I forgot to mention in my last post all the different "nicknames" I was called by the street folks looking for small change or wanting to sell me drugs, etc. I'd hear everything from "Hey Jim!" "Master!" "Chief!" "Boss" "Hey Joe!". I get most of these... but where does the "Hey Jim!" come from? Either I look like someone named "Jim" in Cape Town, or it's a common street nickname for tourists.
As I mentioned before... the day after I left Cape Town for Stellenbosch in the winelands didn't go quite as smoothly as my "One Pleasant Day." Not really that bad, but just annoying. Just little things like the gas station attendant forgot to check the pump and several liters went out all over the ground. When I questioned whether I'd have to pay for all that wasted gas... it turned into a big todo with the station manager, etc. They said it wasn't their fault, and that it wasn't MY fault.. but only the fault of a broken gas pump. I asked, "Well is the pump gonna pay for all that wasted gas?"... but I don't think they saw the humor in it. At the end, I knew if I didn't pay for it, the poor gas station attendant would have to, so I just paid and was finally on my way again.
From the station it wasn't long before I was cruising through the winelands surrounding the town of Stellenbosch. Wonderful light and some very lovely wine estates. But, I figured I should sort out my accommodations first, so I headed straight into the town to find another backpacker lodge. I had high hopes that after Cape Town, this would be a pretty easy task.
I was wrong. Stellenbosch is a nice enough place for an afternoon, but not really much to see there. More of a place to spend the afternoon doing wine tastings and then moving on. If I had it to do over again, I probably would have just done it in a day trip from Cape Town instead. The problem was I didn't know the street names are printing on the curbs and not on posts. And, most of the curbs are non-exhistent in lui of little gutters that run along the roads. So, I even though I had a map... every sign I saw that looked like a street sign were actually just signs pointing to different vineyards. And, there must be hundreds of them in this area.
After I'd just wandered around enough in the bakkie, I found a few backpacker lodges but they were all full. The help never seemed very helpful or courteous, and most of the time wouldn't even open the security gate to me. They'd just say they're all full and send me on my way. Eventually I went to the tourist information office and the clerk there just gave me another map. When I asked if she could just call one of the lodges to ask if they had room, she said she could but I'd have to pay her $20 for each call as a "service charge." That's about $3 U.S. per call! So, back on the street I went with a new map and still clueless. I looked for one of the lodges recommended in the travel guide, but without being able to see street names.. it was hopeless. Turns out, the one I was looking for closed down about a year ago.
Eventually I found one with rooms. I'd actually been there an hour prior but no one would answer the bell. Later, the man and his girlfriend running the place told me they'd over done their drinking the night before at a wedding and were still "out of sorts." They asked how long I'd stay and I said probably a couple nights.
Finally, 2hrs of looking for a room was over and I could relax. Or, so I thought. Turns out the woman running the place has very loud little children that were running and screaming throughout the place... so back out on the street I went exploring. ;-)
However, in my 2hrs of lodge searching... I'd pretty much seen the entire town (it's not very big and easy to see all of it in a couple hours of walking). There are a few little tourist shops and some nice sidewalk cafes, but other than that... not much to it. So, I got a bottle of Stellenbosch wine and headed back to my room to chill out. Figured I'd hit it again the next day when I was fresh.
Got to chill for a couple hours until I overheard some violent lung-popping screaming coming from the kitchen across from my room. Not the kiddies this time, but it sounded like the woman owner and her boyfriend were having a fairly wicked fight. Guess they hadn't seen me come back in (I was the only guest there) so, when they saw I was there, it got a little uncomfortable. The Afrikaans accents were so thick, and the screaming at such a fever pitch that I couldn't make out what they were fighting about. Eventually, they calmed down and I slipped back out into the night to take a little walk, grab a pepper-steak meat pie.. and then turn in for the night.
The next morning I couldn't decide if I really wanted to stay another night or not. I was then informed that they'd booked the whole place to some big group and that I would need to vacate the room. Great! Decision made for me. ;-)
I asked the fellow that had been screaming the evening before if he could give me directions to Outdshoorn. He told me it was really easy.. told me where to go and what road sign to look out for. So, after I'd stopped off at 3 or 4 different vineyards for tastings, I could just keep going towards the N1 highway.
