The Garden Route begins

After our Lambert’s Bay shenanigans, we took a brief stop-off to drink some wine in Franschhoek, and then we were on our way along the scenic Garden Route.

First stop, Wilderness – home to a sweeping white sand beach, and set against a forested mountain range.

We checked into a small guest house with sea views, and due to the blistering cold, stayed there working for much of our first day; venturing out only for a beach walk, and an evening meal, before retreating back to the heating.

Day two, we decided to brave the cold, and set off for an afternoon hike in the Wilderness National Park.  We had selected a 7km trail through a forested valley, up to a waterfall. The walk through the trees was lovely, although it did involve a river crossing on a raft which required us to haul ourselves across the water with a rope pulley.

The weather respected our tenacity, and warmed up nicely. The sun was fully out by the time we reached the waterfall, and we ended up trudging the last 3kms with coats, jumpers and scarves in our bags.

Following another beach walk and a quick paddle, which revealed much warmer waters than in Cape Town, it was time to rush off to find a pub willing to switch on the big Burnley match. Burnley reigning victorious, a quick bit of seafood tapas and a glass of wine later, the excitement and exhaustion was all too much, and it was time to make the short dash back to the guest house.

The next morning, we had to up sticks and move along the coast to our next stop – a guest farm on the outskirts of Knysna.

Here, part of the stay involved a canoeing session and a round of golf, so after rushing a few hours of work in our room, late afternoon we decided to try our skills at canoeing.

We set off up river, and all seemed to be going well (after I had taught Tom how to use the paddle!) However, before long we encountered a set of small rapids flowing against us. Very well, we thought we would give it a go.

Unfortunately, the rapids were too strong, and following a couple of near capsizes, lots of splashing, hanging onto tree branches, and general panic, we allowed ourselves to be propelled backwards, back down the river.

Never mind, we thought, we’d set off in the other direction. Here we managed a longer stretch and had already set our ambitions on qualifying for the Olympics, before we were faced with a descending set of rapids.

Floating closer, we realised while we may get down the rushing water, we would have no chance of getting back up. Queue another session of manic manouvering, to avoid at all costs being caught in the current and whisked into the rushing water.

Turning back on ourselves, we paddled back up river, and were gliding magnificently through the water when we realised we had taken a wrong turn, and were ploughing along a dead-end, directly into thick reeds and bushes.

Yet another eventful – and wet – episode later, we were back on the river, pulling leaves out of our hair, and with much hilarity we paddled back into the farm grounds… and squelched back to our room.

To my joy, electric blankets were provided, which I was only forced to vacate for a quick plate of dinner served up in the farm’s log cabin restaurant.

The next morning we made the most of our round of golf, with the sun returning to its full glory and beating down on us as we made an absolute hash of our round. Balls all lost, as well as our sporting dignity, it was back into the car, to move along to our next destination – Knysna.

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