Sunday, 26 April 2009

Indian Premier League

Last Saturday (18th April) we went to Newlands with Radie and Leonie to see the opening day of the 2009 Indian Premier League 20/20 cricket tournament.

The whole show has been moved to South Africa this year as it coincides with the Indian General Election (and the South African one come to think about it) and security could not be guaranteed.

Amazingly the decision was only taken 4 weeks before the first match was due to start so the organisers and South African hosts have done something truly remarkable. Don't listen when people tell you things can't be done, or that there is not enough time! Very impressive.

Being a cricket day it was of course pouring with rain by the time we got to the ground! Still, the weather didn't dampen the spirits of the queuing public, despite having to wait for the gates to open. Mind you, the delay gave Indian Television the chance to interview Jon (wearing his England hat) about what he was expecting from the day! As he was suffering from tonsillitis at the time we are not sure if anyone understood what he had to say!

The Rajasthan Royals won the marketing competition with free t-shirts being given out along with flags and all other kinds of branded material you could imagine. This is the team that is part owned by Shilpa Shetty, the Bollywood actress who was at the centre of a somewhat knee jerk international ‘race scandal’ when Jade Goody called her ‘Shilpa Poppadum’ on Celebrity Big Brother in the UK.

Eventually the gates opened and we set up the camp chairs and packed lunches on the grass bank under the trees. Newlands is one of the most beautiful cricket grounds in the world, overlooked by Table Mountain and the Devil’s Peak and with a fine selection of trees amongst the stands and grassed areas.

The weather was easing a little as the start time neared but visibility was poor, you couldn’t even see Table Mountain! Then with half an hour to go the covers came off, the rain stopped and the clouds began to lift, quite a transformation.

First up was the Chennai Super Kings vs the Mumbai Indians, followed by the defending champions The Rajasthan Royals vs Royal Challengers Bangalore. The whole experience was great, noise, music, drumming, exciting cricket, international stars and even troupes of dancing girls!

We sat square of the wicket and had a great view of all of the action, including Lasith Malinga’s ‘interesting’ action!

Some of the biggest stars of world cricket were within touching distance of us, to name but a few we saw - Harbhajan Singh (India), Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka), Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff (England), Kevin ‘KP’ Peterson (England – but really a South African), Lasith ‘Slinger’ Malinga (Sri Lanka), Matthew Hayden (Australia – boo, hiss), Sanath Jayasuriya (Sri Lanka), Sachin Tendulkar (India), Shane Warne (Australia), Graeme Smith (South Africa), Shaun Pollack (South Africa and ex Warwickshire hero), Dwayne Bravo (West Indies), Rahul Dravid (India), Anil Kumble (India), Jesse Ryder (New Zeland) ……………..

The day was a huge success with wins for the Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore. The cricket was exciting and the introduction of fireworks, music and dancing all added to the occasion. It is little wonder that all of the tickets sold out within 2 hours of going on sale! If we get the chance to go again we will.

Wine Tasting

13th April 2009

As we have already been here for three and a half months we thought that it was high time that we went to visit some of the local wine estates. What better way to spend a few hours of the Easter holiday!

The whole area around Stellenbosch is full of vineyards and some of the best known wines in South Africa and the world come from this area.

First up was Villiera, just down the road and a favourite of Elaine’s. The setting was fantastically rural and relaxed and the wine tasting was free. Our waiter was very knowledgeable and took us through the Méthode Cap Classiques (Champagnes), various white wines, red wines and finally their very own port wine! We tasted 8 different wines each, electing to swallow rather than spit!

Feeling very relaxed we decided to buy a few bottles of our favourites, available in the estate shop more cheaply than the same wines are available for in the bottle stores. Definitely a win-win situation! As we waited for the wine to be packaged up we looked at the hundreds of banknotes from around the world on the walls, most remarkable, sadly, was the Zimbabwean 50 Million Dollar note, issued on 2nd April 2008 and only valid until 30th June 2008. For reference purposes at the time 100 million Zimbabwean Dollars was worth approximately £0.37 (approx 5 Rand), but with inflation increase percentages measured in the tens of millions it would have been worth far less just in the time it took you to read this. Why the world chooses to do nothing about ‘Uncle Bob’ is beyond us. Anyway, enough of the political statements!

