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Category “English – Touring”

Netherlands and Paris tour 2018 – Part 1

Saturday, 6 October, 2018

Netherlands & Paris, September 2018

Part 1 – Getting there,  and getting started

 

I have done a bit of touring through Southern Africa.   Then on a good morning my wife suggested we do something different for our 30th anniversary.  Let’s visit the Netherlands, said she. So we went to the Netherlands.  Her ruse was that the friend that married us back then now lives in the Netherlands with his family for the past 10 years, and would it not be a splendid idea for us to renew our vows before him.  It was said in a fashion that did not seriously invited debate, so I considered it safe to agree.  Not that I disagreed with the idea, though.

 

Banking on a visa

Getting the Schengen visa turned out to be less of a daunting task than expected. If you can get parking in Cape Town, you’re good to go. In fact, the most daunting part of this project was to obtain bank statements. This took six hours.

See, the bank statements had to be in English. To do that the bank required that I formally change my language preference with them from Afrikaans to English. To do that they insisted that I should first provide them afresh with proof if existence and addresses, because the law requires that with a change of address.  And as I was changing my address from “straat” in Afrikaans to “street” in English, this would constitute a change of address.   The fact that one can show a letter that you have received from the bank at your residence also does not convince them that this is where you actually stay.

Once I jumped through all the hoops, they insisted that my wife must do the same, as she has signing powers on my account. So we did just that. But then the bank said they won’t accept the certified documents we provided. No, my wife had to appear before them in person. When I started to show some discontent they offered to solve the problem by simply removing my wife as a signatory from my account. I told them I would rather remain happily married instead and thus physically produced my wife at the bank.  Afterwards I wrote a letter to the bank that made me feel a lot better.

Once I got past the bank, though, it was a fairly simple process.

 

Friday, September 21 – Saturday 22nd

Leaving on a jet plane

On our way to the airport on our day of departure, we got blocked away from the road that should have taken us to the airport.  The road was blocked by traffic officers.  Seeing a large number of taxis in the distance near Bellville taxi ranks, my heart sank. A taxi strike may well cause us to not be able to reach the airport in time, or even at all.  My wife did a quick check on Twitter, which indicated that there had been a shooting incident.  We managed to find an alternative route, and arrived at the airport only minutes later than intended.

 

Dubai to Schiphol

Cape Town to Dubai took nine and a half hours. We arrived in Dubai in 34 degrees Celsius – half-past-five in the morning! Fortunately we left less than three hours later, before the temperature could get serious. Some seven hours later we touched down in a wet Amsterdam – it rains there from time to time.

Schiphol rendered a novel experience: friendly immigration officials. Kudos to the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee officers.  Google was kind enough to teach me how this word is pronounced.  (I just thought this was something you should know).

At Schiphol you basically step from the airport building into the train station.  We contacted our friends on WhatsApp to find out to which of the three Hilversum stations we should catch a train. But before we could …

Netherlands and Paris tour 2018 – Part 2

Saturday, 6 October, 2018

Part 2 –  Day visit to Amsterdam

 

Monday, 24th of September

Amsterdam

We headed to Amsterdam for the day, under guidance of our host.  It really helps tagging along with someone who not only knows where the station is, but also how the ticket sales and incidental detail works.  Such as where you need to run your ticket through the machine when you enter the station, and again when you leave the station at your destination.

The bicycle is evidently king in the Netherlands.

Even assuming that not all these riders headed for the Starbucks, it still remains impressive.

There is a complete network of roads for bicycles, and quite often cars need go yield to bicycles. Pedestrians too – something cyclists are renowned for reminding you about lest you forget, or worse, dare to transgress.

Under guidance of our host, we also travelled to the station by bicycle, but you must be very attentive to the rules to get it right. In fact, kids get trained in this at school and get “certified” after an evaluation. We, of course, did not have the benefit of that training. So we stuck to the back roads.

Katie Melua sings about the nine million bicycles in Beijing. She should come here.

The bicycles are heavy duty models with large wheels and with all manners of saddle bags and carriers. More like the SUV format of bicycles. I guess the reason for the sturdiness is to enable you to travel with your luggage. Everyone rides bicycles, and in their office clothes. I mean, really smartly dressed folks travel like that.

In downtown Amsterdam you need to pay even more attention. There you need to watch out, in addition to vehicles, for bicycles, pedestrians and tourists, also for the trams.

