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MEMORIES (No. 15) - SOUTH AFRICA 2005 - A WEDDING IN A GAME RESERVE

MEMORIES (No. 15) - SOUTH AFRICA 2005 - A WEDDING IN A GAME RESERVE

Postby judgegeoff » 12 Jan 2021 07:41

Day 9 – Friday 29th July 2005 - Stormsriver to Buffalo Hills, Plettenberg Bay


It was my 61st birthday today! After lunch, we all drove (in three vehicles, including our minibus) to the Buffalo Hills Private Game Reserve, inland from Plettenberg Bay, where Kitty and Danny were to be married the following day.

Our family (Chris, Mark, Lyndsay, Sophie, Cassie and I) were staying in a large detached lodge and Kurt and his family were staying in an adjacent lodge. Kitty and Danny had opted for a luxury safari tent, complete with en suite spa bath. The lodge had three double en suite bedrooms so Mark and I shared one, Chris and Sophie shared the second and Lyndsay and Cassie were in the third. All three rooms were very spacious and were decorated in an African theme. We had a large lounge with a bar and a very large covered verandah overlooking the reserve. It had been decided that the wedding ceremony itself would be held on this huge verandah.

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Our lodge accommodation at Buffalo Hills.

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As other people arrived they came to our huge covered verandah for drinks and chats.

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The view from the bedroom that Mark and I shared.

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Erna, Kitty and Kurt on the verandah of their lodge.

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The plain in front of our lodges, full of different animals.

The accommodation overlooked a large plain that was full of various animals and there was only a thin electric wire barrier, hardly visible to the human eye, to keep animals and humans apart. It was a magical place to hold a wedding.

Lyndsay decided that she would take some camcorder footage of the animals and was walking forwards, with the camera pressed to her eye, describing the animals that were in shot. But she completely forgot about the thin electric fence and walked straight into it, giving herself an electric shock (lots of volts but fortunately very little current). She screamed and made a very unladylike word, fortunately there was nobody around to hear it. It was however all captured on her camcorder and was hugely appreciated by our family when we watched her holiday video - we were falling about laughing!!! :lol:

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Some Cape Buffalo at the electric fence…..

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…..we wouldn’t normally be able to get so close to these very dangerous and powerful animals.

In the late afternoon, we all boarded a fleet of Land Rover game viewing vehicles and set off on a game drive where we managed to get very close to some of the animals.

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One of the game viewing vehicles.

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A pair of rhinos resting.

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A rather dangerous-looking horn.

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Cassie photographing the game.

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A small herd of wildebeests (aka gnus)…..

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….all munching happily.

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“Who are you looking at?” - a young reticulated giraffe.

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We had interrupted his lunch…..

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…..so he turned his back on us.

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A fairly rare bontebok antelope.

The drive continued on until sunset (the time between day and night is very short in South Africa – it only takes as long as it takes to enjoy a drink – hence the name ‘sundowner’ for an early evening drink. We stopped to visit the distillery that rather oddly operates in the reserve, where we were able to sample some of the liqueurs they produce, based on different types of fruit.

After the drive, we went into the reserve’s Boma and we all sat around the campfire talking and drinking. The Boma at Buffalo Hills was just a circular fence of bamboo with a fire in the middle and chairs around it.

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Inside the Boma.

We were then called to go to the adjacent dining room, where we were served an excellent three-course dinner. I had soup, followed by venison potjiekos and finishing with Malva pudding with custard. The potjiekos is a stew made in a traditional cast iron pot, called a potjie pot and is found all over South Africa where potjikos competitions are popular. Malva pudding is quite similar to a syrup sponge pudding that we have in our country.

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A potjie pot. I have one at home and like making a beef and beer potjikos as everybody loves it.

After dinner, we returned to the Boma to enjoy the company of our new friends whilst enjoying drinks. The central campfire kept us very warm as the outside temperature dropped sharply.

We went to our beds very happy and were looking forward to the next day when we would be attending Kitty and Danny’s unique wedding. I had one last read of my speech before switching the light off. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday!


