December 09, 2007 GMT
Driving on the Correct Side of the Road Again

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Touch down, all arrived safe and sound. All being a bit strange to be driving on the left after two and a half years in the Americas, not having to speak Spanish and reading road signs in English.

We were met at the airport by Robin who took us for a 10 cent tour of Cape Town, a beautiful city perched by the sea with a whacking huge mountain smack dab in the middle of it (Table Mountain).

The advantages of having a mountain as the centre piece of a city is the beautiful shady countrified drives to get from one place to the next. The disadvantage is that you cannot go from one place to the next in a nice straight line. We like the mountain with the whispy clouds that roll over the edge, making the famous Table Cloth.

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Table Mountain with a lumpy, un-ironed tablecloth!

We stayed a few days with Robin and Rinda at their Hought Bay home, enjoying their company and planning our Southern African journey. Robin's trip planning expertise includes detailed information on the locations of good coffee shops and where to get the best apple pie!

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Robin, Rinda, Val and Grant - Hought Bay

One of our favourite tourist attractions,to date, has been the supermarkets! It is here that we have been able to find long missed but not forgotten grocery items such as Baked Beans, Marmite (not quite Vegemite but a passable substitute), Thai cooking ingredients and Ryvita biscuits. It was almost 7th heaven.

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Not Quite Vegemite

Visiting Suzuki South, we placed an order with James for some odds and sods for our beloved Piggy and headed out of town along the coast to Hermanus and breakfasted with the whales.

Oddly enough we hooked up with Allan, World Rider whom we had met some 2 years ago at the Creel HU meeting. He is riding a BMW 650 GS Dakar and had travelled a similar route to us through the Americas.

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Riding along

World Rider, affectionately known to us as Wine Rider due to his passion for good wine, was keen to visit some of South Africa's famous wine districts and our first point of call was Franschoeck.

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Overlooking the Valley of Franschoeck

The picturesque valley was laid out before us from the look out above. Our companions Wesley, Celeste and Shamil had brought us along a scenic drive to this town settled by the French Huegunots (Presbyterian Refugees). Franschoeck is a quaint village thriving on the juice of the grape and the countless visitors who come to wander through the vines and sample the nectar.

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A delightful afternoon of Wine and Cheese tasting at Mt Rochelle Winery

Cape Agulhas is the southern most tip of Africa and where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet.

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The Bottom of Africa

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Light House, Cape Aghulas, Africas only working Lighthouse/Museum

The town of Struisbaii greeted us with two days of heavy rain. In between showers and downpours we were able to explore the ruggedly beautiful coast, eat fish and chips by the sea and visit the lighthouse come museum come coffee shop and sample their delicious chocolate cake.

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Piggy's Blanket in shreds.... not keeping the rain off anymore

Grant took the opportunity, once again, between showers to service Miss Piggy by changing her oil, spark plugs and clean the clogged up air filter.

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Allan, Grant and Karen
Thanksgiving Dinner

A tour of Route 62 (the famous Klein Karoo) is not complete without visiting more wineries, sampling their fare and a lunch stop at the iconic Ronnie's Sex Shop.

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Ronnies Sex Shop

Legend has it that Ronnie set up a general store aptly named Ronnie's Shop, however, nobody every shopped there. Ronnie's mates decided to help him out by changing the name and spray painting the word Sex onto his sign and thus attracting more trade.

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Farm House - Near Ronnies

Ronnie painted it over, they painted it back. This back and fourth continued for some time until Ronnie decided the sex could stay, he turned the shop into a bar, as they say in the classics, the rest is history.

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Overberg Wheat Fields

Switching between the coast and the Klein Karoo we were attempting to avoid the havock caused by the recent storms. Many roads, including the N2 (a main national highway) had been cut by flash flooding in the arid desert.

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Road Closed - Montagu

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Klein Karoo Saloon

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Mist on the Klein Karoo

Skirting around the damaged and closed roads we eventually end up in the hamlet of Addo. Here lies the Addo Elephant National Park and the Orange Elephant Backpackers. We put up tent and waited for Allan's arrival with a glass of wine under the stars.

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Pay Day in Addo

The Olange Erephant (as it has been known by many an inebriated patron) is run by John and Cheryl. It is a locals watering hole and offers camping, dorms and cottage accommodation to weary travellers as well as pub, restaurant and fantastic company. What more could you ask for?

John kindly lent us his vehicle for a Game Drive in the Elephant National Park as they do no allow motorcyles in the park(something to do with dangerous animals in the park and eating people not in cars!!).

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We sure is in Africa Now! Near Addo

All aboard the mighty Toyota we headed off on our first African Safari.

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Z is for Zebra (Burchills Zebra to be exact)

Addo Elephant National Park was proclaimed in 1931 to protect the last 11 remaining Eastern Cape Elephants. In 1954 Graham Armstrong invented an elephant proof fence (to stop those little blighters getting out and poachers from getting in). Some of this orginal fence is still in use today.

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W is for Water Buffalo

1970 saw the first offical tourists drive through the park and today the park is 164,000 hecares in size, the elephant numbers reach over 450 and other animals have been introduced, such as hyena and lion, to balance the ecology.

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R is for Red Heartbeast

The park also is undertaking protection work of the almost extinct Black Rhino.

We had the most amazing day, one that will be truely treasured for the rest of our lives. From the outset we were treated to a fantastic display of wild animal life in thier natural habitat.

Within minutes of entering the park gates we saw a plethora of Warthogs and even a Black Backed Jackal eating a hare.

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T is for Tortoise (Leopard Tortoise)

But what we came for was the Elephants. We had been driving around for most of the day, and had seen a group of Elephants in the distance, however now we were stopped at a watering hole. Coming down the hill was a family of Elephants walking towards the dam. We sat in silence and awe as the approached and walked in front of our car to the water. At the waters edge the family drank deep from the cool, refreshing waters, before turning around and walking straight past the bonnet of the Toyota. We sat there as the big Bull looked in to see what we were up to before following his family back off into the bush.

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E is for Elephant

Not five minutes down the road, again we stopped to marvel at these huge creatures. Another family of Elephants were feeding on some scrubby bushes. We sat so close to one large male who made a feast of the foilage and soft branches of a particularly thorny bush. Elephants eat for up to 18hours per day, their body mass is so great that they rarely lie down to sleep, lying down for too long could result in thier body weight crushing thier internal organs so generally they nap standing up.

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F is for Flippin' Huge Elephant
Notice our cars mirror in the left hand corner of the picture

It was also decided to stay on for the night game drive run by the park. Here we were treated to seeing some of the noctornal animals such as Hyena with their cubs and a female Bat Eared Fox (an insect eating fox) fighting with a Black Backed Jackle to protect her litter. Unfortunately we did not see any Lion (there are five in the park) on this safari, but Africa is a big continent and we have long journey ahead of us and we are sure more opportunity.

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Jules, John, Cheryl, Grant
Orange Elephant Backpackers

Our first impressions of South Africa is that once again we are travelling in a country where the peoples friendliness and hospitality is generous and inspiring.

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Comfortable public transport - near Addo

Posted by Julie Rose at December 09, 2007 11:13 AM GMT
 


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