Thursday, June 24, 2010

oudtshoorn (june 17-19)

Second stop on the Garden Route: Oudtshoorn. Oudtshoorn was further inland, about an hour and a half drive from Mossel Bay. Oudtshoorn is a small town known for its many ostrich farms, and also for the famous Cango Caves nearby. I was able to visit both an ostrich show farm (Cango Ostrich Show Farm), and the Cango Caves. I bought an ostrich egg as a souvenir, and even had some ostrich meat for lunch… it was delicious, and I enjoyed eating meat that I knew came from just down the street. That’s about as local as you can get without slaughtering it yourself! The ostrich farm was one of my favorite activities. I just think ostriches are hilarious, and they really are unique in a lot of ways. They eat stones to help digest their food, they have a finger and thumb in each wing (they aren’t used for anything), their necks can turn around 360 degrees, and they could probably kill someone with a solid kick with their toe. When a female ostrich lays her first egg, it is infertile, and somehow she knows to stomp on it and eat it, to get calcium to lay another, fertile egg.

They put the little bag over the ostriches heads when trying to ride or sit on them... It doesn't do anything except calm them down. The ostrich was kind of struggling when the trainer grabbed him, but the second the mask was on, he was docile as a lamb.

In addition to the ostrich farm, we went on a tour of the Cango Caves. They caves are HUGE and beautiful, and they lead guided tours through them. Pathways, lights, and stairs make it accessible to people of all ages… and you don’t even get dirty.

The caves were beautiful, but the real cave fun came the next day when we went caving with our fearless guide Johan. Johan and Mike were two Afrikaaner men who own a company called TBI adventures in the Oudtshoorn area. We went quad biking (four wheeling, ATVing, whatever you want to call it) after the Cango Caves, with Mike. The following morning, we went caving with Johan before hitting the road for Plettenberg Bay. Quad biking was awesome, and the scenery was beautiful… there was even snow on the highest mountains! Caving, however, took the cake. Decked out in coveralls, helmets, headlamps, and gloves, Jonah, three other people from Cape Town, and I followed Johan up to a rocky hole in the ground. Johan instructed us to climb down it, about 4 meters. The cave was large enough to sit or stand at many places, but we also slithered, crawled, climbed, slid, and shimmied through tiny holes, rocky and sandy declines and tunnels. Unlike Cango Caves, we were covered in mud. The final chamber we entered was full of beautiful white stalagtites and stalagmites, thousands of years old. The trek took about two hours, and was one of the coolest things I have ever done.

Jonah, Johan, and me at the entrance to the cave

All along the Garden Route, we encountered Afrikaans more than I am accustomed to in Cape Town. I often had to tell people that I only speak English, after they tried to ask or tell me something in Afrikaans. This never happens to me in Cape Town. I was happy, however, to encounter so many nice and friendly white Afrikaaners during my travels... my limited experiences with white Afrikaaner South Africans this semester left me with a negative stereotype. My recent travels, however, have given me grounds to cast off this stereotype.

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