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Driving across the Great Karoo

The wind had continued throughout the night and it had also at some stage been raining. It felt cold in our cabin and you could hear and feel the wind rustling through the thatch. We were slow to get ourselves up and about today, partly due to the long driving days we have had and also I suspect partly due to the excess wine we had drunk yesterday. Neither of us really felt hung over but we were glad to have an alka seltzer none the less.

We made it out onto the road by 10:00am planning to head down at least as far as George but probably also turning back west for a while along the Garden Route. It was another long drive down and through the Karoo with vast African skies creating the backdrop for the wide open vistas we saw along the way. We saw loads of ostriches along the way but here they were mainly farmed rather than wild. This area was home to the nineteenth century ostrich feather industry.

The open view ahead of us soon changed to be dominated by a long mountain range. There was no visible road track winding around or through it but a path had been carved through a gap between two mountains. Beyond this first range you could see the distant peaks of the next ridge of mountains and I think in total we passed over four separate ranges. In between was more flat Karoo desert.

It was a beautiful drive through this part of the country. The road leading through the mountains followed the course of a river all the way taking us through breathtaking views of the red sandstone rocks that had been eroded away through the years. Each drift where the road crossed the river had been given a separate name, some named after individuals, others after animals and more just reflecting the scenery around us. There were lots of places along the way to stop off and just enjoy the view both within the mountain pass and as you reached the other side.

Once through the mountains your view is dominated by the Indian Ocean. Below us sprawled the town of George, its white buildings very much a blot on an otherwise beautiful view. The ocean was a deep, dark inviting blue with the wind whisking the waves revealing white strips of surf. George revealed itself to be a pleasant enough town and you could sense that hidden away in the middle somewhere was an old colonial centre. Here though McDonalds joined KFC and Nando’s as familiar western chains and the outskirts are a sprawl of westernised malls.

From George we headed west to Knysna passing along the way some absolutely stunning scenery. To our right was the ocean with waves crashing down onto the beach. To our left wooded hillsides lined the roads and small lakes and lagoons were in the valley floor. It started to remind us both of the countryside we had seen and enjoyed in Canada. The Canadian similarities continued at Knysna the only different being the names of the shops in the malls.

This whole stretch is very geared towards tourism and B&B’s, guesthouses and attractions lined the road either side. From Knysna we carried on westwards making our way to Plettenberg Bay. We stopped in town for a bite to eat at what looked like one of the few places that was open. We’re not sure if this is the usual weekend shut down or whether it is because we are here at the end of the season and places have already closed until next year.

Indian Ocean in sight again

We found an internet café only to find it was shut. As we got back to the car a waiter in the Italian restaurant we’d parked in front of asked if we were looking for connectivity. They have a hotspot wireless zone so we headed in and caught up on email. With time marching on we headed out to find the place we’d booked into for the next two nights. It's an Aventura resort, the same chain we’d stayed at in Blyde Canyon where we had a really cosy little cabin.

As I was starting to think we’d missed the turn for the resort we saw the flags flying outside and turned in. It’s slightly inland on the banks of the Keurbooms River. We checked in, bought some wood and found our cabin. We were both disappointed with what we saw. We’d driven past some brick cabins that looked comfy and cosy only to find that ours was a somewhat dilapidated wooden shack. The bedroom was OK but the other main room was crammed with furniture servicing as kitchen, dining room, lounge and bedroom with bunk beds and a full seized wardrobe. Neither of us were pleased and we went back to reception and asked if we could change. Of course we could for some extra dosh but we only had five minutes to have a look at an alternative and make our minds up. Just as well we hadn’t stayed longer doing stuff on the internet!

We unpacked our bits and pieces into cabin number 2 and set about the daily routine of getting our braai set up and dinner on the go. It was another warm night, with the benefit of a fleece, so we again ate al fresco. Further down in another cabin was a group of lads all enjoying themselves immensely. As the evening wore on you could sense that the alcohol was still flowing as the volume control knob was gradually turned upwards.

With the cold finally getting the better of us we headed indoor and caught the last half hour or so of a BBC programme called Pride. It had quite a cast list with Helen Mirren, John Hurt, Sean Bean, Robbie Coltrane, Kate Winslet among others. Their characters were a pride of lions and a story of everyday life in the bush had been woven around fabulous photography of lions in the wild.