Next up was the Seidelberg Estate in nearby Paarl. Another free tasting of 7 or 8 wines with stunning views of Paarl Mountain and Table Mountain followed as well as the purchase of yet more of our favourites! Also on site is a glass studio and we watched for a while as the glass blowers made amazing patterned bottles from scratch. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) all of the products here were slightly out of our price range!

We decided to go to the Fairview Estate next door for something to eat as it has a very good reputation and possibly squeeze in one final tasting. Another beautiful location but unfortunately we were just too late for the restaurant so we decided to make our way home and come back another day. Tasting 16 wines and buying 12 bottles was probably enough of a day out anyway!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Sunset Over Stellenbosch

It must just be that time of year! We went to see Linda and Meiring after we got back from our road trip. As the sun began to set the sky turned red and blue it was awesome! Just had to take a photo to prove that it wasn't the effect of red wine!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Road Trip - Part 10 (The Run Home)

Thursday 26th March - Port St John's to Buffalo Bay

Time to head home! We had been invited to spend some more time with Leonie's family at Gouritzmond over the weekend and decided to put in a long driving day to give us a shorter leg on Friday.

We didn't really set a target but thought that somewhere like Tsitsikamma should be achievable, in the end we managed 900km and Buffalo Bay!

The drive was great as it was like a referesher of the last week and a half, driving through familiar places and seeing some new and some familiar things. We negotiated Umthatha without a problem this time as well!

You know that you are having a driving day when the first time you stop the car after filling it with petrol is to fill it all over again! We did this twice, once in East London and again at Jeffrey's Bay!

As we neared the Tsistsikamma National Park we were treated to a glorious sunset and must have taken about 100 photos at high speed trying to get some good ones!

Eventually a very weary pair pulled into the familiar car park of the Buffalo Bay Backpackers and opted for a safari tent for the night! We both simply passed out until the morning!

Friday 27th to Saurday 28th March - Buffalo Bay to Gouritzmond

After a big slog the day before there was only a relatively short 200km to go so we took our time waking up and having breakfast!

Another problem free drive and three hours later we were once again sitting, beer in hand, with Leonie's family in Gouritz. This time Leonie's dad Frank, brother John and sister-in-law Riana were also there.

Another weekend of great food, fine wine, rugby and good company were had. On the Saturday we walked on the beach and collected half a tonne of driftwood for Elaine to incorporate into a future art project (though no timescale has been stipulated of course!!).

Sunday 29th March - Gouritzmond - Cape Town - Stellenbosch

After a lovely couple of evenings it was time to head back home, though not directly as we had to go to Lise and Phil's braai (what else) in Cape Town first! That's 300km for a steak and 50km back the way we had come to get home!

We had a quick stop in Gouritzmond to take some pictures of a windpump. For some reason we both really like these very common constructions!

We stocked up with meat en-route and made it to the Mother City by about 1400hrs. It was probably the hottest day that we have experienced this year. It was uncomfortably hot, especially anywhere near the braai! You couldn't walk barefooted outside without burning your feet and if you left your seat for too long you were in danger of burning somewhere else entirely on your return!

That being said we had a good time, meeting Phil and his friends for the first time and catching up with Nadia, Flippie and Lise again.

The views of Table Mountain and Lion's Head from the front of the house were fabulous.

Finally, just as it was starting to cool down it was time to head back home to Stellenbosch and see the neighbours for the first time in a few weeks, it must have been bliss for them!

We had a fabulous trip, hopefully the first of many, but it was also very nice to finally be home!

