emmelinemay: (Pirate ENJOY!)
[personal profile] emmelinemay
On Day 17 we got up as early as we could and headed off for an epic trip. I knew the basic plan - we would drive the long way round to Knysna, a pretty town on the Garden Route by the sea so that I could see some Ostriches. We'd stay overnight at the Knysna Terrace hotel where Mum (through a combination of Groupon and somenifty networking) had got an amazing deal on two rooms for two nights. The following day the plan was to go to Monkey Land and Birds of Eden, and then drive home the following day. Mum and Dave are pretty smart though, and had kept back some of their plans to surprise me!

Two Nights in Knysna - Part 1 (Day 17)

We left at about 8am, an hour later than planned as we all overslept. My phone has died completely, so I don't have any means of telling the time at all. It's actually kind of liberating! We set off on the road through the mountain towards our first planned stop, Outdshoorn where there is a working ostrich farm that runs tours.

Our first stop however was at the Peace Pagoda, described by Dave (who has never been there) as a "load of hippy crap". The monument was built in 2000 by Sayadaw U Thila Wunta, a 90-year-old Burmese monk and apparently it's the only one in Africa. It is set in the most beautiful surroundings and is incredibnly peaceful. I posed for a photo in a medication pose but once I was sat there with my eyes shut I genuinely wanted to sit there for longer listening to the birds and feeling the gentle morning mountain sun. Both Mum and I felt really relaxed and de-stressed as we walked back to the car; so I guess the Peace Pagoda achieves its aims!

On our return to the car (and Dave, who refused to come to see the monument on account of it being a load of hippy crap) we saw a MASSIVE caterpillar. It was about the same size as an AA battery. Mum reckons it will eventually turn into one of the huge locust things she hates which are about the same size as a mobile phone.

Our next brief stop was at Ronnie's Sex Shop. Ronnie's sex shop is not, in fact, a sex shop. It's a pub. It's become a tourist spot since he painted the word "sex" on the side of his pub, so what appears to be an odd marketing strategy has actually paid dividends. Mum wanted to give them a copy of the Swellendam marketing DVD, but Ronnie wasn't there and his mate behind the bar said they don't have a DVD player! It looks completely NUTS inside, the whole ceiling is covered with shirts, pants and bras with messages from customers and passing tourists, and so are most of the walls. Just before we left I made my first animal friend of the trip.

We then drove to Boplaas. Much of the country we drove through is part of the Klein Karoo and the views along the whole journey were incredible; changing from miles of flat scrubland and fynbos to mountians to acres of beautiful flowers. It's not that good for 'I Spy' though as after you've done sky, road, tree, bush, flower, cloud, mountain you are pretty much done. This is why it's perfect for a game Mum and I came up with many years ago called "I don't spy". More of that later.

Our next stop was for breakfast and port and wine tasting in Boplaas which is has a number of prize winning Ports. Dave's choice was a Tawny port, he tells me it has recently beaten a bottle of Portuguese port that would set you back about 70UKP, we got a bottle here for 99R, which is less than a tenner. Although I'd already purchased my limit of duty allowance, I could resist getting myself some after the tasting. Bloplaas' famous pink port and pink dessert wine were just too damn delicious, and as there was a gift set of three for 100R (a little less than a tenner) which also included the gold muscadel it seemed daft not to buy it. I've never in my life walked through the 'Something to Declare" gates at an airport, I am a bit nervous about it! The grounds of Blopaas somewhat bizarrely had a miniature representation of a European stone circle. I have no idea why, but am starting to understand why people just shrug and go "ah, Africa" when something bizarre presents itself.

After tasting rather a lot of wine and port, glad we'd had brunch first, we got back into Barry the Beamer and headed for Oudtschoorn, which is mainly famous for Ostriches. Before we saw those though, Mum and Dave had a surprise for me. We turned into a nature park called Bufflesdrift, where Mum revealed that there were three orphan elephants who had been raised here. They were orphaned very young, and so have bonded with people. There are three keepers here who are bonded with the elephants, and live with them 24/7 as their herd. What a job! It can take three years for an elephant to form a bond with a human, and once the bond is there it is for life. For 200R (just under 20ukp) you can meet the elephants, who are wild and free roaming but very used to people, and feed them. We paid our money and waited on the deck of the lodge by the lake for the 'herd' to come over to the lodge. As the elephants (and their human herd) can roam anywhere they like, this can take a while!

After about 15 minutes mum grabbed my arm and pointed - and we saw three beautiful elephants in the distance heading our way. One of the keepers came to meet us, adn took us with him to introduce them to us. He told us their story on the way, and said that they udnerstand abotu 40 English words, but only a few Afrikaans words and a couple of Zulu and Xhosa words. Their names however are in Swahili, which isn't really spoken at all in South Africa! As he talked we rounded a corner and the sight in front of me took my breath away.