=================================================

Continued tomorrow …….
Geoff

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"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020 (now virtual)
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MEMORIES (No. 15) - SOUTH AFRICA 2005 - A WEDDING IN A GAME RESERVE

Postby Gillzajoker » 12 Jan 2021 11:28

Belated Happy Birthday, Geoff! The lodge and verandah look fantastic, and to have so much
wildlife virtually on your doorstep must have been fantastic. Loved the anecdote of Kitty's
shocked (and shocking) experience. The photos on your game drive were were wonderful :D
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MEMORIES (No. 15) - SOUTH AFRICA 2005 - A WEDDING IN A GAME RESERVE

Postby judgegeoff » 13 Jan 2021 07:18

Day 10 – Saturday 30th July 2005 - Buffalo Hills, Nr Plettenberg Bay


Wedding Day!

In the early morning, we decided to go on a game walk with one of the Rangers and were served the traditional coffee and buttermilk rusks before we set off. We set off, keeping close to the Ranger, but it did feel a bit strange to be the other side of the electric fence (without a vehicle). A little disappointedly we didn’t get as close to the animals as we had hoped, but the Ranger’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the flora and fauna more than made up for this. He was able to point out and show us things that we would not be able to see whilst in a vehicle. It was a very enjoyable experience and we certainly learned a lot. Annoyingly, I have been unable to find any photos of that walk, perhaps I didn’t take my camera with me (it was dark when we set off).

By the time we returned to the main Lodge we were really hungry, but we were immediately served a hot ‘brunch’ of eggs, bacon and sausages with beans, mushrooms and tomatoes. After this meal we went to join everybody who had gathered in our verandah where great discussions were underway, accompanied by drinks and biltong (strips of dried meat – often beef, venison and ostrich). After some time other wedding guests began to arrive at the Lodge, so our family went inside to our rooms, to get showered and dressed in our formal clothes. The ceremony was to be conducted by Afrikaaner the Rev. Willy Smit who arrived with his wife. It was to be a very unique ceremony as it would be partly conducted in Afrikaans, Swiss-German and English languages!

It was a truly amazing wedding, held on the huge verandah of our Lodge, with a backdrop of the plain full of animals. Kitty looked beautiful in her lovely outfit and Danny was very smart in his suit (I think that I had only ever seen Danny in shorts and T-shirts before today!). I was very proud to be giving Kitty away, although a little sad that her late father, Cliff, was not able to do it – he would have loved it and been so proud.

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Ready for the service with bridesmaid Cherise, Kitty’s best friend.

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Kitty signing the register…..

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….. followed by Danny…..

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….and witnessed by Merina.

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Sealed with a kiss!

After the ceremony, we all went onto the lawn in front of the Lodges for drinks and canapes and then photographs were taken.

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Danny and Kitty with his parents, Kurt and Erna.

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With Danny’s sister and niece.

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With Charles and Merina (on the right)

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With the Rev. Willy Smit and his wife.

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Chris.

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A sisterly hug!

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Lyndsay and Cassie.

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Get a room!

Some people then disappeared to change into more comfortable clothes (it was very hot) although the bride and groom stayed in their finery. Maria, one of the owners of Buffalo Hills, joined us and advised that during the ceremony one of the zebras had given birth to a foal!

A fleet of 4WD game viewing vehicles then arrived and we all climbed aboard and went off on a game drive, led by the bride and groom. The vehicles all split up and, as before, we were able to get very close to the animals seeing rhino, giraffe, zebra and various antelope including bontebok. Kudu, roan and eland. We were hoping to see the baby zebra but, unfortunately, it was not in any of the areas we visited.

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The bride and groom in the lead game viewing vehicle.

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Our vehicle with the driver/ranger Bruce.

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Mark climbing into another vehicle…..

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…..ready to go.

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An eland.

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A young sable antelope.

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A sable and calf.

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A young buck…..

