Plettenberg to Aghulhas

Even more news from Robn,

I will add photos over the next few days and then remove this sentence.

From Plettenberg, on Aug 14, we headed out for Knysna (pronounced nye’s-nah) and points west. A nearby place for a hike with big trees had been recommended but when we got there, someone was sitting on a bench claiming that there was a 40R entrance fee. This we did not believe. He looked anything but official and there were no signs or other indication of restricted entrance. Plus, when we weren’t interested in paying 40R, he offered a discount and said we could pay after the walk. Perhaps we should have just ignored him, but we chose instead to simply leave.

On my trip past this area in 2011, we were watching the weather very carefully. It can turn dangerous very quickly, and it took us 4 days to get to Hout Bay. The weather was unstable and might go bad quickly. There are few places to seek shelter in this part of the world.

At Knysna, we went to the “Heads” (the entrance to the harbor) and I confirmed that, when I sailed by here in 2011, I would have been extremely uncomfortable entering that harbor which I had been told should be done only with local knowledge. They were correct. There were breaking rollers across the entire entrance. We watched a tour boat going out – shallow draft, large engined, well powered boat – which aborted twice before getting out. We read about ship wrecks there – at least one of which was denied insurance as the company decided that the wreck was deliberate. Maybe. It is a tricky entrance, on a GOOD day. Some insurance companies prefer to not pay out. Just take in.

We also read about a boat building company there that was about to close down when WWII began, because the workers all wanted to enlist. The military stopped them in time and said, we need ships!. They built 640 vessels for the Navy including wooden submarine hunters. (This surprised Dave, as he was familiar with wooden mine sweepers. Some mine are set off by the magnetic field of the ship. But, low and behold, have a look at the second link, just below.)

http://www.springtide.co.za/shipbuilding-knysna-history/

http://www.splinterfleet.org/

The company then went on to build fishing boats and yachts including winning ocean racers. So the harbor entrance was obviously passable and I could have gotten in – but I would not have done so without both local knowledge, and a great deal of nervousness. I do not regret giving it a pass – as beautiful and interesting as it is.

Evidence of a huge fire from a couple months ago (started June 7th) was everywhere. The destruction went on for many miles. There were storm force winds at the time, exacerbated by the fire itself. In many areas, just the bottoms of the trees were damaged. It looks like it was sometimes brush fire under the tall trees. Sometimes this killed the tree. Sometimes just the lower branches. The top was still green and the tree might survive.

Also, often the trunk was intact and they seem to be harvesting those somewhat blackened logs.

https://www.enca.com/south-africa/devastating-knysna-fire-human-activity-report

We continued on to Mossel Bay. This had been a planned alternate shelter if I felt that the weather window would not hold till Hout Bay. At decision time it was quite a debate but I decided to continue on and we made it all the way without incident. While in Mossel Bay, we visited a replica of the ship Bartolomeu Dias used when he came here in 1488, but I did not feel that it gave an accurate idea of what life and sailing was like back then. It seemed too POSH inside. Interesting nevertheless.

Much more interesting, for me at least, was a visit to Pinnacle Point where the development of a golf course led to the proper examination of several large caves in the area for the first time. Lots of evidence was found to indicate that humans had inhabited them 162,000 years ago – tools, ash, bones, shells. Our guide showed us lots of features of the historical record, like the period when the cave was sealed off by a huge sand dune which allowed for transparent clean seepage of flow rock. This means that the stalactites from one era were clean and shiny. While the earlier ones were sandy and gritty, due to sand and dust being blown into the open cave mouth.

The cave was sealed off at the end of the middle stone age, explaining why no evidence of late stone age habitation was found in this particular cave although it was found in other nearby caves that had not been sealed off. Thirteen caves in all. There maybe others hiding under current dunes. At the time that the caves were inhabited, the ocean was up to a couple hundred kilometers away due to lower sea levels. What archeological treasures await in caves that are now under water?

The guide was very knowledgeable and well spoken and presented a clear picture of the record – much more convincing that the one we saw near Jo’berg. Which doesn’t make the latter necessarily inaccurate, just less convincing.

While in Mossel Bay, we stayed with a well traveled lady who had broken several glass ceilings – like visiting an oil platform, when ONLY men were allowed, and had been to a very remote, and dangerous part of Victoria Falls, and working with rich Arabs to find top employees. She also had some interesting culinary experiences eating things which most people in our culture would not be able to stomach. Let’s just say bugs and worms, in countries where the locals ate them. Yet again, no shortage of interesting conversations.

