Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Knysna: C'est Nice (Quoi)

Last weekend, I went to Knysna (my dad told me that legend says a German and a British explorer/adventurer found the area and the German said "Nice, na?" as they looked over the lagoon and so the name was born. I think it's actually a Khoi word) with the m2m Princeton fellows--Byron, Morgan, and Wenli. Last Monday was Women's Day, and so we got a three-day weekend. Perfect for a road trip through the Little Karoo, wine country, and the Garden Route. On the way, we stopped at an ostrich farm.

Riding an ostrich: somewhat like riding a small pony.
Slightly terrifying: being surrounded by other ostriches, all of which may peck you to death.
Also: dismounting is not so graceful when your foot gets caught under the wing.
Then we got to our chalet, beautifully located overlooking the famous lagoon, which was only stinky at low tide. It was beautiful in the morning before the sun was up, and Guinea fowl liked to race around on the grass in front of our chalet. One night, we took advantage of the kitchen and grill and had ourselves a small braai of chicken, veggies, and boerwoers. I also insisted on eating oysters, for which Knysna is famous. Above, Byron and Morgan in front of our huge chalet--it was unheated but luckily we had electric blankets (I know, they give you brain tumors, I used it, ok?). Below, the lagoon at dawn. The water was like glass it was so still.

The next day, we went on a hike in the forest. Although we did not hope to see the rare Knysna forest elephant, we stayed quiet in case there were monkeys or louries. Unfortunately, this was a bad idea. As we crossed a bridge, surrounded by thick ferns, a rustling sound in the bushes stopped us in our tracks. Then it started grunting/growling. It occurred to me that we were in a country where there are large carnivorous cats, very nasty baboons, and dangerous pigs/warthogs. Furthermore, the forest was so quiet and the ferns so big and dense, that it seemed Prehistoric, almost like we were walking through Jurassic Park. I definitely had a split-second image of us being eaten by a velociraptor--the scene when Muldoon says "Clever girl." Luckily, we did not not get eaten, nor did we even see the mysterious and terrifyingly-unafraid-of-humans beastie, and (un?)wisely, we continued what turned out to be a very enjoyable hike. Although every rustle in the ferns (it was always in the ferns) made us jump and pick up rocks. What was scariest was that we didn't know what was there or what it would do--at least, if I saw a mountain lion, I'd know to be aggressive and scare it away. But what do you do if you see an elephant, hyena, or warthog? Below, Wenli and Byron in the Ferns of Death.
But all good things must come to an end, and we had to drive home to Cape Town. On the way back, we stopped at Mossel Bay for lunch overlooking the ocean, tidepools stocked with urchins and starfish, and several surfers braving the rocks to catch a few not-so-great waves. As we ate our burgers and pizza, a whale surfaced very close to shore. We were the only ones who noticed. Byron and Wenli were very capable and brave drivers, especially with Edna, the Fellows' Toyota Conquest, who likes to shake at higher speeds but did an admirable job of getting us there.

Later, on the drive through a mountain pass, we nearly grazed a troop of baboons on the side of the road--babies, mamas, a very, very large male with a thick blaze of mane. I would never want to mess with a baboon. Soon after, we got stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, but we were fortunately treated to a stormy view of False Bay. Rainy weather to welcome us back to Cape Town and to work.


  1. Julia,

    I just read this whole thing. I am inspired, touched, encouraged, and proud. Keep it coming! My heart is really out there with you.

    Much love,

  2. hahah love the video. it also made me realize that the ostrich was going a lot less fast than it felt like it was going...