There are so many places in South Africa, so how do you choose where to go when you’re planning to be on the road for a year? Or maybe you’re not as ridiculous as us, so you just want to decide for your annual family holiday. Either way, how do you narrow down your choices? I’ll tell you how. You go to all the places that you have heard of but never experienced. Or you go to places that your travel partner has experienced without you. And that was exactly the case for us with Oudtshoorn.
Back in Standard 5 (now Grade 7) we did a tour of Oudtshoorn. Our teachers took like 80 of us to travel around – visiting the caves, learning about ostriches and riding camels. It has always been something that I think back to. Being free and away from my parents while enjoying all the time with my friends. Riya actually asked me about that yesterday. She asked if I ever miss anyone as we were hiking through the dark forest and she was freaking out and crying for her grandmother. The truth is that I don’t really. I never really have been a missing sort of person. Not in the way that would make me upset. Like I miss people in a sense but being so busy, it’s never for long or very emotional at all. (Except the other day with the dogs. That was rough and super uncharacteristic)
SIDE NOTE: Before we hit the road to got to Oudtshoorn we went back to Redberry Farm in George. I’ve always wanted to do a real life maze and I was not going to miss the opportunity to do the biggest one in the southern hemisphere. What an experience! The aim is to visit all seven of the hidden places and collect a stamp. There were moments where we contemplated giving up but after we walked through the tunnel of doom we were motivated to keep going. It was worth it, you get a little badge after you finish and it’s a cool little reminder of the experience. (We’re putting all our badges on our curtains)
I’m not a particularly adventurous person per say. In fact if you know me well, you’ll know how out of character this year long trip actually is. I mean I love to travel, but there’s a great many things that I don’t love about travelling that we’re forced into in the van. Communal toilets, cold showers, nature, creatures, cold, moths. I could go on. But I won’t because you’ll get bored or wonder how I ever leave the house. But back on this trip in Standard 5, I was still young and full of adventure. I went through the Postbox at the Cango Caves and I even rode a camel!
I wanted to show Seth these cool things and it was bizarre that even though it was like 20 years ago, it all looks basically the same. We were blessed with being able to camp out in the garden of my cousins, Debbie and Jean. It was lovely to catch up with them after all these years. They blessed our children with some wonderful blankets, boogie boards and a windbreaker for our van. And helped us to find a place to make the tent sides which will be amazing when the weather turns.
We only had a couple of nights and one full day in the area so we really wanted to make the most of the day. Which means that our first stop was obviously the Cango Caves. We did the tour which is about an hour long and actually perfect for what we wanted. It’s not the adventure course which I think could take a whole day and involves squeezing through small spaces. The tour takes you really deep in and gives a lovely explanation of everything that happens in the caves. We learned a lot about stalagmites and stalactites.
After that we were starving (having only had a bit of a snack before leaving home that morning – our usual MO). Without planning it, we landed up at the same place I rode a camel when I was last there. I swear to you it was the same camel (how long do they live?!). I was not brave enough to ride the camel again this time though.
Then we went over to the Wildlife Centre. Back in the day it was just a crocodile centre with a few cats and things. Now it has exploded into something really amazing. We could easily have spent the whole day there. We ummed and aahed about which tickets to buy when we got there, but we decided to invest in the one that included an “experience” which means that you can have an interaction with an animal. I know that this is controversial but I don’t want to get into that.
At this point I was nervous as all heck. Why? Well we were going to be interviewed by Melanie Rice on the John Maytham Show on Cape Talk. Man, I was shaking. But despite the nerves and the terrible phone connection, I think the interview went OK. You can hop onto that link up there to listen to it if you wanna.
When I wasn’t stressing my butt off, we were doing the tour that they do through the centre. It was so great and informative – AND FREE. We saw bats that are actually American and really give you an idea of why people think they could be vampires. They are HUGE and so much bigger than our little fruit bats.
We also saw a range of birds, crocs and a variety of cats. From cheetahs, servals, lions and white tigers. Those tigers man. Such majestic animals! And because our tickets gave us the option of an animal interaction the girls chose the lemur, Knox the serval and Seth and I chose to do the cheetah. What an experience!!
We followed up our busy day catching up with my cousins over a delicious braai. It was nice to just chat and reconnect after so long. Then the next morning we had to set off yet again! The original plan was to drive all the way through to Jeffery’s Bay but we know ourselves and we knew we wouldn’t get up in time for all that driving. So we settled on a stop in Plett which turned out to be a great choice. Such a lovely campsite, but more on that next time.
Day 11 – Glentana to Oudtshoorn 1. We really need to perfect our packing up and leaving – although much easier now that everything has a place, it’s still a mission. But nevertheless we had a lovely breakfast with @mama2leeleeandscarlie and @ultrazor. I must say I was very sad to leave them this morning. I think it’s because they are the last truly familiar faces we’re going to see for a while. 2. Even though we were worried about the Outeniqua pass and Optimus having to get over it, we went back to redberry farm. Why? Well they have the biggest maze in the southern hemisphere and I’ve always wanted to do a real life maze soooo… It was a no brainer. It was great! We almost gave up at one point but we persevered and I’m chuffed that we finished it. 3. Knox looks much better today with a lot of the lip swelling going down and very little bruising (unless that’s still coming). He’s back to his normal crazy self which is wonderful. 4. We made it over the pass and only had about hundred cars behind us as any given point. Funny that Zoe was able to take that pic as we passed – it’s classic. 5. That pass deserves its own mention because wow. Just wow. We drove through at dusk when the lighting was perfect and it just highlighted the incredible beauty we were driving through. And how it changes the more inland you go. Incredible! 6. I love getting updates about our dogs. You’ll be happy to know that they have settled in and are actually just living their best lives right now. Being bathed, brushed and taken for walks. They are going to not want to come home when we get back!
Day 12 – Oudtshoorn 1. We did all the classic tourist things today – Caves, camel farm and the wildlife center. But the thing is, they are tourist destinations for a reason. They are all awesome!! 2. We learned so much from our guided tour through the caves. It was about an hour long which is just enough time to get the feel of the caves without having to squeeze through small spaces or carry Knox down and up the 300 stairs to even start the adventure tour. Winning. 3. The camel spot is great. I’m sad we didn’t get to do a donkey cart ride, just because of how keen the drivers were to go fast and freak you out. I once came here on a school tour and I swear they still have the camel I rode 17 years ago haha 4. The wildlife Centre is incredible and totally worth a visit. So educational and such a diverse range of animals. We all got to do animal encounters – so the girls chose the lemurs (King Julian), Knox the serval and Seth and I cuddled a cheetah. It was full on surreal. I never ever thought I’d do something like that but wow, it was an experience to see them up close. 5. I did a radio interview about our journey on Cape Talk this afternoon with Melanie Rice who was standing in for John Maytham. At the wildlife reserve. Didn’t tell anyone because I was actually just so nervous. But despite the line breaking up, I think it went OK. 6. This trip has really reconnected us with lots of family we haven’t been able to see for ages. It’s lekker getting to catch up and chat. 7. Oudtshoorn has so much to see. We could really do with another day or two here but we’re setting off for Jeffrey’s Bay tomorrow. Bring on the surf. Not that I surf, because like, I don’t like water. But I like watching the surf and that’s kinda the same thing right? 8. Getting to JBay tomorrow is going to take pretty much all day, so I’m going to stop with this post and try and get a good nights sleep!