We did some laundry here as it had been a while, since most airbnb’s don’t offer that option – at least not AirBnBs in our price range. South Africa must have a tiny heating bill compared to the USA. Not only do they not heat their homes and leave their doors and windows open to the fresh air in very cold weather, but they also don’t use electric clothes dryers. Fancy that! They simply hang them up on racks to dry. Zero expense. Zero carbon. (Except a bit for occasional ironing.) Just a bit of patience.

Before leaving Mossel Bay, we went to the tiny Aquarium where one can swim with the sharks – 2 of them in a tank. We declined, not because they were sharks, but because we were not interested in getting cold and wet. It had an octopus and a few other bits of sea life. Precious little other than the chance to swim with the sharks. For non mariners, however, it may very well have been quite interesting. I couldn’t say. For us, the owner was the interesting part. Alan Jardine has a fascinating life history.

http://www.mosselbayadvertiser.com/news/News/General/12114/The-man-who-touched-the-moon

http://www.bgdailynews.com/a-passion-for-fish-and-wildlife/article_26c39443-2d5a-5072-bbe0-d4ed86e8b030.html

Next we went to the ‘Iron and Washing Museum’! It was locked but the hours posted indicated that it should be open, so we inquired at the laundry next door and they opened it for us and got a video going for us to watch. Very interesting. They have over 640 irons! Plain flat irons, plus those for ties and hats, and socks, and various kinds of pleats, and those fancy collars. The collection showed not only the variety of specialty irons but their development from irons heated on a stove, to irons with hot coals inside to stay hot longer, to gadgets that would heat one, while another was in use and, and, and. Plus washing machines and ringers and all sorts of other items related to making and caring for clothing and even a few other items. I found it fascinating. So much effort! Of course that was for the gentry. I doubt very much that the clothing of the masses in previous centuries ever saw an iron. Contrast that to our mass production throw away wardrobes.

From Mossel Bay, we stopped next in Still Bay for a night. I had booked three nights under the impression from AirBnB’s web site that it was within walking distance of Cape Agulhas. Not. The web site includes information from Google Maps but the scale is covered up by a rectangle that offers you the chance to change language and currency. Without the scale I sometimes lose track of how much I have zoomed in and out. Since I wanted to spend time at Agulhas, we changed the booking to one night which we spent with yet another fascinating couple. We had planned to take a breather to catch up on recording memories and sorting pictures. Yeah, right. We talk and listen too much. They fed us lavish meals and told us fascinating things. Had a great time, and great food, and slept soundly. Then finally made it to the southernmost tip of South Africa.

Here we did find a place to stay without distractions as our hosts promptly took off for adventures of their own leaving us in a little self contained apartment. It’s a remodel that provides almost everything you could want in a minimalist space. On entry there is a shower to the left, a kitchen sink next to it then a half bathroom. Opposite the shower, to the right of the door, there is an under counter fridge under an L shaped counter. Under the end of the long leg of the L which stretches away from the door, is a drawer for silverware with a couple of shelves under that. They had a two burner hot plate, toaster, electric fry pan, pot, and skillet. Between the fridge and shelves is leg space with a chair on each side of the counter. Under the short, narrow leg of the L along the wall is more shelving with plates, cups, glasses. Above, on the counter, is a micro wave oven and electric kettle. Dave sat at the counter inside the L with his computer in front of him and stirred our supper on the hot plate next to him. This was the kind of efficient use of space that sailors appreciate. Behind him was the bed with night tables and a wardrobe. Only trouble was the electric fry pan was no longer non stick and the heating element was uneven. A very minor problem that far too many people in the world would love to have.

We took time out from letter writing to go down to the tip and watch the waves and visited the light house. (Twice.) So that brings me up to date. What have I left out? Oh, one thing: Somewhere I had a pizza for lunch that was so different from anything I can remember that I simply have to mention it. It was roasted beet root, butter nut squash, macadamia nuts, and pumpkin seeds! (And the usual tomato and cheese). It was GOOD. I’ve had a lot of meals lately that have not fit the usual mold, and I am enjoying the variety and the novelty.

Hope you are also enjoying life,

Robn and Dave

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