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Jackass Penguins at Boulders Beach, South Africa
March 07 , 2007

Oudtshoorn - Home of the Ostrich

The bus to Oudtshoorn takes about an hour to wind its way through the Oudtshoorn Pass with some spectacular views of the mountains and some hairy corners as our mini-bus driver sped his way along. Oudtshoorn is the home of the Ostrich in South Africa (some may say the world), Numerous farms dot the fields throughout the region where they breed the birds for eggs, meat, feathers and more recently for tourism with a number of show farms popping up on the brochures. We'd made the trek here to see this quirky little town, and maybe even to ride the Ostrich (Lachie: Just call me Tex).

Unfortunately the bad weather followed us to Oudtshoorn and after sitting around the hostel for nearly two days in the rain, as soon as the sun broke through we decided it was time to stretch the legs.

Travel Training Part Three - The Exercise Bike
Rising early (7ish) we jumped on the bus and were shuttled about 60 km's away to the top of the Swartberg Pass in Klien Karoo.

By around 10am we were saddled up and ready to go, with our limited wardrobes, and the chilly morning temperatures we probably weren't dressed for the occasion, I was sporting long pants and a woolen jumper with my steel cap boots, while donna had on similar hiking attire as well.

The first 10 km's was a rough ride down the mountain on gravel road, with some spectacular views over the valleys, and some very very steep drop offs down the mountain (This was a white knuckle affair for Donna). After the road flattened out we had a hilly ride of about 15 km's to the Cango Caves, where we took a break from the bikes for some caving.

We ended up walking about 2.4km's, scrambling through tight spaces, crawling along on your hands and knees, climbing up chimneys and sliding down through 20cm cracks. What we thought would be a relaxing couple of hours turned out to be fairly strenuous and we both emerged very hot and sweaty. One lady a few weeks earlier than us (who was on the larger side), managed to get stuck in one of the tight cracks you need to edge sideways through, it took the rescuers about 10 hours to get her free.

After jumping back on the bikes we realized that our bodies weren't quite in peak physical condition, let me just say a gel seat would have come in handy. It took a few km's to stretch it back out again. We rode for another 15 odd km's to an english Tea House where we enjoyed freshly baked scones with tea and jam. By now the legs were really starting to get a little sore and the energy level had definitely dropped.

Donna enjoying herself in true colonial style at the English Tea House - Oudtshoorn

Donna enjoying herself in true colonial style at the English Tea House - Oudtshoorn

The final 10-15 km's back into town was a relaxing ride past the ostrich farms, and a perfect finish to the day.

Riding through the countryside gave us a very different view on South Africa than from the Bus. So far have both really enjoyed rural South Africa as opposed to the bigger cities, people walking on the side of the road with 5 liter bottles of water balanced on their heads, kids hi-fiving us as we ride by, getting up close to the Ostriches and the locals.

Another early morning bus took us back into George, this time the bus was a luxury Sleepliner with reclining chairs and fold out leg rests, it almost made up for the 5am wake up and the hour spent shivering on the side of the road waiting for the bus to arrive. This bus ran us up the coast to Knysna, along the way passing through the Tsitsikamma national park, home of the highest bungy jump at Storms River. We had considered going but decided against it. The South Africans have fully raped the mountain sides in the Park, most of the old growth has been logged leaving vast plains un-wooded. What has been re-planted has been planted with a quick growing pine, clearly not natural to the area and awful to look at, I've seen this in Australia but nowhere near the scale of this.

When the bus finally arrived in Knysna, the driver was quite thankful to say over the microphone "I would like to thank God that we arrived safely at our destination".

Buffalo Bay
From Knysna we managed to get a lift in a beat up old Mercedes out to Buffalo Bay. Lucky for us we have been self catering now for the last couple of weeks so we stocked up on supplies before we arrived. Other people turned up with nothing and there were no shops or restaurants to buy food from.

First Impression of Buffalo Bay Backpackers – Oh My God, lets get the fuck out of here. It really was as described, a beach shack backpackers. It looked to be some old public toilets that they had extended to add some shacks out the back and an undercover area for relaxing. It was hot, windy and very very sandy. Our Room consisted of three concrete walls with a wooden slat wall as a fourth wall, each set of slats had a 1cm gap to let in the air, sand and mozzies.

The deserted beaches of Buffalo Bay, South Africa

Lucky for us we stayed because it had a really cool vibe about it, very laid back and relaxed, and everyone else who stayed there was just looking for a couple of quiet days on the beach. Once the wind died down it was a really nice place, deserted beaches, quiet nights around the fire having a braai with the locals, and thankfully, not a mozzie in sight. After Sri Lanka and Dubai, we are finding the water bloody freezing down this part of the world - we can't wait till we get to Mozabique for the warm currents.

From here we continue east to Port Elizabeth to do our first safari at the Addo Elephant National Park.

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Pretty beaches eh?

Stella - October 09, 2007


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