Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200611 1 South Africa



WEDNESDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2006 – Another dull and miserable day with lots of heavy rain.  Perfect weather for us to be cocooned in luxury practising the art of being couch potatoes.



THURSDAY 2 NOVEMBER- This morning the rain has stopped and there are clear blue skies but very strong winds making the sea really rough.  This bay was used during the filming of the cult surf movie “Endless Summer”, the waves known as “Bruce’s Beauties” being the stars.   Don’t think there will be anyone out surfing today.



FRIDAY 3 NOVEMBER – Checking out day and a reality check for us, no more maid service to do our washing up and make the beds and no more satellite TV.  Head back towards Port Elizabeth picking up the coast road at Sea View.  The caravan parks we try to visit are either closed or derelict and unappealing.  Pine Lodge have told us sites are R32.50pp but when we get there no one remembers telling Steve this on the phone and it’s R110.  It’s now early afternoon and the day is not going well so we check in.  Next hurdle is the security barrier that won’t open with the remote control meaning Steve has to climb out of the van, activate it then quickly get back in.  The site we have been allocated is not near the toilets, not flat and the chain barring our access cannot be undone with the keys we have been given. That’s the last straw so Steve returns to reception and asks for and eventually gets our money back.  There’s a caravan park at Hume Park in the centre of town and it sounds really nice in the brochure.  The reality is a scrappy site full of dodgy looking permanents in a location that would be noisy because of the club bar and is unpleasant in the howling wind and rain.  Annie has already invited us back there and we were going to go on Monday but realise it is now our best option for today.  She welcomes us back and we park the van outside her Mill Park home and settle into the garden unit.  Annie & Paul go out on business for the evening and her kids flit in and out.  Steve watches TV and I use the Internet so the day has taken a turn for the better.



SATURDAY 4 NOVEMBER – Annie & Paul are away for the weekend checking out a farm they are thinking of buying.  Before they leave Annie brings round the works van and insists we use it to go out and about.  Steve reluctantly takes me to the local shopping centre where I treat myself to a new dress and skirt.  Cheap clothing shops abound but being a Saturday they are incredibly busy and I am mindful of my injured foot. 



SUNDAY 5 NOVEMBER – After a cold windy and rainy night we are glad to wake to a dry morning.  Potter around doing bits of washing and Internet whilst Steve watches TV.  Annie & Paul arrive back early afternoon, before they had even arrived at the farm they had a call from the owners to say they had changed their minds and were no longer selling it.  In the evening Annie’s parents Rob & Pat join us all for a delicious “potjies kos”, meal cooked in a huge iron pot over the fire.



MONDAY 6 NOVEMBER – We drive round to the lodge where Paul then leads Steve and Millie to a garage.  Still having starting problems, Paul thinks this garage should be able to get to the bottom of it.  It’s cast off day so Paul returns to pick me up and take me to Greenacres Hospital for my 11am appointment with Dr Francis Kock.  Nurse “Mickey” is really gentle taking my cast off and horror of horrors reveals a wizened hairy leg with lots of dead suntanned skin, definitely not the one that went into the cast – oh yes it is there’s still a bunion on the end, bugger!  The Doctor pronounces the tendon repair still intact enabling me to go on to the next stage in the healing process meaning I get the boot.  It’s a large and heavy black boot with support bars at the side and lots of straps.  Sort of “Robocop” meets biker meets skier!  I must wear it for the next 7 weeks whenever I’m putting weight on my foot.  If I am resting I can remove it and then do gentle exercises with my ankle.  Basically it takes 3 months from the date of the operation for the tendon repair to be strong enough to take my weight.  The Doctor knows Paul & Annie well and because of this dispenses with the full fees and just charges me R300 (£24) for a basic consultation leaving me to pay Annie the cost price for the boot R440 (£35).   I should be able to claim it all back from the insurance but goodness knows when that will be.  Return to the Lodge and when Annie is ready to go home the van is still not ready but they now know the problem is not with the starter motor but the ignition switch.  Paul joins us at Annie’s for a tasty fish supper.



