Sometimes our travel routes are determined purely by how much time we have to get between point A & B. With only two nights and three days before our arrival in Capetown, predetermined by Dan’s birthday and a reunion with our friend, Gavin, we crushed our days full of long drives along scenic roads with the occasional stop. We could have opted for more direct highways, but since they were lacking in tourist interest, and we had just enough time to kill, we chose to zig-zag instead.
Our first diversion was up through Oudtshoorn, and along route 62 through the Klein Karoo region, passing ostrich farms, and small country towns, similar to those along “Route 66” in the U.S. desert, surrounded by dry, rocky mountain ranges. Our day 1 was broken up with a visit to the working Cango Ostrich Farm, where we took a tour to learn about this odd bird, and its modern role in commerce, from lean meat, to fashionable plumes and hard, giant egg shells used in a range of home decor items. The tour involved feeding a handful of ostriches from a bucket, as they reached over our shoulders in a feasting frenzy, the kids experiencing an uncomfortable photo-op, seated atop an ostrich with a bag over its head, and watching a farm employee ride a bird in wild circles in a corral.
Then, we went to the famous underground Cango Caves near the Swartberg Mountains. We chose to partake in an adventure tour through the stunning cathedral-like caverns of towering dripstone formations, ultimately squeezing through tunnels on our bellies and edging through sliver-like cracks in the bedrock, in order to more fully explore a few kilometers of this subterranean labyrinth. With names like, “tunnel of love”, “devil’s chimney”, and “the coffin”, we had an inkling of what to expect!
After a night sleeping off our long day’s exertions, in a cozy farmstead in Ladismith, we continued our road trip through Swellendam, a college/wine town, on our way back to the coast, and to De Hoop Nature Reserve. The last several hours of our drive, on gravelly, unpaved roads was so long and demanding that when we finally arrived to find minimal accommodation options, we ended up digging deep in our pockets to spend an expensive night in a luxury, white-washed cottage. The kids were thrilled with our access to a Greece-inspired, infinity pool, and the fact that we could watch eland, cape mountain zebras and rare bontebok graze at sunset and sunrise from our front yard.
In the morning, we ventured by car through the rugged Cape Floral Kingdom of low-lying fynbos scrub to the coastal marine area. Here we climbed over dunes and scrambled through craggy cliffs to explore teal tide pools full of starfish, sea anemone, and mollusks. We were also able to finally swim and soak in refreshing and clear pools of sea water that were safely sheltered from sharks. Much of the morning found us alone with the birds, basking in sun and solitude.
Before finally bulls-eying Capetown, we made our last iconic stop in Cape Agulhas, the southern most tip of Africa. This is where the Indian and Atlantic Ocean meet in a grand tumult of waves, strong currents, and wind, marking a significant place on the African continent.