This past Wednesday and Thursday, I did a little mini Garden Route trip. Technically, it wasn’t the Garden Route at all, since that does not really start until you go further east of Mossel Bay, but I like to call it that. I had really wanted to go for three reasons. Cape Agulhas because it is both beautiful and the southernmost tip of Africa, Mossel Bay because of the Bartolomeu Dias Museum, and the animals at Cango Wildlife Ranch in Oudtshoorn. I was having trouble finding people to go with, so I finally took matters into my own hands and hired my friend Mike, owner of 2WayTravel, and his friend to drive me and show me around, all within a timeframe of thirty-six hours.
We got off to a somewhat early start, leaving Cape Town at around 8am. I pretty quickly fell asleep in the car. Cape Agulhas was our first stop, about a two-hour drive from CPT. We took a quick pit stop in a small town (I’ll have to ask Mike about the name) to grab some coffee and find a bathroom. We stopped in this little shop run by an older man and his wife. The wife sold lots of jewelry, scarves, and clothing, while her husband sold his handmade chess sets. He was kind of a crazy guy, but also kind of cool. He hand carves and paints all the chess pieces to look like different famous “face-offs.” He had Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham, the American Civil War, a couple of famous British battles, and a South African battle as well. They were all pretty amazing. Downstairs, he showed us his medal collection. There were hundreds from different countries and different wars. Pretty neat.
When we stepped out of the car at Cape Agulhas, I suddenly felt like I was seeing and smelling very familiar things. The beaches in Cape Town are really nice, but so many of them are just a little too perfect. Miles of sand, and the rocks look like they’re just a nice decorative addition to the scenery. Cape Agulhas reminded me so much of Quonnie. Lots and lots of rocks, sprouting everywhere and coming in all different shapes and sizes, constantly crashing waves. It was beautiful, the kind of beautiful I hadn’t seen since last summer. There were some plaques to give us information, like how “agulhas” means “needle,” as in the needle of a compass. It was great to take a nice long break from the car ride and just take the time to look out at where these two incredible ocean currents meet at the most southern point of the entire continent of Africa.
Our next stop was Mossel Bay and the Dias Museum. This seems like the kind of town where there isn’t a whole lot of stuff to do, but it is absolutely beautiful, situated perfectly on the bay. Mossel Bay is the point where Dias first stopped in South Africa in 1488, the first to make it that far south. The museum was cool, and I was especially excited about the oldest post box in South Africa. Now it is represented by a fairly modern post box, but sailors and explorers used to put letters in a shoe that hung from the branches of this Milkwood tree. If you send a postcard from there, it gets a nice little special stamping! Inside, there was a replica of the ship Dias used to trek here over five hundred years ago. For the anniversary in 1988, the Portuguese made a replica and sailed it down to Mossel Bay, where it now sits in the museum. It was a lot smaller than I expected. Nothing like those big ships you see in Pirates of the Caribbean! And the only nice thing about the captain’s quarters was that it was private; only a small cot fit in there!
Milkwood Post Office
We had to drive a couple more hours to reach our accommodation for the night. Mike suggested staying at his friend Barry’s place in De Rust; besides living in a beautiful home in the valley and running a b&b, he also has a fully working farm! He’s originally from California, but has been living in South Africa for a long time. I was immediately settled when I found out that he has two dogs and three cats, all of which are incredibly friendly. He served us a really wonderful dinner and a nice big breakfast in the morning. I was so exhausted from the day that I fell asleep just after 10pm, with a few midnight dog kisses to keep me company.
After saying goodbye and thanking Barry for his hospitality, we started the twenty-minute drive to Cango Wildlife Ranch, where even more of my animal dreams would come true. I was definitely glad to get there early; there was only one other group there, and they were starting their animal encounters while we got a nice private tour. Our guide, Duggy, took us through the entire ranch. There were non-blind, non-nocturnal bats called Flying Foxes, lemurs, lazy crocodiles (it’s winter), nearly extinct Cape Vultures, pygmy hippos, African hogs, and otters. Then he took us to see the cats. Cango is known for its effective breeding program with cheetahs and Bengal tigers, so we saw those, along with lynxes, servals, the very rare white lion, leopards, and white tigers (one born without stripes!). Our guide was really great, but there were just a few things that didn’t seem to be quite right. For example, he said that in the wild, once the male lion has basically used up all his testosterone after breeding for so many years, the female lions come together and kill him…so Nala will kill Simba. Still have yet to look it up online and see if that’s true, but I’m a bit skeptical.
Then came my big moment. More animal encounters! I signed up for the cheetahs, tigers, and lemurs. First stop were two of Cango’s cheetahs, Luigi and Kwazi. While we were at the ranch, there was this huge group of people from India, so I went in with a guy and two girls from their group. It was actually hilarious how terrified all of the women from their group were of these cats. Nobody seemed to want to go first with the cheetahs, so of course I volunteered. With the cheetahs, you could basically pet them anywhere except for directly on the face. So I just got down and started rubbing Luigi like he was Scout or Meeko. And he immediately started purring!! I was scratching him on his back and side, and I gave him a nice rub behind his ears. I could hear the guide in the background telling the other three people to follow my lead. Booyeah. Also, the black spots on a cheetah are actually softer than the other parts of their fur! Luigi even started licking my hand! The guy who was watching over pushed the cat’s head away, saying that cheetahs like to get tastes of things before they eat them. Once again, a little skeptical. Not quite sure a cheetah in the wild would go up to a zebra and say, “Oh, excuse me. Would you mind if I licked you a little before you run away and I give chase? I’d really like a little taste before we take the next step.” But hey, what do I know? Seemed like a very friendly lick to me.
After getting a bunch of pictures with both Luigi and Kwazi, it was time for some pictures with the Bengal tiger. With these guys, they only take two people in at a time. I was kind of confused at first because the Indian woman who came in with me had already done the tiger encounter; we saw her during the tour and she was absolutely terrified. Seemed like she wanted to go in again to get a better picture. Once again, I was entertained. Whenever I went up to the tiger, he was chilled out, relaxed, distracted, and petable. Whenever she went to pet him, he started to freak out. Honestly, I’m almost positive it was because she was so afraid of him. As the guides tried to distract him and lead him somewhere, she was literally clutching to my shoulders, hiding behind me, and poking her head out to see where he was. He smelled her fear, I just know it! Also, there was this one little boy from the same group who kept running around up on the catwalk. Of course the tiger noticed him and went into crouching mode even though there was no chance of him catching his “prey.” Kid. Stop moving!
My last stop was at the lemur encounter. There were both ring-tailed lemurs (like King Julien from “Madagascar”) and these brown lemurs. As soon as the trainers brought out some food, the lemurs were climbing all over my head! It was so funny! They were in my lap, putting their hands all over my face, and giving me some great photo ops. I got to shake some of their hands. When you just put a finger out to them, the lemurs grasp onto it. Their hands felt like rubber, and their fur was so soft.
After spending some amazing couple of hours with all the animals, it was time to get back in the car and head back to Cape Town. We passed through some incredible mountains, some even with some snow on top! I’ve updated my flickr with stuff from Matopos and seeing Master Harold and the Boys, and pictures from this adventure will be up soon.
I FLY HOME TOMORROW! WHAT?!?!?!