Saturday morning has turned out to be another magnificent, sunny day and should be great for some sightseeing around Knysna before we take the short drive to Storms River in the heart of the Tsitsikamma National Park in the Eastern Cape.
We had had a longer and better night’s sleep in the rondele even though the bed was still quite firm. Perhaps it was the wine last night that gave us the perfect nightcap.
Breakfast again was very fulfilling and Gretchen even had an option for Weetbix which would have made it just like home. But she is enjoying the yogurt here so much she decided against following what she would have at home.
We had a good old chat with Katrin, the lodge owner, trying to put the world right .It is always very interesting listening how people in countries we visit see their country and the world in general and how their thoughts compare to ours. She was very helpful about advice where not to venture downtown and the best and safest places to see within the city.
Heading away further east our first stop was at Knysna Heads and this was so worthwhile giving
fantastic views over the narrow strip of water for vessels to enter and leave the lagoon/harbour. The homes on top of the hill with 360deg views were very opulent and because of the remoteness from the town many didn’t have much in the way of security to keep any felons out. Around the corner on the walkway were a couple of wooden platform’s with outlooks that offered a different perspective to the one directly above the heads. We gingerly stepped onto the platforms thinking about Cave Creek in NZ all those years ago when a viewing platform gave way. It was a very long way straight down to the rocks and then sea below.
Down at sea level you got a different picture of just fast the tide was running through the narrow gap.
Then it was onto Leisure Island where the homes got even more exclusive. There is certainly a lot of money invested in the real estate in Knysna.
At the end of the island was the very exclusive Amanzi Lodge where the honeymoon suite goes for Rand 4390 a night (NZ$439.00) double, why would you want anything else for the honeymoon suite. But hang
on, single went for Rand2270 or (NZ $227.00).Perhaps you would take this if you were the bride or groom jilted at the altar and had prepaid for your honeymoon night. Of course there was no price for a third person. Now that would be weird if there was !
We had the feeling that we had been watched as we drove across the causeway to commence out drive but on our exit we could see there was no one in the little cabin that had the name of a security company plastered all over it.
Our last stop was down at the waterfront where we had a guy in a glow vest point us to a parking space so that we had only a very short walk to be amongst the shops and restaurants down at the waterfront itself. Here you didn’t offer the obligatory Rand 5 up front but rather when you returned as a thank you to the glow vest man for looking after your car while you were gone. Although we are sure it is all care and no responsibility if anything did happen to your car while you were gone.
Heading out of
town we came up a hill to a ‘township’ off to our left and while Gretchen was driving with great caution we came close to a vehicle coming from our left turning out onto the highway in front of us. But we both slowed quickly and no harm was done. Gretchen did mention later that she had noticed all the skid marks and places where there were burn marks on the tar seal where cars must have collided and so we mark that one down as a near miss, even if it was at relative slow speed.
The N2 as it has been all the time when we have driven on it since leaving Cape Town had two generously wide lanes plus a sealed shoulder almost as wide and to us seems quite safe in comparison to many of our roads in NZ.The only other thing one needs to be wary of especially around the ‘townships’ were locals standing often on the roadway itself, waving Rand notes wanting a ride somewhere in the direction we were going. Some look like they may be a bit of fun if we had decided to pick them up but we hear our
daughters word’s ringing in our ears, no hitchhikers !So we have left them to get a ride from someone else or wait for the numerous minivans that take the locals from point to point.
Next stop was a detour off the N2 down to Plettenberg Bay which we arrived at with expansive vistas of a wide bay with beaches of white sand.
At the mall as we drove through the small town were dozens of minivans and locals milling around with their bags of shopping. Our guess was the vans only depart when they are full of a dozen people or so who cram into the back and many of them lined up were going to be heading off in different directions.
At the beach we had a fruit lunch and watched a guy who had made a huge sand sculpture and was keeping it moist in the warm sun by blowing through the neck of a 2 litre plastic Coca-Cola bottle filled with water which then sprayed out of a series of small holes near the bottom of the bottle. Very ingenious !
Gretchen wanted to go and buy him a watering can but he
wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting to watch with that over blowing through the plastic bottle.
