The Klein Karoo

Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
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Trip End Jun 01, 2012


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Flag of South Africa  , Western Cape,
Saturday, May 19, 2012

All along the Garden Route are beautiful and unique little towns along the coast, one of which was particularly quirky, a town called Sedgefield. Sedgefield is South Africa's first town to commit to a slow, chilled out way of life avoiding living life in the fast lane. When we drove past we saw a sign which said 'Slow Town Tourist Drive' along with an arrow. They have a route all mapped out to help you to explore Sedgefield and it was clear that they are particularly proud of being a slow town and we thought we may as well take the drive to see what this was all about. 

 Initially we were a bit concerned about this tour as the very first place the signs led to was directly into the Sedgefield township and we quickly and as discretely as possible, locked our doors and sped up slightly to get out again. I have been told too many times to avoid townships so was surprised that the tourist route headed straight through. It was just a few roads of shacks, random dogs wondering the streets and a few people milling about and then it was on out of the township and into the richer area of Sedgefield which was an interesting contrast to the shacks of the township. The houses were like mansions up on the hills overlooking the sea and it was hard to believe that all these people are effectively neighbours and yet live such completely different lives. I suspect that these wealthier people haven't always been committed to their 'slow town' motto otherwise I have no idea how they could afford these places. I believe there are a lot of South Africans, Britains and Americans who make their fortunes and then retire to the Garden route.

Although it was interesting we still weren't overly impressed by the tour, but that was before we came over the crest of the hill and were greeted with the most amazing views over the sea and lagoon at which point we were starting to come round to this slow town idea. Around every corner was an even better view!

The great thing with the garden route is that everywhere has amazing views and over the course of the week Katy had found at least half a dozen perfect spots for her future B&B. One of the best views was along the drive between Knysna and Oudtshoorn. Once we had passed George and pretended we could speak Afrikaans in the Spar, we then headed out over the Outeniqua pass which is just stunning. You drive over the Klein Karoo between the Swartberg and Outeniqua mountains. This took about an hour and then we arrived into the Ostrich capital of South Africa, Outdshoorn, which was the one place that all of the backpackers on the Bazbus were going to. (Big mistake missing the rest of the Garden Route if you ask me!)
 Even before we arrived into Oudtshoorn we saw fields full of Ostriches next to the road. I believe it has been a lucrative industry and the Ostrich farmers in the area have made a fortune over the years. We drove past lots of signs advertising Ostrich Biltong and painted Ostrich egg souvenirs.


The Oudtshoorn area is very touristy with 3 main experiences to do which are: 
1. Cage diving with a crocodile
2. Riding an Ostrich 
3. Going into the Cango caves. 
 There are even tourist Tshirts which declare that you have completed these 3 activities

 We had absolutely no desire to cage dive with a crocodile but did want to see the Cango Caves and the Ostrich farms. We decided to go to the Cango Caves first thinking we might miss some of the tour buses... WRONG!
the Cango Caves is actually somewhere I have been before however I don't actually remember it as it was over 20 years ago when I was a toddler. I did have the T-shirt to prove it though.

There are two trails through the Cango Caves and we wanted to do the adventure trail which goes deep into the caves through some tight areas but unfortunately it was closed so we just went on the standard tour... with lots and lots of other people! The caves are beautiful but have been quite badly treated by tourists over the last few decades causing thousands of years worth of damage and that has led to them closing off quite a few areas in order to protect the caves for the future. People used to snap pieces of limestone off to keep as souvenirs and you can see the damage to the colour of the rock from people touching things as they walk past. You are told not to touch anything but hardly anyone listen to that so I'm not surprised they have decided to keep tourists out of the majority of the caves. 
All in all it was a good tour and the limestone Stalagmites and Stalactites were very impressive. It was also interesting to see how cheap it was compared to other caves we've been to in Australia and New Zealand.

After a coffee we then drove back into Oudtshoorn to the Cango Ostrich farm where we luckily managed to get on a tour just before the huge groups of tour buses appeared. We were told about the incubation process, met a few Ostriches, stood on the Ostrich eggs and fed them before watching the 'Ostrich Jockey's' riding them. You can try riding the Ostriches but you have to be under 75kg's so I was too heavy and Katy thought it looked a bit mean for the Ostrich and wasn't keen so we passed on the Ostrich riding but we watched the jockeys. They put a bag over the Ostriches head while they climb onto it's back and then whip it off again making the Ostrich bolt off. It was interesting but did look a little mean to the Ostriches to be fair.
 
An Ostrich egg can feed about 11 people and you can buy them from local supermarkets although I'm not sure what they taste like. We were keeping away from eating any Ostrich meat or eggs as we had heard about a bird flu outbreak in the area some months ago which led to a number of birds having to be culled. Chances are it would be fine, but we didn't want to take any chances. The whole thing seems to have been swept under the carpet, no doubt to protect the tourism industry and apparently they re-opened the doors quite quickly after the outbreak. 
 The last thing we did was to have an Ostrich massage. You stand with your back to the Ostriches holding a bucket of feed and they then lean around you to eat while their necks give you a massage. I've never seen a less relaxing massage as the photo of Katy will show!

So that was the end of our time along the garden route and we then had a 5 hour drive to Hermanus along the N2 highway. We drove past Mossel Bay where we DID NOT dive with great white sharks. We looked into the possibility of going along on one of the boats to see them but the price was the same as diving, which was of no interest having seen too many Youtube videos of cage diving gone wrong where the sharks get into the cage. 

 In Hermanus we met up with my aunt, my cousin and their friends to have lunch at an awesome seafood restaurant called Lemon Butter. The food was delicious and we were sat in the window overlooking the sea... we were there for hours just having amazing wine and food. That is the life!

Next up, Cape Town!
 
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