Friday April 17, 2015 (Africa, South Africa)
Last night we stayed in a neat old home circa 1880. They sure used to build ceilings high, huh? I have no idea why anybody thought it necessary to have 20ft ceilings, but you sure do feel special walking around in rooms that tall! Sandra said the interior of the place reminded her of Downton Abbey. I included a picture of the exterior for your perusal. The place was called "141 High Street”, and we quite enjoyed it! That being said, its antique-y-ness meant we had the toilet and shower sitting directly beside the bed in the room. Weird.
Our first order of business this morning was the drive 30km north from Oudtshoorn to the Cango Caves. They are a huge limestone cave system running for multiple kilometres through a hill. The interior is full of huge flow- and dripstone formations, including multi-storey stalagmites. When the cave was first discovered by Europeans in the 1780s, they found cave paintings and tools of the Khoisan people inside. Further investigation revealed that they ventured no further than the cave entrance, purportedly due to their belief that the caves were haunted or cursed in some regard. Spooky.
We took part in the adventure tour, which meant we got the standard Heritage tour plus a whole bunch of sections of crawling, sliding, and generally awkward body movements through tiny little rock spaces. Not for the claustrophobic! Certain areas were named “The Devil’s Chimney”, “The Coffin”, and “The Mailbox”. Given that The Devil’s Chimney felt more like a 3.6m birth canal than a chimney, I felt that we experienced both death (in The Coffin) and rebirth. It’s a beautiful thing.
The cave system actually has a massive main hall where concerts and plays were performed until the mid 90s. They were stopped because of general vandalism from crowds breaking off pieces of the cave to take home with them. They were also stopped because having thousands of people in a poorly-ventilated area meant that carbon dioxide levels climbed to dangerous levels and the audience was slowly being poisoned. Yes: probably a good idea to stop those shows.
After the caves we decided we wanted to tackle the Swartberg Pass. It’s a scenic mountain pass that separates the Petit Karoo (little Karoo, or little semi-desert) from the Big Karoo. We drove our little Toyota Avanza up to an altitude of just under 1600m. The weather was mildly uncooperative with bouts of rain, but it was definitely worse for the cyclist that we met at the summit who’d just finished climbing the whole thing using his own two legs. He looked… tired.
We stopped for lunch in a small town and continued the drive. Taking the pass effectively meant a 2-3 hour detour as you end up back where you started in Oudtshoorn, but it was worth the drive for the views! We even managed to catch a double rainbow along the way thanks to all of the misty rains.
We’ll get some video added at some point of the caving experience. I was told not to bring the mondo camera since the spaces were very tight, but Sandra managed well with the GoPro footage.
Tomorrow we continue in the direction of Port Elizabeth along the Garden Route. I’m hoping to catch some surfers at Jeffreys Bay, but we’ll see how far we manage to make it!