The third leg of our trip took us from Knysna to Calitzdorp, with several stops along the way. Notably, this drive took us through the Oteniqua Mountains just north of George, and into an arid area around Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp known as the Klein (Little) Karoo. Apparently, the climate there is practically identical to the Douro Region of Portugal, where most of the world's port wine is produced.
Our first stop heading west out of Knysna was the Goukamma Nature Reserve, again managed by the excellent CapeNature organization. Previously, we made an error and said that CapeNature was non-governmental. In fact, it's run by the Western Cape government, and another example of how progressive they are especially when compared to Gauteng's government.
Gaining acess to the hiking trails meant ferrying yourself across a tidal estuary. The water here is marked by a high tannin content - this means it's as brown as dark tea and stains your pants just as well.
The Goukamma hiking trails spiral through unspoiled coastal dune systems. Although the views are rewarding, humping up sand hills when you're supposed to be at the beach is a bit exhausting.
Once you finally get to the beach, however, you're rewarded with miles of clean sand and no people. Kelsey was ecstatic not to have to hike any more hills.
The wind blows constantly parallel to the shoreline, forming these little micro ripples.
These tracks (except for the two at the right) were made by one of the two monitor lizards common to the Western Cape (either Rock Monitor or Nile Monitor). Note the tail drag (line in middle), and the splayed feet on either side showing the shuffling gait. Also note that Jonah's footprint is only slightly longer than the monitor's hind foot. We never did catch up to this guy, but we tracked him into the caves at the edge of the dunes.
We were lucky enought to see these African Oystercatchers (Haematopus moquini) standing stoically in the waves. This species is nearly threatened with only about 6,000 left in the wild.
Jellyfish were abundant and very very large. This particularly gross specimen was a smorgasbord for the local snail population.
And so we left the coast, headed through the Oteniqua Pass (where it was raining too hard for pictures), and ended up in the Klein Karoo outside Calitzdorp on the Red Stone Hills Guest Farm. You can see above where the name comes from. These rocks are part of a Cretaceous faulting system, and some of them preserve dinosaurs.
We stayed in a lovely cabin on the farm, next to the ostrich pen and the grape fields. The neighbor's friendly dog joined us for dinner.
Desert-adapted species abound in the Klein Karoo. Above is a Leopard Tortoise we saved from the middle of the road.
This Pale Chanting Goshawk is a lizard specialist. It can often be seen hunting along the ground.
But let's be honest, the real reason we were there was to taste the wine. Here's the tasting lineup at Boplaas Wine Farms, a specialist in ports that also dabbles in a few hot-weather grape varietals like Touriga Naçional.
We made sure not to leave empty-handed.
Just down the road is De Krans, another port specialist. Their ruby reserve port topped our tasting, but the rest of their wine was only so-so.
At De Krans, you were permitted to walk through through the vineyard. We were there smack in the middle of harvest time, so the grapes were ripe and delicious. This unfortunately also meant that the bees, wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, and other nasty insects that crave sugar were on patrol. Farmworkers bring around bundles of dry grape vines that they light on fire and use to smoke out these pesty insects.
Here the grape harvest is being brought into the processing room with a giant auger. On the other side (not pictured), a massive cone of grape skins is spit out. These grapes are going to be made into muscadel or white port.
Here's the view over the vineyard out the back of Calitzdorp Wine Cellars. The wine here wasn't quite as good as at other places, but the scenery more than made up for it.
And finally, our accomodation at the Port Wine Guest Farm. After a mid-afternoon nap to sleep off our port buzz, we walked from here to a lovely little restaurant for dinner.
Stay tuned for the conclusion to our vacation: The Swartberg Pass and the real Karoo!