I got in touch with my inner African trying to stamp my feet and dance to get them off me yesterday when we went for a walk.