The Garden Route is an area in the southern part of South Africa that is very popular with tourists. It didn’t take long for us to figure out why. We didn’t exactly stick to the prescribed route, but everything we saw in this part of the country was beautiful. We spent a total of eight full days touring–three were spent in Jeffrey’s Bay, three in Cape Town, and two en route between the two cities. Since we already told you about Jeffrey’s Bay, we’ll dive into the highlight reel of the remainder of our time…
Tsitsikama National Park. We were able to squeeze two good hikes into our half day in this park that borders the Indian Ocean. The first hike took us over a long suspension bridge and then up to a lookout point where you could see up the coastline. The second hike followed the beginning of a very popular four to five day backpacking trail. It made us long to have our backpacking gear so we could have done more of this trail. We settled for the 6 km version instead and enjoyed the oceanside hike.
Ostriches. We ate them, we rode them, we shot them (with our cameras), and later feared them. Outshoorn, a town north of the Garden Route, is most famous for its abudance of ostriches. There seems to be a farm on every corner and several signs encouraging you to “Switch to Ostrich [meat]” welcome you as you enter the area. We figured we should give the meat a try so we ventured out that evening and celebrated the release of Erin’s book by eating an ostrich steak. This choloestrol free meat was quite tasty–much better than the ostrich biltong (jerky) we tried the following day. We hadn’t planned to visit an ostrich farm, but as we talked to the folks at our hostel it sounded like it was an experience we should have while in Outshoorn. The farm was informative–ostrich eggs contain the equivalent of 24 chicken eggs and are strong enough for a grown man (John) to stand on, the male birds weigh up to 440 lbs, they only have two toes and what looks like a knee is actually their ankle, they eat rocks to help digest their food as they have no teeth–and entertaining. We got to feed the birds and to ride them, sort of. We sat on the back of the bird and then the bird was released and went crazy running around the pen with two men on either side trying to control it and eventually catching us as we fell off the back. After this whole experience, we felt pretty comfortable with this large bird, but when we returned to Joburg we found out that ostriches in the wild can be extremely dangerous and can rip a person open with it’s talon. This is something they didn’t mention at the farm–hopefully no one from our tour tries to go ride an ostrich in the wild!
Swartberg Pass. From the ostrich farm we made our way over what some say is the most beautiful mountain pass in the area. It was stunning. The curvy, dirt mountain road rolled through huge red rocks and deep canyons. One of the fun stops along the way was a waterfall/swimming hole. The rocks around the swimming hold shot up about 100 feet and seemed to surround us. The afternoon was very warm and taking a dip, or a jump as John did, was very refreshing. This pass looped us back around to Outshoorn and then we made our way on Route 62 to Cape Town.
Table Mountain. This mountain is the center piece and icon of Cape Town. If you look in any gallery in town you will most likely see more than one painting of this huge rock. It was on our must do list to climb up to the 3000 ft summit. Our first full day in Cape Town we set out to do just that. We were nearly deterred by the cloud cover, know as “the table cloth,” that hovered over the mountain but after chatting with park officials we decided, why not. It actually ended up being the best possible situation because as we made our way to the summit we realized the cable car that shuttles people to the top (cheaters) was not operating due to high winds. This meant that we were two of only four people that were enjoying the expansive views of Cape Town on one side and the land stretching out all the way to the Cape of Good Hope on the other. We were also quite lucky as the cloud cover lifted right as we got to the top so everything was very clear. As we left the park we drove past the cable car which was back in operation with loads of people waiting for their chance to ride to the top. We were selfishly glad we did not have to share the top with all of these people even though we are sure they are very nice.
Two Oceans Aquarium. While in Bangkok we spoke to a traveller who strongly encouraged us to visit this aquarium in Cape Town. It wasn’t that different from other aquariums we have been to in other cities, but we did get an experience we had never had before. We showed up just in time for the feeding of the sharks, sting rays, and turtles which we watched through a viewing panel approximately 40 x 80 feet. Beyond that were displays of both Indian and Atlantic Ocean sea life, including Rock Hopper, African, and King penguins. Aquariums are great, but we realized after walking through the kids section with singing frogs that we probably didn’t need to return until we have children who can appreciate it.
Jackass Penguins. These penguins actually have a more proper name, the African Penguin, but are more commonly called Jackass Penguins because of the donkey-like braying sounds they make. We were able to hear this outside the aquarium walls in Simon’s Town, a stop on the way to Cape Point. We had seen a few penguins in New Zealand, but this was a much different experience as we pulled up to a parking lot and about 5 feet in front of us was an entire penguin colony. In NZ we had to be very discreet about viewing as the birds were quite afraid of humans. The Jackass Penguins showed no signs of fear and we were literally separated by a 3 foot high wall–we could have reached over and easily touched one had we wanted to. We enjoyed watching these interesting creatures hop around and head out on a diving expedition.
Cape Point. On our last full day in Cape Town we drove out to the southwesternly most point in Africa, the Cape of Good Hope. It was cool to think about all of the ships that have passed by this point and how happy the crews must have been to have made it this far. We spent the morning hiking around a defunct lighthouse and out to the Cape of Good Hope where we sat and ate our lunch with the vassies scurrying around. The most dangerous part of the day happend right next to our car. John was getting some food out of the back when all of a sudden a baboon snuck around the side of him also looking for a snack. We had been seeing signs in the park saying they were dangerous and that you should not feed them. So right away Erin jumped into action and shut the tail of the car right before the baboon attempted to crawl in. The baboon then turned its attention to the food in John’s hand and as it got uncomfortably close, in self defense, John tossed some fruit snacks in the road for the over grown monkey. This broke with the standard rule of not feeding animals but we had read that if they do get too close, throwing your food away from you is the best option to avoid aggression. This seemed to satisfy the baboon’s interest in us. The rest of the afternoon was spent walking down by a rocky beach on the Atlantic side, chasing wild elands (antelope type animals), and watching the waves crash. We also got to see the sunset in Camps Bay on our way back to town.
It was good to see a different part of South Africa. We kept having to say to ourselves, “Africa, Africa, Africa” to remind us that we were actually in Africa and not some other western coastline. If you do make it to this part of the world, a stop on the Garden Route is highly recommended! John is already planning a return trip to surf at Jeffrey’s Bay so we’re sure this won’t be our last visit. We would have spent more time down south except we had a commitment to go to Zimbabwe with a group from the Joburg area.