The vineyards were all fairly nice, but I'm not much of a wine "taster". More a wine "drinker." When the fellow would ask me what the wine smelled like, I'd say.. "Gee wiz, smells pretty much like wine to me." He'd say, "Don't you smell a little berry, moldy cheese, and a hint of old tire?". "Crikies! Old Tire!? And I'm supposed to want to put that in my mouth?" He got a big laugh out of it and most of the afternoon went like that. After the first tasting, I stopped drinking the wine and shifted to actually just tasting it since I still had a good 4-5hr drive to get to Outdshoorn. Or so I thought.
Turns out, the road sign the fellow told me to look out for doesn't exhist. And after nearly 4hrs I still hadn't seen it. (his directions were pretty loose). But, I did watch the sun go down over some fairly impressive mountains all lined with vineyards at their feet. I was completely lost in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere. However, the scenery was so beautiful, I didn't even care.
After it'd got dark, I pulled over for some gas and asked the attendant where this road sign for the R62 turn-off was. He didn't know but asked around for me. Another fellow came up and asked where I was going. He directed me down the highway another 200kms and said the turn-off I was looking for was just before some town called Baywards West? Or something like that. but, after that it was just another 50kms.
I thanked him and he went back to his truck. A couple minutes later, he came back and asked, "Let me ask you something... if you came from Stellenbosch, why did you go THIS way?" I told him the directions I was given. He said, "Oh, well going this way just took you an extra 250kms or so out of your way." Great!
Finally made it to the turn-off and was glad I only had 50kms to go. That is, until I saw the sign that read "Outdshoorn 178kms". Bummer.
I was really out in the boonies at this point, and it was pitch black with no other traffic. Eventually, I went through some pass that was lined with sharp stone curves and very high winds. Pretty creepy as well. I knew that I was likely missing some specular scenery, but that was the furthest thing from my mind. I just wanted to find a place to sleep.
Eventually, I passed through a little town called De Rust... rang several hotel bells but no one would come to the door. Seemed almost like a ghost town, but there were cars parked here and there so I knew someone at least lived there. They just wouldn't answer the door bell after dark I suppose. And it was already after 11pm.
Pushed on to Oudtshoorn and started again. I asked some police if they could tell me where Church street was, and they offered to just take me there. I told them it wasn't necessary, but they insisted. After 3 different lodges wouldn't answer knocks on the door, or door bells... it was now after midnight. The black cops told me there was another place they knew of, but they didn't know how clean it was. I said, "at this point I'm not going to be picky!"
A few minutes later we pulled into what looked like a half-way house with a big sign painted on the bricks above the door "BIG BIRD ACCOMMODATIONS". There was a tall skinny black man standing at the door with a trucker's cap that had a Mercedes logo on it, and he was just standing there admiring his old Mercedes parked at the door with the words "Pappa Cool" painted on the windshield.
I thanked the police for helping me.. and they just lingered a bit like they were waiting for something... like a tip! Do even the South African cops here ask for tips?!
Took a look at the room and it was actually not so bad. Pappa Cool turned out to be quite a character and wanted to talk into the wee hours of the morning. He kept telling me I HAD to go to the Cango Caves and that if I didn't.. I hadn't seen the Klein Karoo. I think the area is known as the "little Karoo". Not sure where the big Karoo is, but with how Pappa Cool went on about these caves, I had to see them.
I suppose they were ok, but the tour guide was and group of families I was with were pretty cheesey with the little group jokes. Sorta like that tour guide of the Alamo in Texas during that scene in Pee Wee's Big Adventure where he's looking for his bike. Equally as funny.
After that, I'd been told I must drive the Swarthart Pass. But I didn't have enough time to knock that out, and the ostrich farms, and the Wildlife Ranch. So, I figured I'd just drive a half hour or so of it (all dirt roads)... take a snap or two and call it done. And am I glad I did. Such spectacular views!
A little ways in and up the first mountain pass I pulled over to grab a snap and enjoy the vista. I forgot I'd bought a bottle of wine at one of the tastings, but didn't have a cork screw. Just moments later, a car with some South Africans pulled up and asked what car trouble I was having. I told them no trouble at all but asked, "would any of you happen to have a cork screw?". They all laughed and someone actually did have one. The road is fairly harrowing going along straight drop cliffs, so I just "tasted" again. Didn't seem like a good idea to actually drink it this time. ;-) Wise choice! The road got even more harrowing, but the views were just stunning. I wish I'd had my dual-sport motorcyle on this pass, because it was amazing. Especially when you got to the bottom of the canyon with a small river running through it and banked by huge red mountains on all sides.
