Friday, November 3, 2017

Peter Giddy Guided Tours. - Garden Route Tour 27th October to 3rd November 2017

Peter Giddy Guided Tours 

--- Garden Route Tour October 2017
  • Addo Elephant Park;
  • Shore Excursions;
  • Kragga Kamma for Rhino, Cheetah, Giraffe and various Antelope; City,
  • Historical, and Township Tours.
  • Adventure activities such as Horse Back or Elephant back riding; Canoe trails; Sandboarding, Ocean Safaris.
  • Transfers -- Airport, Hotel and Wildlife Reserves
  • And for a few hours of light activity --- Walks and Trails around Port Elizabeth

This week I have a Garden Route Tour with Jack and Mariette.  Eight days over October and November 2017
 One of the highlights of any Garden Route Tour at this time of year is Whale Watching in Hermanus. 
 You can watch the whales from the shore or you can use the Boat Based whale watching
And the Old Harbour / Gearings Point whale watching can be just as much fun.
I received a late call on Thursday 26th evening.  There was an urgent need for a Guide to take Jack and Mariette from Amakhala Private reserve through the Garden Route and on to Cape Town. 

I happily accepted this assignment as the Garden Route is on of my favourite adventure tours. 
Friday 27th October I have a Dentist appointment as I had been suffering with toothache for a few days.  The dentist pounced on the opportunity to do as much as he could (I am not very good at going to the dentist) and in the half hour managed to do two fillings and one extraction. 
So it was with a  numb mouth I set out for Amankhala Carnarvon Dale where I met the owner, Roger and the Guide, Braun... And my two guests for the week -- Jack and Mariette from the Netherlands. They are from Holland and retired. Jack was a train driver for all of his life. A job he loved. He drove Goods and Passengers. So now they are enjoying their 4 children and 6 Grandchildren.
Our conversation in the car was a bit of Dutch mixed with Afrikaans and resorting to English when all else failed.

 I drive the approximately 70km from PE to Amakhala.  This is the first time I pick up at Carnarvon Dale. Mariette and Jack could not praise the Hospitality of this Lodge enough.  They were treated as special guests -- As family.  The meals were the best.  The lodge was warm and cosy during the windy days that they spent there. And everyone, from the housekeepers to the Cooks, Guide (Braun) and owner (Roger) was super friendly.
 From the Gate on the N2 there is a short but very bumpy road to the lodge where they are staying.
 Our first stop is at Bay West Shopping Mall.  Here Mariette purchases some warm clothing and Fairy Dresses for Grand Daughters.  I take the opportunity to do something that I rarely do -- Buy an item of clothing.  I had heard about the "Wash and Wear" clothing that is sold at Cape Union Mart and so I buy two of these shirts this morning.  These should be ideal for when I am doing long distance tours but more importantly for our planned Camino walk from Portugal to Spain in 2018.