And if you’re from a country where you keep left and pass right, you really need to concentrate. Oh, of course in Amsterdam there are boats too, but they tend to stick to the water, which helps.

Everything is automated. Train ticket sales happen online or at an automated booth. You swipe your card as you enter the station, and again at the station where you get off. This opens the gates for you and registers the length of your travel. It works really smooth, but it is not cheap. A train station is part of the setup at Schiphol airport. And at Amsterdam Centraal the train station is also the place where trams and ferries meet.

Everything works efficiently.

 

I Am sterdam

You need to have a look at a map to get an idea of the Amsterdam water ways.

[Source:  Map Data 2018 © Google  South Africa]

We started our day with a channel boat trip. Ours was a fixed trip, as opposed to the hop on hop off tours. Commentary is provided in 19 languages on headphones, but I thought it best to stick to a language that I was familiar with.

One gets the feel of an old town with houses crammed together in limited space. Some of the building lines have become skew because of foundations having been damaged over time.  Because by “old” I mean really, really old.

Limited land space had caused the Dutch to go upwards many stories, rather than expansive on a floor plan.  And the “building line” is basically the next door building.  One can understand why the Dutch had to develop proper rules on various servitudes providing for neighbourly tolerance.

After the boat trip we took the ferry that crosses the large channel to the northeast of the station.

We had no business on the other side of the channel.  But the ferry was for free, departing every three minutes, so we did it just because it is there.

To reach the ferry you walk through a subway.  As everywhere, bicycles galore.

Inside the tunnel, the walls are covered, not with …

Netherlands and Paris tour 2018 – Part 3

Saturday, 6 October, 2018

Part 3 – Paris

 September 25th– 27 th

Paris

Shortly before our departure to Europe, we had contact with a relative who is living in Paris temporarily.  He offered us his flat to stay in as he would be out of town during the time of our tour.

So with our Dutch host as guide we left Schiphol for Orley airport South of Paris.  From there we caught a bus that took us to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. We found the flat a 340m walk from the far side of the Arc de Triomphe.  Or if you want to be pedantic, 300m from the near side of the circle.

 

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe turned out to be a massive thing.   Twelve big streets connect at the circle around the Arc de Triomphe, with no traffic lights to regulate traffic. Although I found it entertaining to watch, I would not want to drive there!

[Source:  Imagery 2018 © Google, map data © Google]

 

 

Big bus tours

We got tickets for the hop on hop off Big Bus Tours bus, valid for two days.   We were told that if you start your trip on the bus past 16:00 in the afternoon, then that day does not count. So we trundled down the Champs Elysees, whiling away the time until four before boarding the bus.

We considered this to be an exploratory trip, so we did not hop off. We wanted to get the feel of the route. Just as I got to the Eiffel tower, my camera memory was full, and I had to resort to some picture with my phone instead.  The bus does not wait.

 

Eiffel

The next day we did the tour again, this time getting off at the Eiffel tower to begin with.  As we got to the Eiffel tower, I realised that I have not put the camera batteries back after I charged them the previous evening.  Fortunately I found a set of back-up batteries in the camera bag that I actually forgot about!

It’s really no use describing the details of a tour like this. It’s like taking pictures. I later gave up on taking them. Paris is massive and old, with a seemingly endless supply of really impressive old buildings.  And as far as the Eiffel tower is concerned, every ten meters that you walk in any direction from or around it, you find a better angle for a picture.  You just can’t win!

What left me in awe was hanging around these highly recognizable landmarks in the world such as the Eiffel tower and the Louvre and the Notre Dame.  Just being there was just amazing.

According to the running commentary on the bus, the Champs Elysees is a rather expensive street to run a business from. I was thus surprised to find, tucked away on the Champs Elysees, even a MacDonald’s.

It turned out to be the start of fashion week in Paris. Everywhere girls in bridal or other fancy dresses got photographed against the backdrop of the Eiffel tower or other exotic views.

 

Lafayette

Between changing from the Red Bus to the Blue Bus (for different routes) we visited one of the Lafayette buildings to get to the rooftop which offers a commanding view of Paris – for free.  Getting anything free here is noteworthy.  Even toilets require payment.  Speaking of which, I was initially rather surprised to find a female cleaner going about her business of cleaning the gents’ toilets, unperturbed by the gents using the urinals.  I never quite fancied taking a leak as a spectator sport.

