Swingtown

Trip Start Aug 21, 2009
1
23
52
Trip End Nov 09, 2009


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Where I stayed
Knysna Hollows

Flag of South Africa  , Western Cape,
Friday, September 25, 2009

It is a perfect morning. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, there are no clouds and the sky is brilliant blue.

We retrace our route for about a half an hour until we meet up with the N2 and head south towards Port Elizabeth some 70 km. (43 mi.) away.  The N2 is the main highway we have been on since leaving Kruger National Park on September 17.

We sense the increase in humidity considerably as we get nearer to the coast (locally referred to as the Sunshine Coast). 

We have a spectacular view of the beaches as we approach Port Elizabeth, a city of over 4 million people and the capital of the Eastern Cape province.  It looks like a very modern city and the architecture is more European in design.  It is also one of the cities hosting the 2010 World Cup (others being Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Rustenburg near Sun City).  This is also the start of the famed Garden Route and the landscape changes to a collage of mixed farming, cattle and citrus growing.  It is extremely scenic as the N2 disects the fields and green mountains to one side and the coast of the Indian Ocean to the other.

From Port Elizabeth we enter into the Tsitsikama forest.  This region should really be known as "swingtown" as it contains a canopy tree tour, a series of pedestrian suspension bridges, and the world's deepest bungee jump.  The majority of our group wants to go on the canopy tree top tour.  It is a slow zip line that travels at tree top heights of up to 30 m. (100 ft.) to a series of 10 platforms throughout the forest.  The earliest time we can get is at 3 PM, probably because of the larger demand due to the long weekend, and this is going to be too late to make it to Knynsa before sunset.  We decide instead to do a walk in the Tsitsikama forest and cross over the 3 suspension bridges over the Storm River.  After the walk; we have a leisurely lunch and watch the waves come in on some of the bleach white beach goers.

From there, we continue on for a short distance and arrive at Bloukrans, site of the world’s highest bungee.  We watch as several people take a leap of faith and dive off the bridge some 216 m. (708 ft.) over the river canyon below.  They have a live feed of the jumpers from the restaurant area (should have nausea bags in all the seats as this is something else to watch).

One of the best beaches in all of South Africa is at Plattenberg Bay and we stop for a photo.  It is truly picturesque and there is money dripping everywhere around the bay.  Big hotels, beautiful guest houses and wonderful big homes.  Money, money, money.  And yet, right across the highway are the poorest shanties we see in South Africa.  Lots of them.  This is part of the paradox of South Africa, it is rich and it is poor and both can be at the same place and at the same time.

We arrive at our hotel, Knynsa Hollows just after 4:30 PM.  Knynsa is a resort city of about 300-400,000.  There seem to be more hotels and guest houses than people.  Our hotel is made up of a lot of chalets, beautifully decorated inside and very spacious.  The chalets form a loop around a swimming pool and we discover at least three swimming pools in this complex.  All the individual chalet units have bird names attached to them.  Ours is the white faced duck.  The grounds are immaculate and well manicured, with very colorful flowers and vines framing the doorways of many of the units.

Our group meets together for an al la carte meal at the hotel.  Nothing special culinary wise, but there is lots of talk, laughter and planning for the next day.  This time Boyd tries a Mitchell’s Bosun’s, a bitter beer.  After dinner we retreat to the large bar area for a night cap.

We have an early start to the next day, partly because we need to get to the bank for some of our group to change money.  We’re looking forward to the day because it is suppose to be sunny and warm with temperatures expected to reach 24 C (75 F).  While waiting for the banks to open, we see a telephone and have an inspiration to use it soon.  But we do not have a phone card and we spend over half an hour trying to find and buy one.  The only place that seems to sell them does not open until 9 AM when we will be gone and closes at 1:30 PM when we will not be back.  It is frustrating and we do not understand why such places are only open for a few hours on a Saturday in a resort community.

Next is a fiasco regarding money changing.  A couple in our group needs to change US cash into Rand and we tag along because we have some Tanzanian schilling to change as well.  The first bank tells us they cannot change the money because their computers are not working (yes it can happen and, given our past experience with South African computers, quite plausible but still sad).  We all try another bank.  It is quite a process, first with passport exchange, then multiple forms to fill out and then waiting only to be told that they cannot change the money because their computers are also down and, worse yet, tell us that the computers are usually done at the end of the month due to month-end transactions.  We can’t believe we are hearing and seeing this.  What a frustrating morning.  It is not even 9 AM and we already need a drink.

We are going to Featherbed Natural Reserve.  It is called Featherbed because sailors on the many ships that spent months in the sea that made it into the quiet bay in Knynsa River said that it felt like sleeping on a featherbed compared to what they had been experiencing.

We take a 20-minute boat ride up the Knynsa River to a platform where we get on an old army tractor unit to transport us up to the top of the east head of the estuary. The Knynsa River has over 100 species of fish in it, both salt water and fresh.  The Knysna River empties into the Indian Ocean and, while its mouth is 300 m. (984 ft.) across, only 60 m. (196 ft.) of it is navigable. 

We are guided down the 2.2 km. (1.4 mi.) hill over the next hour and a half, noting the various plants, trees and rock formations.  There are many great photos to take.

One thing that Featherbed has that is not found anywhere else is the Blue Duiker (pronounced “dye-kerr”).  It is the world’s smallest antelope, at 30 cm. (12 in.) high.  There is a baby at the reserve and it is only 3 days old.

There is a huge buffet lunch and then back by boat to the starting point.  It’s after 2 PM and we take a walk around downtown.  It’s not much of a walk as most of the stores closed at 1:30 PM.  Again we are a little dumbfounded as this is Saturday and it is suppose to be a resort center.  Our expectations are certainly different than those here.  So it’s off to the waterfront (a mini version of San Francisco) where we meet the rest of our group.  Some of us decide to return later for dinner at Fisherman’s Cabin. 

Oysters are Knynsa’s forte.  Pacific oysters were imported from Chile as they were particularly suited to the local climate.  Boyd has one and slips down the raw oyster with lemon and tobassco sauce.  We have a seafood platter consisting of mussels, prawns, butterfish, calamari, rice and chips.  We wash it down with a few pints of Mitchell’s Foresters and a glass of white wine.

It starts to rain midway through our dinner and the staff bring out blankets to keep patrons warm.  The rain stops just as we leave to return to our hotel.  Rose has a nightcap of Springbokker (a layered liqueur drink containing peppermint schnapps on the bottom and amarula on top).  We go to bed at 11 PM just as it starts to rain again.  A steady light downpour becomes more heavy and sounds like machine gun fire as it hits the metal roof and echoes throughout our room due to our 6 m. (20 ft.) high cathedral ceiling.  Occasionally the winds gust and sound like a roaring surf, just like what we had back in Coffee Bay, which helps us to doze off for the evening.

                                                                 
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Comments

gpw30
gpw30 on

Swingtown
Your note preceding your commentary about where some of these blogs are being read---they do make for a moving experience. Patrice says reading your material is just as good as prune juice--keep it up she is greatful.

We always look forward to your next blog and wish we were there but feel as if we are tagging along via you updates. Keep em coming. Sorry about the lousy exchange rate for Canadian dough, can I loan you some good ol U.S. currency? Not as colorful as yours but exchanges better. Rose---I love you, you look great mama! Gary

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