Underberg/Bergville, Day 44-Underberg and Bergville are both near the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg National Park. Underberg is in the South and Bergville is in the North. We spent the day mostly on dirt or rock roads traversing the foothills of the mountain ranges. Tonight we are staying at the Little Switzerland Resort up in the mountains outside of Bergville.

What to do when driving along, you are confronted with a herd of cattle? We were all confused! The cattle stopped moving and so did we. We froze looking at each other until the herder got the cattle moving again.

I got to drive today for the first time and Pete got to experience riding on the left side. Very scary until you get use to being so close to the edge of the highway.

We stopped to stretch our legs at Highmoor Reserve in the park. We were walking to a dam just a little over kilometer from the entry, when Pete noticed something moving to the side of the path. It was a large Egyptian Cobra. Pete was out in front and within 1 1/2 steps from the snake when expanded its hood in warning. Pete quickly backed up and we decided to let the snake have the dam.

The uKhahlamba-Drakensberg mountains are stunning. The view from our room at Little Switzerland Resort is wonderful.



Port of St. Johns/Underberg, Drakensberg, Day 43-Pete drove across the boundary of the Eastern Cape today and into KwaZulu-Natal, Zululand. We climbed into the mountains (4950 feet) into the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg National Park, a World Heritage site. The first part of the name is Zulu, meaning ‘Battlement of Spears’. The second part is Africaan’s, meaning ‘Dragon Mountains’. Both names fit the mysterious, 2430 sq-km range of jagged basalt, buttresses jutting into the sky. We were so happy to get up into the mountains with the cooler, less humid air.


Ivan, a native South African was our N’taba host and proprietor. He was a wealth of information about where to go and what to do. Of course we had to discuss a little US politics. It’s embarrassing that people we’ve talked with in South Africa know more about the process than I do and everyone is fascinated by Tump. Ivan is such a friendly and congenial person, he’s definitely in the right business. This morning was beautiful, but the sun quickly became blazing hot and the air was thick with humidity. When we stopped for gas, I thought I’d expire before the tank was filled. Pete wanted to put his toes in the Indian Ocean, so we drove down to Second beach. There isn’t any swimming, because the Zambezi sharks have moved into the local ocean and river. They are an aggressive shark that moved from the Zambezi River in search of food. The beach is a hang out for some of the local cows. Speaking of cows, we came around a corner in the mountains and two cattle were standing in the middle of the highway. Pete swerved to the left and the man behind us swerved to the right, laughing all the way.

The Africans living in the country seem to be much better off than those living in the city townships. In the country there are small farm holdings where maize, squash, goats and cattle can be raised. The housing is much more substantial and there seems to be quite a bit of pride of ownership. The little round huts with the traditional thatched roofs are called, in Afrikaans, Rondavels. The Rondavels in farm country are used as outbuildings, but originally were family living quarters.


A lovely evening, as you can see from the featured photo, at The Old Hatchery lodge and restaurant. Great hosts, delicious curried lamb and spacious, comfortable accommodations. Unfortunately we didn’t have hot water in the morning, but as we’d just sat in the car all day, a sponge bath sufficed.

Just had to add this photo of driving through the city of Flagstaff on our way to Underberg. The other side of the road was just as congested.



Port of St Johns-Wednesday-3/16

East London/Port of St Johns, Day 42-We stayed at The Hampton, right on the ocean in East London. Beautiful stretch of the coast with a good restaurant across the road.


Another long driving day for Pete. We stopped in Nelson Mandela’s home town of Qunu to see the his museum, about the time it started raining.  Nelson and his mother moved to Qunu after his father was stripped of his land, cattle and title as advisor to the magistrate for refusing to respond to a summons. Nelson’s father was a royal chief of the Thembu tribe. Most Africans have an African name and a English name. Nelson received his English name when he started school. Being Xhosa, it is difficult for most Europeans to pronounce the names. Plus it was considered demeaning by whites for Africans to retain their African birth names. Xhosa language has a lot of clicks, the word Xhosa is pronounced, soft clicked C-osa. School was letting out at the time we finished up our tour of the museum, and I was shyly asked if it was OK if they took photos with us. We asked them to return the favor (see featured photo). We all had a lot of fun!