TUESDAY 7 NOVEMBER – The boot Annie loaned me yesterday is much too big so today she is waiting the arrival of the small size and Steve is waiting to hear about Millie.  Nothing happens until late afternoon when Annie arrives with the slightly daintier small boot and the takes us to pick up Millie.  He has put a new ignition switch on and by passed much of the confusing old wiring.  Although he spent hours working on it the bill is a very reasonable R500 (£40).  It seems that instead of being overcharged as a tourist we are now being undercharged as Paul & Annie’s friends.  In the evening we take Paul & Annie out to Natti’s Thai restaurant, one of their favourite haunts and also highly recommended in the Rough Guide.  It’s in a housing area and the restaurant is in the lounge and dining room of a normal house.  Owner Mark welcomes us and we are soon ordering the items he recommends as opposed to using a menu.  Spring rolls get us off to a good start and we share main courses of prawn Thai curry, grilled prawns, rare sliced beef and a chicken and cashew nut stir-fry.  Rounded off with fried bananas with coconut and ice cream it is excellent.  After a good meal, good company and copious amounts of red wine Steve is starting to relax.



WEDNESDAY 8 NOVEMBER – Get up early to say goodbye to all the family yet again superb hosts and now new friends we hope to meet again.  Driving out of PE we want to visit the Red Location apartheid museum and have excellent directions in a tourist leaflet.  However when we try to follow the simple directions they take us to an industrial estate and after meandering around trying to track it down we give up.  Heading inland we pass by a huge formal settlement stretching for miles.  There are many signs warning of potholes for 10km, in fact there is one every 10km!  Our destination is Addo Elephant Park but 7km before it we stop to check into the camping at Orange Elephant Backpackers.  There’s a bar, restaurant and a TV area so Steve will we well suited for his mid week football.  Our Wild Card gets us into Addo and within minutes we are viewing elephants at a watering hole. It’s a very hot day and they seem to enjoy messing about in the water.  It’s a viewing area where you can get out and walk and just before the car park Steve has seen a damaged leopard turtle shell.  He walks back and peers inside to see lots of bugs feasting on the raw and bloody inside.  It’s not a large park so there is quite a lot of traffic on the road.  Some roads are tar but those that are not are of good dirt and fine for us to drive along.  For the first time we see the majestic Red Hartebeest and lots of zebra, warthog, elephants, kudu, buffalo and many birds.  At one point there is a real elephant jam with cars on the road surround by them.  On another road Steve can’t stop quickly enough to avoid driving over a trail of some small creature, which forms a line across the whole road.  When we back up we find hundreds of grasshoppers many clustered together.  Mid afternoon we head back out of the park and on the main highway spot a snake by the side of the road.  Steve slams on the anchors and reverses so I get to lean out of the window to photo a recently hit Cape Cobra which is still wriggling around.  I’m rather nervous about it but Steve is confident it has been hit and is almost dead so he hops out to photograph it at closer quarters.  Spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the garden of the backpackers.  Steve heads out at 10pm to sit in the bar watching football


R30 (£2.40) site, no electric


THURSDAY 9 NOVEMBER – We are at the park when the main entrance gates open at 7am.  People camping in the park got a head start on us as the game reserve gates opened at 6am.  Drive around for over 3 hours and sight yellow mongoose, tortoise, buffalo, kudu, warthogs (an anagram of Hogwarts), grey crane, black backed jackal, ostrich, dung beetle, elephant, zebra, secretary bird, red knobbed coot, Egyptian goose, vervet monkey, red hartebeest and the red bishop bird.  So a very rewarding mornings spotting.  Return to the backpackers to chill out for the rest of the day.  They have lots of games you can borrow so we exercise our brains with a couple of games of scrabbles but our scores are noticeably lower than when we played regularly. 



