Friday, 10 April 2009

Road Trip - Part 2

We left Gouritzmond on Monday 16th March to start our road trip proper. The aim was to head up the N2 to the small town of Wilderness (a gentle 125km) and camp there for the night.

First up was a visit to Mossel Bay for some supplies, sightseeing and something to eat. Mossel Bay is famous as the place discovered by the Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias in 1488 proving that Africa had a southern tip thus showing it was possible for ships to sail from Europe to India. The town also has the only north facing beach in Southern Africa – both strange and interesting I think you will agree! After a couple of hours sightseeing and posting some postcards from the Milkwood Tree used as a post office since 1500 we set off for Wilderness.

An hour or so later we arrived in the green, sunny and stunning Wilderness via a winding mountain pass that reminded me of Cheddar Gorge back in the UK.
At this point the weather was great so we headed straight for the Fairy Knowe Backpackers and pitched our little tent (borrowed from Linda and Meiring of course)!

Once we had settled in it was time to explore the local area so we took a short drive along the old, mountainous and winding road to nearby George and took a walk in the nearby National Park. We decided that the next day we would hire a canoe and explore the local river.

We headed back into town for something to eat and a nice bottle of wine on the beach. Having moved beaches a couple of times already to sample as much of the local area as possible we had our most bizarre experience to date.

As we pulled up to the beach car park we saw another car parked right down at the end. A short while later a short black man in shorts and a t-shirt came running over to the car and asked us if we could help him as he was stuck in the sand. Elaine put down her knife and we told him that we would see what we could do!

Of course being security conscious we drove towards his car to see whether he was alone etc. In the back of the white Mercedes was a slightly dishevelled young lady who was evidently not the wife of our new friend (didn't get his name but for the purposes of the story we will now refer to him as STUPID)! It transpired that they had been stuck for 4 hours and the man's wife was now getting really mad and phoning him every 5 minutes!

After a little digging I told Elaine to jump into the driving seat and let STUPID and I push. STUPID put the car into 'reverse', Elaine drove and we pushed. Nothing. More revving and pushing. Nothing. Something wasn't quite right with the sound of the car and the way it wasn't moving so I told Elaine to jump out and had a go myself. First attempt, same outcome. Second attempt (remembering that to get a german car into reverse you either have to lift or press the gear stick) we shot out of the sand and onto hard ground. Immediately I knew what the problem was, this guy was STUPID, he'd been driving the car into the sand in fourth gear for 4 hours!!!!

When we hit gravel there were shouts of joy. STUPID hugged me and jumped into my arms and the local lady of the night tried to hug Elaine who did her best to keep her at arms length! STUPID then told us that he had borrowed the car from his work at COPE (South African Political Party) where he was district organiser in George! We should have gone to the papers!!

We returned to the backpackers still laughing and shared our tale with the two German members of staff who were the only ones in the bar. We had a nice evening together and settled down for our first night in the tent.

We awoke to a very strange phenomenen, rain! Not only rain but it was pretty cold as well. What a shock to the system, certainly no canoeing today and no striking of the tent either as it was soaking. We quickly decided that we would stay for one more night (surely it couldn't rain on two consecutive days) and take a trip to the Klein Karoo (little desert) on the other side of the mountains to visit Oudtshoorn (home of the world's largest Ostrich population) and the Cango Caves.

The drive over the Outeniqua Pass was fabulous, with the added bonus that the weather improved as dramatically as the scenery changed from lush green foliage to spartan semi desert (though admittedly the next two pictures make it look as if the weather got worse).

After a 100kms or so and passing through Oudtshoorn we arrived at the Cango Caves and ate our packed lunch looking out over the Cango Valley that we had just driven along. Two trips were on offer Standard or Adventure. The Adventure trip included squeezing through holes smaller than my body, that and the fact that Elaine has bad childhood memories of doing it, meant that we opted for the more sensible Standard trip (chickens)! I guess that we have all been down enough caves to know what to expect but this was actually a really good one and we had an interesting hour with our entertaining guide travelling through part of the network.

It was time to head back to Oudtshoorn and have a look at the town and some Ostriches! First though, especially for all you animal lovers, we stopped to have a look at some camels, well it is a desert afterall!
Boy there were a lot of Ostriches to see, they aren't joking when they say that this is home to the world's largest population! One group took a shine to Elaine and showed her their best mating dances!

Having seen enough funny birds and of the town itself we bought some Ostrich Burgers, Ostrich Biltong and some freshly squeezed fruit juice and headed back to Wilderness.

Fortunately the weather had cleared up and we were able to sit and braai our burgers back at base with our two new German friends and a bottle of wine. For the record Ostrich is not only really healthy (virtually fat free) it also tastes very good too. Surprisingly it does not taste anything like chicken, which most other exotic things seem to!

All in all a fantastic day considering the wet start and all was looking good for canoeing the next day.

(Time for a break for both reader and writer I think! Part 3 soon!)

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