Friday 27 January 2012

WT - Garden Route

After a wonderful stay at Port Elizabeth we made a late start to our drive through the Eastern Cape's Garden Route with particular focus on a stop at or near Jeffreys Bay (just for you Chantel.... no just kidding we were going to check out your home town anyway).

We stopped at Sea View Lion Park to add the cats to our 'Big 5' viewing list and thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the wild life, some nice pics taken of a variety of  wildlife before making our way to the Lions enclosures. We were able to see Lion and Tiger. We then stopped in at the Kiosk and Admin building. We found that we had an opportunity to interact with Serval, Lion and Tiger cubs. An opportunity that obviously would not present again in a hurry so we jumped at it and booked all three species for both of us.

The volunteer handlers took us into the Serval pen first and instructed us not to make any sudden movements of too much noise, also to avoid touching the face or ears of the cubs. Well!... within seconds of us entering, Ronnie bent to stroke one of the cats (the male) and the female next to it took a swipe at Ronnie providing her with one puncture and two little scratches. Ronnie moved her arm like lightning and while the volunteers exclaimed that nothing like this had ever happened before... the female cat had come around to lay near me and seemed quite okay. I was filming and not posing a threat when suddenly the female Serval cub started clawing my camera arm. I'm still not sure if she thought I was a clawing post or if she wanted a light snack but once she bared her teeth in a snarl, it was time to leave. I am on a lot of medication to thin the blood which means that I bleed like the proverbial stuck pig and things look far worse than they actually are.

So there I was with claret running from half a dozen punctures and scratches, looking as though I had just tried to steal the cats lunch by disguising it as the semblance of an arm.. trying not to drip on anyone while I made my way to the men's room so that I could wash the wounds and stop the bleeding. While other visitors were trying to avoid contact with my claret, I was trying to retain as much as possible since I've become quite partial to it of late. I succeeded - yay!!

That was it for Ronnie however, "NO! Absolutely no way! We are certainly NOT going into the other cub's enclosures!" exclaimed Ronnie when I suggested we were ready to continue. "You just DO NOT KNOW WHEN TO STOP!.. DO YOU?" she screamed at me, on the verge of hysteria. I knew better than to say a word as she stormed off "I'm going to the ladies!" she stated. She was gone quite a while, I just sat quietly waiting for her return (If you have ever met 'Angry Ronnie' you will understand that there is no messing with 'Furious Ronnie'). Suddenly she was back with some disinfectant salve on a gauze pack and went about fussing and clucking like an old mother chook (Aussie slang for 'mother hen') as she took care of my wounds. Apparently one of the young volunteers told Ronnie that there was no possibility of an infection....bad move, it was after copping both barrels that the salve was produced... poor girl. We donated our tickets to the protection and preservation of Africa's wildlife before hitting the road once again.

Jeffreys Bay is everything Chantel said it would be and more. We took a drive around the town and then made our way the main beach and I had a swim while Ronnie paddled. We both thought that the sea salt in the water would help the wounds heal quickly. We were both pretty hungry after the events of the day and decided that we needed a feed at one of the beachside cafe's and somewhere to rest our weary heads. Once we had eaten we set about looking for a bed for the night and also a Vodacom shop to renew our  pre-paid data pack. I'm using about 40GB per month and that can be pretty expensive here in SA at almost R1,000 per GB. Fortunately I've been able to take advantage of some Christmas specials at R400 per 20GB.

We found the Vodacom shop as it closed, we would have to come back or look for another along the way so we decided to look for a bed in St Francis Bay or Cape St Francis. We met a wonderful young couple running a tidy little B&B as we entered St Francis so we booked in for the night and went for a walk along the beach and lost track of time watching the sun set on such a lovely warm sultry evening. I love the way the light reflects on the wet sand and took some photos as a memento, not that we have a shortage of photos. It was around 10pm before we got back to our bungalow, for a hot bath. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

The next morning we had to deal with a few messages from solicitors in relation to the business sale which delayed us somewhat. Surprise! Surprise! the unsubstantiated claims of revenue loss due to my actions remain unsubstantiated. Prompt, full disclosure is what is required under the contract and almost two months is hardly prompt. A breach of the contract? I think so, could be a whole new ballgame! Anyway we would prefer a nice relaxed holiday free of this added stress and time consuming nonsense - we are thinking of compensation now.