Sorry, I digress.  To get to the top floor of the Lafayette building, you pass a number of exotic stores. At some of these outlets you can buy yourself some really hideous outfits for €1800 and upwards if you are so inclined.   Not even the …

Netherlands and Paris tour 2018 – Part 4

Saturday, 6 October, 2018

Part 4

Friday, 28 September 2018

Exploring locally – Hilversum museums

Our host took my wife to IKEA. I understand IKEA to be a shop selling furniture and stuff.  Fearing that my wife might come home with a double bed or something that would be guaranteed to not fit into our luggage, I decided to explore a bit of Hilversum by bicycle to calm my nerves down.

Pretty much everyone can ride a bicycle, but doing so whilst obeying rules is a real novel experience. I decided to rather stick to quiet streets and watch what fellow cyclists do. I also ran a quick check on Google on the things you should not do while cycling in the Netherlands. And off I went.

These big bikes are very comfortable, but if Lance Armstrong had to do the Tour de France with such a bicycle he would probably have become a plumber or something on the side to put food on the table.

I am happy to report that things went rather well. One interesting observation is that there is no need to stick to smaller roads. In fact, it is on the smaller roads where you may find yourself sharing the road with cars. On the big roads, on the other hand, you have your own cycle lane.  One must just remember to stay on the lane on the right hand side of the road and to go around a circle anti-clockwise.

My first stop was the Hilversum museum.  There I found a nude art exhibition by Carla van de Puttelaar.  I really only found that out only after I entered.  From there I headed for the Instituut vir Beeld en Geluid.  This is a cultural archive and museum that collects information on the Dutch audio-visual heritage.

I spent quite a few hours there and had great fun!

They have a number of interactive activities where you can be the star in your show, for instance being the driver of a car in a car chase scene in a movie, or reading the news.  Recordings hereof are then sent to your email where it is stored for thirty days.

For my navigation I was reliant on Google Maps, but only on the voice prompts, of course.  I would be looking at a sudden death if I were to look on my phone’s screen while staying out of trouble with the bicycle.  However, picture (or try listening to it in your imagination) the English voice prompts and accent on street names such as Gijsbrecth van Amstel street, Roeitjiesweg, and Burgemeester Gülcherlaan.  I missed quite a number of turnoffs, because I was looking for a street name that sounded like the voice prompts.

 

Saturday, 29 September

Naarden Vesting

The Naarden Fortress city is built in a star format with fortified walls and a moat around it to keep attackers out.  Napoleon’s brother, however, apparently did manage to breach the fortress, but that was a while ago. These days you can go there without running the risk of being held at bay by the locals.  One can do a boat trip around the city in the moat for a small fee.

As with many of these places, being there of course makes it impossible to get a view of the place.  Below is a 3d picture from Google Maps. The colour scheme makes it look a bit strange, but the two variations of dark green are the water masses surrounding the city, providing the required security against breaching.

[Source:  Imagery © 2018 Google, Map data © Google]

This is one of the entrances to the Vesting, viewed from the inside.  Note the ground wall behind the building.

In what used to be the court house (or rather the mayor’s house) a local gave us the historical background. One room appeared to have been the court room. As this visit commemorated our 30…

Netherlands and Paris tour 2018 – Part 5

Saturday, 6 October, 2018

Part 5

 

Delta Werke Neeltje Jans

The South-western province of the Netherlands is Zeeland.  Geographically, this part has large peninsulas.  In 1953 the Netherlands suffered from massive floods.  The floods caused the forced evacuation of 70 000 people, and left more than 1800 people dead.  More than 47000 houses were damaged, and dykes were breached at more than 60 places.

 

The Dutch then embarked on a massive project, Delta Works, to build new water restraining mechanisms.

[Source:  Imagery © 2018 Google, Map data © Google]

 

The works consist of dams, sluices, locks, dykes, levees and storm surge barriers in South Holland and Zeeland.  The purpose of all these was to shorten the Dutch coastline by building dykes and sluices on the outer perimeter,  and in doing so reducing the number of dikes that had to be raised further inland at different places.

[Source:  Imagery © Google, Data SIO, NOAA, US Navy, NGA, GEBCO, Map data © 2018 Google]

The problem here is similar to climbing on top of the Eiffel tower – once up there you can’t see the Eiffel anymore. These delta constructions are huge, and given the layout of the land being so flat you have no vantage point to get to see the project.  Hence the need to resort to Google maps just to give an indication of what one is looking at.  Suffice maybe just to say that I was awestruck.

