Thursday, December 21, 2017 | South Africa – Western Cape, Clanwilliam | Petra
GETTING WELL TREATED IN SOUTH AFRICA
Every day South Africa keeps new surprises ready for us. There are the beautiful landscapes, the interesting animals, the extraordinary plants and the attractive nature reserves. Most of all we like the cheerful locals and travellers, who take their time for a small talk with Win and Petra from Germany. South Africa is inconceivably big for somebody who is coming from Germany. More than 6,000 kilometres we already did and still had touched only a very small part of the country. It’s a beautiful country with beautiful people.
Sunset at Gariep Dam Nature Reserve
The weaverbirds are true artists in nest architecture. Often many nests are hanging in the trees like christmas balls.
The fluffy dassies remind much more to marmots, but in fact they are related to elephants. Pretty amazing.
After we’ve enjoyed a lot of nature at Drakensberg and in Lesotho and never went out for lunch or dinner (due to a lack of opportunities), we are now very much looking forward to a big variety of food and restaurants at the Eastern and Western Cape. By all our respect to animals we joyfully taste kudu fillet at Graaff-Reinet, ostrich steak at Oudtshoorn, oysters and mussels at Knysna and crayfish at Lambert’s Bay. Sometimes Win improves his braai abilities at home. We eat a lot more beef, game and chicken than we are used from home. We hope animals, vegetarians and vegans may forgive.
TRAVELLING MEANS LEARNING
To avoid reducing our relation to animals to braai we take the chance to visit an ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn on our tour through the Little Karoo. There we learn a lot of interesting details about ostriches and their habits. For example one single ostrich egg corresponds to 24 chicken eggs and it is extremely robust. With their extra long neck, which they easily can turn around 360 degrees, and their excellent eyes ostriches have a view of everything. A male ostrich stays with his wife for a life time but allows himself up to two additional side wives. These side partners give support to the main female in raising the kids and providing additional eggs for a successful brood. The fact that they are able to run up to 70 km/h for some minutes makes them hard to catch for other animals. A cheetah for example is able to run much faster but only for a few seconds.
Between 1880 and 1920 South African ostrich breeding experienced an economical boom. Ostrich feathers enjoyed popularity all over the world and were used as fashion accessory, for revue suits and as dusters. The wealthy ostrich farmers knew how to enjoy life in their Ostrich Palaces in Oudtshoorn. Even today colorful ostrich dusters are sold as souvenirs along the streets of Oudtshoorn.
In the rocky region around Oudtshoorn the Cango Caves, one of the biggest limestone cave system in the world, attract our interest. Although we first believe that Pastojna Caves in Slovenia can’t be topped, we are more than fascinated by the splendour and beauty of the Cango Caves after our visit.
During all the weeks we are here now, we are enchanted by the friendliness of the people. This cheerfulness seems to be infectious. Only once we met an angry person.
We drive up the Swartberg Pass when a car stops near our truck. We now expect a happy „Hello!“ but instead the driver barks at us in perfect German language: „Didn’t you read the sign at the bottom of the pass?! Heavy vehicles and caravans are not allowed! Now it might work but further on the top you won’t be able to pass, I promise“, he threatens and moves on.
We are quite baffled and carry on our ride. Well, yes, he is right. There is the sign down there and also the restriction to vehicles over 10 tons. We incorrectly tolerated our weight of 10.5 tons and turned a blind eye to it. The pass is wide enough, with a few traffic, we don’t hinder anybody and the road is easy to drive. So what? (The relaxed nature of South Africans seems to have influenced our way of thinking.)
The special aspect in that story is the fact, that this guy was an absolutely correct German. Perhaps he is a resident and has good reasons to be angry. Unfortunately we don’t know and are ashamed of his violent reaction. Less than three bends later a car of the government, the inscription at the door tells us, passes.The driver is smiling and waving at us. He definitely is South African. We are happy again!
It is not only due to it’s numerous National Parks and Nature Reserves that makes South Africa a perfect country for traveling. We love to cruise through the parks at a snail’s pace or to have a rest at the incomparable beautiful rest camps there. Swimming in the river, having bontebok and turtles next to our chairs, neighbours in a distance but close enough to get the chance for a small talk, braai in the evening and camp fire – that’s a lot of fun.
Of course we want to follow the most popular tourist route of South Africa, the Garden Route. This scenic part of the coast line between Mossel Bay and Humansdorp offers a great variety in landscapes. It is true, there are no specific gardens to see as you might presume due to the name, but it’s beautiful anyway. Along the busy route you can find a wide range of accommodations, cafés and restaurants. We feel very much reminded to California when we pass little coastal villages with boats and cottages. Sometimes the villages are more busy with many locals, shops and restaurants, sometimes they are more quiet and are nestled in the dunes between sandy beaches and fynbos (Afrikaans, „bushes with fine leaves“).
THE SOUTHERNMOST TIP
If you want to see the southernmost tip of the African continent, you must come to Cape L’Agulhas. Further south there is nothing at all but the Antarctic. And exactly here runs the meridian, where warmer Indian Ocean and cooler Atlantic Ocean meet. Quite a lot of important features for such a small spot.
