emmelinemay: (Pirate ENJOY!)
[personal profile] emmelinemay
Day 18, our first morning in Knysna, dawned bright and sunny with very little cloud, perfect for Monkey spotting and bird watching! Knysna is a beautful seaside town on the garden route, and I really liked it. I kept berating Mum and Dave for not moving here instead of Swellendam! I think it would be hard to make a go of a B&B here though, the tourist trade is a lot more established and there's a lot more competition. It's really pretty though, and I love anywhere by the sea, having spent my childhood in coastal towns before moving nearer london for secondary school. I think if I was to move to South Africa though, it would have be somewhere around here!

Two Nights in Knysna - Part 2 (Day 18 + 19)



Monkey Land and Birds of Eden are right next door to each other in Plettenberg Bay.

We chose to see the Monkeys first and before we'd even entered the enclosure we saw a little group of Vervet Monkeys playing around the door area! All of the Monkeys at Monkey land are either rescue monkeys or their decendants. The monkeys are rescued from all sorts of places, seaside photogrophers, circuses, people keeping them as pets, or those that have been orphaned. The enclosure is entirely free ranging apart from a few closed areas for sick monkeys or new monkeys. Therefore you can't guaruntee how many species you will see of the 10 they have there. The are not tame animals and there's no attempt to train them or teach tricks, they are simply allowed to be monkeys, albeit ones who are very used to humans and therefore tend to sit still long enough for you to take photos. Our guide does warn us to keep a tight hold or our valuables though, as "some of these monkeys are from jo'burg".

We were really lucky, seeing 8 out of the 10 species that live at monkey land. My favourites were the ring tailed lemurs.



We caught one meditating.

I also loved Atlas, a white handed gibbon. I felt sad for him as he is the only one of his species at Monkey Land. Our guide reassured us that he seems happy enough, as he appears to believe that he is actually a Capuchin monkey and spends a lot of time hanging out with them. I think he is utterly beautiful.



We also saw a black and white lemur called Shakespeare, who lives here with his sister. Neither of them have tails. Our guide explained that they had to be hand reared, but because they smelt of humans when they were returned to her she got cross and bit their tails off. Shakespeare seemed happy enough though, and he clearly has no problem climing trees!

We saw grey vervet monkeys and BABY vervet monkeys. We saw loads of golden squirrel monkeys but I utterly failed to get a good picture of them. We saw some capuchin monkeys who totally have the best hairstyles, especially this dude who is called Spencer. We saw a mother and son duo of grey langur monkeys. They are the only two here, so again we were lucky to see them. We also saw a little family of golden mantled howler monkeys with their mum, Madonna. Our guide told us that femailes are gold, males are black. We only saw the golden girls!

Considering that last time I was here in 2007 I didn't see get a single photo of a monkey I am pretty chuffed! You can see all of my photos on my facebook here and here.

There's also tortoises that live in Monkey land. I am sure [livejournal.com profile] shewho would be pleased to know that sometimes the monkeys sit on the back of the tortoises. Our guide called it a "slow taxi ride". This tortoise in particular is awesome. I don't know how he got there, or how he'll get down. I like to imagine he jumped.



After traversing the (monkey guarded) long, narrow, extremely high up and very wobbly bridge (I think Mum had her eyes shut the whole way) we headed over to Birds of Eden. This is the largest free flight aviary in the world!

Inside is it like a tropical jungle paradise. I think it looks like Endor.



You have no guide here, you just wonder round as quitely as possible and hope that you find intereseting birds. We saw loads, but only a fraction of what is possible to see! They are really hard to photograph because the bastard things keep moving!

Some of the birds were so bright they make it look like I have doctored these photographs, but I promise you I haven't. These are exactly how the photos came out!

This is a scarlet ibis



These are Kenya Crested Guinea Fowl. I reckon this is a joke species and it's just a normal Guinea Fowl that someone has stuck a toupée on for a laugh.



Dave did his best to be a bird whisperer, and made a little friend, but he wasn't nearly as successful as this guy who had birds making a bee-line (or a bird-line?) straight for him on more than one occasion. I suspect it was the sweater.

This bird was totally the best one though.



We met him at lunch time, where he was hanging outside the cafe area watching me eat a veggie burger bigger than my head..

