Sunday, June 15, 2014

South Africa - Garden Route 06 to 10 May 2014

The Garden Route lies between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth along the Southern coast of SA. Mountains and thick undulating forests compete with the Indian Ocean to occupy the pride of place along the entire route. It is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline. The entire stretch is dotted with lovely beaches, tempting the travelers to stop and indulge. Whale watching, wild life safaris, open zoos, monkey parks, Ostrich farms, Birds of Eden and many more attractions throng the entire drive. One sees ostriches the way one would see a herd of cattle grazing in a field in India. One comes across a number of river crossings, semi arid valleys and natural lakes making the drive even more attractive. Small fishing villages and pretty towns dot the landscape, providing the traveller with many options to stay. There is only one way of doing this stretch –DRIVING!

06 May – Hermanus

We left CT after a good breakfast and reached Hermanus Bay around 1030hrs; 120 kms of fun driving – winding roads, flat lands and many beaches. The town is well known as a major whale watching station. The season unfortunately starts only in July – so we missed the whales. The town itself boasts of a lovely beach and excellent weather, making it a hot tourist destination. The town is small and contained -very picturesque, quiet and clean, beckoning the visitor to spend more time. We spent an excellent morning sipping coffee whilst the girls were busy tasting“ the best chocolate scones in town” and ice cream.We went and saw a very fashionable restaurant 'Burgundy' - we came out very impressed.One can indulge in yachting and golfing in a big way in Hermanus Bay. If I were to travel in SA during the whale migration season between July to December, I would definitely stay in Hermanus for one day and night. The town is home to ‘Rock Rabbits” or rock hyrax; their closest living relatives are elephants – strangely enough! We saw these rock rabbits at close quarters, moving around nonchalantly among the few people who sat watching the sea, basking in the warmth of the South African sun.

At 1300h, we proceeded to Knysna which is around 400 Km. An hour later I suddenly realized that the gear was stuck in the fifth. All checks and counter checks failed and we entered a providentially placed ‘Caltex Service Station’ about half a km away, in the town of Stanford. There we met a very helpful young South African of German descent. He went out of the way to call a mechanic. When all our efforts failed, I rang up Hertz and informed them about our predicament. The replacement car from CT reached us around 1500h.The response from Hertz was extremely fast. We had lunch in a very cute little restaurant and rested for a while.

We landed in SA during their run up to the national election which was due on 07 May. Surprisingly the entire process was a low key affair unlike ours. No breast beating, high decibel arguments, crazy anchors confusing the already bewildered voters and rest of the tomfoolery which one associates with our elections. Even the posters were few and direct. Notwithstanding this low key run up, they recorded a turnout of 73.48% as against our 66.4%

The drive to Knysna entailed a lot of night driving, which I was trying to avoid. The roads are first rate but completely deserted. We did have some very anxious moments and finally reached our resort around 11pm.This misplaced adventure was not appreciated by SA veterans and I was very roundly ticked off for risking our safety.

Figure 1 – Early morning overcast sky on the way to Hermanus

Figure 2 – Black shanty town

Figure 3 – Typical landscape

Figure 4 – Fascinating view - Hermanus

Figure 5 – City centre

Figure 6 – Rock Rabbit foraging

Figure 7 – Hermanus coastline

Figure 8 – Typical beach resort

Figure 9 – We stopped to have coffee and pastries

Figure 10 – Another view

Figure 11 – The scones were rich and fulfilling 

Figure 12 – Inside the Burgundy restaurant – a very well appointed place

Figure 12 A - Another view of the interior of Burgundy

Figure 13 – With the owner Ms Celia Rabie

Figure 14 – One last look

Figure 15 – Main drive of the town

Figure 16 – A typical house

Figure 17 – With our SA friend

Figure 18 – Solitary election poster

Figure 19 – Lunch at Stanford

Figure 20 – The wait was worth it

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