We just missed the whale season of this year. It’s a pity on one hand, on the other hand we didn’t want to miss everything else we saw instead. Only two weeks before Conny & Tommy sent us a message. They camp at Gansbaai and get to see whales with no end.
Each year from September to November huge groups of southern right whales and humpback whales stay at False Bay and Walker Bay for a while. It is mating time and parental time. Some are busy with producing offspring and some are busy to give birth to their baby whales.
We are still lucky. In Kommetje we get the chance to view many whales blowing their breath in the air and lifting their massive bodies out of the water. It seems as if they are having a lot of fun. It’s an impressive show of nature.
While watching whales from the beach we meet Dagmar from Germany, who lives here, is married to a South African and works as a tour guide. She has so many interesting things to tell about South Africa and invites us to her house for dinner tonight, if we like. We would love to, but today we are already tired since we got up early. So we change addresses and promise to stay in contact. This is so nice!
We might have missed the whale season but definitely not the bird season. Many cape gannets we get to see at the harbour of Lambert’s Bay. At Bird Island Nature Reserve the biggest cape gannets colony along the West Coast is settled. The island is like a busy airport, sea birds are starting and landing at second time.
IT’S RAINING GIFTS
South African people make us feeling comfortable and one surprise follows the next.
It’s a few weeks ago, that we met our friends Conny & Tommy at Elliot the first time. We are very much looking forward to meet them again and it happens at the Boschendal Wine Estate when both appear all of a sudden at our table while we are having lunch. They knew where to find us and we are happy about the reunion. With a proper wine tasting we open a few enterprising days in the Cape Town Region. We spend our time with a hiking tour at Jonkershoek Nature Reserve and having a bath at the water fall, we try to follow the trails at Table Mountain National Park while we have to fight the stormy wind and we enjoy shopping German „Leberwurst“ and „Leberkäs“ of finest quality from an ethnic German butcher from Namibia. What a wonderful time!
Cape Town is a groovy spot in the world. Vibrating city life next to wilde nature – that’s it! Our plan to visit Cape of Good Hope when nobody else is around sounds crazy but is feasible. Early in the morning at six, the moment the gate of the national park opens, we get in, drive down to the Cape and are – surprise – alone! No busses, no masses of tourists, who want to take pics with them and the famous sign – it’s only the two of us and our truck. Even the baboons, usually very cheeky, wonder about the early visitors and keep distance. We enjoy our breakfast with a view and stroll through the impressive park for hours. It’s marvellous.
At the West Coast National Park we meet a young couple from Cape Town, happy honeymooners. It’s also the first time they are visiting the WCNP and are fascinated by the beautiful coastal landscape like we are. Before we say goodbye to each other, the two invite us to pray together. We stand together, hold hands and ask God for a save trip, wonderful experiences and a good time. It is a very special and touching gesture and we are very grateful for.
Already two days later in Langebaan sweet Yvette gets us from the street directly into the pub. We just parked our truck on a side-street of the little coastal village as she waves at us and invites us for a drink. First we are a little bit confused but the next moment we are part of a cheerful party with Yvette and Anthony and some of their friends having a relaxed after work beer and a nice conversation. They want to know where we come from and where we’ll go to and they have a lot of tips, where we should eat excellent fish. Right at the same evening we get an email from Yvette and pics of our spontaneous meeting. Isn’t it fantastic?! Thank you so much.
Again one day later and 50 kilometres further to the North at the beach of Stompneusbaai a car stops next to where we park. It is Chris with his family and friends spending their holidays here. That we are from Germany made him curious. He has wonderful memories of Germany, where he spent some months in Bavarian Eichstätt years ago. In the evening we enjoy the cheerful party of four kids and six adults (including ourselves) having a proper braai and again a touching prayer at the holiday cottage of Michelle and Chris. We talk about South Africa and Germany, about traveling and everything else. We are welcome to stay at the parking area in front of their house. It’s safe and they will keep an eye on us.
The next morning before waving goodbye, we have breakfast all together. What a beautiful start for the day. We promise to let them know when we are back in the Cape Town Area and they promise to visit us in Germany. We are very much impressed of the warmth and hospitality of our new friends. Thank you so much!
WE HAVE TO LEAVE
While typing this story on my laptop we camp under a big wide oak tree in the Cederberg Wilderness Area. We enjoy the cosy shadow we get from the tree. South Africa is having summer holidays and it is main season now and still we are almost alone at the rest camp Kliphuis at River Matjes. Surrounded by the amazing Cederberg. A light wind blows and crickets sing their song. Peaceful moments. There is neither telephone nor internet connection but a wine estate 6 kilometres far from here. We decided to have a little rest before heading to Namibia.
Hard to imagine that our time in South Africa is over for this year. Our 90-days-tourist-visa is almost expired. We have to leave South Africa in a few days. Who ever we talked to recommended Namibia with „You will love it!“. The same with Swasiland, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. There is still a lot to do for us, we guess.
Now we are looking forward to the next step of our exploration tour around Southern Africa. We are looking forward to Namibia with wonderful memories for South Africa in our hearts. Thank you so much for the fantastic time we had and the wonderful people we met!