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…..with zebra in the background (but not the foal).

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A herd of giraffe with a young one.

By now the sun was getting very low in the sky, so we headed for a hill, the highest point in the reserve, where we found the other vehicles waiting for us. We got out of the vehicles and all formed a circle, joining hands, whilst Kitty and Danny’s friend Charles, a lay preacher, gave a blessing for the marriage. We were then given ‘sundowner’ drinks and sat watching the sun set over the reserve – a magical moment and one I will never forget.

Now dark, we re-boarded our vehicles and were driven down the steep hill and over to the Main Lodge, where the dining room had been prepared for the reception. I just had enough time to have a wash and change into my suit again before the reception began. We had another excellent South African meal and I remember that we had a dessert of drankberries and ice cream. When the liqueur is made in the distillery the fruit is kept in alcoholic spirit and, when finally removed from the alcohol is called drankberries which are served with ice cream. Not everybody loved them, they are very alcoholic, but I really enjoyed them (hic!).

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I am not sure what Danny is reacting to (What have I done?).

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The base layer of the wedding cake.

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The top layer.

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Cutting the cake.

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Danny’s parents, Erna and Kurt Frey.

After the meal, we had the speeches. I had prepared a speech back in the UK and had learnt it by heart but, to my horror, had found out the previous day that some of it was factually incorrect, so I had to improvise a little. I am not a good speechmaker and was a little nervous, but I think that it was generally well received – but I know that Kitty’s father would have delivered a much better speech. Louis (the best man) and Danny both made excellent speeches.

After the reception we all went into the Boma and sat around the roaring campfire, talking and drinking.

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Cherise sat next to Merina in the Boma

Just as we were about to leave the Boma and go back to our rooms for the night, a young lady fire dancer appeared and gave us a wonderful display of her skills. She had several pots of fire that were on strings and she whirled them around, creating fantastic light patterns in the dark. It was a very skllful, exciting and extremely entertaining display and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

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The fire dancer.

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Fantastic patterns.

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Goodness knows how she kept the six fire pots under control…..

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…..without setting herself on fire.

It had been a wonderful end to what had been a magical day and one we would all remember for the rest of our lives.


=============================================


Continued tomorrow ……………….
Geoff

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"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020 (now virtual)
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Re: MEMORIES (No. 15) - SOUTH AFRICA 2005 - A WEDDING IN A GAME RESERVE

Postby rdw123 » 13 Jan 2021 10:29

What a wonderful way to spend your wedding day. Thanks for the photos. A pity you never got to see the newborn zebra but lots of other interesting things to see to make up for it.
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MEMORIES (No. 15) - SOUTH AFRICA 2005 - A WEDDING IN A GAME RESERVE

Postby Gillzajoker » 13 Jan 2021 11:14

I can see why you called it a 'magical day', Geoff - it all sounded so wonderful, and again enhanced
with great photos - I feel quite overwhelmed! :D
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Re: MEMORIES (No. 15) - SOUTH AFRICA 2005 - A WEDDING IN A GAME RESERVE

Postby Camela » 13 Jan 2021 13:19

Thank you for sharing what was a special and memorable family event.
"Won't you let me take you on a sea cruise"
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MEMORIES (No. 15) - SOUTH AFRICA 2005 - A WEDDING IN A GAME RESERVE

Postby judgegeoff » 13 Jan 2021 13:28

Thank you ladies, you are most kind. It really was a very unique and enjoyable wedding and one that none of our family will ever forget. It is very sad that Buffalo Hills Game Reserve has closed, owners Maria and her husband (sorry, I forget his name) were great hosts and their facilities were excellent. We did revisit Buffalo hills in 2009 and had a very enjoyable time but on our next South Africa visit, in 2015, it had all gone. :(
Geoff

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MEMORIES (No. 15) - SOUTH AFRICA 2005 - A WEDDING IN A GAME RESERVE

Postby judgegeoff » 14 Jan 2021 07:11

Day 11 - Sunday 31st July 2005 - Buffalo Hills to the Tsitsikamma National Park


We all gradually surfaced from our beds and were given another delicious ‘brunch’. After the meal we packed our suitcases, said a temporary farewell to Kitty and Danny and, with many regrets, but lots of good memories, said goodbye to Buffalo Hills Game Reserve, owner Maria and all her staff.