FRIDAY 10 NOVEMBER – Heading inland towards Graaf Reinet we first travel along a valley before making our way up and over a number of hills.  We are heading to visit another Hospitality Club host on a farm 30km south of Jansenville.  3km up a dirt track we reach the homestead to be met by Andries wife Elzane, daughters Andrea (12) and Petrone (9).  Their main income is from mohair but they also breed ostrich and sheep for their meet.  Andries also leases out a section of his farm for game hunting.  He arrives back later and takes us out over a small area of the farm.  It doesn’t look at all like farming land as it is covered in what looks like cactus but is in fact noors of the euphorbia species. Once it has been cut and left for a day the livestock can eat it and also get liquid intake from it’s milky inside.  The girls and some workers are in the back of the truck bouncing along as we trundle along the tracks.  Andries farm straddles the main road and as we are waiting to cross on the return trip we see a farm worker on the opposite site of the road with his dog.  The dog jumps over the fence and runs towards us, straight into the path of an oncoming that cannot swerve, as there is a vehicle on the opposite side of the road.  The dog appears under the rear of the car and bounces to a limp halt.  We drive across the road to investigate.  Petrone is heartbroken and cannot stop sobbing. The dog’s owner picks the obviously dead animal up by the scruff of the neck and dumps it on the verge.  Meanwhile the car has stopped and the people walk back.  Andries talks to them and walks back to their car, which cannot be driven.    The radiator and air conditioning system are damaged so they phone for a tow truck.  There’s nothing more to be done so we return to the farm.  They have a caged with a black backed jackal and a caracal (lynx).  They have been captured as they were killing the lambs.  Their idea is to keep them in cages and let them soak an old sack with their urine.  This smelly sack will be used to entice and capture other predators.  We’ve been offered use of the lodge, a separate building with bathroom, lounge, dining area and bedroom.  There are beds enough for 6 people as it is often used as a hunting lodge.  Andries takes Steve to his cool room, full of recently killed lamb, which he butchers.  In the evening we all sit in the lodge whilst Andries cooks some of his lamb on the braai.  They have done a number of trips to Europe using Rick Steve’s “back door” guidebooks.  He shows me the books a combination of travel tips and tour plans.  It’s almost like reading the travel advice I give to people and entries from my diaries with many out of the way and quirky places we have visited included in his recommended tours.  Andries has turned one of his rooms into a pub style bar and made an excellent job of it.  Steve is in his element to sit in the bar sampling some of the many whiskeys that Andries has collected. 



SATURDAY 11 NOVEMBER – Andries has offered us the chance to join them for a 4-wd trip through the greater Addo National Park.  We pile into the Land cruiser with Petrone in the boot, Steve Andrea and myself in the back and Elzane and Andries in the front.  Entry to the 4-wd track is R200 (£16) per vehicle with the Wild Card discount.  The tour begins at the Darlington Lake then winds it’s way up to the top of a high mountain from which we get superb views.  Pass lots of the prehistoric cycad plants and ever changing vegetation.  The track is steep and very rough in parts and definitely not motorhome friendly.  It’s also quite overgrown in parts necessitating someone getting out with the shears and cutting our way through.  Stop for lunch by the river, crossable only at weekends when they hold back some of the water at the dam.  Andries gets out his portable braai to cook up a lovely meal.  Crossing the river is quite an experience as the water is knee high and quite fast flowing but with his experience Andries makes short work of it.  Along the track we see kudu, a caracal (lynx) and lots of warthogs and baboons but the drive itself is the highlight.  It takes about 6-hours to complete the track compared with 30 minutes to return along the main highway.  We pick up Elzane’s parents who are staying overnight after watching the rugby on TV.  I opt to join the girls watching a DVD instead. 



SUNDAY 12 NOVEMBER – A day of rest, everyone doing their own thing to relax. 



