After the heavy rain of the night before, last night turned out to be much warmer - and drier, though the waves were just as active. I was awake and out at 05h40 although the others should have been up at 05h30. Washing, dressing and going through the usual routine of dismantling the tent and taking breakfast took just over an hour and at 07h00 precisely, we were pulling away from the camp site. During the evening, half of South Africa had checked in and all the sea front sites were now occupied.
Climbing up the minor road, we returned to the N2 (towards Cape Town) and we crossed the Storms River bridge in the early morning light, mist filling the deep valley below us. Sadly, there were no budgies throwing themselves off what is reputed to be the highest budgie jump in the world.
The sun shone a golden colour on the hill tops as we headed west, sporadic trees sitting on top of the hills like stubble. Alongside the road, farmsteads nestled at the base of the hills. To our right, grey mountains barred the way inland whilst the sea ran alongside our left flank.
the brow of a hill, we looked down on Plettenberg Bay, with its white houses lining the blue waters of the bay. Sail boats bobbed in the gentle waters waiting for their weekend captains to take them out into the water. All along the road ran pine plantations, merging with the fynbos.
We pulled into Knysna and made for The Heads. Climbing the narrow residential roads, passed mansions perched on the steep slope, we reached the summit with its superb views over the lagoon. Although the name of the town is derived from the local dialect meaning hard to reach
, clearly this is no longer the case. Looking down as the blue water and white foam crashing onto the golden rocks, the expensive houses certainly had a good view!
Back at the bus, we headed into Knysna itself for a coffee and retail therapy. Reading an Afrikaaner paper, I learned of a train crash to the north in which 55 foreigners were involved. After coffee (the best on the trip thus far), I went back to the main road and was met with a parade of police vehicles, lights flashing and a small demonstration. Apparently, some of the
council workers were once again on strike.
Back in the Big Red Bus, we set of in the sunshine around the head of the lagoon and continued our journey westwards. At Sedgefield we passed lakes and forests, similar to those seen in Austria and, bypassing Mossel Bay altogether, with its white surf and bronze sand, we left the forests behind and entered a region of vast ploughed fields, with sheep and ostrich grazing on the parched soil. Dust devils played along the slopes whilst windmills lazily turned in the minimal breeze.
At 13h30, later than usual, we pulled into a lay-by just outside Swellendam where we stretched our legs and made salad sandwiches in the hot sunshine. Refreshed, the journey continued until, just beyond Caledon, we turned off the road and started heading into the hills. Although the drive had been through some stunning country today, we were now beginning to pass orchards and the beginnings of vineyards, for this was wine country.
Climbing up Franschhoek Pass, we stopped at the top and gazed down into the valley. Neat fields of vines lay before us with large, white mansions at their core; clearly not a deprived area!
With little time to stop, we descended into the town and through, admiring a very different side to South Africa, before arriving, late in the day, at our camp site.
With the population of the Southern Hemisphere also on the site (apparently, it's a long weekend in ZA), this was the most crowded and touristy we'd been. However, tents had to be set up and an evening meal cooked - so - let's get on with it.
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