We did return to Buffalo Hills on our 2009 RSA holiday but, since then, the reserve fell on hard times and subsequently was sold after the animals had been sold and relocated to other game reserves. Very sad!

Leaving the reserve in our minibus, the six of us decided to visit the nearby Robberg Nature and Marine Reserve. The reserve has a rocky peninsular with cliffs rising to 148 metres in places and walking trails provide spectacular views of the Indian Ocean and secluded bays.

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The Robberg Reserve.

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This direction looks interesting.

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Robberg Reserve – looking down.

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On one of the trails.

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I wonder what is on this chap’s mind.

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We came across this large and colourful spider on our walk.

Unfortunately, we were not really wearing suitable footwear for parts of the walking trails, we were wearing sandals and, after one or two near accidents (twisted ankles), we had to abandon our walk on safety grounds. The views we did see were, however, very spectacular and we vowed to return on some future holiday, but with much stronger footwear.

From the Plettenberg Bay area we made our way back towards Stormsriver but then, before reaching the village, turned right into the Tsitsikamma National Park, where we had reserved two ‘Oceanettes’ – self-catering two bedroomed chalets positioned on the edge of the ocean, with waves crashing onto rocks just a few yards away. We had decided to give the newlyweds some privacy so, although staying in the area, decided to stay in the Park.

The Tsitsikamma National Park is a protected area on the Garden Route, Western Cape and Eastern Cape. It is a coastal reserve well known for its indigenous forests, dramatic coastline, and the Otter Trail. The park covers an 80 kilometres (50 miles) long stretch of coastline. Nature's Valley is at the western end of the park, and the main accommodation is at Storms River Mouth.

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The park’s entrance gate.

The Otter Trail is a hiking trail from Storms River Mouth to Natures Valley and takes 5 days (4 nights). It has amazing views over this most scenic coast and has a fantastic waterfall.

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The Otter Trail waterfall.

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Cassie on the patio of our rented ‘Oceanette’.

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The view from our patio of the lovely coast. It reminded me of Pembrokeshire.

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A small (but adequate) kitchen in an ‘Oceanette’.

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A basic bedroom, but what a view!

The park is rich in flora and fauna with lots of birds, a few duikers (very small antelopes) and you can pretty much guarantee seeing an amusing ‘dassie’, real name rock hyrax. These little animals are about the size of a small rabbit and are unique in that their nearest relative is, believe it or not, the elephant. They have a similar digestive system and a very long gestation period for a small animal of 7 months.

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A very cute young dassie.

That evening we ate in the restaurant at the main Rest Camp, just a very short drive from our ‘Oceanette’ chalets where we had yet another excellent family meal. Since our last visit to the Tsitsikamma Park, the Rest Camp had been completely rebuilt, with a larger restaurant, cafe and shop (now selling a good selection of food as well as artefacts and souvenirs etc.). The buildings are all in wood, have been sympathetically designed and blend in well with the scenery. There are stunning views from the restaurant and cafe and the food quality is very good and is reasonably priced (at least for us Brits, although the local people often complain that it is expensive).

Sadly in November 2016 a fire, started in the restaurant kitchen, destroyed the restaurant and the shop. The restaurant was quickly replaced with a huge tented restaurant whilst rebuilding work was carried out.

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The dreadful 2016 fire (local newspaper photo).

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The aftermath of the fire (local newspaper photo).

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The temporary tented restaurant (local newspaper photo).

After the meal, we retired to our ‘Oceanettes’ and had some good family time until it was time to go to our beds.


