As we headed away from the coast where the wind was blowing gale force winds off of it, we headed in land with our jackets and touques still on. That was short lived as we got to the gate of the park and the wind died down and the sun started to beat our oven on wheels with full force.
The drive was what it was. A drive, with not much to see or do on the way other than stopping at a grocery store for lunch (cheap, quick, and easy…plus everyone got to pick a bag of chips!). We had heard that there was going to be a pool at our new place….maybe…which kept the kids spirits up as the temperatures were nearing the 40C mark.
However, when we arrived, we weren’t so lucky, and the pool was on the owners side of the building, and there was a decisive fence between our side and theirs. The kids buckled down and did some school and then I went for a quick run, trying to stay in the shadows of the trees. I can only speak for myself, but I am incredibly out of shape now without the regular exercise that I am getting at home, but it is still nice and therapeutic to get out and keep the noggin clear with some exercise of some sort whenever we can fit it in.
The next two days we had the chance to take a drive up the Swaartland Pass, which our host told us that it was totally driveable with a car.
Thank goodness we had a rental, and Deb was driving so she could be the judge of speed and how far we went up the pass before we turned around. Wilson and I kept coaxing her to go a bit further as there were a couple of geocaches along the way, and one at the top of the pass 😉
The view from the top of the pass was nice, but as with worldly travellers, it was nothing to write home about when you compare it to other places you have been. For the area, however, it was very nice and we had a chance to talk to the kids about land mass shifting and the tectonic plates, which resulted in “Awwww dad!?! Not another science lesson!!”.
We obviously couldn’t resist the urge to see if there was a geocache here in the area…in the middle of nowhere, and low and behold there was! So, a-caching we went. Looking for this cache was pretty hard since we had heard there were dangerous snakes in the area, and there were a lot of rocks and a lot of low scrub that they could hide in, so we tried to jump from rock to rock to be safe! Eventually, we found it and headed on…
After playing around in the rocks at the top of the pass, we headed back down so that I could go to the Cango Caves, which is the oldest “tourist caves” in Africa. They were discovered in 1891, but there has been evidence found of Neanderthals who lived in the cave. They only lived in the upper section of the caves as they believed that spirits lived deeper down (as evidenced by burial artifacts and cave drawings). The original explorer went down with nothing more than an oil lamp, and by himself. They had one that they lit to show you what he saw, and it was pretty much nothing…so it was amazing that he could find his way around the caves and get back out alive! Maybe he used a trail of bread crumbs.
The first three caves we descended into were massive and you could fit four rugby fields into one of them. They regularly hold choral concerts in there which would be amazing as the acoustics were incredible.
As I left the kids and Deb behind, I decided to go on the “adventure tour”, which took you deep into the caves and you had to climb up the inside of chimneys, slide down rock slides, and squeeze through narrow cracks.
Unfortunately, one of the other people on the tour was a bit healthier and got stuck in one of the passageways. She was probably in the middle of the pack of people going through the pack, so half of the people were trapped on one side of the passage way, and the other half and the guide were trapped on the other side.
There was a lot of “Do this. Do that” and then a hefty shove from below that got her unstuck and she popped through the other side.
The last passageway was called the Mail Slot, which had us sliding down on our bellies through a narrow slit in the caves, which was a lot of fun since the rocks were wet from the humidity underground.
As a result of the cave rescue, the tour took longer than we expected. With the rest of the Travelling Trenholms sitting there waiting for me, I rushed ahead of the group and followed the exit signs to get to the end as none of us had had lunch. Except for the cake and snacks that I found out they had while they waited for me. Haha. Wilson came across a great culinary invention at the restaurant…pizza cones! I didn’t taste the cone part, but it did look like a traditional cone and was crunchy like it, but it was full of pizza toppings…pepperoni, cheese, bacon, veggies, and lots of cheese…. I will have to try this when I get home!
The next morning, we got up early, thank God as it was going to be a scorcher, to go to a local farm called Highlands Ostrich Farm for a little look see and zoology/biology lesson about ostriches.
