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Along the Garden Route

SOUTH AFRICA | Thursday, 25 July 2013 | Views [601]

Great views, sunrise over Mossel Bay

Great views, sunrise over Mossel Bay

We have long advised that South Africa is “Africa for beginners.”  Despite their annoying habit of driving on the left, South Africans are friendly and helpful.  Nearly everyone, excepting recently arrived refugees from strife afflicted African nations, speaks English.  Supermarkets abound and are stocked with both peanut butter and Diet Coke.  Prices, including petrol, are reasonable, especially when compared with the EU.  You can even get a drinkable merlot for under four dollars.


    Spectacular views and cheap wine.  Who could ask for more?

In 2004 when we were last in South Africa as volunteers our lodging was free and when we traveled we camped.  So this is our first experience with hotels, guest houses, B&Bs and lodges.  So far on the Garden Route it has been an enjoyable experience.  For the price of a generic room in Motel 6 in the States you can get a spacious, well-appointed suite with a huge, modern bathroom, full English breakfast and a view to die for.  Granted, it’s winter on the Western Cape, the low season.  Sunny days are comfortably cool with chilly nights, like October in Colorado.  Or New Jersey.  Rainy days are nasty cold.  The Indian Ocean beaches look spectacular but only the most daring surfers test the arctic (or Antarctic) waters, despite the seemingly endless parade of perfect waves.


   Malachite kingfisher

We have spent the past two days chasing the amazing birds of South Africa from Mossel Bay to Wilderness National Park.  Sunbirds seem to be the most abundant while the malachite kingfisher is the most colorful.  The cape sugarbird has to be the most beautiful and the Knysna turaco the most iconic.


   Cape sugar birds over protea flowers


     Knysna turaco, mascot of the Garden Route

South Africa isn’t perfect.  Apartheid is a thing of the past but true equality lies somewhere in the future.  Every prosperous town is surrounded by the worst kind of slums, shacks cobbled together from plywood, sheet metal and cardboard.  Nelson Mandela is revered but Afrikaans, the archaic Dutch of the apartheid years, is still spoken.  Unemployment is approaching 50% and the police departments are a mess.  Yet the people still smile.


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