Onward towards the Port of Saint Johns. We passed through mountains with the clouds so low that we were driving through thick white fog. People were turning on their hazard lights while driving, because of the road side pedestrians and so the other drivers could see them. The most surreal part of all were the free ranging goats, cows and sheep that eat along the highways.  At 100 km/hour speed limit, you really don’t want one of them wandering out onto the road. We had to slow down for cows and goats randomly crossing and once for 2 silly sheep that were just standing in the left lane. There was also an incredible amount of road construction, with detours and mud everywhere. We finally got the car washed earlier today and with all the construction it now looks about the same as before the wash.


Finally made it to N’taba River Lodge, just north of Port of St Johns. Stunning scenery and facilities. There is a restaurant and the food was delicious.



East London-Tuesday-3/15

Addo Elephant National Park/East London, Day 41- We took the early morning safari with Jonathan. That meant being up at 5 am to leave at 6 am with the sun just barely peeking over the horizon. It was cold, we had on winter gloves and 3 layers with a blanket provided by the lodge. Our safari companions, Phil and Jane from Manchester, England, kindly switched places with us, so we could have a turn being in front.  This allowed us to act as wind breaks….brrrrr!


Wish I could send you a little packet of of the fragrant smell of the bush in the morning. The dew accentuates the smell, sort of sage, with a bit of floral, sharp and clean. Very heady…. There was floating mist in the valleys, as can be seen the the featured photo of an old farm.


We had a wonderful trip out, seeing two young male Hartebeest, play fighting. Jonathan found Giraffes, Cape Buffalo, Velvet Monkeys and a Wildebeest.

We regretfully checked out and started driving east on dirt roads, completing our morning with a Pete safari. We saw a Warthog, more Velvet monkeys, Kudu, Springboks, Steenboks and Wildebeest.

We passed through two little charming towns , Paterson and Bathurst. Bathurst looked like a small artists colony, but in actuality is a famous Eastern Cape drinking town. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to stop, as time and gas were running short. GOG for Good Old Grahamstown is a well preserved settlers city of 50,217 with Rhodes University. Pete said, “they are all Rhodes scholars”. The gas gauge was redlining, so finding a city with gas stations was especially exciting. The beautiful Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian architecture is a treat, but the history is bloody with Grahamstown being the site of a fierce frontier battle between the Xhosa and European settlers.

We finally arrived in East London of population 267,000. It’s a good size city where we are definitely in the racial minority. We feel like we are experiencing a older version of Africa the further east we travel.

An aside, on our travels in the eastern cape over the last few days we have been seeing a fair number of familiar wind turbines. Vestas is doing well in South Africa.



Plettenberg/Addo Elephant National Park-up early to get a start on the long drive to Kuzuko Lodge in Addo. This area of the park is to the north and involves quite a few dirt roads, so we were unsure about the GPS estimate of 3 hours and 28 minutes. The lodge was a last minute splurge. Not too bad though as we are only staying one night and the  rate includes the chalet, 2 safari trips and all meals.

The featured photo is of Kalihari, he and Mat are best friends after battling it out. Kalihari won the fight, damaging Mat’s jaw, but Mat is the Alpha lion because of his hunting skills. Mat grew up having to hunt for his food. Kalihari grew up in a pride where the lionesses did the hunting.


This is Mat, as you can see he is an excitable type of guy. We were parked about 25 feet away from him. Because of his fight with Kalihari, he is missing some teeth and his jaw doesn’t close properly. When Mat kills, Kalihari tears the skin of the animal to make feeding easier for Mat, then he backs off so that Mat can eat first.

We saw Kudu, Zebra, Hartebeest, Jackel, Elephants and Meercats. We weren’t able to get photos of all the animals, because they would take off the second they saw us.

Jonathan was our excellent ranger guide. He knew where the animals were and was able to navigate some of the worst roads I’ve ever seen.



