Saturday, July 29, 2006

From South Africa 2005 Part 5 - Knysna, Tsitsikamma and Addo

Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2005 11:49:47 -0500

Subject: in Joburg

Hi Everyone,

we've arrived safely in Joburg now after a rather harrowing (for me) flight from Port Elizabeth. I thought it would be a walk in the park after the flight over here but we had lots of turbulence, from storms, and if we weren't flying through a storm we were swerving left and right to avoid them. But we landed and I felt like kissing the ground. Dave said it was too dirty.

So... from Knysna, after my last e-mail, we took a ferry across the lagoon to the heads and Featherbed Nature Reserve on the western head. Apparently, (sorry if I already mentioned this but I was quite impressed) the heads are the most dangerous harbour entrance in the world. Our boat actually went a little bit into the heads, where there were very large waves that slammed into the jagged rocks nearby. Apparently the navigable part is only 60 m wide and the harbour master's job is quite important in directing large vessels in at the right time. Then the ferry let out at the reserve and they bussed us up to the top in a 4x4 where there was an incredible view. We then walked down the coast 2.2 km back to the boat, which was actually quite strenuous with so many steps down. It's mostly indigenous forest there and very lush. There were caves along the coast and many beautiful views of the sea. I'm getting to love the thunder of the waves against the rocks.

The next day was overcast and we got our rental car. We wanted to check out 'the big tree' but we had to take a dirt road that was quite treacherous due to the heavy rains. It was just a slippery muddy mess and we'd had to drive through a township type settlement so I wasn't sure if we got stuck whether people would be helpful or hostile. As we drove through the settlement we came upon various livestock just wandering loose by the side of the road - chickens, cows, pigs and goats. People have since assured me that the people undoubtedly would have been helpful.

Anyways, I desperately had to pee (ended up going by the side of the road) and we were able to get turned around at one point and made it back to the main highway in one piece. Shortly down the highway we stopped at the Knysna Elephant Park because we really needed a break after the stress of the road... they have a tame elephant herd and we fed them a bucket of assorted fruits and vegetables. Their trunks are very strong but also incredibly agile so it was quite an experience... we also got to touch them and their skin is tough with bristly hairs.

As we drove towards Tsitsikamma National Park we went over many extremely deep, craggy rivers. The Bloukrans (not sure of the spelling) actually offers the highest bungee jump in the world, though it's not actually the longest jump. We had a nice tea in Storms River Village then went onto our B&B, which was a ways out on another muddy dirt road filled with potholes. It immediately started raining very heavily, which seemed fitting given that Tsitsikamma means "place of much water" in Khoisan. Went for an exhorbitantly priced meal - the nearest place - and didn't enjoy it too much.

The next day we packed up and went to the Storms River Mouth in Tsitsikamma National Park, which was very beautiful... huge waves - bigger than I've seen before - crashing against the rocks (although I spent two rolls of film trying to capture the huge waves crashing I never got the really big ones)... we walked along a boardwalk through the forest canopy to a very large, very swingy suspension bridge - which, I'm happy to report I crossed: Twice! There was a sign for a lookout so we decided to check it out because it didn't look too far on the map; but what the map didn't say was that it was all straight up. By the time we made it up there, sweating like pigs, the sun had come out and it was very hot and exposed with no trees, just fynbos. We had planned to check out another big tree on the way to Addo but because it took us so long to get up to the lookout (actually, like Table Mountain, we didn't quite make it all the way to the top but stopped where there was still a beautiful view), we decided to give it a miss.

It took us about 2 1/2 hours to get to Addo, where there was another nasty dirt road and a huge puddle to get to the B&B. This area is obviously drier than Tsitsikamma and Knysna, with lots of succulents, including many aloe, and prickly pear cacti. However, they've been experiencing unusually rainy weather... we lucked out the next day though when we went to the national elephant park because it was totally clear and hot. Apparently, you don't tend to see as many animals when it's wet because they don't need to come to the waterholes. We saw lots: elephants, warthogs, red hartebeest, ostriches, tortoises, jackals, buffalo, eland, kudu, vultures, grey herons, and dung beetles, which are protected in the park and we had to avoid them on the road. One large female elephant was quite close to our car and started coming towards us... she seemed unhappy with our presence so we moved on. We also interrupted some ostriches having a dust bath... We went on a sundowner game drive and I saw my first real sunset in this country from a high vantage point. Basically the guide spent the whole time hunting for lions but we didn't end up finding any and didn't really see much that we hadn't seen in the day. Though we did see some owls (very cool) and spotted genet, which kind of looks like a long house cat. Dave wasn't too impressed with the whole game reserve experience though because there are no toilets in the park and you can't get out of your car to pee... because the park is so big we ended up nearly bursting our bladders a few times. He says he's not too keen to go to another game reserve but I didn't mind - seeing the animals was worth it for me.

So now we're back in the care of Dave's family and here he has many cousins, who all seem very clever and talented, keen to take us out and about. His cousin Richard is spinning at a club Saturday night and his other cousin Matthew has a Rhodes scholarship to study in England in Oct. He's going to take us to an art exhibit Sat. afternoon and Richard is taking us to a digital media thing at the local university tomorrow afternoon. His youngest cousin is Robert, who has a mohawk and several facial piercings with plans to put more metal in his face... Teenagers are so cute, he makes me a bit nostalgic for all that angst and drama...

Anyhow... I think dinner's ready so I'll sign off now.

Love Kate

No comments: