I joined up with Earthstompers Garden Route and Addo National Park tour for an amazing 5 days of sight-seeing and good company. Day 3: Oudtshoorn – Knysna – Sedgefield
“I’m going to show you the most expensive view in South Africa” claims Charlene, our Earthstompers tour guide.
As she says this we are driving through the heart of the valley, seeing some nice but normal looking houses surrounding a very large pond, complete with fronds. Well actually it’s the River Estuary of Knysna, the famous town of The Garden Route’s Lake District.
It’s also place with no elephants, thanks to woodsman killing all but 20 of them in the 1960s for the crime of ‘getting in the way’. What put the nail in the giant elephant coffin however, was the bright idea of the local council to let a hunter go kill just one more, to determine the species of course, because science. He killed 11. The final 9 were helped to hightailed it out of there, by being taken to Kruger National Park. A great idea in theory, but the completely different winter weather conditions at the time of their introduction and the changed sources of food meant they couldn’t survive.
These days, elephants sightings are claimed from time to time, something like big-foot or the lochness monster, but there has been no proof. Perhaps it’s just the ghost of elephants past trampling trees and leaving giant droppings in revenge.
As for the view, I’m sure it’s nice and all but I get the feeling it won’t live up to the hype. Then we make it to the lookout at the top of the cliff. Up where South Africa’s hottest property lies.
Well ok, it’s quite spectacular.
Bright blue Indian Ocean views stretch out as far as the eye can see to one side. On the other, the sun pokes its way through light cloud cover to to glisten on the rocky ocean inlet below. I’m reminded of coastal Australia, where I grew up, and not for the first time today.
We spent the morning driving through the eucalyptus forests of the Outiniqua Pass, yes Aussie Eucalyptus, brought over for paper plantations. We pass through The Garden Route’s capital town, George, named after England’s King George the Fourth. But the final destination of this particular drive, is a bushy riverside town, aptly named Wilderness.
It might be overcast, but by golly we were going to canoe this river, especially with promises of a waterfall at the end. Despite some serious against-wind battle, the river canoe cruise is calm and pleasant. All kinds of birds squawk from the dense tree cover to either side, or float right along with you. Back home, my fellow Aussie paddling partner and I concur, this would be exactly the kind of place you’d find a croc. While we’re assured that’s not likely here, we can’t help keeping a sharp eye out.
Making it to shore with all our limbs still attached (at the front of the pack, I might add) we commence the leisurely bush walk to the waterfall. Scrubby bush (known here as bushveld, no denying that’s a fun word!) grew on either side of the wooden path, broken only by the trickling creek running through it. From time to time it was necessary to duck a low-lying tree branch, or of course, grab onto one of the vines and make like Tarzan.
Ok seriously, did I just canoe right back to Australia?
I may have already suspected it, but the small waterfall at the end confirmed it. I had seen this place before. And I kept telling everyone, I’m sure they were sick of hearing it, but I was tripping. At least, settling on a large rock to eat a picnic lunch purchased this morning, I felt very much at home.