THE AFRICA DIARIES: SOUTH AFRICA PART TWO
We left Oudtshoorn eager to start the Garden Route, we had so little time left we wanted to make sure we could fit in everything we wanted to do in South Africa.
And there was still a lot to do.
Our first stop was Knysna, supposedly the hub of the Garden Route, but in reality the first of many quaint stops along the very relaxed Garden Route. Home to "The Heads," an iconic landmark separating the Knysna Lagoon from the Indian Ocean, Knysna ended up being more of scenic stop where we set up camp for two nights.
Instead of sticking around town, we took our Toyota Corolla to the streets and visited Plettenberg Bay's Monkeyland and Birds of Eden, sanctuaries housing (you guessed it) monkeys and birds.
We expected it would be fun, but we had no idea that our monkey adventure would involve getting so up close to both monkeys and lemurs. We had an amazing time photographing them playing, eating, and swinging in the wide open and interactive park.
After a traumatizing experience in the bird cage at Cango Wildlife Ranch, it was hard to convince Lucas to enter another bird cage, regardless of how large and open it was.
He held it together, even though the birds were just as happy to get up close and personal as the monkeys had been. By the end, Lucas even made a friend who tried to hitch a ride out on his camera!
Our friends, Kristina and Paul had caught up to us that evening in Knysna, so we met up for a drink, which led to us meeting up again in Plettenberg the next night for dinner, and a bunch more drinks.
Which led to us all deciding to jump off a bridge 216 metres high. The next morning. No, really.
Maybe we had all discussed it before, but nothing seals the deal like a few drinks paired with a few more rounds.
The next morning, after immediately fulfilling the urgent need for breakfast, I craved nothing more than a coffee. And by coffee I mean a shot of espresso topped with black coffee. Even Lucas had a coffee. Anything to make sure this jump wasn't like our hungover escapades off the Kawarau and Nevis Bungy in New Zealand.
It was nothing like that, because it was over 80 metres higher than our last bungy. In fact, it is the highest bridge bungy in the world, the third highest bungy overall, and infinitely more intimidating than our previous jumps.
We were happy to go with Kristina and Paul, because nothing takes away intimidation as much as singing Hooked On A Feeling as you cross the cage walkway under the bridge overlooking the huge valley.
If anything, our jump proved bigger is better. It was the most exciting bungy jump we have done, and in one of the most incredible locations in the world.
It was also the perfect way to say goodbye to our new friends, with hopes to see each other again someday soon. We miss you guys already!
With only days left on our rental, we needed to make our way back toward Cape Town and the surrounding area.
We took the scenic drive along Chapman's Peak on the coast to Simons Town.
Boulders Beach is the main attraction with a colony of hundreds and hundreds of African penguins. If you are there early enough, and we were, you get the beach and the penguins to yourself.
The sign warned that the penguins bite, but we read it only as we were leaving, so we let the curious penguins come as close as they were willing. In the water, penguins played around Lucas's ankles, and my favourite penguin left his boulder to gently touch my camera with its beak.
Once the screaming children started arriving, we left.
We still had the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point to see, the most South Western point of the African continent.
With a few short hiking trails, beautiful expansive views of the ocean, and rocky shorelines, the Cape was a beautiful place to spend the day.
And, with such friendly penguins, we couldn't help but visit them again at the beach until sunset and closing time. My penguin was still under his rock.
In the morning we retraced our steps along Chapman's Peak to Cape Town and said goodbye to our third vehicle, for good this time. Phew.
Without our wheels we had to resort to the tourist go-to: the city sight seeing bus. We spent a whole day on the open deck of various buses seeing the city, before departing it at the V&A Waterfront.
With beautiful waterfront real estate and boutiques, the V&A was a shoppers paradise. There, market mixed with high end, and you could spend the whole day getting lost in the stores varying from handmade local goods to Burberry fashions.
The next day was the day we had been waiting for our entire trip. We were about to accomplish an item on both our bucket lists and climb into another cage, but this time in shark infested waters.
In the waters off of Gansbaai, Great Whites swim with various other species of shark, and those crazy enough are able to get in a cage to see them in their natural habitat.
From land, the day looked like perfect conditions for shark diving.
On the water was another story.
On the boat racing to our shark alley, the waves were swelling and crashing onto the boat. The closer we got, the worse the water was until eventually when we were on the bottom of the wave, the crest was above eye level.
By the time we dropped anchor, Lucas was already feeling a little queasy.
We chose to get in the cage first, partially for the thrill, but also in the hopes that getting in the water would ease the sickness Lucas was feeling.
It was a good thing we did, as we saw the Great Whites at their most active and right in front of us. Also, because had we waited even for one other group to go, Lucas would have been completely unable to get in the cage as the seasickness worsened so badly that he was unable to keep anything down, and was starting to look almost hypothermic.
Being on the boat after our cage dive was actually scarier than in the cage, as the waves were rocking the boat and the railing was short and flimsy. With wetsuits on it felt like there was a huge chance of going overboard into the sharky waters.
Unfortunately, the experience was overshadowed by the seasickness and we definitely didn't focus on taking photos or videos as Lucas vomited over the side of the boat. But, we did love getting the chance to see the huge predator swim beside us and we will never forget the rush of seeing Great Whites in the wild.
After an adrenaline rush like that, we needed something easier to stomach.
So, we had a tea party.
A tea party at the historic and luxurious Mount Nelson Hotel.
If you can't afford to stay there, the next best thing is having High Tea in their massive dining room overlooking the gardens. For a rainy day, it was our perfect morning.
In the classy environment I am sure we looked out of place (namely me snapping too many photos), but we enjoyed every minute of it.
We each got to try two teas, a pot of each to ourselves, as well as a picture perfect three tier platter of sweets, baking, and finger sandwiches. Afterward, a coffee and a walk around the grounds with a hotel-supplied umbrella finished off the high tea experience.
The weather let up for us the next day, making it a perfect day to hike up Table Mountain. We couldn't visit Cape Town without hiking the iconic mountain.
With a packed lunch, we made our way up to Woodstock Cave.
On an Easter Sunday, there were locals performing prayer in the cave, giving an eerie quality to the chants in the secluded cave.
After we enjoyed our lunch while listening to their chanting, we played with the camera for a while and left to complete the much more intense ascent through Pletteklip Gorge.
Though we were told to leave any and all valuables behind, on this particular Sunday there were hundreds of people doing the same climb and we weren't worried about our safety in the slightest.
The long climb to the top was tiring, though not the toughest climb we have accomplished. But, since we had left later in the day, we had planned on taking the cable car down the mountain.
Unfortunately, when we made the smart decision to leave our valuables, we included our credit cards and money on that list. Meaning we had no way to pay for the cable car.
Of course we didn't think about that until it was already almost dusk, and the idea of climbing down the supposedly dangerous mountain in the dark seemed less than enticing.
Thankfully, Lucas's memory is better than our preparation and he was able to buy tickets online.
It took over an hour in line to get on the cable car, but it was an experience in itself, with a rotating platform overlooking the mountain, the stars, and the city lights, and an entertaining operator and music.
With only days left, the last item on our agenda was visiting the Kirstenbosch Gardens. I'll be honest, botanical gardens are pretty much the same everywhere, but the park was beautiful and we enjoyed a day with Table Mountain as a backdrop.
Coming to the end of our trip, we reflected back on the amazing moments and adventures we had been fortunate enough to experience over the three months in Africa. From Kenya to Tanzania, and on to Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and finally South Africa, we had the trip of a lifetime and are happy to get the chance to share it with you.
Thank you for reading!