18th May, 2017

Hello friends!

I woke up on the sixth morning (26th February, 2017), feeling extremely relaxed and calm. As I opened my eyes, right in front of me was the sight of the beautiful Indian Ocean. It took a moment to realize that it was not a dream.

Breakfast at Alexander Guest House

The breakfast experience at Alexanders was out of this world.

Firstly, the breakfast spread was quite lavish. Apart from the usual vegetarian & non-vegetarian options like cold cuts, jams,fresh fruits, juices,etc.; their specialty were the different kinds of freshly baked bread. Then of course was our surprise “the home-made Muesli” (which is made by the owner himself)  – Roasted dry fruits mixed with some sweet treats, honey and muesli; the smell of which had spread across the entire hotel and we were waiting to dig into it!

Secondly, the service was so personalized – a smiling young lady waited on us, talked warmly to us about a lot of random things about our journey so far and noted down our preferences for the hot breakfast. (She noted down our choices in her diary and remembered them on the next day.)

Lastly, was the breath taking view (I just cannot get over talking about it over and over again!!!). They had put some tables out on the main deck which allowed us to have our morning coffee whilst enjoying the panoramic view of the Ocean. Things like those, made sure breakfast was just not a routine affair every morning, but something we keenly looked forward to.

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Today we had planned to visit the Cango Caves and the Ostrich Farms at Oudtshoorn.


MIRINDA fun facts : A lot of people like to spend one night at Oudtshoorn. The town is very similar to Knysna in terms of the look and feel. Plus, it also has a good mix of hotels and restaurants.



OUDTSHOORN


Oudtshoorn known as the “ostrich capital of the world” is a town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. With approximately 60,000 inhabitants, it is the largest town in the Little Karoo region. The town’s economy is primarily on the tourism industry and ostrich farming. Oudtshoorn is home to the world’s largest ostrich population, with a number of specialized ostrich breeding farms, such as the Safari Show Farm and the Highgate Ostrich Show Farm.

We left for Oudtshoorn from Alexander Guest House around 9:00 am. Oudtshoorn was located approximately 120 kms from our hotel and took us about 1.5 hours to reach. A significant portion of the drive involves driving through the mountains. It was quite different than driving through long open roads. The sharp turns, the uphill and downhill adjustments, the blind corners – made it a super thrilling affair. The drive itself was of course once again extremely beautiful and scenic (as it had been throughout our trip) so I won’t spend more time on highlighting the drive and let the photo below speak for themselves. 

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After a smooth ride up and down the hills, we finally reached the Cango Caves at Oudtshoorn around 11:00 a.m.


CANGO CAVES


The Cango Caves are located in Precambrian limestones at the foothills of the Swartberg range near the town of Oudtshoorn. The principal cave is most popular tourist caves and attracts many visitors from overseas. Although the extensive system of tunnels and chambers go on for over 4 km only about a quarter of this is open to visitors, who may proceed into the cave only in groups supervised by a guide. Some of the caves here are a heritage site and said that Cave paintings and artifacts indicate that the caves were in use throughout prehistory over a long period during the Middle and Later Stone Ages

Again, like the Table Mountains and the Boulders Bay, the parking at the Cango Caves was also straightforward, volunteers made sure we got a safe car park. We bought our tickets for the 60 minute Heritage tour, grabbed some snacks from the shops inside and waited for our turn. At around 12:00 pm, we along with the other guests, entered the Cango Caves. Every tour had an English speaking guide assigned to them and so were we.

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Plan View of the Cango Caves

MIRINDA fun facts: Two types of tours are available for the Cango Caves. While we selected the 60 minutes Heritage tour, there is also an option of doing a 90 minutes Adventure tour which is opted by many hardcore adventure enthusiasts. The tours commence every hour from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. So don’t worry if you a miss a particular hour. As long as you are there within the operational timings, you won’t miss out on the Cango Caves.


From the moment we saw the humongous cave formation at the entrance, we knew this was going to be something spectacular.  Upon entering the entrance chamber we were immediately conscious of the increased humidity and pleasantly warm temperature. A faint musty odour pointed to the presence of a small colony of bats which still had made the cave their home. Over the course of 60 minutes, the guide took around the different chambers in the caves explaining the different formations, their origin, the formation technique, the science behind it and even the funny nick names which had assigned to some odd looking formations over the year. A few names which I recollect were: the beak of a Giant Eagle, feeding its chick; Fourteen-post bridal bed; The head of Old Nick, The tame Cave Devil, etc.

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At the first chamber, the guide turned off the lights and the entire place went pitch dark. This gave us an idea that how difficult this discovery would have been at a time when men only used lanterns and were not equipped with modern gadgets. It was both scary and fascinating.

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MIRINDA fun facts: For a long time the Cango Caves were used as a concert hall hosting different musicians. However, given its historical significance, concerts are now banned inside the caves. To showcase the acoustical capabilities of the caves, the guide sings “Shosholoza” (a very popular African song) while playing drums on the limestones rocks. The voice travels through the caves and hits a lovely note which was very soothing to the ears.


These caves had been formed over a millions of years. Some of them were still growing at a trickling speed of 2-3 cms each year. Standing there in the presence of such ancient natural formations, understanding the entire process, add to it the signing and the drums made me realize how lucky I was to witness this – It was truly unreal.