 Storms River bridge is a good stop over -- the drop looking down is impressive and the river below is running strongly
On the Garden Route a stop over at the Bungy Jumping famous Blaaukrans Bridge is entertaining even if none of the group is planning to jump.  Here we watch a succession of jumpers as the plunge something like 200m into the kloof.
Once in Plettenberg Bay we find our B n B where we spend the next two nights.
Our dinner at Toby's Beachfront Restaurant is made an even greater success when we meet our host Gerrie and the table next to us is a family of 6 from Holland.
 Saturday morning -- I start with a run along the Robberg Road.
Early it is still quite chilly but soon warms up as the sun emerges.
Our hosts are Peter and Lesley Lloyd.  After breakfast we visit local markets and the Robberg.  One of their main interests is for good views and places to take pictures.
The Harkerville Saturday Market.  A busy, well supported market offering a variety of foods to eat and also bottled and other take away foods.
Also on offer is a variety of African Artworks
Paintings and carvings are part of the colourful display
Captured here are houses that would typically be found along the Southern  and Western Cape. Areas such as Waenhuiskraal is where you may see these homes
Mariette and Jack enjoying a coffee after a morning of shopping (mainly for Grandchildren at home)
Saturday 28th.  After my morning run and breakfast, we leave for the Harkerville Saturday Market.  I was amazed to see how it has grown since the last time I was there.  The place was festive with people milling around the stalls, eats and artwork being sold, Graham is the DJ and announcer .... He plays gentle old songs that are soothing to the ear. Mariette and Jack bought an array of clothing and other presents for their family at home, to the extent that I had to lend them some money to avoid having to drive to an ATM.  After a coffee we left for Plett and then to the Robberg.
 Colourful Veygies
 Some kind of flowering Vine
 Erica in bloom
 A hardy plant growing amoungst the rocks with Yellow flowers
Even these small white flowers add to the colour of the walk.
Spring brings life to aloe as well
Mariette has foot and knee injuries but managed to complete first the Gap Walk and then on to the Seals.  This section requires a bit of stamina as there is a reasonably tough climb to the top of the peninsular.  As we were walking we could smell the seals long before we saw them. The Easterly helped that bit along.  When we reached the Seals Lookout we could see and hear them down below both on the rocks and swimming.  We could also see a couple of whales in the bay. 
Cape Fur Seals. The Khoisan and Nama people used to harvest Seals for the Meat, Oil and Pelts.  In 1893 excessive harvesting of Seals by Europeans and Americans lead to controls being put in place and in 1990 a complete stop was put to killing of Seals. The Cape fur seal is the only Seal that breeds in Southern Africa and there are large colonies in Namibia. There are about 500 000 seals in South Africa. During November the Bulls fight for mating rights and territory. Pups are born in December and mating begins soon after.  Gestation is about 10 months.
Looking down to the Seal Colony. Some on the rocks and many swimming in the area.
It is October and the Spring Flowers are looking quite spectacular. This is probably the most colourful I have ever seen the Robberg. 
We also see huge sets of Conglomerate Rock formations.
Conglomerate is a sedimentary rock made of rounded pebbles and sand that is usually held together (cemented) by silica, calcite or iron oxide. It is a stone similar to sandstone but the rock particles are rounded or angular gravel rather than sand.

About 150 million years ago, on the Robberg, the sand and water-worn cobbles hardened while the deposit was buried to more than 1km. High pressure and temperature cemented the grains and cobbles together to form the sandstone and conglomerate.  It was subsequently uplifted by faulting. Volcanic activity played no part anywhere on Robberg.  The Robberg Peninsula is a national monument, nature reserve and marine protected area on South Africa's famous Garden Route.

 Mariette and Jack are at the Gap with the Island in the background
Looking back from the pathway towards the West and Gap
We continued on the walk to the sand dune and it was there we turned right (West) down the sand dune to the island.  Once on the beach of the Island there is a reasonably tough walk back to the Gap.  You have to be careful as you can easily trip and fall and do some serious injury to yourself.  This section requires a bit of agility and fitness especially after a couple of hours walking to get here.
The pathway from the Island Beach to the wooden steps requires fitness and a degree of Agility.  This is probably the most dangerous section of the walk we did today particularly after two hours of walking -- tired legs and feet -- you need to take your time and be careful how you step.
Back at the car park area we could see more whales on the West side of the Robberg peninsular.  This walk has taken us about 2.5 to 3 hours.
We were pretty much exhausted so after a lunch of Calamari and Salad we went back to our BnB for a bit of a rest before supper at Moby's Restaurant. We have the same table as on Friday but strangely the restaurant is not busy so we have a quieter dinner.

Sunday 29th.
Breakfast at 8am.
Two mornings of very ordinary breakfasts and two days of polite and helpful hosts but my guests commented that the home is not cosy, there is little warmth emanating from the hosts nor the house which is clean, tidy, organised -- clinically so.  Both nice people but did not sit down to join us for breakfast nor for an evening drink. I think that that was the difference from where they had been at Amakhala.

