After we finished with the Garden Route, we continued our tour of the Western Cape by first swinging inland through the Klein Karoo desert and then heading back to the coast.
Oudtshoorn, while not physically on the Garden Route, has the spirit of a Garden Route town. There are plenty of organized adventures available, the two most popular being a visit to an ostrich farm or the Cango Caves.
On our way into Oudtshoorn, we stopped at the Highgate Ostrich Show Farm. We signed up for a tour, which I cynically thought would be 10% seeing the ostriches and 90% hard sell of their ostrich products. As it turned out, the tour was amazing. It might have looped through the workshops to show off their products and ended in the gift shop, but our tour guide was a wealth of information about ostriches. The highlights of the tour were obviously when we got to interact with the ostriches. We held two-week-old ostriches, which were almost as large as full-grown chickens and covered in spiky not-quite-feathers that almost looked like soft porcupine quills.
After we left Lesotho, we made our way to the Garden Route, a string of mostly seaside towns along the southern section of South Africa’s Indian Ocean coast, and one of the country’s most famous tourist trails.1 The Garden Route officially stretches around 300 kilometers from Mossel Bay to just beyond Plettenberg Bay, and is dotted with dramatic scenery, countless beaches, and more opportunities to engage in adventure tourism than anyone could possibly utilize. We took a relaxed approach to the Garden Route, taking in the scenery as we drove along and stopping at various points and towns along the way, mostly eschewing the adventure tourism.2
After a night spent luxuriating in a warm, spacious hotel room (so different from our tent!), we crossed into the Kingdom of Lesotho, a landlocked country that is completely surrounded by South Africa.1 Lesotho’s geography is dominated by mountains – its lowest point lies at the lofty elevation of 1,400 meters (4,593 feet). 2
Our first stop was in Maseru, Lesotho’s capital and largest city. (More accurately, our first stop was at the Pick n Pay in Maseru, where we grabbed some lunch supplies to make a picnic in our car in the parking lot. The glamorous life of travel here, folks.) Maseru isn’t large on attractions, and we didn’t spend long in the city. Continue reading Hiking & Pony Trekking in the Kingdom of Lesotho→
April is full of South African holidays,1 and all parties (from our guidebooks and the internet, to guesthouse hosts and kindly strangers) warned us to book our accommodation during and around these dates well in advance.
We intended to follow this advice (honest, we did), but we have been enjoying planning our African adventure as we go, oftentimes only booking a hotel room an hour or two before arrival. Not having everything planned out allows us the freedom to stay longer in places that are unexpectedly amazing, duck out earlier than planned if there’s bad weather or the area turns out to be overly touristy, and make use of advice from fellow travelers we meet along the way.
And it’s also how we found ourselves heading for the Drakensberg,2 an UNESCO World Heritage site and, more importantly, a popular vacation destination, on the Thursday before the long Easter weekend without any accommodation arranged.
After we left Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, we set off for the nearby town of St. Lucia, which our guidebook noted is popular with “angling fanatics.” Although Marc likes to think of himself as an aspiring fly-fishing fanatic, we didn’t linger for long. We briefly checked out the beach in the morning (the town of St. Lucia lies at the mouth of an estuary on Lake St. Lucia, the largest inland body of water in South Africa), but it was a dreary morning, threatening rain with a strong wind and lots of blowing sand. In nicer weather, however, it would have been a great area to explore, as the town is surrounded by the massive iSimangaliso Wetland Park, an UNESCO World Heritage site.
While in St. Lucia, We also kept our eyes open for wandering hippos, as we had heard that it wasn’t unusual for hippos to stroll the city streets (see, e.g., this very recent article on St. Lucia), but, alas fortunately, we left St. Lucia without seeing a single hippo.