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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

24 August 2010

Hello Robbie and Carmen!

Today we drove and drove across the old Transkei region – one of the former black homelands – and stopped in the town of Matatiele. More vast, dry geography peppered with the odd ramshackle town. And truly excellent roads; you can’t cover 300+ miles in 6 hours on bad roads. There’s not much to do in this part of South Africa, and even back in relatively well-to-do Graaff-Reinet the folks we met in a restaurant all agreed that we were unusual tourists to be coming inland away from the coast. As we’d heard before, Cape Town + Garden Route + Kruger seem to be the itinerary for almost all foreign visitors.

The area we have been driving through is very different from other parts of South Africa we have visited, and closer to the glimpses we’ve had of other African countries on holiday. It is very rural – cows, sheep and goats wander freely across the highway. People too. The towns are full of life, their streets lined with kiosks displaying colourful wares. It would have been interesting to stop and explore, but to be honest we had no idea whether reactions would be friendly or hostile – there were no whites at all, and we’d heard plenty about this being an area of recent unrest. The truth is probably that everyone we saw in broad daylight would have been friendly, but when you visit a country for only a few weeks you don’t have much advice to lean on except for your guidebook – and ours told us that the Transkei area isn’t safe.

Now I must explain the title of the post. We had lovely stay we had in Storms River at Pear Tree cottage, with Robbie and Carmen. They have just one little cottage in their garden, and it’s a very cosy place. More importantly, they are brilliant hosts who made us feel more at home than anyone yet. Carmen cooks a super breakfast, and it included saffron milkcaps (mushrooms to you) gathered by Robbie from the woods nearby. Carmen comes from Lima, so we sat in front of the fire in the evening and interrogated her for tips on that leg of our trip. Robbie’s pal Simon gave us some great bontebok-or-springbok biltong (thanks Simon!). Oh, and Wilson the puppy is both cute and deadly! Mind you, if anyone takes our recommendation and stays with them he’ll probably be Wilson the giant dog by then.

Robbie and Carmen, our excellent hosts
Wilson, naughty puppy
Inky, sweet little kitten!

Quick roundup of what we’ve been doing since last blog. We walked a short part of the Otter trail at Storms River Mouth, Tsitsikamma national park. It was a great hike, with some fun scrambling over boulders but no otters, just dolphins. We drove up Prince Alfred’s Pass (wicked dirt road, took 1.5 hours). Visited Graaff-Reinet, a lovely town but bizzarely quiet on a Saturday afternoon. We tried fine-dining at a SlowFood restaurant called Gordon’s. The chef owner (Gordon, of course) presented his ideas and menu enthusiastically, but sadly the meal was flawed by very small portions and an over-high price tag. Yesterday and this morning we did game viewing in Mountain Zebra NP and spotted mountain zebras, black rhinos and 7 kinds of antelope. Now we’re up to date!


2 Responses to “Hello Robbie and Carmen!”

  1. Dear Matthew and Maureen

    Wonderful to have met you and its great to log on and watch your travels continue, you are up on our fb Tsitsikamma Restaurant website too, Otters Adrift has pride of place. Watch out for those puff adders, they like to sit on the warm footpaths in the evenings. Thank you for sharing so much of your experiences with us all, we hope to see you again soon.

    Best wishes
    Robbie & Carmen

    http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Tsitsikamma-National-Park-Restaurant/141398922540716?ref=ts

    • shortclaws says:

      After studying some books I’ve decided it was a Berg Adder – still nasty, but not quite so cool. Nothing tried to eat us in the Kruger and now we’re looking for otters again in Gauteng.

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