After Breakfast -- we continue on the N2 to Knysna where we attempt to look at the heads but Mariette is not strong after yesterdays heavy walking.  Also not feeling well. Something she ate? 
So we drive on to Wilderness where we find a really foggy / misty morning covering the road and sea below.  We stop at the lookout point. 
In George we stop at the George Mall which is busy with shoppers.  They do a bit of shopping and somehow we become split up for a while.
I meet Johan and Helena Claassen.  Johan is now just one week out of JD Group.  He left after 30 years of service.  He is now 55 and will soon want to start something on his own.  Helena and he are both looking good.  I was so happy that he stopped me to greet and chat.  They are staying in Hartenbos where they also have a Flat to Rent.  Air Bn B style. 
Finally after searching up and down for Jack and Mariette we connect and are able to continue.  But decide to have a lunch at the Kingfisher Restaurant in town. Hake and Chips is pretty much standard and a delicious option.
 Safari Ostrich Farm
 Feeding of Ostriches
 Jacques is our Guide.  Here he talks about the Australian Emu.
Mariette tries on the Ostrich feather hat and shawl
Up and over the Outeniqua Pass and then on to Oudtshoorn.  We have had a lazy day and arrive at the Safari Ostrich Farm at 3pm in time for the Tour.  Unfortunately we cut is short as Mariette is not feeling well.  But we do see the Ostriches up close and have a great guide --Jacques.  We also stop at the Incubation Room where eggs are kept at 36 degrees for about 50 days before hatching.
The shop has some beautiful ostrich leather bags and belts.
After a bit of a search for a reasonable restaurant we make the HUGE mistake of going to the Spur where we are served -- a tiny miserable ostrich steak on a plate filled with chips and fried onion.  I have hake is so dry and miserable that I, for once, cannot get through the meal.  Spur may be great for a hamburger but I cannot vouch for that. Certainly this is not a place to be recommended.

Our BnB is much like a small hotel with old style rooms. Quite comfortable and catering for guests from the Netherlands.  Breakfast on Monday morning is more than adequate.
From there we drive back to Oudtshoorn and check into our BnB -- Avondblij.  Nice old style hotel-like rooms. 
Oudtshoorn....Avondblij. (Stay overnight in Dutch)  169 Hoog Straat.
Avond (Evening) Blij (Stay)  -- Overnight stay -- catering for people from the Netherlands
Avondblij is a comfortable old hotel style accommodation close to the centre of Oudtshoorn
Monday 30 and Tuesday 31.

Saying our final farewells to these birds.  Straus vogel - Volstruis -- Autrich -- Straus -- Ostrich.
Mariette and Jack have fun chatting to this male ostrich
After breakfast and our last chat to some of the local Ostriches we continue on the R328 over these magnificent hills and Mountains.  Through the Robinson Pass and past the Eight Bells Lodge where I will return later today.  Then onto the N2.  There is a General Protest today in support of people against Farm Attacks and Killings.  We are caught up in a bit of a Traffic Jam but not too serious. I see the Engine Warning light come on. So pull in at Mossel Bay to the Nissan Dealer. The Mechanic has a look and says that it is a faulty sensor. He resets it and tells me that I am safe to continue but need to have it seen to when I am back in PE.
GONDWANA -- From the N2 just west of Mossel bay (Near to the Mosgas refinery) turn in a Northerly Direction towards Herbertsdale and continue for about 12km.  Then right towards Heuningklip on a 5km ROUGH dirt road.  Keep right until you reach the first security gate where you check in and have fingerprints taken.. This is to allow you to open gates.
Continue for a further 8km to the Lodges.
Gondwana Lodge where Jack and Mariette will spend the next two days.
We continue to Gondwana which is on the R327 to Herbertsdale.   It is situated 25km from the N2 where the Mosgas Refinery is.  12km of tar road and then 13km of rough dirt road where you need to be careful and drive slowly otherwise you will end up with a puncture.  I drop Jack and Mariette off and drive back to Mossel Bay.  I have the tyres checked by Supa Quick and the mechanic tells me that there is nothing that I can do  -- The Whirring Noise is a result of earlier poor shocks which I had replaced this year.  The tyres are still good, with careful driving,  for another 20 000km.

The lovely but tragic story of Baby Lunar Bogers from the Netherlands.

On the road to Gondwana, Mariette tells me the story of a lost child. 

Her son, Martin and Daughter in law, Miranda was pregnant with their first child who was named Luna as soon as she realised it was going to be a girl. 
The baby was overdue after 9months and two weeks so Miranda was in hospital and on the Thursday the Mid Wife told Miranda that everything was fine. And she would be going back to hospital on the following Tuesday for check up. Miranda was told that she would be having a Cesarean Section. Then on the weekend she discovered that the baby was still born.   And so it was a shock when, tragically the following day, 3 October 2011,  then on 5th October, beautiful baby Luna was still born. 
This was so upsetting to the whole family -- After nearly a year of anticipation and a first grandchild,  a first child. Even before she was born Luna, was loved by all in the family.  

That day the family in Netherlands and across the globe, mourned for the child.