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Post the Cango Caves tour, we headed straight to the Highgate Ostrich Farms.


MIRINDA fun facts: There a number of Ostrich Farms in Oudtshoorn which are open to public. We chose Highgate as it is more renowned and had great reviews. Make sure which ever farm you select, it covers all aspects of the tour and has good reviews. We advise you to call the farms prior to visiting them for confirmation of timings. Most farms close by 4:00 pm.



HIGHGATE OSTRICH SHOW FARM


Highgate Ostrich Show farm is located around 10 kms. from Oudtshoorn. It has been telling fascinating stories of ostriches and ostrich farming for over a hundred years. Its tours have delighted visitors from all over the world. One can meet ostriches face to face, learn about ostrich farming and enjoy everyone’s favourite – Ostrich races!

We arrived at Highgate Ostrich farm at around 2:00 p.m. It was just a half hour drive from the Cango Caves. We headed straight to the café as we were quite hungry and quickly grabbed a sandwich before the tour commenced.

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MIRINDA fun facts: The tour fees were R100 per person where one could even opt for a tour with lunch which was R175 per person. We opted for the tour only as we had heard okish reviews about the lunch.


The tour started with giving us an introduction of Ostrich, their characteristics, diet, age, weight etc. The guide also explained to us how to differentiate between male and female ostrich. Important stress was laid onto the feathers and how they were collected from the male and female Ostrich birds. They also allowed us to touch and feel the feathers and the leather made from the Ostrich skin. Then the tour shifted to the Ostrich eggs. They took us to the hatching room where each egg was examined, carefully preserved and systematically hatched. They also gave a live demo on how the process worked and touched upon the important points in determining the fertility of the egg. Post that, we got our chance to play with the new born Ostrich birds. We could even hold the cute little birds in our hands and click photographs with them.

Then the tour shifted to the fully grown Ostrich birds. At the touring spot, they had kept a few tamed birds for the visitors to see and feed them. The guide invited everyone to participate in feeding them. Seeing those long necks and huge beaks, I was very reluctant initially. However, seeing others perform, gave me confidence. I picked up some seeds in my palm and stretched my open palm in front of the birds. Amazingly, a number of Ostrich birds gathered around me and started rapidly feeding from my palm. Thankfully, no one bit me!!! (Later the tour guide informed us that Ostrich did not have teeth to bite!!)

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For the final part of the tour, we had to go the larger Highgate Ostrich farm (which was next door to where the earlier parts of the tour were held). There we were given a chance to sit on the Ostrich birds (while they were being held by the ostrich jockey) and pose for photographs. Now came the best part. The guide asked people to volunteer to ride an Ostrich. To my utter shock and surprise, my husband volunteered. He sat on the Ostrich and as soon as the jockey let the Ostrich go, it was a total chaos for the next 1 minute. All the guests busted into laughter. The Ostrich was running left, right and center and my husband was trying his best to hang on. The jockey was screaming, giving him directions on what to do.  It was hilarious. Finally, the jockey helped him get down and my husband got to keep all his limbs in one piece!!!

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MIRINDA suggests: You must try riding the Ostrich. It’s a rare opportunity. Additionally, it’s an amusing experience which will make you laugh every time you see the video.  


At the end of the tour, we were also shown a professional jockey race of Ostriches. We were asked to bet (just for fun) on the Ostrich we thought would win! Ours lost!!!

The guests were later taken to their souvenir shop. It was filled with various artifacts and collectibles like hand painted Ostrich eggs, Ostrich leather bags, feathers, show pieces etc. We shopped for some Ostrich souvenirs and started the drive back to Knysna.


MIRINDA suggests: We recommend you check the location of your selected Ostrich farm i.e. with reference to the positioning from Knysna and Cango Caves. This will help you in deciding the order of visit between the Ostrich Farm and the Cango Caves and in-turn save a considerable time of your journey back home.


After a 1.5 hour drive back, we reached the hotel at around 5:30 pm. Again as the previous day, the hotel made our reservations for dinner. Today the cuisine we chose was Mexican- They booked us at Knysna’s famous mexican restaurant, La Paz. The reservations and the shuttle service truly made our lives very easy. (No googling required, no Uber) – just let the hotel take care of it.

We rested for bit before jumping once again in our own private pool. We took out our binoculars and tried to spot some whales or dolphins, while enjoying the lovely house wines and a single malt!

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At 8:00 p.m., we headed out for dinner to La Paz. We were excited to try out some Mexican cuisine as we hadn’t tried any during the trip.

La Paz was a small Mexican restaurant located on the Main Road next to Nedbank. They had a wide selection of Nachos, Enchiladas, Tacos, Quesadillas, Jalapeno Poppers, Chimichangas and more… Our personal favourites were their Margaritas and Churros.

Post a delicious dinner, we called our shuttle to pick us up and drop us back to the hotel. It had been a long day for us with the drive to and back from Oudtshoorn coupled with the tours of Cango Caves and Ostrich farm.

Once we reached the hotel, we immediately checked back into our rooms, quickly dove under the blankets and called it a day.

 Day 07: Bungee Jump at Plettenberg Bay.. coming up next…

Follow us on www.mirindatravels.com to know all about our experience!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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