Bear in mind that the Dutch had the ability to (and did) reclaim land from somewhere in the 1400’s already, and they are still at it, only better.

If ever you get the chance to see the Dutch movie, De Storm, do watch it.  It tells the story of the 1953 storm that caused havoc, and preceded the construction of these Delta works series of dykes.

As a child we were told this story of the boy that put his finger in the hole in a dyke to prevent it from getting worse.  After having seen these dykes, I rather doubt that story.

 

Monday, 1 October

Utrecht

Utrecht is a 15 minutes train drive to the South of Hilversum.   We stuck to the part of town that centers around the Dom church, so I have no real idea what the rest of Utrecht would look like.

 

Dom church

It’s a Gothic church, huge and old, as these structures invariably seem to be.  Interesting here is that the tower sits apart from the rest of the church.  See in the picture below the tower left, with the huge space between it and the rest of the church to the right.

[Source:  Imagery © 2018 Google, Map data © Google]

It used to be one structure, but a storm in 1674 caused the connecting part of the church to collapse.  Bearing in mind how large the remaining part of the church still is, the complete structure must have resembled a warehouse.  Size wise, I mean, not architecturally, of course.

Serene church organ music was playing there.  Well, I guess that’s what church music is supposed to sound like.

Culture

From a cultural perspective, my wife was very happy to find in the Dom church a book written and illustrated by South African writer, Piet Grobler.  She also found Miffy.   Miffy is the one on the right below.  This bunny had been created by Dutch author Dick Bruna in 1955, and has featured in more than 30 books since then.

 

In service of the community

We also went to the Olivier’s pub, which is housed in an old church.  The original pipe organ is still there, but unlike as in the Dom church, nobody was playing it.  I’m probably not supposed to say this but I found the atmosphere in the Olivier’s church somewhat lighter.  Their wine on offer is not limited to communion.  Come to think of it, the architecture in …

Elandsbaai road trip

Sunday, 25 March, 2018

March 2018

We went on a little road trip to Elandsbaai recently.

First we did a stop-over at Stompneusbaai.

[Source:  Imagery ©2018 DigitalGlobe, DigitalGlobe, Data SIO, NOAA, US Navy, NGA GEBCO, Map data ©2018 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd]

St Helenabaai

The following picture had been taken from St Helenabaai to the North-East, the direction of our tour, with Elandsbaai just out of the picture to the left.

At the spot where I took the picture there was a warning sign indicating that pregnant Zebras would be crossing there.  We waited a bit, but not even those of the non-pregnant variant showed themselves.

Looking over the sea it seemed as if a Jack Sparrow crew moored out in the bay with a ship drifting in nothingness.

Getting the show on the road, our first stop was at Velddrif, at the Riviera hotel.

Sorry, I know, the pictures looks like the forecourt of a car sales outfit, but I actually intended to give an idea of what the hotel looks like seen from the river.  We had a very nice brunch there at very fair prices.

Just on the other side of the bridge, a number of (among other things) eateries could be seen.  I think next time I should go and check out the Kuiergat Pub.

Looking down from the stoep of the hotel where we had our brunch, I spotted this father and son combination in their boat.

I could just imagine the boy tuning his dad:  “Dad, when you said we’re going out on a boat, I had it play out differently in my mind.”

Velddrif/Laaiplek to Elandsbaai

From the hotel it is a leisurely 70km’s drive on tar road to Elandsbaai.  But first we had to do some shopping.  Laaiplek’s Tops has a Spar too.  A big one nogals.  No, I did not take a picture.

We travelled through Dwarskersbos and past Rocher pans.  Approaching the t-junction where you turn left to Elandsbaai and right to Auroa, one can see Klein Tafelberg in the distance.  And an arty variation of style and colours of different asphalts.

Just before Elandsbaai you find Verlorenvlei.  As the name indicates, it is supposed to be a water mass where birds to their thing.  If I may quote from http://verlorenvlei.co.za/home/

Verlorenvlei is one of the most important estuarine systems in the Western Cape and one of the largest natural wetlands along the west coast of South Africa. It is also one of the few coastal fresh water lakes in the country. The system comprises a coastal lake and reedswamp connected to the sea by a small estuary. Situated amid dramatic topography, the lake is approximately 13.5 km long and 1.4 km wide and occurs in the zone of transition between the karroid and fynbos vegetation types. This results in the region displaying a high species diversity typical of an ecotone area. (RAMSAR)

Due to the drought, though, it seems fair to assume that this estuary does at the moment not quite meet estuarian requirements.  Below is a picture I took, and just below a comparison with what it looked like when the Google Streetview car passed through in 2010.  Spot the difference.

