A Belated Post About A Belated Honeymoon

George International is the smallest airport I've ever seen. You exit the boeing right where it stops on the asphalt; and walking through the whole airport - from baggage carousel to arrivals - will take about as long as it would to walk through my garden at home. On first impact, the entire airport premises felt like someone casually inserted a landing strip on a lush, green farm in the middle of nowhere. Quite charming, really. Far removed from what I expected (because my frame of reference is limited to the international airports in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban & Abu Dhabi).

Driving to our hotel, everything seemed so far removed from each another - and so quiet. Now I believe that the establishment of the towns were probably just as laid back as its inhabitants. Please don't mistake this to mean that everything around here is dingy or uncivilised. Not at all! It's just not as big & clustered as the metropolitan areas I've grown used to back home.

Habit dictated that we do not embark on any adventures/activities immediately after check-in, so we unpacked & relaxed in our hotel room at the Protea Hotel King George, resting in anticipation of our big Hike Day the following morning. If only we knew...

Goukamma/Buffalo Bay & Knysna, Day 1
We got up early & hit the road towards Buffalo Bay after breakfast. We wanted to hike one of the trails in the Goukamma Nature Reserve. Unfortunately, although I'm not a fly-by-the-seat-of her-pants kind of girl, we did not properly plan for our outing. Furthermore, all SANParks apparently do not operate within the same guidelines as is used for the Kruger National Park - there were no actual gates to the reserve, no guides/forest officials on site to answer any of our permit queries, and no clear directions we amateur hikers could safely follow without the possibility of getting lost out there.
We were, however, not too perturbed and decided to drive on past Knysna to see the Valley of the Ferns. As luck would have it, the situation was the same over there. After driving on a dirt road for over 10km (and in the Chevrolet Spark this felt like an eternity), we reached our destination, where none of the offices were manned and we finally gave up under the assumption that nothing is open around here on a Sunday.
In the end, our first day was spent driving around. The magnificent views on our various Garmin routes did make up for it some, but we weren't too impressed with George/Knysna yet.

George, Day 2
After the holiday disaster, which was Day 1, we really did not feel up to spending too much time in the (very tiny) rental car again. Unfortunately the dismal weather brought along certain constraints, so we christened the day Museum Monday instead.
We started at the Outeniqua Transport Museum in George (aka base camp). They have so many cool, vintage things in there! Old trains, cars, furniture, phones, typewriters, machines, photos...and since all the locals were hard at work, we had the place to ourselves. Almost. I'm ecstatic to tell you that the entrance fee is a mere R20.00 per person and having an informative, closer look at everything they have on display kept us happily occupied until lunch time. Unfortunately the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe no longer runs due to the extreme flood damage to the tracks in 2006, but we hope to get up the mountain on the Outeniqua Power Van later this week.
After lunch, we stopped at the George Museum in town. Entrance to the museum is free of charge and from what I understand, the building used to be a hotel before it was eventually converted to house a private collector's relics. My favourite room was one filled with various phonographs & gramophones.

Plettenberg Bay, Day 3
If you're down there, you have to do just one thing to make it all worthwhile - buy a "triptic" ticket for Monkeyland, Birds of Eden & Jukani. The monkey & big cat tours lasts about an hour each, but the bird tour is self-guided, so you can take as long as you like. We had to drive over 90km to get to Monkeyland, but from there you can work your way back by stopping at each sanctuary on your way and we had so much fun that we forgot to feed ourselves. For the entire day. Two people who sometimes love food more than we love each other. Do you get how awesome these tours are yet?
On our way back to Base Camp, we stopped - still starving, but happy - at Radical Raptors for a bird of prey demonstration. During the demo they fly so close to you that the barn owl head-butted me. It was fantastic! You even get to don a glove for them to perch on for something a bit more face-to-face. Also, I learnt that vultures are the cutest ugly birds ever - and they make noises I've never heard come out of anything (alive/mechanical) ever before.

George/Outeniqua Mountains, Day 4
We were so relieved when we received confirmation that the Outeniqua Power Van was taking a trip up the mountain today (they make use of railways in use today, so they need to get permission from Worcester first). Absolutely gorgeous views! They take you 25km up the Outeniqua Mountains to where the railway line & Montagu Pass intersect in a vintage-looking, diesel-powered railbus. After our trip I finally understand why the Protea is our National Flower. You have to see them bloom in the wild...

George/Redberry Farm, Day 5
After a day of sitting (on our mountain drive), we felt up to something more active & visited Redberry Farm to walk their enormous Hedge Maze. Despite what we were told, we eventually gave up after 1,5 hours & only 4 strawberry stations. Such fun!

Oudtshoorn, Day 6
We visited the Cango Wildlife Ranch just outside Oudtshoorn today, but we both felt that we should have done Oudtshoorn either before Plett or at another time of year. Day 3 completely overshadows our Cango Wildlife Ranch experience. Mostly because of the weather - Oudtshoorn is just not warm enough in September yet; and I don't mean I love the stifling 50° C heat they are exposed to mid-summer, but the crocodiles do & so they were a bit lethargic during our visit, which meant that I didn't do the Crocodile Cage Dive like I wanted to. (They would've allowed me to, but the crocodiles didn't seem to interested in anything other than staying immobile.) The highlight of our day, however, was still getting to see the crocs at such a close distance (you can walk on a suspension bridge across one of the pools & look down at them below your feet) - and the inquisitive little duikertjie that rubbed up against our legs & feet inside the Wallaby Walkabout.

Buffalo Bay Good-bye, Day 7
We spent most of our morning at Buffalo Bay before our flight back to Johannesburg. We drove to Victoria Bay first, but it pales in comparison with the beach @ Buffalo Bay (unless you're into surfing, I guess).

And that was our trip. Enjoy some of our happy snaps below. (I've been back at work less than 2 weeks & I'm ready to go back.)

Our Standard Hotel Room (which could easily have accommodated 4 adults)
Hotel View(Poolside)
View From The Rocks (Buffalo Bay)
Pink 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air (Transport Museum, belongs to Private Owner)
Colourful Phonograph (George Museum)

Lemurs sunbathing (Monkey Land)
Female Eclectus Parrot (Birds of Eden)
Jaquars (Jukani)
Vulture (Radical Raptors)
At the top of our Outeniqua Power Van trip
Inside the Hedge Maze (Redberry Farm)


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