Knysna/Plettenberg, Day 39-A very short drive to Plettenberg, all of 40 km, in the rain….again. OK, I know it’s probably raining most days in Portland and honestly I’m not whining. We just adjusted our day to mostly indoor activities, like shopping. We went to the mall to find an ATM and do some shopping, then Old Nicks Village, a rambling 19th century farm complex to see the old looms and do more shopping…

All the car washes were closed, because of the rain. So, hoping for success tomorrow. Ever optimistic….

The featured photo is of our room at The Grand Hotel. Note the stool to get into the bed. The mattress has to be 4′ off the floor. Really, really hope we don’t fall out of bed; it could result in serious injury! The hotel has killer views of the coast and is a deal compared to most of the accommodations in town.  So what if it looks like it’s a couple of hundred years old, very shabby chic.image

We walked out for a light dinner. Pete wanted to go down to the beach. He’s been doing such a great job driving, except for a little blooper yesterday when he turned into the right lane. There were a couple cars facing us and I was….WHAT ARE YOU DOING? First time since we’ve left Cape Town. Poor guy, it takes such concentration to drive in reverse.

Beautiful flowers everywhere we went today.

We passed by St. Peter’s Anglican Church built in the 1770’s. The East India Company established Plettenberg was a big timber harvesting area.


Tomorrow we are going to Addo Elephant Reserve. Can’t wait to see more animals.


Knysna, Day 38- Glorious sunny day at Blackwaters River Lodge. Sprung for a massage in the morning, my body was beginning to feel like someone had beaten me with a stick. This was my fault for going off my diet and eating too much dairy. Back on the straight and narrow for me!

We drove into Knysna and right for the car wash. It was puzzling and disappointing to find that they closed at noon, tomorrow then.  Explored town , discovered by the Dutch in 1760, until our 3 pm lagoon cruise. The little 1 1/2 hour cruise included a trip out to the Heads, in the featured photo, wild oysters and wine. When the English discovered this treacherous harbor entry into Knysna lagoon, they proclaimed it the most hazardous in the world. Many ships have met their end trying to navigate this rock strewn entry. Oysters are farmed in the lagoon, but the December red tide killed most of them and the rest of the sea life in the lagoon, which has made an amazing comeback.

imageFish on! The little boy was so excited and wanted to reel it in.  The fish was too much for him and dad had to take over. It turned out to be a shark and in the end they had to cut the line. From what I’ve been told, it takes just a few days for a hook to dissolve or be shaken out. Checked this factoid on line, there is some disagreement, but a study with Pike in fresh water seems to bear out the information I was given.

imageGoing to have another go at the car wash, then off to Plettenberg today.


Malgas/Knysna, Day 37- Woke up this morning to rain, rain and more rain. Saw a couple small cockroaches last night, they evidently live in the thatching on the roof. The thatching is so attractive, but I was wondering about bugs, now I know. The grounds are perfectly manicured, with an especially beautiful rock cliff on one end of the property. We were warned about watching out for snakes, Cobra, Puff Adder and Boomslang. All these snakes are poisonous, with the Cobra being the most aggressive. Makes me glad they couldn’t climb up the open staircase to our room. The manager saw two snakes yesterday, including a Cobra in his office.  From left clockwise, the Puff Adder, Boomslang and Cobra.

The road out of Tides River Lodge was spotted with pothole lakes. Our little VW Polo looks like we were 4-wheel driving off road. We are going to have to find a car wash tomorrow, opening the mud coated trunk is not a pleasant experience.

Today has been a travel day, once we hit R2, the main east/west freeway along the Garden Route, 100 to 120 kmh allowed us to make good time. We are staying at the Blackwaters River Lodge, just west of Knysna about 10 km.

The facilities include an executive golf course along the river, restaurant (left & top right photos), reception (lower right), spa, pool and several lodge buildings with rooms. I’m sitting in a lounge, the only place with decent wifi. Couldn’t even open photos yesterday, so I’m late in publishing. The river water is truly black even from a short distance. They filter on the premises, so that we can drink and bath in the river water. It was the same at Tides River Lodge, but their water was only filtered once, not safe to drink and yellow in appearance.

imageSuppose to get to the high 80’s F today. We are off to Knysna to find that car wash and take a boat tour of the lagoon. Hopefully there will be wifi tonight.