Road Trip - Part 9

Tuesday 24th March to Thursday 26th March – Amapondo Backpackers Port St Johns

The north-east corner of Transkei is home to the Pondo people (a group of isiXhosa speaking tribes) and is often referred to as Pondoland. Visitors are warned to look out for ‘pondo fever’, a sense of well being and relaxation which may lead to an unintentional extended stay! Indeed ramshackle Port St Johns has a relaxed and ‘new age’ feel to it and I suspect that many of the residents arrived for a visit of just a few days and just forgot to leave!

This is a very traditional area with many small villages dotted around the tropical landscape. People here farm for a living and obviously walk for miles just to get basic provisions as there are few who can afford vehicles and no shops outside the centre of Port St Johns.

We had a really relaxing stay, exploring the bustling town and relaxing on the near deserted second beach. Amapondo Backpackers is a real social hub for the local community and all of those staying there bonded with the locals nicely. We sat outside talking to our South African neighbours for ages and were joined in the bar by new friends from France and Switzerland. The food was provided by a Scottish chef who is good friends with Elaine’s brother André. In fact everywhere we went we met someone who knew André well from his days running a backpacker lodge in Hogsback.

Wednesday night was poker night and also the entire bar area was the setting for a music video shoot. We were all used as extras and band members, Elaine being the pianist! Some of the local hippie characters were in attendance and treated us all to their musical talents, truly awful but hilariously funny. The most eccentric of the bunch was Ben Dekker, well known in South Africa as a former actor and politician, who had dropped out of mainstream society some years ago to live in a cave above second beach!

We had a fabulous night and it was quite sad to go to sleep knowing that we had to start heading home the next day.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Road Trip - Part 8

Tuesday 24th March – Coffee Bay to Port St Johns

After negotiating the pothole minefield safely we just about made it to a petrol station before the embarrassment of running out. We even jumped ahead of a police car in the queue when the pump attendant waved us through, the police guys didn’t look too impressed but said nothing and didn’t mention the missing number plate, mind you the police and traffic cops are totally separate here so they probably didn’t care!

Fully fuelled and back on the highway (differentiated from other roads in that some of the potholes were filled and those that weren’t were very small in comparison to those we encountered earlier) we were heading straight for the city of Mthatha, the former capital of Transkei

This was the biggest place we had seen in a few days, noise, hustle and bustle and, wait for it, a traffic police road block! BUSTED! A rather stern faced Sisi (Xhosa for sister, also used as a respectful greeting) put her substantial arm in the air and signalled for us to pull over. We already had a plan, act surprised and deny all knowledge! Straight faced she came to the window and held out a hand for Jon’s licence (they don’t need to ask anymore, you get stopped every 5 minutes in South Africa!) and in heavily accented English asked
“Where is your front number”
“Your front number, where is it?”
“Is it not on the front of the car?”
“No! This is why I am asking”
“Oh! No! I have no idea. We just came from Coffee Bay”

Meanwhile Elaine got out of the car and went to the front

“Jon, it’s not here. Oh no what are we going to do”
(etc etc as she laid it on nice and thick)

“my dad is going to shoot me”
(perhaps pushing it a little far, but the crocodile tears were a nice touch).

By now all three of us are on the pavement, Elaine acting her heart out, Jon asking for advice about where to get a Western Cape number plate made in an Eastern Cape City (they are different, ours doesn’t have an elephant on it!) from Sisi but getting nothing back other than:

“It’s a R400 fine”
“Don’t know”

It was a stand-off. Sisi’s face never cracked. A full 10 minutes of pavement politics had passed when suddenly Sisi handed Jon his licence and told us to go! We couldn’t believe it, we had obviously presented ourselves as being too much trouble to deal with! Elaine hugged and kissed Sisi, who told us that we should get a new number plate as soon as possible, and then started hugging some of the other traffic cops who had congregated around the car! Amazing, smiles all round, even Sisi!

That was it, we were off and on the lookout for a number plate shop! The first place we found on the main Nelson Mandela Avenue only did tyres and exhausts but they gave us directions to a place called Midas (on York Road!) who would be able to help. As it turned out York Road was in the backstreets of Mthatha, well off the beaten trail and definitely ‘proper’ Africa. It was amazing, people, vibrant colours and noise everywhere, Jon loved it and even joined in with some of the local bad driving customs!