"Hello" I say to the bird. The bird says "HERRO!". We all totally flip out and start saying "Hello! Hello!" back to the bird. It obligingly replies "HERRO! HERRO!" We flip out again. Then he says clearly "WHATCHADOIN? WHATCHADOIN?" There aren't words to describe how much I flipped out at this point. He then said "HERRO! MOOI! MOOI!". (Mooi is Afrikaans for 'Pretty'). WHATCHADOIN? is definitely the defining word of my holiday. Later we passed the bird whisperer in the christmas sweater and WHATCHADOIN was sat happily on his shoulder.

I took loads more photos than I have on my facebook, most of them were blurry or featured just the tail of a bird as it flew away. Have a look at my facebook to see more pictures.

I particularly like this chap. I can't quite work out what he is from my guide book, but he was very friendly and cute. He didn't speak to me though.



We left Birds of Eden and drove around Knysna for a bit looking for somewhere we might be able to get a boat trip - we didn't have much luck and everyone we asked either wasn't running trips or told us we'd just missed a tour. We found a little shopping/village area called Knysna Island which was accessed by a little road built right across a bay connecting a small island to the mainland, and weexplored a little. We found a fabulous hotel/cafe/bar which had these MASSIVE turbines inside it, with the hotel built around them.




We discovered that it used to be a powersation for the island, which was discontinued in the 70s and later turned into the bar/hotel. Parts of the old works were changed into architectural features, for example this bridge used to be an industrial monorail. The Tapas Bar alas had nothing even remotely vegetarian on the menu, so we were forced to find somewhere else to eat. We settled on an Italian near our hotel. The nightbefore we'd had an amazing Indian, Dave and I were more than happy to go back there as it was DELISH but Mum quite rightly pointed out that there is little point in going somewhere for a holiday and eating in the same restaurant every night.

Before we headed out Mum had had the best part of a bottle of red wine with the owners of the hotel we were staying in, and was a little on the merry side. She ordered a 'small jug' of red wine at the restaurant. This 'small jug' turned out to be a 750ml jug of red wine. Oh dear. Dave and I valiently offered to help her drink it (even though I am not keen on red wine). We'd not been there long before Mum insisted we play a game of I don't spy (I mentioned this in my update of yesterday).

The rules are simple. You say "I don't spy, with my little eye, something begining with *". It can be anything in the world, as long as at that moment in time YOU CAN'T SEE IT. The other players than have to guess what it is, asking questions which can be answered with yes or no, although the person answering can give clues or more information if they want. My usual question is "Is is an abstract concept?" to make sure than an N is a real thing and not something like 'nothingness' or 'nihilism'. Dave tends to ask "Is it man-made?". Mum usually asks "Is it bigger than a duck?".

Here is an example of some of our games.

Mum has chosen something beginning with B S. This is about two minutes into the game, we have established that it's not animate, it's man made, not everyone has one or needs one, only a certain type of person would want one, it's sort of a luxury item and it's smaller than a duck.

Me - is it a desirable object?
Mum - it depends
Me - would I desire it?
Mum - no
Me - would Paris Hilton desire it?
Dave - is it a brain cell?
Mum - that starts with a B C
Dave - not to Paris Hilton. That's why she needs one.

Mum - I don't spy with my little eye something beginning with T M
Dave - is it bigger than a duck?
Mum - yes
Dave - Table Mountain
Mum - Yes. boo!

We played for long enough that I think the waiter started to worry we'd never leave.

The next day, day 19, we were to drive home. We'd planned to try to do a few things on the way home but the B&B was fully booked so we had to get back before the guests arrived. There was one more surprise for me though, as we went back a different way, and after about 45 minutes pulled into Mossel Bay. When I asked why we were here Mum told me that there were Dassies here, they were wild but so used to humans that you could feed them! I flipped. I freaking LOVE Dassies. They are mad. They have bodies giant hamsters crossed with an ear-less tail-less bunny but with faces like a cat crossed with a dog crossed with a bear. Their closest relative species wise is an elephant. They are the most ridiculous creatures that could ever exist. On my first trip here I didn't believe that they were real and thought that Dave and Mum were winding me up and nearly passed out when I saw one.

This is the first one we saw.


We looked down the bay and suddenly - Dassies! Thaaaaaaassaaaands of them!. I clambered down to the bay and they weren't bothered at all. In fact one of them found me very interesting and came up quite close to say hi. They have such cute expressive little faces! I even saw a vampire dassie

While I was trying to get a photo of myself with a dassie to show how close they were I heard a little snuffly squeak right next to me. I looked down and there was a Dassie RIGHT NEXT TO ME. I said "Hello. Whatchadoin?" and tried to copy his little sniffling squeaky noise. He then proceded to CLIMB ONTO MY LAP. I flipped out, but very quietly and in a very still way, so as not to frighten him off. I looked up at Mum and Dave who were sat higher up the cliff - they were looking down in shock! They later said they've seen them take food from people's hands but NEVER come that close.