Struisbaai/Malgas, Day 36-We picked Struisbaai for our overnight stay for its proximity to Cape Agulhas. We were up early this morning for breakfast and a quick drive to the southern most point of Africa. The featured picture at the point was taken by a couple that turned out to be from Corvallis. So weird, because we haven’t seen many people from the US, let alone from Oregon. They live in Alaska now, but still….

Arniston a 200 year old seaside village, a bit to the east of Struisbaai, seemed like a good place to stop and take a little hike through the dunes to a well known cave. More dirt roads on the way, which we are discovering are pretty much all the secondary roads outside of the towns and cities.


From Arniston we drove to De Hoop Nature Reserve and Marine Protected Area. We had a nice lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon looking for every animal we could find in the reserve.

imagePete spotted a troop of baboons. We snuck up in the car as quietly as possible. This Eland didn’t pay ant attention to them or us.

We saw a large herd of Eland and stopped to watch them for awhile. The gigantic bull had a favorite cow that he made sure was always close by. Elands are the second largest of the Antelope.

The reserve also has Bomtebok. These are funny looking Antelope, with beautiful coloring.

We searched all over for the a Cape Zebra and finally found a few out by a small lake.

Then there were the birds, ostrich, and what looked to be some sort of Guinea. The gray bird on the left is the Paradise Crane, South Africa’s National Bird.

It was nearing 5 pm when we left the reserve. It was 30 minutes to Malgas, a wide spot in the road with two or three buildings. We made it to the Trading Post just as they were closing. Thank goodness they let us shop for provisions. Our overnight stay was booked at a self service Lodge that included a kitchen, but no food. We are on the Breede River, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. No complaints, as it is stunning.


We are staying in the upper apartment in the thatched boat house. Here is part of our view.




Gordon’s Bay/Struisbaai, Day 35-What a day! Up for the best included breakfast yet at Gordon’s Bay Lodge. Pete was in heaven with French toast and maple syrup. I had a delicious omelette. Fortified we headed east on the coastal route towards Betty’s Bay. We had to see this little seaside village, because it’s where Laura and Glenn are thinking of moving to start a little restaurant. She has found someone that can run her school and she’s thinking about taking some time for herself.

The honor bar with Elvis keeping watch and flowers outside our room at Gordon’s Bay Lodge.

imageWhite sugar sand at Betty’s Bay beach. We could see why Laura and Glenn are so taken with this place.

Onward to Gansbaai, where we took some back streets through town. We found a place to stop for something to drink and a view of the working harbor.

Just an FYI, some drivers in South Africa drive incredibly fast, way, way over the speed limit. They pass in no passing zones, on hills and curves. Pete had read somewhere that drivers here are really annoyed with speeders, Ha….! And the speed limits are 60 to 65 mph on two lane roads.

After leaving Gansbaai, we took what looked on the map like a developed road, but ended up on dirt and gravel.

imageThis is farm country, sheep and cattle with a sprinkling of vineyards. We had a few fun animal sightings.

The little antelope on the left, is a Steenbok, is maybe 3 to 4′ tall. The antelope upper right is a Springbok, much larger. Both paid attention when the car slowed down, then started running the minute the doors opened. I can understand why the Springboks were so nervous, since they are a favorite game meat. We saw the Ostrich, lower right with her two young chicks.

After an hour of driving on dirt roads, we were happy to finally hit pavement again. Unfortunately it only lasted about half a mile, then it was back to dirt. Well, we said we wanted to get away from the crowds! Looking a the gps, there were 2 lakes we would pass on our way to Struisbaai. When we approached the first lake our jaws dropped open at the sight of hundreds of Flamingos. They were a far distance off the road, but what a racket they were making.


Finally made it to Struisbaai about 5 pm. We are staying at the Oceanview Guesthouse, not far from Cape Agulhas the southern most point in Africa. We will be visting there tomorrow, along with De Hoop National Reserve to see the Cape Zebra. The featured photo is of the little beach shack restaurant were we had dinner tonight.

imageAfrica’s big sky….near Robertson.