BUT; that night, Mariette was gazing up into the sky at the Moon; and saw the supernatural --- a child's face gazing down at her -- Big eyes, the nose and mouth were clearly visible. She called first Jack and then the family -- They all could clearly see the face of Luna gently looking down at them as if to say -- "Don't worry family -- I am fine"

And so it is now, Six years later,  Martin and Miranda have two beautiful children while Jack and Mariette have 6 Grandchildren with another due in January 2018. It is mainly for these Grandchildren that Mariette has spent time and effort searching for suitable and worthwhile gifts to give to them when they return to Netherlands.
And every year on 3nd of October the whole family, where ever they may be, think and give prayers for much loved Baby Luna.

And so life continues.... we love, we rejoice, we are filled with hope and sadness.  And with the love and kindness of Jesus and our families we endure.

Back to the Garden Route.
After dropping Jack and Mariette at Gondwana I spend some time in the local mall.  Doing some admin, in a coffee shop.

Nicky has an upcoming wedding and is trying to decide if Botlierskop or Gondwana would be a more suitable place to take guests after the wedding.  So I visit Botlierskop near to Groot Brak, Mossel Bay.
I had been driving to my hotel on the R328 when I saw the sign for Botlierskop.  So turned off for a 20km (good quality) dirt road.  This is what I find.
Next to the road I see this Blue Wildebees
Back on the R328 I see this shop.  Very colourful with a wide variety of biscuits, chutneys, Acha, jams as well as many collectable items.  In front of the shop are two petrol pumps.  Fortunately I had filled my tank before leaving Oudtshoorn this morning.
Literal translation -- "Unfortunately we the pumps are empty"
My bungalow at Eight Bells ... Quite comfortable but no shower... only a bath.
Entrance to Eight Bells Hotel.
Gerald is the barman and he offers me a Glenhoff Ale to try. 
Gerald pours me the beer.  After tasting I give him my personal opinion.  This is not a beer I would order a second time.  It leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. 
He tells me that his wife, Barbara and his sister both work in the hotel as cooks.  Later I have an Ostrich Babotie...with veg and chips.... Delicious.
Then I drive back to the R328 and on towards the Eight Bells Hotel.  On the way I see a sign to Botlierskop Wildlife Reserve.  So as Nicky had asked me to have a look, I drive the 20km of dirt road from the R328 to Botlierskop.  When I arrived I realised that the road from the N2 (from Groot Brak) would have been a lot easier with only about 4km of Dirt road.
The reserve appears to have a variety of animals... Lions, Giraffe, White Rhino, Zebra, Hippo, Elephants and Buffalo together with a variety of Antelope.  Entirely suitable for a big group as this venue has over 20 rooms.  But as the parking bays were full I would suggest that an early booking would be essential especially during season.

I turn around and drive back to the R328 where I come across this small shop.  Colourful and attractive I stop to investigate.  Anyone who is short of Petrol.... Don't count on the pumps to fill up.

Eight Bells Mountain Hotel is located close to the shop.  About 40km from Mossel Bay on the R328.

Tuesday -- Jack and Mariette are staying at Gondwana Game Reserve so I have some time to catch up.  I visit Johan and Helena Claassen and do some Admin work.

Wednesday 1st November..
I collect Jack and Mariette from Gondwana.  They have nothing but praise for this venue.  The wildlife sightings are excellent.  Starting with a very early morning game drive with an experienced guide. Then the meals were outstanding.  A book describing the history of Gondwana plus the wildlife is given to each guest.  Great WIFI.  And overall luxury accommodation and service is what you can expect from Gondwana.  I find out that the lions are breeding and are not fed -- these are hunting lions.  So the African Experience is a genuine one. The only animal that they did no see were the Elephants..... So for me that gives Addo the opportunity to amaze visitors to South Africa.
 Gondwana game reserve on the Garden Route close to Mossel Bay.
 The Gondwana information book that is given to each guest
 Mariette and Jack in Hermanus with the Old Harbour and Walker Bay in the background
 From Gearings Point was see a mother and Calf swim past
The Calf is in a playful mood and is Spy Hopping and Tail thrashing as they pass by.
We continue onwards to Hermanus.  This turns out to be a long drive with a lunch stop at a Padstal near to Swellendam and then  a long roadworks Stop and Go. From the N2 it is still 75km to Herrmanus so we stop briefly in Stanford and finally arrive at our BnB .. Walker Bay Manor in Hermanus.  We meet Han and Marijke.  They both speak Dutch so specialise in visitors from Netherlands.
We spend the early evening at Gearings Point where we spot a mother and Calf whale before settling down to a Beer and dinner. And are back at the BnB early.
 Registering at the Southern Right offices where Ken gives us a talk and explanation of what we can expect
 Jack and Mariette boarding the Catamaran
 And off they go to find whales.
 Southern Right whale watching
Heading into Walker Bay.
Thursday 2nd November.
So we have an early breakfast and then we drive to the New Harbour.  Here we register at the Southern Right Whale watching. Ken is the guide and gives a talk before the catamaran goes off to search for whales.  It takes an hour but then they have amazing sightings right up close to the boat. .  \

