Day 5: Gondwana Game Reserve to Cape Town - Thu 28 Jan 2016


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Africa » South Africa » Western Cape » Garden Route
January 28th 2016
Published: February 15th 2016
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Up at 5.30am as we were being collected by Ranger Chris at 6.15 am for our early morning drive in the Gondwana Private Game Reserve.

It was fresh outside and the sunrise was beautiful. The skies were varying shades of blue too difficult to describe.

Once in the 4 x 4 Chris told us that we were going to drive where the “big 5” are. As we set off we saw the blue wildebeest ambling along. Then we saw the black Cape crows which look similar to crows everywhere. We saw and heard black shouldered kites and crowned lapwings which we remembered from our journey yesterday. Then a new bird - a Cape longclaw or an orange throated longclaw. As Chris pointed out, a very long name for such a little bird.

As we were driving along we saw herds of zebras. Some of them crossed the road in front of us. They were totally unstressed by the presence of humans. Chris turned off the engine as he always does when we approach animals. Then we saw more impalas and springboks.

Up in the sky a steppe buzzard circled overhead and we saw a sunbird (unfortunately I am not sure which sunbird it was - any hints would be appreciated!) - and a common swift.

By this time we were in the unenclosed area and we stopped to look at the flora. We saw Cape grass and beautiful flowers. Chris pointed out that birds are attracted to red flowers and insects to blue flowers. There are often bush fires when it gets very dry or the bushes are hit by lightning. In this event the first plants to regrow are the bulbous plants. We were told not to eat anything that looks like a tomato or an apple as these are often deadly.

Other birds we spotted: Cape turtle dove and a fork tailed drongo, and another jackal buzzard. Then we noticed some red hartebeest with their distinctive heart-shaped antlers. They are very fast and can reach speeds of up to 50 kph. Then a real treat - our first glimpse of a very small herd of elephants in the background walking from their homestead looking for water. Unfortunately we couldn’t get too close to them. But we did see the baby being shepherded along.

Some more lessons in the flora. We were introduced to Old Man’s Beard which when smoked is a hallucinogenic. And then bush dogwood - when squashed and rubbed into a ball and added to water it lathers up and can be used as a soap. It has quite a pleasant smell.

We saw some elands and then up in the trees we saw a brown and yellow neck - yes giraffes ahead. It was a small herd munching away at the trees. A couple of times one of them turned to face us. I never realised that the giraffe seems to pull funny smiley faces at you. We were so delighted to see them that we all smiled back at them.

On our drive still looking for lions we saw yet more birds - the Cape spurfowl, Cape weavers and the beautiful woodland kingfisher.

Chris then stopped the 4 x 4 and got out to collect a dung beetle. This little thing processes dung and he had built a ball of dung quite a lot bigger than himself. We also saw a millipede with red feet. We named him Red Ed and learned those feet are poisonous.

Big disappointment of the morning - no lions. They mostly reside in a section of the Reserve that had been set off limits for some reason.

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After 3 hours driving around we went back to the lodge for a Jeff breakfast - cereal, eggs, salads, fruit, tuna and cheese. We made a packed lunch and then we had to say goodbye to Gondwana and say good morning to Nando (our driver since Port Elizabeth) and back on the coach to drive about 400 km to Cape Town. On the road we passed fields with cows, sheep, maize and ostriches and way in the distance we saw two elephants.

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Crossing the Gourits River on the N2 motorway we saw the old Gourits River Bridge. This was replaced by the new motorway bridge. In 1989 the first bungy jumping enterprise in Africa was established on the old bridge. They setup a 65m high bungy as well as a swing from the brige. Eventually that was greatly surpassed by their newer bungy operation from the Bloukrans Bridge we had seen on Day 2 on our way to Knysna. That one at Bloukrans River is the world’s highest (over 200 meters) commercial bungy jump from a bridge. It occurs to us that either South Africans or more likely tourists really enjoy their adventure sports!
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We made a lunch stop in Swellendam which was established in 1745. There is a pillar in Jerusalem stone with a plaque commemorating the coronation of King George V. Throughout the town the architecture is in the Dutch style. Amos pointed out a plaque which read “1834 - JAVS” which stands for the year of the slaves, ie the date that slavery was abolished.

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We made a loo stop in Worcester. Don was feeling incredibly stiff as he had forgotten to do his exercises so he sat on a concrete stone in front of a police car and proceeded to do his exercises. The look on the faces of the police was classic - were they supposed to laugh or arrest this madman. I was too frightened of being arrested myself to photograph them. (Don: others of our group were also doing exercises such as pushing against walls, but I guess they did not look as suspicious - or as silly.)

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We drove through the Du Toitskloof mountain pass. There had been a car accident and so we were crawling through the pass and we saw baboons at the side of the road. As we drove along we passed the Taal monument. In 1875 the language in South Africa was established as Afrikaans. The monument was built in 1975, and designed by architect Jan van Wijk, and acknowledges the influence of a variety of languages such as Dutch, Malay, Malay-Portuguese, Arabic, French, German, English, and the indigenous Khoi and African languages, on the development of Afrikaans.

Whilst driving along Amos told us about the Soweto uprising in 1976. It was a demonstration against the enforcement of Afrikaans in schools. The first person to be killed was Hector Pieterson. When Nelson Mandela came to power in 1994 he had three aims:

1) that he would only be in office for 5 years;

2) that everybody should be entitled to an education; and

3) that there should be reconciliation.

More about this on day 12

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Finally we arrived in Cape Town and saw an unfinished flyover known locally as the highway with no end. We made straight for Avron's Place kosher restaurant for our evening meal. We were amazed at the security. You needed to be buzzed in through the wrought iron security door. The restaurant is on the road a block in from the sea front. It was not an affluent road and there were beggars begging on the streets. The shops were not very salubrious. The restaurant was very pleasant inside and as we sat down I had my first water adventure. Avi managed to spill a glass of water (and later a plate of rice) all over me. The meal was good and when we were finished we got onto the coach and drove the one block to the hotel in Seapoint. What a difference! There were large modern apartment blocks lining the road, no litter on the streets, and a high level of security with concierges 24/7.

We were staying at the Cape Manor Premier Hotel. Our room was in the annex and was perfectly OK for our four night stay. And we were happy not to be moving hotels again until Monday.
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