He then clambered down and inspected my shoes before saying goodbye and snuffling away.

We headed back to Swellendam, pausing only briefly for lunch at Sleeping Beauty traders - so called because the mountain here is meant to look like sleeping beauty. I can't see it, myself. I think any mountain range is going to look like a person lying down if you squint enough. Or drink enough.

In the evening we had dinner at one the best restaurant in Swellendam, La Sosta. People come from miles around to have dinner here, and I can see why. Every dish was beautiful. I could pretend I was a master chef judge and talk about "balance of flavours" and call things "exuisite". One of my dishes also came with an edible flower so it wasa win for me. We also played "I don't Spy" again which featured this round:

Mum - I don't spy with my little eye something beginning with D
Me - is it bigger than a duck
Mum - no
Me - Is it a duck?
Mum - Yes. boo!


Which bring us up to date! Today (day 20) is my last day in Swellendam, and I've done very little, which has been nice after the excitement of the last three days. I've updated my blog, read in the sunshine, watched the USA beat Russia in the rugby world cup and started the panic over how I will fit everything in my bag with all the booze and gifts I've bought considering I plan to buy more stuff in Cape Town...

Tomorrow Mum and I are heading to Cape Town for my last two nights as she found another brilliant deal on Groupon for a suite in a 4 star hotel there. how we actually get there hasn't yet been worked out. We need to (as they say here) 'Make a plan'! I am excited about going to CT as we were only there for half a day last time and the weather was bad, so we didn't get to do much. Keep everything crossed for me that the weather is good for me this time so I can go up Table Mountain! It's also pay day today, so we can go SHOPPING! Yay!

I guess unless the hotel has internet access this could be the last time I update from South Africa, and my next update will be either from an internet point in an airport or from back in Hackney!

It's been a brilliant holiday (so far! it's not over yet!), the three weeks has given me enough time to have adventure but to relax as well, to unwind from work and de-stress, to enjoy being with Mum and also to come to terms with the fact it's back to reality next week!

See all the photos from the two nights in Knysna here and here!

Date: 2011-09-15 02:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shewho.livejournal.com
this totally sounds like the BEST holiday ever! that scarlet ibis is the most beautiful bird i have seen in my life. and i just let out an obvious squeal of joy in the office just looking at that dassie saying "HIYA", whoops!

(very glad to hear about monkeys riding on tortoises as well. Good Work, monkeys!)

Date: 2011-09-15 02:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emmelinemay.livejournal.com
I couldn't get over the Scarlet Ibis (Ibi? Ibiseses?) They were SO BRIGHT! I was pleased with this photo where they all look like a little row of fairy lights.

And as soon he told us about the monkeys taking the slow taxi I thought MUST TELL MEL.

Date: 2011-09-15 02:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shewho.livejournal.com
oooh, rightly so! excellent pic. nature is blinking AMAZING.

Date: 2011-09-15 08:20 pm (UTC)
miss_squiddy: (Default)
From: [personal profile] miss_squiddy
Oh my god! I totally have bird lights that look like that! :)

Date: 2011-09-15 02:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emmelinemay.livejournal.com
I may never get over my dassie experience.

Date: 2011-09-15 02:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shewho.livejournal.com
you should totally kidnap one. i'm sure that's legal. yes.

Date: 2011-09-15 03:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] green-badger.livejournal.com
The scarlet ibis is indeed beautiful, and that photo with the reflection is awesome. So jealous! xxx

Date: 2011-09-15 02:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sushidog.livejournal.com
So awesome, just all of this! Spencer is definitely rocking the "Bidniz up front, PARTAY in the back" style; you have to respect that really. And OMG, how cute is the dassie? How did you not sneak it into your bag to bring home?

Date: 2011-09-15 02:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emmelinemay.livejournal.com
It wouldn't fit in my bum bag :(

Date: 2011-09-15 02:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sushidog.livejournal.com
OMG, dassies are also related to dugongs and manatees! They're terrestrial mermaids! Disguised as guinea pig-bears!

Date: 2011-09-15 03:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emmelinemay.livejournal.com
Best. description. ever.

Date: 2011-09-16 07:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ephemera.livejournal.com
sorry - just completely distracted from all the rest of the brilliance by DASSIES - DASSIES ALL AROUND YOU!

Safe travels, my lady.

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