RIVERSDALE TO OUDTSHOORN, SOUTH AFRICA (including Mossel Bay)--Sunday, March 2, 2014

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March 2nd 2014
Published: April 4th 2014
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Riversdale to Oudtshoorn (179 km or 111 miles)—Sunday, March 2nd on a clear blue sky day.

On the road by 8:00 this morning–took rare (most likely only) mileage reading of 63078. Continued back on R-323 and then on the N-2 this morning towards the town of Mosselbaai. Passed huge petrol? factory in the town of Petroport.

In Mosselbaai, we turned down to the shore for a tour of the Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex. King John II of Portugal was determined to find a sea route to India via the southern tip of Africa. In 1487, he sent Dias from Lisbon with two caravels of 100 tons each and a larger store ship. Dias sailed down the coast of Africa constantly tacking against a southern wind. Tired of this, Dias sailed into the open ocean and missed the fact he had sailed around the southern tip. Searching for land, he sailed north and landed in this bay which they called Aguada de Sao Bras after a spring they found.

The bay was renamed by the Dutch as Mossel Bay. The Dutch built a granary here in 1786, a replica is the entrance to the Complex. We walked through this first building and then out into a courtyard with a large sundial, statues, a cross, and pretty flowering plants. Lots of history here in this bay.

The Maritime Museum Building houses a life size replica of Dias’ caravel and you can climb onto it and look at the tiny living quarters of the men and their officers. The museum also has displays of other early explorers and the clothes they wore plus models of the various kinds of early ships.

One of the most interesting stories of this place, is that a Portugese man in 1500 left a message in an iron pot under a large tree warning of trouble in India. A year later, another man on the way to India, found the letter and was so very grateful for the warning that he built a small stone religious hermitage here. So, this place claims that it has the first post office and the first religious building in South Africa. The huge milkwood tree has been declared a heritage site and is still used for tourists to post letters.

From here, we climbed up into the mountains going through Robinson Pass at 860 meters (roughly 2821 feet) which is the Klein Karoo Boundry. On one curve there was a memorial to some police officers who lost their lives while on their way to a Mossel Bay festival. As usual now, we came around another curve and encountered a couple of baboons on the side of the road. The hills/mountains in this area we were travelling (lots of curves) were covered with blooming protea bushes.

After about 80 km more driving, our next stop was at an ostrich farm. We passed many such farms along this route. We were early for the booked lunch and tour, so we parked the RV in some shade as it was so hot and we sat around on the patio trying to keep cool and watched several yellow and black masked-weaver birds flitting out to catch flying insects.

We then finally went into eat lunch of a very good butternut soup, ostrich meat and for comparison a chicken drumstick, Greek salad (which seems to be THE salad here), a corn biscuit, and some veggies. We also had our second of what seems to be the standard dessert of Malva Pudding, which is a square of cake covered with custard or sometimes ice cream. I liked the ostrich meat. Valerie had had some in Europe during the Mad Cow Disease scare and thinks it quite good also. Apparently one can get 45 KGs of low-cholesterol meat out of each thigh (about 100 pounds).

After we finished lunch, our tour guide took us first inside a building to give us some basic information about raising ostriches and to show us an incubator for the eggs taken from the nests, ostrich feathers, a display of items found in the stomach of ostriches (apparently they will eat anything), and other interesting things. Ostriches are raised either for meat or for feathers and different breeds are used for each purpose.

We then went outside and looked at the ostrich pens while the guide explained more about the birds. Such things as how the feathers are harvested and then they grow back for another cutting. We also went by a nursery where one female ostrich cared for the chicks that were hatched in the incubator. Several pens held different varieties of ostriches and one pen held rheas, so we could see some of the differences between the ostrich and other ratites.

Then we did the touristy things like feed a pen of the birds with large spoonfuls of pellets—greedy, grabby things—and then several people sat on an ostrich while they got their pictures taken. I tried hard to stay in the shade as it was so hot that day.

Continued out of this farm back onto the R-328 for about 8km to the good size town of Oudtshoorn. We stayed in a caravan park just on the outskirts of town.

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