To get down to the beach itself were a small number of wooden steps or you could do what Gretchen did and try to get to the beach via the sand to the side of the steps. The inevitable happened and her legs gave way underneath her and for a moment I thought I was going to have to call an ambulance and it would be Salon sur Chalon in France all over again for her. She did bump the back of her head as she landed but no damage done, hew ! Moments before I was just about to suggest she walk down the steps as I was about to do !I will be clutching onto her hand in future when we encounter terrain such as this !
Down at the water’s edge we came across the largest jellyfish we had ever seen, in fact there were two of them each at least a foot or more across. They didn’t appear to have a stinging tail we didn’t get too close to find out.
Out of the town and on
our way again there were more locals on the side of the road waiting for a minivan or a private vehicle to pick them up. It is the weekend and Saturday so this may have been why there have been so many people today getting their transport by this method.
Next feature for the day was the toll booth at the start of the run through the Tsitsikamma forest although the start of it was more a recent project of planting pine trees rather than the jungle of native trees we had expected.
As we have said before the roads have been very good to drive on but this piece of highway after the toll booth was so smooth and flat you would hardly know you were speeding across it. The Rand53 toll we paid was a worthwhile payment with a road surface as impressive as this one.
At Bloukrans bridge we came across the world’s highest bridge commercial bungy jump at 216 metres above the river which is in a very deep ravine which you can’t see the bottom of from the viewing platform for those of us who were here just to watch the spectacle.
Getting to the jump site you take a zip line to get to the arch in the middle of the bridge where the jump site is. This alone looked scary enough with several people whizzing their way in midair to get to the middle of the bridge. Once you are winched back up you take a walk along a walkway bolted to the underside of the bridge so you can experience even more the 216 metre drop to the bottom of the ravine !
We watched a couple of jumps before heading on our way. As we left there was a bus load of Indian tourists signing up in their droves to do the zip line and then jump.
Turning just off the highway at Storms River we quickly found our accommodation for the night at Armagh Country Lodge and Spa.
However, things didn’t look quite right as we rolled up the driveway with workmen all over the place and some sort of reconstruction or maintenance going on. One of the workmen came over and informed us the place was currently closed but didn’t offer any answers to how we could contact the owner.
back in the car we tried the lodge phone number but there was no answer. I thought I had recalled when making the booking through booking.com that there wasn’t a lot of other accommodation in this very small settlement.
We had noticed an information centre as we turned towards the lodge so we went there to see what else might be available. The young woman relaxing, reading a book at the entrance was very helpful and gave us a couple of options including the Tsitsikamma Manor which was owned by the same person who owned the Armagh.Good,we thought we can at least front up to him and find out why we didn’t get any communication from him that the Armagh was closed.
We got the mobile working to drive to the Manor but the GPS obviously got a bit confused by the layout of the few streets and we found ourselves in the middle of the local ‘township’ with dogs and children wandering the narrow street and locals looking at us with some incredulation that a car with a couple of European looking people were driving through their ‘township’! The GPS kept on wanting us to turn down
the next dirt track and there were several of them, before we finally got ourselves back out to the main street from the village where we had started and hey presto the Manor was right there across the road from the ‘township ‘and behind a very large automatic gate.
The receptionist was expecting us which was interesting as we have said earlier no one had said that the other place was closed.
Never mind, the room we were shown to looked a higher spec than the one I had seen on booking.com for the Armagh even if the huge king size bed seemed a little firm for our liking.
Dinner was at Marilyn’s Diner, a pink painted building, which couldn’t have looked more out of place in this settlement in the middle of a native forest. As you can probably guess the diner was named after Marilyn Munro whose pictures on the walls along with life like cardboard statues of Elvis were everywhere.1960’s music played from the jukebox and while we waited for our hamburgers to arrive Gretchen used her mobile to find out the singers or names of groups who sang the songs from the jukebox
we couldn’t recall from memory. A different way of passing time in this quiet little village.
We had started out at sunset for the diner as we thought it might not be prudent to find ourselves in the ‘township’ once it got dark and besides there were no street lights in the village. We even made it back to the manor without taking a wrong turn.
It has been an interesting day and as we often say, travel wouldn’t be the fun and as memorable as it is if we didn’t get presented with a challenge or two each day.
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