We found Midas, it was right next door to Lucky’s Guns & Ammunition! The people there were brilliant and couldn’t do enough to help, especially the men offering to help Elaine. We got plenty of strange looks but everyone smiled and made some friendly comment or other! Eventually, after some comedy moments with screws and an upside down number plate it was fitted and only cost R109 all in, much cheaper than a fine.

We headed back through the centre of town towards the main highway and our destination of Port St Johns still laughing about the experience of the last hour or so.

The rest of the journey (about 90km) was pretty boring in comparison, beautiful scenery, good roads and a friendly welcome at the Amapondo Backpackers at second beach.

Having become accustomed to sleeping in beds rather than a tent we booked into a room, dumped our gear and headed off to the beach with our crayfish and some beer! We sat on the rocks eating crayfish, drinking beer and watching the cows on the adjacent beach. Unfortunately there had been a fatal shark attack some days previously so there was no swimming or even paddling up to the knees allowed.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Road Trip - Part 7

Monday 23rd March – Chintsa to Coffee Bay

We were up and off fairly early from Buccaneers Backpackers after Elaine had bought some ‘lucky bean’ necklaces and a handbag (seriously, another handbag!) from the shop.

Today we were to cross the Great Kei River and enter the area known as Transkei between 1959 and 1994. During the apartheid era the South African government set up ten ethnically and linguistically divided homelands for black South Africans, effectively ensuring that all racial groups developed separately. Transkei was set aside for the Xhosa people and had a turbulent existence until reincorporation into the ‘new’ South Africa in 1994.

The scenery was very different, rolling hills and valleys, fertile green land and small communities dotted all over the landscape consisting of both modern block constructions and the traditional round thatched huts or ‘rondawels’. Now we really were in Africa!

We passed the village where Nelson Mandela was born at Mvezo and the imposing retirement home he has built in nearby Qunu, where he spent most of his formative years.

As we sped along the highway we saw a traffic cop on the opposite side of the road waving his arms and pointing at the front of the car, obviously picking up on the fact that we had no registration plate. If he thought that we were going to stop he was sadly mistaken! Shortly after that we turned off the progressively worsening N2 highway onto the road to Coffee Bay. We still had about 80km to go and the scenery was breathtaking though the road was still getting worse! Eventually the potholes got so big and frequent that we were driving at walking pace and weaving paths between them.

Eventually though and after a short dirt road hill trial for the poor bakkie we arrived at the beautiful and remote Coffee Bay, allegedly named after a ship carrying coffee which was wrecked at the site in 1863, and the Coffee Shack Backpackers.

Of course we had to take the opportunity to stay in our very own thatched hut on the other side of the river. It was great, a bed, a chair, an oil lamp and some lizards living on the inside of the thatch!

We quickly moved our things across, had our complimentary drink at the bar and went out onto the beach. Another stunning and unspoilt bay made all the better by the fact that this was in a very rural Xhosa area and we were immersed in their culture and language. The language isiXhosa takes a bit of practice to say the least, especially as they incorporate a number of distinct clicking noises into words as additional letters! If you are interested have a look at the YouTube clip below and start learning!

Everyone in the Coffee Bay area that we met was very friendly and most had a good go at trying to sell us something, from crayfish to toe rings! You had to admire their entrepreneurial spirit!

We went back to the bar area, had a drink and some free oysters and waited for dinner to be served. Again traditional Xhosa food was on the menu and once again it was fantastic with sweetcorn cooked by standing it up in the open fire and turning occasionally. If you got lucky you may have got some popcorn too where it had overheated!

Then we were treated to some traditional singing and dancing by some children from the local school who were excellent and got the crowd on their feet, clapping and stomping along with them.

We had a great night and talked to some really interesting local people before heading off to the hut for a good nights sleep (though keeping half an eye on the lizards!).

