2018 September – The Klein Karoo

The next leg of our journey took us from Plettenburg Bay down the coast to Knysna where we stopped briefly to look at “The Heads” – a narrow headland that provides access to the Knysna estuary – lots of development (too much) everywhere. From Knysna we headed down to George on the coast and then swung west towards Oudtshoorn in the Klein Karoo, located between the the Swartberg mountains to the north and the Outeniqua Mountains to the south. It is primarily known as a centre for Ostrich breeding, and the farm we stayed at (Berluda Farm House and Cottages) said they raised about 120,000 Ostrich’s a year (about 10,000 a month). We toured their production facility which was very impressive – spotlessly clean and modern. In addition to ostrich’s, the region produces wine, olives, apricots, sheep, and a wide variety of vegetables (including vegetable seeds) – the farms are beautifully kept and many offer lodging as well. We met Russel and Linda at the guest house and the following day the four of us did a loop through the mountains to see the Meiringspoort waterfall (near De Rust), have lunch in Prince Albert and then drive back over the Swartberg pass (about 1600 m in elevation) – an absolutely beautiful drive which reminded me of parts of Namibia – the proteas were just about to come into bloom – the cool weather had probably delayed the flowers by a few weeks. All the roads we drove on (including the dirt roads) were well maintained and the towns we drove through were clean and well maintained – its a lovely corner of the country and probably one of the highlights of the trip so far for me. Lots of small vineyards with good wines, excellent local food – definitely worth a visit if you come to SA. That evening we went to a farm that breeds Wagyu beef (De Kombuys Farm) for dinner (wagyu steak and wine produced from their own vineyard). The following day, we drove to the Cango Caves for a tour – the cave complex goes over 5 km underground and is one of the more impressive cave complexes I’ve seen (not that I’ve seen many). After the tour, Russel and Linda headed back to East London via Plettenburg Bay and we drove to Mossel Bay for the night. Mossel Bay is where Europeans first landed in South Africa in 1488, when the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias landed to replenish their water supplies. Dias had been appointed to search for a trading route to India by King John II of Portugal, and, without realising it, actually rounded the Cape of Good Hope before landing at Mossel Bay – which he named Angra dos Vaqueiros (The Bay of Cowherds). Dias is also credited with having given the Cape the name Cabo das Tormentas (the ‘Cape of Storms’), although King John II later changed this to Cabo da Boa Esperança (the Cape of Good Hope). An exact replica of his caravela (only 23 m long !!) was built in Portugal and sailed to Mossel Bay in 1988 in celebration of the 500th anniversary of his landing. The caravela is now housed in the Dias museum in Mossel Bay which we toured. A few shots of our trip can be seen by clicking this link or the embedded photo.