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Mariska was fascinated by the name Drakensbergen, as she often plays a DVD about Draakje, a dragon. Upon approaching the mountains, she said to us: you should not be afraid of the dragons, as I will protect you. But as we came closer no Drakensberg was to be seen as the mountains were shrouded in clouds. Due to the high altitude it was rather cool.

Fortunately sometimes the impressive 3400m high Champagne Castle was visible. We made a trip to the Drakensbergen national Park but when we wished to walk there, it was raining, so we decided to cancel the walk and proceeded back to the mud road leading to Ardmore. Enroute we saw the mountains covered with clouds and under the clouds there was a view over the valleys. On the mud road to Ardmore we saw many kniphopfia’s (kniphofia linearfolia) in the wild growing. And by the red mud, our white car was red again.

The stay at Ardmore Guest Farm was highly enjoyable. Mariska had some children as playmate and lots of toys and play installations as trampoline and jungle gym were available. Apart from a farm and a guesthouse with full dinner facilities, the farm included a center in which many craftsmen an women made local art, like pottery, woven products and bead art. Of course Birgitt bought some.

In the morning sometimes the Champagne Castle was visible again. Mariska did not notice that, she was picking flowers. The owner, Paul Ross offered free Wi-Fi access, and as it was recently installed, we could check if it did live up to the specifications if the installer. It did not and the installer came to upgrade it. Paul was dependent for his website www.ardmore.co.za on a local IT expert and he was not too happy with it. Any maintenance does cost a lot. Talking about it he liked additionally a website that he could manage himself and I proposed him to lock in a good name and to start a website himself. We got the domain www.drakensberg-southafrica.com with a discount and worked on a homepage which was initially a clone of my homepage, but of course tailored for his use. The extra features like the free web shop software could be highly useful for his wife Sue to put the artistic products of the local craftsmen and women on the market. Next to the Ardmore Guest Farm is the African Loom weaving business ( www.africanloom.com )and the Ardmore Ceramic Art Studio. If the market could be expanded by Internet, it would be great for the hard working people there.

So this time I spend many hours on the keyboard, and at last the new site was operational. Paul bought a book about the HTML programming/markup computer language and hopefully the site is soon a splendid example of home programming. After 2 days at Ardmore it was time to leave again, destination Durban. We saw nice kniphofia’s in the wild and other interesting flowers.

The roads were terrible. Potholes or, in Afrikaans, Slaggate are so big that a wheel could be swallowed by it. That means a wrecked suspension of a car. Over and above many people were slaloming over the road to avoid the holes on this main road. It is very dangerous that many people zigzagged over the road very unpredictably. It puzzles me as repairing a hole in the road must be only a fraction of the cost of damaged car suspension and windshields. You may ask yourself what the priorities of this government are, if any.

The landscape was not very interesting or it must be the townships of the black people. Town is not the right word. The houses are all buildings of the size of a simple garage. Sometimes nicely in rows, sometimes scattered. The dwellings are covered with corrugated steel plates, locked into position by stones or bricks. They are spread out over a huge area with few or none higher buildings. Maybe a shanty shop and everywhere you see rubbish. No factories or agriculture was visible. Those people can’t have a job in the neighborhood and many people were just walking along the road. They seem to have nothing to lose, so no surprise the crime level is that high in South Africa.

Halfway we visited the waterfalls at Howick, they fall more than 100 meter. At the underside a jet of mist is expelled by the force of the thundering water.

But just as we got really depressive by so much poverty and potholes in the road the world, the world changes, we are approaching in a long decent Durban, a giant 3 million inhabitants town. It is a complete contrast to what we have seen before. It is a subtropical area full of new cars and fancy houses. Our lodge is in La Lucia, an area with stunning villa’s in many styles. That’s what you expect in a quarter for diplomats and ministers like Wassenaar. But there is a difference. The villas here are surrounded by high fences topped by electrical wires and solid gates. And aggressive dogs are patrolling behind it. There must be a reason for that, and it is not difficult to imagine what. The Zeranka Lodge, a luxurious establishment, operated by a friendly Scotchman, is part of it. The garden is a paradise and very close to the beach. Our Host enjoys the nice weather here, he said.

We visit the Lucia mall, a fancy shining mall with all the upper market brands shops and elegant ladies showing off themselves. We buy our meal there as Mariska does not like to go to a restaurant.

Next morning at 6 o'clock we wake up for the trip with our shining washed car to the airport and of course we take an hour extra spare, but we lose quite a lot of time if we get stuck in traffic due to an accident in front of us. It is a sickening feeling to see the minutes ticking away, while static standing on a motorway, realizing the aircraft won’t wait a minute for you. But after all, we were in time, drop off of the car was no problem as well. We even found paper money in the car, but our luck was still not over. However, the lady at the check in counter told us the aircraft to Port Elisabeth has left. I told her that it was impossible as I had checked in on internet and I still have ample time now. Then she saw that this was correct.

While waiting in the departure hall Birgitt found 200 Rand on the floor, we reported that directly to Information but no one did like to claim it. But still our luck was not over. The South African Express aircraft was a CRJ, a Canadian 50 seater, that was half empty. They fly about 8 times per day this trip and claim they have the world’s best on-time departure record, and indeed that flight was accurate on schedule.

