Tuesday 11 January 2022

George: Feathers to the caves

George on our minds

If our trip to George had not been made so rewarding and exciting by our friend Malaka Grant, we might well have been totally unaware of why we were there as this was one trip, we did no research on before travelling. We were keen to see Malaka and she had offered to show us around.

To clear one misconception, the Garden Route is not about gardens or stately homes as one would think if visiting from the United Kingdom, and whilst George is the capital city of that region, the things to do, see, experience are miles away from George, except if you want to go trekking the Outeniqua Mountain range. The Garden Route is essentially a wine route with historically significant monuments, natural features, a cultural heritage, and activities tagged on.

George of a time

According to a cab driver that doubled as our guide George saw modern development when P. W. Botha the penultimate State President of South Africa who represented George in parliament decided a local airport was essential as the roads were poor. He died in Wilderness, near George.

However, for our first full day, we visited the Ostrich Emporium at Oudtshoorn which had a heyday as the ostrich capital of the world at the end of the 19th Century and early in the 20th Century before the advent of cars and the world wars led to decline of the industry especially when flamboyant ladies ostrich feather hats could no more be accommodated in covered automobiles.

The highly successful merchants in the trade built feather palaces on the main street of Oudtshoorn but most departed as the trade declined and South Africa aligned itself to right-wing policies.

Caves to behold

On from Oudtshoorn, we drove another 30 kilometres to the foothills of Swartberg mountains where the world heritage site of the Cango Caves presented a spectacle of natural wonder impossible to describe in full as the breath-taking awesomeness left us astonished at what we beheld.

Limestone formations of speleothems crafted over thousands to millions of years discovered and made accessible that the tour guide’s introduction to each chamber happened in the semi-dark until the lights were switched on to reveal more than the senses could take in of the views exposed. On this visit alone, unexpected and unanticipated as we knew nothing of this place until after breakfast, we could be fully satisfied with this trip.

On our return, a mist had descended on the mountain pass reducing visibility to just about 20 metres, the way the weather changes in the Garden Route around George is one that would make for a good conversation with an Englishman, I was up for it. The day was good.

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