We woke up with a plan, we were going on a 7km walk to the 'Hole in the Wall' but we hadn't reckoned it raining! The weather here has been so good over the last 3 months that it is a real surprise to wake up to anything other than blazing sunshine! We decided that the hole in the wall walk would have to wait for a future visit and quickly decided to check out and head up the coast to Port St Johns.

Before we paid our tab we bought a couple of plump crayfish from one of the locals and cooked them in a nice big pot in the kitchen! Crayfish in hand we said goodbye to the brilliant people at the Coffee Shack and headed back towards the world's biggest potholes!

Road Trip - Part 6

Saturday 21st March – Addo to Chintsa

We got up, had some breakfast and took pretty unpleasant showers in the highly sulphuric water at the backpackers. If you have ever smelt a stinkbomb you will have some idea of what the water smelt like! Hopefully we didn't smell as bad once we were finished!

We set off with the aim of reaching Chintsa near East London and the highly recommended Buccaneers Backpackers.

We decided that we would take the most direct route back to the N2 highway then head for Grahamstown. As with most of these routes it swiftly and unexpectedly turned into a gravel road, not favoured by Elaine! Unfortunately this one was about 70km long so she had a bit of a nervous hour, gripping the door handle tightly and taking sharp intakes of breath very time the road got really rough. The roads themselves are generally not too bad but the dust and noise of flying stones and sliding tyres can be a little unnerving.

Eventually we got back onto the highway and made good progress towards Grahamstown. The scenery had changed again. Gone were the lush green forests, replaced by towering Aloe Ferox and various cacti. Even the trees were noticeably different as we headed towards the more tropical environment.

We stopped in Grahamstown for some lunch and to stock up with supplies. This is the area where the ‘1820 Settlers’ were granted land and equipment by the British Government and Cape authorities, one of the largest settlements of British people in Africa. Many of the settlers turned their back on agriculture and moved to the towns, hence the visible Victorian/Georgian influence in Grahamstown today.

After an interesting hour walking around the city we continued our journey via East London to Chintsa on the Wild Coast, overtaking a fine array of vintage cars en route which were taking part in some kind of rally.

Again we had to negotiate a very rough track to get to the backpackers, fortunately it was only about 1km long, but what a boneshaker!

We arrived at the fabulous Buccaneers Backpackers and decided to get a safari tent. This cost only little more than pitching our own tent with the added luxury of a proper bed and a wooden deck with views of the lagoon, beach and ocean. We signed up there and then for the traditional Xhosa (the dominant black tribe in the Cape) feast on offer that evening at a very reasonable R60 (£4) including as much wine as you could drink. They also told us that breakfast was free to everyone on a Sunday morning, and that there was free canoe and body board rental too, what a result!

We unpacked the bakkie and made ourselves at home in our very spacious tent. It was at about this time that we noticed that the front registration plate on the bakkie was missing! Oh well, not much we could do about it there and then we’d just have to keep our eyes open and see we could see it on our way out, if not it was probably somewhere near Grahamstown and lost forever! More on this later.

We got into our beach gear and headed off to explore the nearby amenities. First we came to the lagoon and could see the canoes which were free for us to use. Then we came to the wonderful beach, golden sand stretched round the bay as far as the eye could see and the ocean was a deep blue. We walked and watched the local Xhosa children playing in the surf and kite surfers speeding over the waves pulled by the wind.

Having topped up the tan and had a good walk for a couple of hours it was time to get ready to eat and drink! There were plenty of takers for the feast night and the large room had quite a buzz about it as dish after dish came out to load up the buffet table. The food was great, corn bread, chicken, lamb, rice and lots of things that I simply didn’t recognise. Elaine and I joined forces with a Swiss couple to show the large group of Americans just how to abuse the free wine situation, suffice it to say that Team Europe & Africa slept very soundly that night!

When we woke the following morning we decided that the previous day had been so much fun we would stop for another night, which we booked before taking advantage of the free breakfast and lots of coffee to combat the strange headaches we had developed, must have been the sea air!

Another day on the beach followed, collecting masses of shells for Elaine to put to good use in a future project and a bit of canoeing thrown in for good measure. If you look closely at the view of the backpackers from the beach you will see the safari tents poking out of the hill surrounded by the rest of the backpacker’s buildings.