MONDAY 13 NOVEMBER – The family head off at 5.30am.  Andries to catch an 8am flight from Port Elizabeth and Elzane in the car with him to drop the girls at their boarding house where they stay during school weeks.  We leave somewhat later and head to Graaf Reinet.  It’s a very attractive city with lots of Dutch Cape style architecture and a magnificent Dutch Reform Church based on the design of Salisbury Cathedral.  The Camdeboo National Park surrounds the town and has many entrance points.  R30 (£2.40) admission covers it all (free with Wild Card) and we start with the drive up to the Valley Of Desolation.  There are stunning views all the way up but the best part is reached on foot, a gruelling 200 metres for me as the path is made up of many small rocks and also uphill.  With the aid of the crutches I make it and am rewarded with views down into a narrow valley enclosed by strange rock formations. Make a scenic lunch stop at one of the picnic areas before continuing to the wildlife section of the park.  It’s another very hot day so not too much to be seen but we get our first Meerkat sighting and also some large Gemsbok.    Urquart Caravan Park on the outskirts of town has nice shady sites and we arrive there late afternoon.  It’s a lovely warm evening and we sit out until bedtime.


R50 (£4.00) site + R10 (80p) electric


TUESDAY 14 NOVEMBER – We make a lazy start to the day then drive into town.  Begin by walking along Stretch’s Court, a unique street restored in its entirety.  This leads us into the Drostdy Hotel with chandeliers and lots of old memorabilia.  We want to look inside the church and it’s open from 9-12am but closed when we go at 10.15am! You can buy a pass for anything from 1 – 4 museums and we take the 2-museum pass R10 (80p).  Begin at the old library but the only thing we find interesting is about the famous local man Robert Sobukwe who was imprisoned with Nelson Mandela.  We next visit Reinet House, an 1812 parsonage.  This is fascinating with many different displays throughout the rooms, cellar and garden buildings.  There’s a magnificent dolls house made out of porcupine quills and lots of other quirky items.  Return to the caravan park via the main shopping area, the weather is now so hot that I need to buy another strapped top and also some knee socks to wear inside my boot to stop it rubbing and itching. We buy some butterfly sirloin steaks stuffed with garlic and cheese and these go down a treat with chips and a home made broccoli and cauliflower bake washed down with a drop of wine.  It’s even hotter than yesterday and far too hot to do anything else than snooze and read all afternoon.   In the evening we are invaded by bugs and moths and driven into the van to be thankful of having the fan to cool us through the night.



WEDNESDAY 15 NOVEMBER – We make an early start to beat the heat but by 7am it’s already hot with the temperature climbing.  Detour through Aberdeen one of the tallest church spires in South Africa.  Just before Willowmore we pass and completely empty enormous dam enabling us to get a good view of the dam wall construction.  Crossing back from Eastern Cape into WESTERN CAPE we are again stopped by the pork Police.  This time our bacon is pre packed and OK.  Next they then ask for Steve’s drivers licence.  When I say that I will have to get it from the back of the van they say don’t bother, just give them our name, very thorough – not.  A different story for the saloon car in front of us where they check through the inside of his car and in the boot and even match the engine block number to his documents.  Cutting across country we pass dozens of ostrich farms before reaching the ostrich capital of Oudtshoorn.  It’s a large but pleasant town with lots of lovely old sandstone cottages.  We soon settle onto Kleinplaas Caravan Park.  There’s a lovely swimming pool and I inelegantly clamber in for a dip, bliss.