Elandsbaai

For years I had wanted to sleep over in the Elandsbaai hotel.  At long last we now did exactly this.

The entrance to the hotel.

The front view of the hotel, viewed from the sea.

The view from the stoep.  Those promising clouds did, in fact, deliver a bit of rain that night.

View from the upper sea front rooms.

And on the other side of this mountain is where the Saldanha Sishen train would come through.

Incidentally we caught the train on its return trip from Saldanha.  Apparently the longest this train had been on occasion was 7,5km (660 wagons).  I did not count the wagons, but I would guess this train was closer to its normal …

A Taste of West Coast

Wednesday, 5 August, 2015

Laaiplek & Stompneus Bay

We recently went for a short weekend to Stompneus Bay, my home town. Kaart

It’s a leisurely two hours drive to get there.

A river runs through it

We arrived at the twin towns of Laaiplek  / Velddrift on Saturday afternoon.  The Berg river runs through the town and reaches the sea there. Hawepunt

Velddrift is where the annual Berg River canoe marathon ends.Laaiplek arial

[Source:  Imagery @2015 CNES/ Astrium, Cnes /Spot Image, Digital Globe, Landsat,Map data @2015 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

Some 80 species of birds can be found in the estuary there.  I’m told there are 30 000 birds there, but they did not say who counted them.

Down by the river

I found myself just too late to catch the SA Fisheries Museum open.  They just closed three minutes prior to my arrival.  Will simply have to come back later for that.

We attended the Laaiplek hotel for lunch.  We sat outside.Laaiplek hotel

And this is the view we had over the river from where we sat.Rivieruitsig

Close by the the Laaiplek Slipway did business.Laaiplek Slipway

And some 100 meters away the Martinho has apparently been docked there since 2005, but sunk in 2010.  Maybe the owners should contact Laaiplek Slipway?Martinho

At the jetty there were very few boats.  Most were out to sea.  Stormkop was there.

Stormkop

Stormkop rear

Shelly Point

Later the evening we returned to Stompneus Bay and headed for Shelly Point where we stayed for the night.

Stomneus Bay is part of the bigger St Helena Bay, where the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama set foot on African soil in November 1497. Vasco da Gama

We studied this at primary school, probably because the school was at Stompneus Bay.  I was never good with dates.  Thank goodness for Wikipedia, nuh?

As we drove along the coast to our destination we could see the trawlers heading out to sea.  Some found fish close by the shore.  We spotted Silver Bounty going about his business very close to the shore at Shelly Point.Silver Bounty

We had a glorious sunset.  I only waited until too late before I took the picture.Sunset

The sound of memories

During the spitbraai dinner at the Bon Shelly Point hotel we were entertained by a gentleman making live music.  Rather nice.

About 04h30 the morning I woke up from what sounded like a helicopter hover overhead.  Later I thought it is probably a truck.  But there were no roads nearby for a truck that can make that kind of noise can drive.  And then it dawned upon me what I was hearing!

I got up and watched out of the window.  Between the lighthouses of Cape St Martin and Shelly Point I counted six trawlers heading to the factories with their loads of fish.  The typical wooden vessels’ engines produce up to 500 horsepower, and the bigger steel vessels up to 1500 horsepower.   Which probably explains the rather beefed up sound effects.  Picture the sound of a lorry’s exhaust brake – and amplify it a number of times.

I got back in bed and found myself still for long time listening to the vessels on their home run, with a smile on my face.  The sweet sound of memories.

 …

To the East of the West

Saturday, 12 July, 2014

A little tour to the Eastern part of the Western Cape

Part 1 – Gouritsmond and Boggomsbaai

Departing from Cape Town on a chilly Sunday morning we made it for an arranged (no, really) nine-o-clock breakfast with friends at Worcester. When we pulled in there the muffins were ready, and the coffee machine was also just heating up.