==========================================


Continued tomorrow ……………...
Geoff

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"MSC Orchestra" - Cape Town to Venice 2020 (now virtual)
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MEMORIES (No. 15) - SOUTH AFRICA 2005 - A WEDDING IN A GAME RESERVE

Postby Gillzajoker » 14 Jan 2021 11:45

Wow, a wonderful assortment of photos there, Geoff, and it would be magical to wake up
to that sea view. Shame you couldn't continue on the trail - it looked spectacular, but I
agree safety first. At least you saw that fabulous waterfall! :D
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MEMORIES (No. 15) - SOUTH AFRICA 2005 - A WEDDING IN A GAME RESERVE

Postby judgegeoff » 15 Jan 2021 07:36

Day 12 – Monday 1st August 2005 - Stormsriver


I woke up in our ‘Oceanette’ just after dawn and looked out from the curtains to see what the weather was like – and could hardly believe my eyes – there, right in front of me, just about 150 yards away, was a southern right whale and her calf! I briefly debated in my mind whether or not to wake the others, but decided they would never forgive me if I did not rouse them. So I awoke Chris and Mark and then went next door to rouse Lyndsay, Cassie and Sophie. For about 15 minutes we watched these amazing giants before they moved on out of our sight. It was only then that we realised that we had all been so entranced that none of us had thought to grab a camera and take pictures. Doh! It was however a very good start to the day.

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A photo of a southern right whale and calf.

Sadly, the whales were called ‘right’ because they were slow swimming, floated when dead and provided large amounts of valuable products (especially oil for lighting) and so were the ‘right’ whale to hunt and catch.

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Southern right whales photographed in Hermanus.

After a simple breakfast of cereal, fruit and toasted bread that we had purchased from the shop, we made our way back to the village of Stormsriver and went to the ‘Stormsriver Adventures’ Centre as we had booked a ‘Woodcutter’s Journey’ tour. We had enjoyed these tours on previous visits and enjoyed them immensely. You are taken down into the forest on a 4WD vehicle and a ranger who identifies the trees and plants and explains which of them were used by the indigenous people – from making toothbrushes to making various medicines. The forests are unique, quite primaeval and include huge ironwood, stinkwood and milkwood trees.

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All aboard for the ‘Woodcutter’s Journey’.

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Deep into the forest.

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Vines hanging down from the trees.

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Forest ferns.

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Forest fungi.

Eventually, you reach a clearing by a stream in the forest where the ranger serves a meal. During the pioneer days, when pioneer people in ox carts were travelling through the hills, there was only room for one cart and oxen on the steep hill trails. So it was decided that there would be several ‘up days’, followed by several ‘down days’. The clearing was where the ox carts were parked whilst waiting for their turn to go up the hill trail. It was a very social and happy place, as old friends met up there and dances were sometimes held in the evenings.

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A small ox cart. Some had many more oxen.

Our driver was named Gavin and he served us an excellent meal on tablecloths that he had laid on the picnic tables in the clearing. We had beef lasagne followed by a fruit crumble with ice cream, washed down with a choice of wine, beer or soft drinks. It was delightful, eating a very tasty meal in a clearing, by a stream, in an indigenous African forest and, although it was our third time to do this tour, we still enjoyed it immensely. After we finished the meal we had some free time whilst Gavin cleared away all the gear – it was a lovely place to just explore and enjoy nature.

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Relaxing after the meal.

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The stream alongside the clearing.

All too soon it was time to get back into Gavin’s vehicle and make our way up the steep trail back to the village of Stormsriver. Gavin pointed out some old elephant trails which were made in the days when elephants were common in the forest. Sadly, there is just one lone solitary elephant in the forest. Back in the village, we thanked Gavin for an excellent afternoon and then drove the short distance to Kitty and Danny at ‘Rainbow Lodge’.

Kitty made us a very tasty meal of mousaka and afterwards we said a temporary farewell to the newly-weds and returned to the park and our ‘Oceanette’ chalets. In the morning we would be leaving and travelling to the famous Addo National Elephant Park.



=============================================


Continued tomorrow ……………….
Geoff

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