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Discovering South Africa

This week we decided to slow down and take a few days off the boat to explore the region between Mossel Bay and the Storms River, also known as the Garden Route.  This beautiful region it’s wedged between mountains covered by the largest continuous Afromontane forest to the north, and the coves and beaches of the Indian Ocean coast to the south.

We got a rental in Cape Town, and drove to Mossel Bay, named after the mussels (mossels in Dutch) that the first European settlers found in abundance here.  Many explorer anchored their ships here.  Bartolomeu Dias stopped here in 1488, followed by Vasco de Gama in 1497.  To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Dias’s landing, the town opened a museum where a reproduction of the caravel used by Dias for rounding the Cape in 1488 is on exhibit.  We couldn’t miss this opportunity!

Seeing how small this vessel was, you understand the courage it took to set out in the wilds of the Atlantic Ocean! The Captain quarter was just a bulk bed in a tiny cabin, and the crew slept on deck.

Bartolomeu Dias caravel

Then we drove east to toward Knysna, and we stopped for the night in a fantastic country house, far from the crowds.

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Next to this country house we discovered a fabulous restaurant called Zinzi, where we had a fantastic lunch.

Zinzi restaurant

The next day we visited the Elephant park, a sanctuary for the last remaining elephants in Knysna and orphaned elephant rescued at Kruger National Park.  It’s a controlled, free range environment, where rangers allow close contact with the animals.

Knysna Elephant Park

In the afternoon we went to the Tsitsikamma National Park, where there is a zip line that allows you to glide from one treetop to another, suspended 30 meters above the forest floor.  And on the way, we learned about local trees, such us the yellowwood, ironwood, hard pear and stink wood and the impressive giant ferns down below.

Tsitsikamma National Park

The following day we hiked the Mouth Trail.  We started at Sandy Bay and we hiked along a winding trail through indigenous forest to the mouth of Storms River.  Here we crossed the famous suspension bridge (one of three at the mouth).

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On the way back to Cape Town, we stopped in a nice lodge and had a tour in a jeep to see wild life.   Very nice jeep trails that reminded me of my dirt bike rides in Death Valley. The settings were perfect, and we were really lucky to see a cheetah very close.

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At the end of the day we relaxed in the swimming pool and we had a great dinner at the lodge.

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We had a fantastic trip, and come back to the boat very excited for our next test sail to Langebaan, planned for the following day.  The date of our departure from South Africa has been set, we’ll be casting off no later than December 15.  There is still a number of boat jobs to be done, so the next two weeks will be intense!  But more on this later…

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