We enjoyed a spaghetti bolognese at the backpackers in the evening and spent some time in the bar afterwards rounding off what had been a very enjoyable and relaxing stay.

We will definitely be back.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Road Trip - Part 5

Friday 20th March – Stormsrivier Village to Addo Elephant National Park

Not much commentary on this one, just lots of pictures! We had a longer drive of 250km via the large industrial city of Port Elizabeth to reach our destination. It took us about 3 hours and left us with more than half a day to enjoy the Addo ElephantNational Park and the animals.

The setup at Addo was great, we pulled into the main camp, paid the very small fee (about £2 each), checked the ‘sightings’ board and headed off into the park’s 600 square kilometres of dirt and tarred roads.

African Elephant
Our first encounter was with a large lone male. We sat and watched each other for ages until the elephant crossed right behind the car. Amazing. Later on we saw a large herd of 10-15 elephants on the other side of the park.

Not a great photo but this was the second ‘Big 5’ sighting for us! Only 3 to go.

Burchells Zebra
Unsurprisingly closely related to the horse!

Look at those horns! Beautiful animal which also makes for very tasty biltong!

Quite happily sitting by the side of the road waiting for a car to come by!

Very good at running away as soon as they saw a camera!

Leopard Tortoise
This was bigger than it looks in the picture.

Other Sightings
Red Hartebeast
Vervet Monkey
Black-backed Jackal
Flightless Dung Beetle
Ostrich (yawn!)

And lots of other unidentified beasties.

We had a fabulous time exploring the park and we got to see two of the ‘Big 5’. It could easily have been 3 but we missed out on a pride of lions at our first turn! When we were talking to one of the rangers about what he had seen recently he told us that when we had entered the park we were behind his vehicle, at the first junction he went left and saw lions almost immediately, we, of course, turned right and saw none! The park has lion, rhinoceros and leopard but they all eluded us. Better luck next time!

We left the park in the near darkness and checked into a backpackers lodge just down the road which would be best described as ‘functional’! Still we had a great day and would recommend Addo to anyone.

Road Trip - Part 4

Thursday 19th March - Buffalo Bay to Stormsrivier

With only 120km of road to travel we knew that we had plenty of time to explore the various places of interest en-route and still get to our destination nice and early. Happily normal weather conditions had returned and it was time for the sun tan lotion again!

First port of call was Noetzie, a secluded bay guarded by 5 private castles, all of which are private residences. The 15km drive along the dirt road and the walk down 100 or so steps through the forest was well worthwhile to see this interesting spectacle, though the oldest castle only dates from 1932! For some reason we don’t have any photos of our own but have linked to this one from t’Internet.

We walked back up the steps (slightly more laborious) to the car and headed back along the dirt road to the highway. On either side of us we could see the properties on the highly exclusive Pezula Private Estate. The houses, well mansions really, looked amazing. If we ever win the lottery, well if we ever win it twice, we might be able to afford to visit for a few days! Apparently this is the most exclusive estate in South Africa and the level of security that was visible seemed to back this up. How the other half live eh!

We got back onto the highway and headed towards nearby Plettenburg Bay, not to visit the town itself (another upmarket summer playground for the wealthy) but for Elaine to spend some of her birthday money at the art and craft shops there. Two hours later and with new bangles and accessories onboard we continued our journey to Stormsrivier.

Very soon we entered the Tsitsikamma National Park and a new Province, Eastern Cape. This is an area of outstanding natural beauty within which we would find Stormsrivier Village.

Very soon after the toll booth we crossed over the Bloukrans Bridge, home of the world’s highest bungy jump. Despite my temptation (ahem) to jump 216m off a perfectly good bridge we drove on, quite quickly!

After admiring the scenery for a short while longer and negotiating the now traditional South African roadworks we arrived at Stormsrivier Bridge, a sort of base camp for exploring the local area. We had a walk over the bridge (Jon’s legs were shaking) and decided to find the route to visit the ‘big tree’ nearby. Unfortunately we were informed by the information desk that the ‘big tree’ was inaccessible due to the roadworks taking place, just typical!