From Left to right the ele's names are Malaika (Angel), Bolelo (Thank you) and Jabari (Powerful). You can see the photos of me feeding them and meeting each on my my facebook, and Mum has more she will upload when she can. Bolelo is the biggest and the greediest, he was reaching for the food before the others even had a chance! Malaika is the only girl of the three, and she was very gentle. Jabari is the younger boy, the naughtiest and the cleverest. All three of them play football; but Jabari is the best at sucking the ball up with is trunk and blowing it away, Bolelo is best at picking the ball up with is trunk and throwing it long, and Malaika is the best at kicking it. I was offered the chance to sit up them too; but somehow felt a bit wrong about that. I know they are used to it, but I was happy to meet them and be close to them, and while it was amazing to see them up close it also made me feel a little uncomfortable to see them perform tricks. They seemed very happy though, and they are clearly well treated and have a true bond with their keepers. I suppose I have a hang up about seeing animals perform for humans through childhood experiences with circuses. Also perhaps because I watched Dumbo on the plane over here! Tricks aside, I felt hugely thankful that these beautiful creatures allowed me close to them.

Feeling a little overawed, I headed back to Barry the Beamer and we headed onwards to Cango Ostrich Farm. Mum is a bit of a regular here as she brings her gap year students here. This also meant they gave her a discount, hurrah! The farm is a working farm which also offers tours. I've never tried Ostrich meat of course as I am still a vegetarian, but I am rather interested in it; although it's a bird it is a red meat, more like beef. I would like to try an egg though - you can make an omlette to feed 15 people from one egg!

The tour guides are all very funny, slipping a lot of lies and practical jokes into their patter to see if you'll notice or fall for it! The first bird we met was Betsie who gave me an Ostrich hug.

Ostriches have teeny tiny brains. They are really not smart. In fact, their brains are actually smaller than their eyes! They are kind of evil, but it's not an machiavellian kind of evil, it's just because they are too stupid to be smart! Have a look at the facebook pictures for more Ossie pictures, including one of an Emu to demonstrate how different they look. You'd never mistake one for the other! We are also told that while it is very easy to tell a male from a female ostrich (the males are black and white, the females brown) there's no way to tell with Emus. We're told the only way a human can tell is by a blood test; I assume Emus have an easier way otherwise I can see that leading to some awkward moments

You can ride them if you want, but I suspected I was a - too heavy and b - too chicken. I also, like with the Elephants, felt a bit wrong about riding them; only with the elephants it was out of respect, in this case it was more about the fact ostrichs are bloody evil minded gits. One of our party, a brave Brazillian lady, gave it a go and after watching her I was really glad I'd told them I was too fat to ride them as it meant no one made me! It looked deeply scary. I instead elected for an 'ostrich neck massage' which was about as terrifying as it looks. The brazilian lady made her husband have one too, as he forced her to ride one, but I think he fared a little better than I as he was about a foot taller than me. Mine ended up being more of a head massage.

Despite tha fact (or possibly because of the fact...) that ostriches are evil minded gits I love them to bits, and so liberated one from the gift shop and called him Lucky. Lookit his eyelashes! aahn.

As if all that wasn't enough, Mum sprung it on me that there was MORE still to do! About ten minutes further on were the Cango Caves. I went caving with my junior school back in Devon on a yearly basis and I LOVED it. Mum loves to tell the story of how she got a school report one year which had for nearly every subject variations on the theme of "easily distracted, messy, has ability but doesn't try hard enough" except for the report on extra-curricular activities which said "Emmeline has a natural aptitude for caving". I really wanted to do the "adventure route" despite my knee (the reason my knee is so bad is because I never let a minor injury stop me doing fun things, so it ends up being a major injury that I don't let stop me doing fun things until it's so bad I can't do any things at all, fun or otherwise) but sadly we arrived at the wrong time for the adventure route and as neither Mum or Dave wanted to do it it wasn't fair to leave them waiting outside for me for 2 hours. So, along with a group of mostly older and quite large tourists who huffed and puffed their way around, I went on the fairly easy and yet incredibly beautiful standard route. There was a moment of terror/hilarity (depending on your point of view) right at the beginning of our walk as we headed into the opening of the cave. The guide had clearly informed us at least three times that there were lots of stairs on the route. As we went down the first stair, with the tourguide calling back "here's the first flight of steps, please watch your footing" a woman behind me (who for some reason had chosen to carry her shoes rather than wear them) stepped out into space and tumbled head first down the stairs. She seemed to regain balance and somehow stay upright, and then she stepped out into space AGAIN and did EXACTLY THE SAME THING. I thought she was going to bash her brains out, but the only other person under 50 on the tour was standing at the bottom of the steps and he reacted on impulse and grapped the woman's jacket which meant she ended up suspended horizontally in mid hair hanging from this guy's grip while the guy's girlfriend and me held him upright. He lowered her to the floor, and as our tour guide picked her up asking "are you alright madam?" the woman (who had kept hold of her shoes the entire time) turned on her and said "WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL US THERE WERE STAIRS?".

The caves were beautiful by my camera was suffereng from low battery and I didn't have any repalcements, so I have very few photos. I fully intend to come back another time and give that adventure route a go!

Some of the columns looked straight out of the mind of Bosch.

Have a look at my facebook for the rest of the pictures.

I headed out of the caves and met up with Mum and Dave, arriving out of the caves a good 15 minutes before the rest of my huffing and puffing group, they could all be still in there for all I know, and we headed off in Barry for our last stop, our hotel. We were all knackered after the long day, and in bed by 8.30pm!

The next day was to feature birds, monkeys, and dassies! Coming soon!

See all the photos from the first day here
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February 2015


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