Friday, July 13, 2007

On the road again



Some of the best times we've had on this trip have involved our extended road trip through New Zealand and then Tasmania. So, after some discussion, we decided that we wanted to rent a car for the rest of our South African adventure. So, before we left on our safari, we made arrangements to have a rental car delivered to our guesthouse the day after we got back.

While on the safari, another member of our group (Greg from Portland) pointed out to us that South Africa had a disproportionate number of Volkswagon Golfs. Apparently, in South Africa, they follow the rule of "if its not broke, don't fix it" and as a result VW has continued producing the same style of Golf since sometime in the 1970's.

As you can imagine, we were delighted when we discovered that our rental car was a brand-new, white VW Golf. Or, "Chico" as we've come to call it.

Chico and I.

After buying some basic food, we hit the road. That said, we still didn't have much of an idea about where we were going. We knew that we were heading south to the coast, and then Cape Town. Furthermore, we knew we needed to drop Chico off in Capetown in about a week. So, rather arbitrarily, we chose Bloemfontein.

With our first desitination picked out, we hit the road. While in India, we'd picked up a couple of MP3 discs loaded with Bollywood tunes. And, as luck would have it, Chico had an MP3 player. So, rather incongruously, it became our soundtrack for our roadtrip. And, when tearing across the deserts of South Africa, it seemed to worked especially well.

One thing we've noticed: While New Zealand might be the King of Campgrounds, South Africa is the King of Rest Stops. Their Rest Stops are these enormous and elaborate affairs which generally include, but aren't limited to a gas station, a small store, a fast food place, a play area and park, an ATM and the largest bathrooms I've ever seen this side of Vegas.

(As a side note, South Africa is making at bid at being the King of Meat too. On a way to our safari, we stopped at a fast food place for breakfast called Steers. There we purchased a "breakfast sandwich" that contained bacon, sausage, egg, hashbrowns, BBQ sauce, thousand island dressing, a tomato AND a hamburger patty. Yikes! OK, now back on topic...)

Bloemfontein didn't really have anything of note in it (though, apparently, JRR Tolkien was born there). But it was effectively halfway between Jo-burg and the coast, and would provide a good jumping off point for the rest of our road trip. Plus, it was a big enough town that we figured we might be able to find an internet cafe.

It did turn out to have an internet cafe, though it proved a little tricky to find (our last few entries were made there... if they seem terse, its because we spent a long time wandering around Bloemfontein looking for it). Our hostel ended up being a loft in an old military base. It would have been a very cool place, if the people running it weren't trying so hard to make it have that "hostel vibe." As it was, we weren't sad to leave early the next day.

Back on the road, Sarah pointed out to me a place called Graaf-Reinet to me: "Look, hon, it has a place called the Valley of Desolation."

So, of course, that's where we were going!

Sarah's going to talk more about Graaf-Reinet, so I won't detail what we saw and did there. But, it was quite charming, and proved to be a wonderful place to spend the afternoon and following morning. And, it was only the slighest bit desolate.

The following morning, we hit the road again. By this point, we notice something: Every road in South Africa looks like this...



If you just repeated this picture about 30 times, it would accurately convey how the first two days of driving felt.

Luckily, no sooner had we made this crushing realization then we started to near the coast, and things started to change a bit. There were more hills, and there were actually curves int he road. In addition, things began to get a little greener and the number of ostriches increased greatly.

Our next stop was Oudtshoorn. Oudtshoorn is known mainly for one thing: Ostriches. This is ostrich country. Big-time. As we wound our way into Oudtshoorn, we passed flock after flock of ostriches. (Do you use the word "flock" for ostriches? Maybe you say "herd" or "gaggle" ...or something like "dufflgang" or "spaarenraft.")

As we neared the town, I got to watch Sarah's eye's light up as we came across something neither of us thought we'd ever see: A group of farm hands leading a dufflgang of ostriches down the street!



So, that brings us to where we are now. We checked into a guesthouse in Oudtshoorn that has pretty much anything you'd ever want out of a hostel: Fireplace. Bar. Book Exchange. Gift shop. Kitchen. Pool. Pool table. Internet cafe. Travel Agency. Ostrich BBQ (or Braai, as they are called here).

Tomorrow, we are getting up early to watch Meercats at Meercat Magic™. After that, we go to an ostrich farm. And, if I'm feeling adventurous, I might even ride an ostrich. It's true. Stay tuned.

OK, off to the ostrich BBQ.

1 comment:

Tim said...

You're getting quite a collection of Tyler and car pics (The Enterprise, Jazz, and Chico). I hope you got one of Tyler posing with the Easter Island car, too! Did it have a name?

Your driving pictures are great, also. Capturing the huge bug splatter on the windscreen was a nice touch, and the picture of ostrich herders is hilarious/fantastic!