We arrived and parked in one of the few shady spots that were there, and signed up for the tour which included riding an ostrich if you are brave enough and light enough. Unfortunately, the European cuisine was still hanging around my midriff, so I was not under the 75kg weight limit. Plus, I think the last time I was under that weight, I was in grade 9. Lucky bird.
The tour started off like a traditional show and sell kind of tour…. “Here is how we pluck the birds feathers sustainably and make it into boa’s and duster’s by hand”, as we walked around the shop.
But then we got to the meat of the tour and got into the formal educational part. So, here you go…here is your lesson on ostriches!
Ostriches lay an egg every other day, but they eat the first egg that they ever make. This starts off the cycle of providing nutrients to the bird to make subsequent eggs. Sacrifice one to make many I guess. An egg shell is strong enough that it can withstand 120kg of pressure, and it has two incubation periods.
The first incubation period lasts 7 days, and there is an air fluid level in the egg that is inside the egg, which over 7 days reduces to nothing as the bird occupies the internal space of the egg. In this air level, there is enough oxygen to sustain the bird until it comes out. Kind of like someone being in a underwater cave that is slowly filling up with water. When the air runs out, the bird breaks out. However, interestingly, there are small holes in the shell that allow the transfer of oxygen outside of the shell to the inside. Kind of like a hard alveolus (the soft bubbles in our lungs that exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide as we breathe).
A single ostrich egg is equivalent to 24 chicken eggs, and can feed 18 people fried, or 25 people if scrambled.
The average lifespan of an ostrich is 25 to 45 years, but there is an 81 year old ostrich. That is pretty old if you tell me.
They don’t have teeth, so when the birds are born, they feed them a cup and a half of small stones that will go down into their gullet which chews the food up for them.
They are crazy accurate when it comes to picking up food from the ground, or, in my case, my hand. I had a handful of stones and dirt mixed in with some corn kernels, and they pecked out the corn without pecking out the dirt and stones. It was pretty cool.
Each bird can provide 45kg of meat, which is one of the leanest meats you can eat. That is like 3 turkeys for Thanksgiving. One hell of a party…good thing they have good white wine here.
They aren’t so smart, but they are fast and pretty violent. They have three toes; two small ones for stability, and one big hooked one for gripping and propulsion during the stance phase. And watch out if you are being chased by an ostrich. If you are, they will fully catch up to you as they can run 70kph. Survival tip…if you are being chased by one, lie down and the bird will run right over top of you, and hopefully that big hooked toe won’t kick you on the way through.
We all had a chance to get up on an ostrich to sit on it. They picked out a pretty mangy bird for us to sit on, with the full intent of if people who are heavy break the bird, it is not a big deal.
However, Wilson was the only sub-75kg person in the family that wanted to ride the ostrich. Basically, they put him on the ostrich with a saddle while the bird had a bag on its head. Then they whip off the bag once he was sitting on it, and the bird says to itself, “Holy hell! What is this massive parasite on my back? I am going to run like mad to get this thing off of me!”. And it does, and you hang on for dear life until they put the bag back on. Pretty crazy.
We then went over to the race track where three workers got on an ostrich and they had a race for our viewing pleasure. So we all bet, with cold drinks as the prize, and Wilson came up as the winner!
Hot, sweaty, and smelling like ostriches, we piled into the car and headed back towards the coast. The Here We Go app was in an adventurous mood, so it took us down a single lane dirt road through some barren, arid, and desolate farming land to get ourselves over to George. It is a little crazy when you put your lives into the hands of an app, and trust it that it will get you to your next destination. But you do, and you just have to roll with it. Thank God it got us there…
We stopped over for a little shopping trip in George and made it down to our beach side house in Wilderness where the surf was rolling in.
It is crazy how much the topography, the geology, and the microclimate changed just going 50-75km from the dry “Outback”-ish land where we just were, to the lush costal region where we ended up. It is Africa…expect anything I guess.