The idea of the tour was to visit the Harkerville forest to see what it looks like. As my wife published a book that plays out in the Harkerville forest we thought it to be a good idea to just go check that it really looks like how she described it in her book. Incidentally it was a perfect occasion to stretch the legs of my newly acquired five-year old wheels in the form of a Hyundai Tucson.

After the little problem we had with my Mazda bakkie earlier the year I was under some pressure to replace it with something more reliable. However, it turned out that my second vehicle was far less likely to survive any length of time with any level of reliability, and hence we replaced same with the Tucson. I digress, but I cannot resist the urge to just mention that I am very happy that I now still have my 16 year old Mazda.

Following a good breakfast and even better company in Worcester, we departed for the remaining 270 kilometers of our journey for the day. It was in the midst of a cold snap that hit the Western Cape, with temperatures as low as 2° Celsius.

Kaap na Gouritsmond

Source:   Map data ©2014 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google

We arrived at Gouritsmond just after two in the afternoon.  It then turns out that, it being  Sunday, and outside of season, both shops in the town have already closed for business for the day.

Retiefstraat

 

The friendly neighbour, who was also the lady who let us into the rented house, was kind enough to provide us with the necessary foodstuffs to make it through the rest of the day.   That is, of course, one of the charms of your small towns.

Within an hour of our arrival, however, I had to leave again to take our student daughter to neighbouring Kanon, a popular angling spot, to pick up her friends who were out on a hike, and take them all to Boggomsbaai where she would stay for the next few days.

Boggomsbaai huise

I afterwards found that Boggomsbaai even has its own website with some rather interesting postings.

On the beach at Boggomsbaai one could even find a spot to pitch your umbrella between the masses of people.

Strand

Back at Gouritsmond a short recce through the town revealed the damage done to the beach by the flooding of the river earlier this year (only days after we left having spent the summer holiday there).

Strandskade

What you see on the picture is meters of beach sand that had been taken away by the flooding waters, causing the water to now flow somewhat higher now as usual.

The local Municipality seemed hard at work.  Various heaps of driftwood had been collected from the beach and put aside.

Opdrifsels

And given the lack of tourists and the lack of  interest in swimming in the prevailing whether conditions, the plugs for the outlets of the tidal pool had been removed.

Leë getypoel

Of course I would have wanted to swim, but who can swim in such shallow water.  So I rather gave it a miss.

In between heavy bouts of doing nothing, I found the time to do some traffic spotting from our front stoep, just so that I can say I did not do nothing the whole holiday.

Traffic Spotting

The pictures says it all.  It was hugely exciting.  I like this place.

 

Part 2 to follow (with just as riveting action, trust me).

 …

To the East of the West – Part 2

Saturday, 12 July, 2014

Part 2

Continuing our journey to and around the East of the Western Cape.

Harkerville and the Seven Passes Road

We sat a day aside to drive out to the Harkerville Forest to check things out.

Harkerville map[Source:   Map data ©2014 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google  –  You can click on the picture to enlarge it]

A short distance before we got to Harkerville, I recognised Garden of Eden on the left.  No, not from biblical times, but from the occasion when I was about 8 years old and we visited this forest.  I can remember that I quite liked the idea of wandering off on my own pretending to know where I am.  Until I got lost.

With the amused guidance from a guy who sat on a bench watching me running up and down, I eventually made it out of the woods.  Literally.  By that time I was having difficulties breathing as I had something like an asthma attack as a result of the trauma.  According to my wife this rather moving tale partly inspired some of the action in her book (which, included someone getting lost, of course).

The Forestry building at Harkerville.

Harkerville bosbou

Outside is a detailed map of the area.  I notice the one name as “Koffiehoekbos” (Coffee Corner Forest).  Sounds like my kind of corner of the forest.

Detail kaart Harkerville

There are various hiking trails, bicycle trails, and also horse trails.

Perdekop merker

Perdekop roete

Inside the forest you have a rather mysterious athmosphere.   The silence is audible, save for the Knysna Loeries that you can hear and see from time to time.

Mistiek

Oranje

Paddastoele?

I have no idea what these things are, but it seemed like something out of Lord of the Rings.

Karatara

Returning from Harkerville we decided to take an alternative route back.  Once past that last water mass to the West of Knysna, we turned off on a secondary road.  This road takes you a short distance to the interior where your travel on mostly gravel roads on a route that runs roughly parallel with the N2 in a Westerly direction.

