LOVE TO WANDER
This has been without doubt the best holiday we have ever taken - and it has some strong competition. Stunning scenery, excellent food, luxurious accommodation and friendly people have combined to make this a truly unforgettable trip. There are problems here and the frequently seen townships are a very stark reminder of that. There are some places where we have felt uncomfortable, but very many more where we have felt very welcome and at home. Some of the little cafes we have stopped off at en route are a great example of just how hard so many people are trying here to make the best of what they have. The faultlessly solicitous service everywhere is also a happy memory - everyone, no matter what their job is, has been making a great effort to do it well.
A very comfortable hotel with great facilities, including a whisky bar. More expensive than the St. James though and the location isn't as good. either.
Better weather today meant we could take the 4x4 trip through the fynbos clad slopes of the Grootbos nature reserve. They are doing a wonderful job here conserving unique vegetation made possible by the four soil types they have - six flower species are only found in Grootbos. So many of the flowers have medicinal value as well as great beauty. Most of the proteas had finished flowering, unfortunately - they are at their best in October usually.
Even in paradise, it rains sometimes. We woke to quite hard rain, which is set to continue all morning, so we abandoned plans to take a jeep safari through the fynbos until tomorrow morning and spent the morning reading (there is a great selection of books here) and enjoying our room.
A five hour drive out of Knysna down the remainder of the N2 Garden Route took us through miles of golden fields dotted with neatly stacked, circular hay bales protected by mountain ranges. It struck us that the drive after the end of the Garden Route was actually much more scenic, despite all the hype
We hiked the Robberg Peninsula today - a really lovely walk. The weather was overcast, which was a bit of a shame, but it was warm and dry at least.
There are a lot of lovely coastal and forest walks around Knysna - much nicer than the built up areas all around the coast from here to Plettenberg Bay (Plett). In parts of the Garden Route aalong the coast, there are townships on both sides of the road - not at all scenic. Lots of properties here have electric fences protecting them and most shops/hotels etc seem to have 24 hour armed respond security. A quarter of the back page of the Visit Knysna tourism flier has safety advice for tourists. All common sense stuff, but disconcerting nonetheless
The hotel was comfortable and our room was enormous - but the atmosphere was a bit staid/old fashioned. It was also a long way out of town. We would have been better staying at a B & B closer to the centre of town. We had to get a cab to the restaurant where we were meeting friends - not advisable to walk it.
This morning was our last 5am start and our last game drive. Sicla was on a mission to find me more elephants - not too difficult to track with the large prints their feet make. They are rather like huge marshmallows!
This morning, an hour or more's driving was rewarded by a cheetah sighting. The kill was fresh - somewhat distressing (more so as the prey was a pregnant female springbok) until you get used to the fact that you are watching the natural world all around you as it happens in real life here. The light was right and we were - with some valuable guidance. From our very talented guides - able to take some great shots.
We were up at 5 to start our morning game drive. What a way to spend your birthday!
This morning, we saw black rhino (very rare - this was the first in the open sighting our guide had seen in three years); elephants, giraffes and cheetah - all in one morning! Awesome.