We managed to get away at about 10am and headed first to Cape St Francis and the Penguin Refuge there. After a little while exploring and enjoying a makeshift brunch at a local cafe we headed back to Jeffreys Bay and the Vodacom store where we purchased another 5GB data pack. Next stop Tsitsikamma National Park.

This route is not called the Garden Route for nothing, there are so many sites to see and things to do in every direction along the way. Wish I were a few years younger with a little more time on my hands, if it's action adventure you want then this is the place for it. Mountain climbing to riding wild rapids with a whole lot more  in-between. Bonnie Ronnie and I settled for a bush walk among a few other more sedate activities, to visit some very old tree's after crossing a bridge in both directions. Me teasing the heck out of Ronnie about Africa's maintenance programs, needles to say I had to practically drag her back over the bridge. Poor Ronnie was feeling the heat and a bit pooped by the time we got to the old tree so to give her an energy boost I suggested she keep an eye out for some of the abundant snakes..., we were back at the car in no time at all.

At Stormsriver we came across a 1950's Rockabilly Centre called 'Stuck in the 50's' with tributes to all the greats of that era and in particular Elvis, made Ronnie's day and I was forgiven my earlier cruelty. They made the best Banana Split I have ever had and the kids in the next booth pestered their Dad till he relented and sprung for the R40.00 extravaganza... wonder if our ooohhing and aaahhing had anything to do with it.

Next we stopped in picaresque Knysna to visit some Elephant at the Knysna Elephant Reserve. I inquired about a tour and we were advised of an imminent riding and feeding opportunity that I was keen to try but Ronnie was dead against any activity that would bring us within cooee (Aussie slang for within shouting distance) of another wild African beastie (Ronnie would later go on to deny this and state that she had misheard the time as 18:30 instead of 15:30). Pity - but that was that for the elephant, we didn't even get to see a live one and they are our favorite African animal. From there it was a quick refuel and on to Mossel Bay with a quick stop at possibly one of the most beautiful towns along the route, Plettenburg Bay.

I really wanted to see a bit of the history in Mossel Bay and my wish was granted. First things first though,  we checked into 'The Point Hotel' which is literally on the point and our suite on the fourth floor was one level above the ground ensuring that we had sea mist on the balcony (and in the room id we left the door open) as the waves broke on the rocks almost directly below us, you have to see the pic's, unbelievably beautiful although a little noisy in the middle of the night (crashing waves). We had caves and lighthouse up to our right and restaurants and bathing area protected by the rocks down to our left - Awesome! Of course we went up to explore the caves and then down for a swim till quite late that evening.., absolute heaven!

The next morning after an early but very lazy start we made our way to the Maritime Museum where we had the opportunity to board the Bartholomew Diaz replica ship, named after it's master. Now those guys were real adventurer's when you see their living conditions you gain a new respect for those early explorers... no 'Garmin GPS navigators, laptops or iphones for the crews about to sail off the end of the earth... just an adventurist spirit, common sense, guts and determination (sadly lacking today). It was raining quite heavily at the time so we didn't stick around to check out the original outdoor 'Tree' post office.

The drive was interesting to say the least, winding slippery mountain passes in blinding rain is a challenge at the best of times, throw in some South African 'Taxi' (Chova chova) drivers and it becomes downright deadly - SA road death figure for December was over 1000. South Africa is no different to Australia when it comes to speed camera revenue raising, using the argument that there are not enough Police and that those resources are better used in fighting crime etc etc.... however more and more South African drivers are simply removing their registration plates for long journeys and then drive at ridiculous irresponsible speeds and although I saw a large number of police I never once saw them doing anything other than sleeping, congregating or operating radar. I did have the opportunity to witness one "Road Traffic Police' vehicle overtake an overtaking vehicle on a dual carriageway blind rise left hand bend with double white lines clearly visible (no lights or sirens as he was just part of the traffic). If this is the example set, what hope is there? The minister for transport is suggesting new laws and powers to cancel licences on the spot, not much point in my opinion if current law is not being enforced. One needs to actually have a drivers licence in order for it to be cancelled I would think, so this would be a bit like putting the cart before the horse.

Anyway, the weather cleared as we approached Cape Town and we had magnificent views from the top of the pass. A very beautiful city indeed.

Female strikes as Ronnie pets the male - see the paw on the bracelet.
A few seconds before the attack on me, she seems fine.
cub wounds after the clean up
Ronnie's cub wounds.


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