We had something to eat and decided to make our way to Stormsrivier Village (the only place with accommodation in the national park) and check in to the Dijembe Backpackers Lodge. After our experience at Buffalo Bay we checked into a double room with a nice comfortable bed!

We spent the afternoon and early evening exploring the local area before returning to the backpackers for an evening sitting round the fire and talking with the other residents! A day of bits and pieces and lots of stunning nature, positioning us nicely for our next destination - Addo and the Addo Elephant National Park.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Road Trip - Part 3

Wednesday March 18th - Wilderness

We woke up to sunshine! Hooray! Time for a shower, breakfast and tent packing, all achieved by about 0900hrs!

Canoeing was on! We said our goodbyes to the few people who were staying or working at the backpackers and headed off round the corner into the Wilderness National Park and the canoe hire people at Eden Adventures. For a very reasonable fee we were given the paddles to Canoe No. 6 and two life jackets and off we went!

We headed off on the 1.5km paddle upstream towards the end of the navigable river where we could join a 2km long wooden boardwalk through the mountain to a waterfall near the source of the river. Surprisingly all went well. Jon provided power from the front whilst Elaine kept us on course and provided additional power from the rear! After a very pleasurable paddle looking at the wildlife (including a swimming African Puff Adder (killer variety!) and a pair of Knysna Loeries we dragged the canoe up onto the rocky beach, stowed the paddles, pulled our bags out of the dry buckets and set off along the boardwalk.

After 45 minutes good walking exercise we reached our destination, a beautiful series of sink pools fed by two fairly large waterfalls. Time for a swim/paddle in the freezing mountain water and some lunch on a 2m square island/beach in the middle of one of the pools.

After an hour or so it was time to head back to the canoe and make our way back to base. Strangely enough the journey back was also against the current so we had another good work out amongst the flora and fauna of the Touw River. A blissful and healthy first half of the day!

When we got back to the car we treated ourselves to an ice cream, rubbed our sore shoulders and set off on the short (40km) drive to Buffelsbaai (Buffalo Bay). We arrived at the Buffalo Bay Backpackers and pitched our tent within throwing distance of the beach.

Elaine was actually the first guest at this backpackers three years ago! She helped paint the walls and even had to unwrap the packaging from her mattress and bedding before she could sleep! Johan the owner was pleased to see her and amazingly had spent time working at The White Swan in Henley-in-Arden, just around the corner from Jon's home in the UK!

We spent the early evening watching the surfers on the 'morning' beach and looking at some of the art on show in the backpackers.

As evening drew closer we decided to make the short journey to Knysna and have a nice meal at Cornuti's Restaurant at the 'Knysna Heads' (apparently the second most dangerous port entrance in SA). Before we left we did notice that the sea was turning a little rough and dark clouds were rolling in. Was the tent going to be a good option? We didn't care, we were hungry!!!

The meal was fabulous and the view from the terrace was fantastic. The heads are two natural outcrops which separate the sea from the lagoon, forming a narrow channel navigable only by the best seafarers and even they cross their fingers and pray!

By the time we were ready to head back to Buffelsbaai the rain was really falling hard and the wind was blowing. Things were even worse at the backpackers. We quickly emptied the tent of our belongings and asked Johan for a room instead! Once you get to our age there is nothing to prove by sleeping in a cold, wet tent! We sat around the fire and had a drink with some of our fellow residents, joining in the jokes about the poor souls who were sleeping in the tent outside, not letting on that it should have been us!

The following morning the weather was fantastic once again. The tent was still in situ and bone dry! We packed our things, nursed our now VERY sore shoulders, had breakfast and got ready for the next leg of our journey. Just one last task before we left, kindly ask Johan's Jack Russel to stop reading our copy of Coast to Coast and get out of the car!

We said our goodbyes and were off to Stormsrivier in the Tsitsikamma National Park.