R84 (£6.70)


THURSDAY 16 NOVEMBER – Steve’s in need of a bit of exercise so after breakfast he sets out for a walk to town.  Meanwhile I make the most of the good weather to do a couple of loads of washing.  I’m getting quite concerned when Steve hasn’t arrived back by midday so am relieved to see him at 1.15pm.  He’s looking very pleased with himself and tells me that he did a bit of shopping then saw a burger type bar advertising “double Wellington and coke” at R10 (80p).  He quite fancied a burger so ordered the special then started to sip his coke whilst waiting for the food to arrive.  He got a bit of a shock to find it was actually brandy and coke – the special being for a double brandy “Wellington brand” and coke.  Next he decided to call into the Kanga winery and whilst working his way through the full range of generous samples he got chatting to a couple that were also Liverpool fans.  They were waiting to go on a tour and eating from a food platter, which they invited Steve to share.  So this explains why he looks so happy.  In the afternoon I manage to swim 38 lengths of 14m before I get camp in my “bad” leg.  Evening finds us chatting to Eve & John who emigrated here from England 30 years ago.  They have recently retired and just had their first 3 months on the road in a motorhome.  Things are not going too well for them but having seen that they are towing a car and loaded up with an enormous tent and everything they may or may not need in the future it is understandable.  We offer some guidance based on our experiences and they seem very grateful. 



FRIDAY 17 NOVEMBER – It’s quite late by the time we leave town having said farewell to fellow campers, done some Internet, picked up a liqueur at the winery and got the heavy shopping.  The weather has made a change for the worse and is now cool and cloudy and deteriorates more as we head over the Outeniqua Pass to the extent that mist and drizzle obscures all of the numerous lookouts never mind the views.  Things improve just after George and we rejoin the Garden Route heading east.  This is said to be the most beautiful stretch and with lagoons on one side and the ocean on the other it is stunning.  Arrive in Knysna and seek out the Anchorage Restaurant where our Aussie friends Bobby & Rhinda know the owner Brian (their son-in-laws brother).  The restaurant is closed but we phone and leave a message.  Monks Caravan Park in town is really rough so we drive out to “Woodbourne Resort” at the East Knysna Heads, which is much nicer.  Steve takes a walk to the heads where he gets good views in all directions.  Meanwhile I’m busy preparing a nectarine crumble when I turn round to find we have a visitor in the van, a small brown bird with orange belly is hopping around with no fear at all.  Our neighbours are in a big sturdy 4wd truck and Steve spots an Elounda sticker on the side.  Now Elounda is the small Greek fishing village on Crete where we spent our first winter so Steve just has to ask them about it.  Belgian couple Ria & Eric tell us they visit Elounda regularly and know many of the people there.  They carry on to say they left Belgium 15 months ago, got the ferry from France to Tunisia and have then driven overland down the east coast of Africa intending returning up the west coast.  Needless to say we have many questions for them in our quest to gather information for future use.  Quickly work out that such a trip would not be an option for us alone, as you need considerable mechanical knowledge to keep going.  So we either abandon that plan or accept that we would have to do it in convoy or on an organised tour. 


R90 (£7.20)


SATURDAY 18 NOVEMBER – Linger at the site undecided of our on going plan.  The friendly robin looking bird gets even braver and comes in to sit on our bed.  Steve goes to the nearby bar to watch England beat South Africa in the rugby but with England now 2 hours behind South Africa the football is on too late for him to watch.



SUNDAY 19 NOVEMBER – We drive up to the top of the heads but the viewing areas involve walks with slopes and steps so not for me.  Luckily there is another stop part way down the hill where just a few steps gets me to a terrace with superb views over the heads and back towards Knysna.  Return to Plettenberg and spend the afternoon on the banks of the Keurbooms River before going to visit Mignonnes.  She is the sister of our friend Brett in Australia and seems very pleased to meet us.  She lives with her husband Hilton, son Gabriel 7 and twins Riaan and Frances 5.  Their home is directly behind the beach and we get superb views of dolphins frolicking in the ocean.  Hilton does most of their vegetarian style cooking.  He creates an interesting combination of food for supper and I like most of it.  The hot sunny day turns into a stormy evening with thunder, lightening and rain.  The family all go to bed and get up early so we retire to the flat below the house.

KEURBOOMSTRAND, Hilton & Mignonnes  



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