Upon picking up the car we had the luck again as we got a free upgrade to a Toyota Yaris sedan, while we had booked a hatchback. That could take our entire luggage in the boot. You better have it invisible in your car in this country.

Port Elisabeth was again a westerly style town, with an active harbor and industry. As soon as we left for Ado, the Stellenbos guest farm the landscape changed to a dry shrub type landscape. Upon approaching Ado it became green again. This area is famous for oranges, mandarin and other citrus. So many hands are needed and indeed, Ado is a mostly a shanty town. There is only one bigger building: the police station. In general the people are friendly, well fed and with normal clothes. Only the housing is in a big contrast to that.

Stellenbos is a romantic, 19th century estate, run by a friendly Dutch couple. Located between green lawns and lush garden, it is a paradise. We had a roomy 3 room apartment, nice and cool in the hot weather. In this area the nights are cool, which is better for night rest. The weather was brilliant, blue sky and a comfortable temperature in the higher twenties.

There are no dining facilities in Stellenbos, so this time we went to dinner in a restaurant and Mariska as usual did not like to eat anything from the restaurant food but ice cream.

Next day the Ado Elephant Reserve was on the program. It started as an elephant reserve but is now extended to one of the biggest parks in Africa. In this area once were numerous elephants, but they were killed by settlers till the last 11. Then the elephant reserve was founded and now they count more than 400. Additionally many other species were re-introduced and now no other game park has more varieties in animals. Indeed there are many elephants, at 6 different locations we saw at least 100 of them. But we saw even more aardvarks. Further we saw Kudu’s, Red hartebeest and many more. One interesting observation was a giant varan, moving like a small crocodile. Further we saw lots of turtles, (leopard tortoises), and smaller stuff. We spend all day there and especially Mariska enjoyed the elephants and other animals. For many more pictures look here All around in the park was blooming the plumbago plant, all pale blue and rich flowering.

After a good night rest we left Stellenbos again to Knysna. The area was initially arid and full of cactuses and other succulents. People go to South Africa for the Big Five animals, but there are far more interesting wild flowers. And they do not run away if you like to make a picture. Especially a type plant was blooming with a deep red-yellow color was eye catching. It is the Aloe ferox, with an intense bitter juice, used in pharmaceutical industry. The cactuses have this time of the year lots of juicy fruit. Especially interesting are the sanseveria, a beloved classical plant on the window shelf. There were other beautiful plants that could be beloved plants in the house. In this area the roads were lined with protea’s the big, national flower of South Africa. Mariska shows much interest in these.

We passes through Uyttenhage, a modern tow and then we took the N2 National road to the Tsitsikama National Park. Just before the park, the area changed from an arid area to a forest. In stead of brown and yellow colors, the landscape suddenly became green. The Tsitsikama park is in SA the national park with the third highest visitor numbers. As usual we were ripped off by a very high entrance fee, but to say that it was well worth it…..

The Tsitsikama area consists of moderate temperature forest and a coastal area. OK, it’s nice but there are many more nice area’s, most even free. The waves broke against the rock, making it a foamy sea water. The area was nice indeed and impressive forests, mainly of milkwood, ironwood, stinkwood and yellowwood, all prized timber, were dominant. The walk we made led to a suspension bridge. We had nice view to the coast. Mariska ventured over the steep stairs, that gave a nice view in the fjord, and to the sea. An older couple made remarks about Mariska, who was without fear enjoying the unstable swinging bridge. The steep stairs up was not a problem either. The milkwood trees were dominant here. This area was full of meters thick trees, but from 1860 -1890 the woodcutters succeeded in cutting almost all the giant trees, leaving a desolate area. Only in the difficult accessible area’s like here in Tsitsikama, some trees remained. Wherever you come in the world, USA, New Zealand, Australia, everywhere you notice the same sad story. Now the trees of the yellowwood are all protected.

From here we had a nice lookout over the sea. The shaded ironwood forest was interesting.

The agapanthus praecox is here endemic, be it that in the forest it is more fragile. In fact many of the prized garden plants in Europe are just originating in South Africa.

On our way out we waited for THE wave, and indeed, one massive wave was breaking at the rocks.

We left again but decided to leave the main road N2, but the alternative road 102 was closed and blocked. So we drove passing the blockade and tried to follow very carefully the empty road, expecting that a part of the road had fallen in the steep ravine, as the sandstone sides did look very soft. And after we took some pictures of the stunning nature in the ravine, we indeed saw part of the road was gone. And further again. The sandstone was not stable enough to support a road. It will cost some time till this problem is fixed, but for now we enjoyed the route which was as least as nice as the Tsitsikama area.

Approaching the coast again we saw the roadsides full of protea’s in various kinds. And many more flowers with magic colors After so many days in the nature we decided to have a city day in Knysna. A stroll along the waterfront with many shops, ships and restaurants and relaxing in the pool. The weather was wonderful and we enjoyed Knysna . Next day we planned to travel to Oudshoorn.

Highly enjoyable for us is that the language Afrikaans and the Dutch language have the same roots. In the 17th century the Cape colony was established by Jan van Riebeek as a rest and supply area for ships on their way to the Far East and since then the Dutch language is used there, slowly transforming to Afrikaans. \
Click on a picture to enlarge The pictures you see after clicking on the small thumbnail pictures, are shrunk to 5% of their original dimensions

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