Karatara pad[Source:   Map data ©2014 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

The winding road runs through forests and forestry plantations, going through various passes.  The Phantom Pass, Homtini Pass, Karatara Pass, Hoogtekraal Pass.  You cross seven rivers if you do the full route, namely Swart, Hoogekraal, Homtini, Karatara, Silver, Kaaimans, and Touw. (Source:  http://www.southafrica.net/za/en/articles/entry/article-southafrica.net-the-seven-passes).

On this road the settlement of Karatara is found, North of Sedgefield.

Karatara[Source:  Google streetview:  2014 Google Image Data: February 2010]

Apparently the woodcutters that were active in the forests had their licenses to fell trees revoked in 1939.  They had no other skills or place to stay, and the government moved them to Karatara that was established for them.

Woodville Yellow wood tree

At Woodville we turned off to go see the 800 year old yellow wood tree.

Woodville Geelhoutboom

The tree is said to be 33 meters high with a crown width of 34 meters, and a stem circumference of 12 meters.  By any description, this is a largish tree, I think.

A notice next to the tree pleads with the omnipresent assholes to not damage the yellow wood tree, but to rather carve their names on a tree designated for this purpose (the asshole tree?).

By the time we left the tree, light was failing, and we took the escape route South bound to the N2 via Hoekwil.  I think we missed a further few nice passes, but I did not want to traverse those with darkness falling.

We eventually arrived in Gouritsmond well after dark.  Living in the city causes one to become unaccustomed to real darkness.  It’s amazing to drive on the road running past Boggomsbaai and Vleesbaai on the way to Gouritsmond, and to experience the absolute darkness where there is no artificial lighting.

The seven passes road was an absolute delight.  The Tucson behaved exemplary.  I reckon I can safely say that a …

To the East of the West – Part 3

Saturday, 12 July, 2014

Knysna and The Heads

Knysna is really a beautiful place.  It is advisable not to travel through the town on Christmas or New Year.  But then again, if you have nothing to do on those days, that would be a sure way of passing the time.

But I would not want to sound like I’m running the town down.   A cursory look at a map would give a fair indication of (at least part of) Knysna’s popularity.

Knysna

[Source:   Map data ©2014 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

Returning from Harkerville we went down to the Knysna Waterfront.  It’s a rather cool place.

Vlaggies

 

Waterfront

 

This guy was giving a display of utter motionless.

PuppetHowever, he did lick his ice cream from time to time.  The guy in front, though, did not move.  I later thought he might be dead or something, but no medics arrived.

We then boarded the John Benn.

John Benn

The John Benn is the one on the far side.  It’s pretty much like a double decker pub.

John Benn inside

I reckon from a boating perspective it must also pretty much drive like a pub.  The keel depth is half a meter, according to Cornelius who skippered the John Benn.  Given the prevalence of the various sand banks, it is understandable.

Sandbanke

The John Benn was clearly not built as a testament to speed and agility.

The Heads route[Source: Imagery ©2014 TerraMetrics, Map data ©2014 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

On the way to the Heads, you drive past the Featherbed restaurant.  If you so wish, you can take the ferry destined for lunch at Featherbed. Apparently you also get a game drive included in the outing.

Featherbed

The Heads.

The Heads 1

The Heads 2

 

The weather on the day was a bit overcast, with a rather chilly wind blowing.  In spite of that it was a very enjoyable outing.  Next time we’ll try to include Featherbed in the itenary.

Tucson

Just for the petrol heads that might be reading here.  The 2009 Tucson 2.0 GLS manual offers quite a bit of car for your money.  I’m tempted to say its weight in gold, simply for the reason that this 2×4 SUV weighs in at 90 kilograms heavier than my double cab 4×4 Mazda bakkie.

The 2.0 GLS engine offers 104 kW (as opposed to the Mazda 3.4’s 108kW) but is geared differently.  It feels vastly quicker and nippier than the Mazda, especially given the mass it needs to drag along.

The seven passes road we did we obviously did at a very leisurely pace, but the car handled the road with aplomb.

On the open road it can easily keep up with traffic.  Although I prefer to drive at 110km/h, if need be the power is there to get you out of a tight spot.

Average fuel consumption over most of the trip was 11,2km/l.  A strong headwind, and thereafter having a trailer full of wood hitched to the Tucson brought the fuel consumption down to just over 10km/l.

Rather splendid, I thought.

PG JONKER…