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Published: October 11th 2015
I was keen to drive to Spitskop, a mountain we had driven up on our honeymoon. This high point is located in the midst of the expansive Knysna Forest, where elephants once roamed.
We drove through Knysna but missed the turn we needed as it wasn't sign-posted. As we drove we remembered that the first part had gone through Knysna's township so we turned back. I think the township must have grown considerably in the past two years as I don't remember it being either so big or so close to the road. We slowly wound our way through the township, stuck behind a taxi. At the edge of the township, to our relief, we managed to overtake the taxi and started to get flashes of recognition of the road.
The route was rougher than I remember and showed signs of recent damage. With dappled light and shade caused by the trees, it was almost impossible to see the potholes, rivulets and ruts on the rough stony and sometimes muddy road. In parts, large sections of the surface had been washed away. At one corner we came across a car parked in the shade. As the sun was shining
in my eyes I didn't see it until I'd almost struck its open door.
About 10 or 15km into the forest the road became wider and picnic areas and walking trails became evident. A little further still and the canopy began to drop as the road went uphill. Suddenly the trees were replaced with bushes and the expansive view beyond was mountains. The rough red road continued for another 10km or so and then we were at Spitskop.
I got out at the bottom to fill in a day permit and then we started driving up. The flower-lined drive was even steeper and rougher than the forest track. Keeping to a low gear, but still skidding occasionally, we pushed our way up the hill, wondering how we had managed it in a less suitable vehicle two years ago. We rounded the difficult hairpin bend right at the top and discovered two other cars and some little old ladies up there.
The top is completely unshaded and the sun was unrelenting. The view from the summit is worth every suffering though. Across the 360° panorama are mountains in a huge ring. Towards Knysna the mountains dropped away to
the Heads and then the ocean beyond. We could hardly see the town though. In every other direction the mountains gave way to more mountains, marching away in range after range and getting dimmer with distance.
The old ladies departed and we were left to ourselves. As the noise of their cars receded they were replaced with a deep tranquil peace. The only sound was the intermittent drone of bees around the flowers. We could feel a gentle breeze but not hear it. I felt calm and relaxed in a way I seldom feel. We sat on a bench that hadn't been there two years ago, surrounded by aloes that had. I really love this place despite the burning heat and the difficulty in getting there. All of life just seems to melt into the beauty and calmness all around.
Eventually, after picnicking, the heat was too much and we had to leave. Lindsey drove down and discovered the thrill of a challenging drive. We went back into the forest and stopped at a picnic site. Here was the "Great Tree", also known as Edward VII's tree, as he was entertained there. This giant yellowwood was towering above
the canopy in its own fenced off area. It was pretty but not worthy of the fuss being made of it. Beyond there we walked down a forest boardwalk which led us to a forest track. We started down the track and walked about half a mile. Every so often we walked through spider's webs, spun across the path. These became more and more dense. As the sun was getting low in the sky we turned around. Strolling through the woods is one of my favourite things to do. It reminded me of our first home together in Stanmore, where we would take similar walks to go berry picking at this time of year.
To get home we took an alternative route back to Knysna, "Kom Se Pad". Kom's path was obviously little used and was steeper and rougher than the forest road. It wound it's way down forested mountains, past a river, across streams and eventually down to a triangular junction with a large house at the bottom. At the junction we continued along the road to Knysna, which looked more frequently used. Part way along is road the trees gave way to farmland, the first real signs
of a community. The trees soon re-asserted themselves and we continued through the forest. The road had been going consistently downhill but now the gradient became steeper. We entered a beautiful tree-shrouded gorge. The road wound down towards a river crossing and then back up the other side. Part-way down we waved to a large family walking up the hill. At the top of the other side we got a view down the road to Knysna. This road was lined with hotels and holiday resorts. It dropped quickly down to the town and we joined the road home to Sedgefield.
The drive had been long and difficult but so exhilarating and we'd both immensely enjoyed our day in the breathtaking Knysna forests. Unfortunately we didn't sight the legendary Knsyna elephants... Maybe next time!
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