Day 262: Almost Full Circle

Thur. 2nd May 2013

At the southernmost tip of AfricaYet another breakfast on our own, it is just not very busy here in South Africa and it is getting monotonous being the only guests sat in a dining room with at least two waiters hovering about, if not more. We chat with one of the staff about our plans and get advice on where to go and what to do. He tries to talk Dave into the adventure tour at the Cango Caves scrambling through narrow tunnels and climbing the chimney but tells me to wait while Dave goes – red rag to a bull, I nearly sign up just to spite him! However, as we have a long drive today we decide to stick to the standard one hour tour at 9am rather than the 90 minute adventure one at 9:30.

organpipes?We are the first to arrive at the caves for the first tour of the day and for a while we think it may be just us! However a group of eight and two couples arrive at the last minute and off we go into the caves. The ground has been concreted so initially we wonder if we have made the right choice, especially as the map at the entrance shows the adventure tour goes 1.2km into the 5km cave, whereas we only venture in 0.6km. However, what we do see is quite spectacular with two enormous chambers full of curtains and stalagmites and stalactites.

Huge chamberApparently they used to hold classical concerts in one of the chambers with 1,000 to 1,500 people attending. Sadly these stopped for two reasons, firstly the body heat generated and humidity did not do the caves or the delicate violins any good and secondly there was no control over the spectators, some of whom broke off the stalactites and took them as souvenirs. The broken pieces can clearly be seen and it will take thousands of years for them to reform. This is yet another case of damage being done by visitors to National Heritage sights and the need to enforce controls over visitors.

All broken offThe cave system is actually 5km long but much of it is shut off to preserve it, which begs the question of, if we cannot enjoy it now what are we saving it for! Well we really enjoyed the part of the caves we did see and did not feel we missed out on the spectacle by not taking the adventure tour. We did however miss out on the adrenaline rush from squeezing through small spaces, but felt that in this instance that was OK as we felt what we had seen was enough of an experience to appreciate the caves.

Heading into the mountainsWe were able to be back on the road by 10am and are back in Oudtshoorn in time to sit out and enjoy a cup of coffee. The road then went between two mountain ranges with such amazing views that I had to remind Dave we had not yet got to the pass which the guide book stated afforded the best views.  The roads between the mountain ranges were straight for miles and miles.

Come for lunch tooThe drive today was about 200 miles and to keep us going we stopped in the small town of Barrydale for lunch. It was good hearty homecooked food and Dave had a tasty quiche. It was served out on the veranda overlooking a lake/pond which was full of hungry fish and masses of birdlife. We were even given bread to feed to them! Lunch was interrupted by two bright yellow birds coming to feast on the bird feeders.

Heading through the mountainsReplenished we were ready for the spectacular drive through Tradouws Pass and we could not help but stop every few minutes to admire and photograph the views of the mountains and valleys. Another couple were having the same experience and we played cat and mouse between the viewpoints. I still have to go through the photos to put in this blog and there are loads.

Beautiful sea and skyAs the weather is due to break tomorrow (not that we believe weather forecasts). we want to get to Alguhas and the southernmost point of Africa where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet before dark and get our photos. We just make it as the sun is going down and see the rough seas breaking over the rocks in the glistening sunlight. It is quite humbling to think that all of Africa lies north of us.

Lighthouse still under repairWe are however too late for the lighthouse museum and have to be satisfied with photos of the scaffolding outside (or take a photo of a picture of it before the restoration work started!). Apparently they have been working on the lighthouse for ages. It is the oldest lighthouse in South Africa and an important one as this coastline is notorious for shipwrecks.

Room with a viewWe have splashed out tonight and are paying £70 to stay in an Art gallery and our room has a picture window overlooking the sea. Well worth the extra for the room but sadly we were too late to order supper there, so it is off to the local pub for fish and chips. We ponder the rest of our trip as we have now come almost full circle of the globe and are back at the Atlantic Ocean. Given we are at the southern tip of Africa we will be heading north and closer to home. There is now only one hour time difference to the UK and our journey will now take us up through Africa to Tanzania where we are looking forward to meeting up with Steve, Chris and Lucy in just a couple of months time.

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