Scuba Diving School at the New Harbour
Seals at the end of the new harbour breakwater.
 If you look carefully you can see Jack and Mariette waving to me as they return from the whaling expedition.
 Dolosse at the new harbour breakwater
 The old harbour and Gearings Point
 Kayaking group returns to the Old Harbour
 On the promenade we find this display of colour on the Nasterciams
 We walk on the promenade close to our BnB and here we sit with our Sushi and Drinks. 
It is not long before we see a mother and calf.  The calf gives us the most amazing display of Breaching (jumping right out of the water).
We then have a coffee at a local cafĂ© before taking a walk along the promenade.  The weather changes from very hot to windy and rain.  But we decide to buy a couple of beers and wine with some sushi. We take this to the promenade just near to where we are staying and we find a bench to sit with our drinks and sushi.
It is not long before we see the whales right in front of where we are sitting.  They give us an amazing display of jumping out of the water.  This simply blows us away.  The best restaurant in the bay and here we are sitting on a bench on the promenade.

 Upstairs is the Lemon Butta Restaurant.  It is jam packed with customers.
Our last dinner together -- Seafood Platter and I have a Seafood soup. 
On Thursday evening we have dinner at the Lemon Butta -- a popular restaurant with local support.  Tables are full and there is a constant turnaround of clients. 
 Wine tasting at Creation wine farm on the R320 Hemel and Aarde valley
At the end of my Touring with Mariette and Jack I drop them off at Knorhoek Wine Estate.
Friday 3rd November.
We start the day with Breakfast and then we visit Creation wines on the Hemel & Aarde Road R320; to order some wines for delivery to Netherlands.028 212 1107... ask for the Whale Pod brand as this is less expensive than the Creation label. They open at 10.00am for tasting and purchases.
We then drive past the Penguin Sanctuary at Bettys Bay as it is raining and cold.  Then along the coast route to Stellenbosch where we part ways at Knorhoek Wine Estate.
I then leave for home.  I drive straight through and arrive home at 11.30pm.

Some of Mariette's thoughts translated from Dutch into my poor Afrikaans.

Alle Kinders maak my oe oop dat ek my kleinkind, Luna, sien.

Ek voel haar aanwesigheid. Vir nege maande and vyf weeke en sy lewe nog steeds binne in my

Tot jy gaan slaap in jou moeder se maag  (moeder-schoot)

My heel eerste kleinkind jy bly altyd voor in my gedagte.  Ek sal jou vir ewe lief he.


During this Garden Route tour I stayed at the Eight Bells Country Hotel on the R328 near to Mossel Bay.
Here is a summary of the History of this hotel.

1816 -- The property of Eight Bells was Granted by the Governor of the Cape Colony -- Lord Charles Somerset to JP Marx.
1800's -- This was the Route between Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn and here would be a place to Outspan at the foot of the Attikwas Mountain Pass (Now the Robinson Pass).
1800's -- Planting of the Oak Tree standing in the parking lot
1888 --Ruyterbosch -- Riders Bush -- is now Ruitersbos -- where the local Primary school is located.
The first school master stayed in lodgings in what is now the Bosun's Whistle Pub where I enjoyed a beer one evening.
1930's -- Seamen from the Naval Base in Mossel Bay and military men from the Royal Airforce Base in Oudtshoorn would visit.  The Airforce was a training base for service in North Africa.
The Name Eight Bells -- Naval bells are rung each half hour.  A watch is four hours so after 8 bells it was time for a change in Watch and time for rest.
1940's -- Additional rooms added and the hotel flourished.
1974 -- When the current Brown Family bought the hotel is had become neglected and run down.  However it has now been upgraded and is a Four Star establishment.
2007 -- Charles and Rene Bongers purchased the Hotel.