Friday, October 12, 2018


On the fourth day of our SA tour, we drove from George to Oudtshoorn - just an hour's drive, but up the mountains first. 
It was a scenic drive and we stopped for a photo stop.
We got to see Jersey cows and Angora goats grazing. After that we passed through arid hills. On the way, we saw Protea, the national flower of South Africa blooming by the roadside. We were told that peaches and apricots are grown in some parts. People also started growing olives and made and exported olive oil. But the majority there use canola or sunflower oil for cooking. 

Our first halt in Oudtshoorn was Cango Caves. 
It is one of the most popular tourist attractions. Though the tunnels extend for some 4 km, only a quarter of it is open to visitors who need to go in groups under the supervision of a registered guide. 

It has been established that the caves were in use even during the Middle and Later Stone Ages. They were rediscovered in modern times in 1780 by a local farmer Jacobus Van Zyl.

Through the caves containing halls and limestone formations, tours are conducted at regular intervals on most of the days. 'Standard Tour', which we undertook, takes an hour and 'Adventure Tour', which requires you to crawl through narrow passages / climb steep rock formations, takes an hour and a half.

Our guide led us to the different levels of the caves. She would lead us to one level, and use the flashlight to focus at different spots while explaining the million year old formations. 
All of us would start clicking photos, though she had told us that she would switch on the lights there briefly for us to take pictures. This was a first-time experience - we have visited such caves in Alabama and in Utah, but there have been no luxury of lights. 
Later we started waiting for the lights for really great pics.

There was one formation on which our guide started beating - using it effectively as a percussion instrument. She sang their national song. After that she wanted our group to present our national anthem. That was a momentous experience for us - a privilege in far away South Africa in one of the remote caves!

At another spot, she switched off all the lights for a few seconds to show us how the caves would have looked when the first cavemen had found themselves inside. Then she turned on one tiny orange speck of light 
and then all the lights available there to present the magnificent natural rock formations.

After an hour we came out of the caves, our faces radiant with the mesmerizing experience. 

We then drove to the nearby Ostrich Farm. Our guide gave us several interesting facts about ostriches. 
Interestingly, it is the male ostrich that is more attractive than the female - the males are mostly black, with white legs 
while the females are a dull grey.

These two make a cute couple, don't they?

With the export of ostrich feathers, people in the area became rich and built elegant houses. Ostrich meat is a delicacy but it is found only in the leg and neck portions! The ostrich has no digestive system - it puts its head in the sand for pebbles to digest its food. We were told that diamonds have been found inside some ostriches! 
In fact, there was photo of the items found inside ostriches, which was simply unbelievable!
As we went around the Ostrich Farm, we noted that each enclosure had different number of ostriches. Our guide explained that each enclosure housed a family; ostriches do not change their partners! The little ones remain with the parents till they are around nine months.
We could also feed them some thin long pellets with a long spoon.

There were some glamorous ones which were aptly named after celebrities due to their looks. 
So there was the majestic Michael Jackson ...

and lovely Lady Gaga.

We found one enclosure with a large number of .... no, not ostriches, but emus, which are similar, but smaller than ostriches and can be herded together.

There was a small shed in which four ostrich eggs were placed - our guide told us they were infertile ones. They were kept there for visitors to test how hardy they were. 
We could stand on the eggs. No, no! They wouldn't crackle!

After that we went to have a look at the exhibits inside. A very popular curio item from South Africa is the painted ostrich egg (priced around 300 Rand). Here we could get an idea of how they were made. The ostrich eggs would be cleaned, treated, colored and painted and readied, either as glossy or matt finish.

The ostrich feathers are used to make dusters or more elegant stuff as ladies' accessories - dyed in different colors. 
Needless to say some of us grabbed the opportunity of sporting them and posing for pictures.
The ostrich egg is so large that it is equivalent to 24 regular eggs.
We got to see ostrich eggs in incubators.
We were also lucky to see a chick freshly hatched from its egg!
There was this photo about the kind of stuff found in an ostrich's stomach!

After this very interesting experience, we had lunch at the Ostrich Farm - no, not ostriches / ostrich eggs but pure Indian meal again, as set menus for groups are available on request. 
Post lunch, we visited the Cango Wildlife Ranch.
The entrance itself was interesting ......

It is more or less like a glorified zoo. It is a captive breeding facility for endangered species found all over the world. So the ranch offers sanctuary to animals from all over, not just African species. 

So it was not a surprise to see the handsome Bengal white tiger.

Then we had the time of our lives clicking pictures of a tiger 
who seemed equally joyous to pose for us. 
There was this tired old lion,

an attractive lioness,

and leopard cubs.

Many of the animals were not in cages. Visitors walked along raised wooden walkways viewing the animals resting / moving underneath, or sometimes by their side.
We could get pretty close to some of the animals - it is said, "You will get close enough to see the crocodile's toenails!"

A number of bird varieties - peacock ,

flamingo, pelican, stork .......

We also saw a ring-tailed lemur.

We simply loved the place - Oudtshoorn for all its vivid attractions, all located close to one another.

As we headed back to George, we felt great to have spent such an exciting day filled with fabulous experiences and loads of great pictures to take home.

We had dinner at an Indian restaurant and returned to our hotel by 8 pm.

The next day we started our drive to Aquila Private Game Reserve.

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