Made a loop through Prince Albert to get gas and continued on the loop through Merringsport and onto De Rust. WOW! This was yet another impressive pass. The same one I couldn't see the night before with the high winds. The trip to Outdshoorn is worth doing this loop alone!
Wasn't going to make it in time for the Ostrich farms or wildlife ranch.. but I spent sunset on the side of the road with a bunch of Ostriches to get some snaps. That's all I really wanted anyway. Not really the "tour" kinda guy, so roadside with the Ostriches suited me just fine.
What odd birds they are too! I'd had some Ostrich sausage at breakfast that was quite tasty, and they look so cute from a distance... just bobbing along like they do. But, up close they look like some demented alien species that kinda gave me the willies looking at them through the viewfinder at full-frame. It was still pretty funny to watch their heads all pop up and down in the camera frame. Then, all of a sudden ALL their heads popped up at the same time and they all bolted in one direction. I looked around to see if there was some predator, or car, or anything that might have spooked them. But, I didn't see anything at all. It couldn't have been me since I'd already been standing there for nearly an hour. Then, they all stopped running at once as they slowly all walked back over to the fence where I was standing and started grazing again. Like I said, very peculiar animals.. but they make a dandy sausage that's for sure.
Splurged a bit and had a fantastic dinner at Sunny Jemimas in Outdshoorn. Magnicient restaurant by the way if you're ever in Outdshoorn, South Africa.
Back to the Big Bird and another very long conversation with Pappa Cool. I could smell that he'd been drinking, and since I was getting burned out on wine anyway... I gave him the I'd bought in Stellenbosch. It was decent enough, but after awhile they all start tasting the same. He was quite pleased with the gesture and was excited to know if I'd made it to the Cango caves he'd raved about the night before. I told him they were nice and that I took a few photos etc. I didn't mention the tour was so cheesy with all these little kids screaming and running wild. But the more he asked about the Caves it became pretty clear he'd never even been to them. I asked, and it was confirmed. He said he'd been meaning to visit them but never got around to it. Huh?! Sure sounded like he'd been there by the way he went on and on about them. You'd think he'd been born inside the caves with the level of enthusiasm he had for them.
Managed to get to bed a little earlier than the wee hours and got up early enough to hit the wildlife ranch before leaving town. I knew it was basically going to be a zoo, but I hadn't got a nice shot of a lion yet (except for the footage I got of the lions tearing apart that poor wharthog), and figured what the heck, no one will know the difference. ;-) Yep, it was just a little zoo. Not too shabby, but just a zoo nonetheless. You could get pretty close to the animals though, so it was still kinda sweet checking out the lions, leopards, meerkats, crocks, etc. from just a few feet away and no chainlink fence. You sort of looked down at them from a catwalk.
The rest of the drive back to the Oceana Wildlife Reserve
was pleasant enough. Did the N2 highway all the way back and stopped off in Knysna for a few more snaps before continuing on. I'm using their bakkie for this trip and didn't mind stopping off for a couple days before pushing on. They needed the vehicle for something so they didn't have to twist my arm very hard to get me to stay on a couple more days. ;-)
Drove to Grahmstown yesterday to see what it was about and after passing by a giant Pineapple in the middle of a pineapple crop.. I made it just in time for that last sliver of golden South African sunset. I looked frantically for something to shoot and spotted these to chaps just chillin' on the patio of and old fish and chips place. I asked them if I could take their photos and they said they didn't mind. They didn't look very happy, so when I finished I was expecting them to ask me for money. But, they didn't. They just politely thanked me for taking photos of them. So, since they looked like they could use a few rand.. I asked them if it was ok if I gave them each a few rand? (like I didn't know what the answer would be) ;-). You should have seen their faces light up. Such big smiles! It was a pleasure to give money in this way and know that it wasn't likely going to buy benzine glue.
That's it for now... heading out for Hogsback North of here in the morning, and may make it up to Coffebay as well if time permits.
More later. Here are some snaps I hope you will enjoy. :-)