CAMPING WITH CROSS AFRICA
- Natures Valley
- Arch Rock, Keurboomstrand
- Whiskey Creek Canoe Trail
- Plett and the Robberg Nature Reserve
- Diepwalle, Knysna Forest
- Kom se Pad to Gouna
- The Heads and Knysna Lagoon
PLETT TO KNYSNA
GARDEN ROUTE, SOUTH AFRICA
Plan B … we’d opt out when it came to the choice to camp out at De Vasselot campsite in Natures Valley. Reason? The foul weather … We were still standing and watching braver souls than ourselves launch out into the abyss of the Bloukrans gorge (attached to a bungy cord, of course) when the mist started to roll in. By the time we left the bridge bungy site the fog had properly set in. So, instead of braving the inevitable dripping trees and dank, dark … and rather depressing, campsite hidden under the indigenous canopy in Natures Valley, we decided to head onwards to our next destination, Forever Resorts Plettenberg Bay. (Don’t get me wrong, Natures is an amazing place and staying in the forest is an awesome experience … if the sun shines)
As luck … well, planned luck, would have it, Plettenberg Bay is also Cross Africa’s home town and it wouldn’t take us long just to pop round home and load up the kayaks. It is simply Cross Africa law … when you camp along the Keurbooms River, you kayak, or else …
The weather would soon take a turn for the best and we’d be blessed with blue sky and sunshine for a bit of a lazy afternoon drive in backtracking down to Natures Valley after all.
The Groot River lagoon lay still and silent, baking under the summer sun, it’s surface flat and mirror-like reflecting the wooded hillsides all around. Stopping for a paddle in the bathwater-warm shallows, we’d be swept up by the splendour … the sights and sounds of nature. With the ocean breakers rushing up the white sandy beach, pushing back the darker river waters as the tide filled the river mouth, we’d take a short walk on the beach as well.
Driving down the narrow lanes closed in with the natural vegetation of the coastal forest (one can hardly see some of the houses for the trees) we’d completely get caught up in that typical summer holiday, late afternoon dappled sunlight vibe. I guess we should’ve braved the fog for our reward would’ve been great … not that Forever Resorts is not great, in fact, it turned out to be one of our favourites on the tour so far.
Its just so easy to dump your kayak into the dark tannin stained waters of the Keurbooms and head upstream from Forever … into the Keurbooms River Nature Reserve. We kayaked all the way up to Whiskey Creek, so named for the colour of the shallow water … well, whiskey colour, I guess. We’d turn at the jetty for the Canoe Trail, a few bends upstream from the official turning point for boats. We could head further upstream despite the shallows but also no further than the jetty. From there things turn into a trickle through the rocks. It is simply blissful to get to the upper reaches of the river where no boat engine or any other loud noise can reach you. Up there its just the sound of the wind in the reeds and the occasional cry of the fish eagle.
We’d keep to a very much non-mainstream-tourist idea … if you know what I mean, and so we’d stick very much to everything nature could offer us in the area, including taking a trip out to Keurboomstrand to walk to Arch Rock. This is exactly what it’s name says, Arch Rock, but you can only get to it at low tide so we had to time our walk carefully. Suzann was going to try and keep to tradition and try her arm at throwing a stone through the hole above the arch but we’d not have the site to ourselves long enough and she didn’t want to endanger someone else’s head …
Despite the weather turning worse again we’d not be put off and took a bit of a drive to explore our own town again, visiting the Timber Shed, Hobie Beach, Beacon Island, St Peters Church, various viewpoints and of course, the Robberg Nature Reserve, home to a whole colony of rather smelly Cape Fur Seals. There we’d also step back in time at the Nelson Bay Cave Archaeological Site and visit the breeding seagulls on The Island.
But we couldn’t stay in Plett forever. The famous Knysna Forest awaited us. We’d take the road less traveled and accessed Diepwalle via the gravel Prince Alfred Pass (another pass built by the famous Mr Bain). On the way to Diepwalle we’d stop to have a look at the ‘Calling the Herd’ sculpture where Suzann would try her hand at blowing the trumpets … it’s supposed to sound like an elephant but her attempt was less than successful. She’d have great success in spotting a snake at the Valley of the Ferns picnic site though. The snake, on it’s part, would be successful in scaring us away and we’d move on up the steep track to the Spitskop viewpoint from where we could actually see both Robberg in Plett and The Heads in Knysna.
At Diepwalle we’d spend the night camping on one of their, well, camping decks. These decks are raised above the forest floor and you pitch your tent on them for a night amongst the trees. A rather romantic idea that sounds so awesome but as the sun begins to set you start to feel the icy fingers reaching out of the indigenous forest all around you. It’s quite chilly, and rather chilling, after dark.
Before leaving the next day we’d visit the Woodcutters Museum where the lives of these hardened old folks is displayed in word and tools of their trade. There’s also a skeleton of an elephant bull … thank goodness it was only a skeleton we’d encounter and not the real thing, elephants are huge … Yet, these huge animals lived silently in the forests for years until we, of course, came in with ideas of mining and farming and the entire plantation idea that would fuel the timber industry and eventually employ the woodcutters as the chopping of indigenous trees would be limited and their livelihoods, lost.
With names like Diepwalle, Kom se Pad, Gouna, and the like, the Knysna Forest holds a sense of wonder and a drop of adventure. But the ‘what’s around the next corner?’ soon brings you out of the forest back into the reality of the bustling town of Knysna. We’d have a job of finding a campsite but eventually someone came to our aid at the Monks Holiday Resort along the Knysna lagoon.
After pitching the tent we’d drive out to The Heads, the famous ‘gap’ in the cliff that gives access to the tranquil waters of the Knysna lagoon. From the viewpoint up on the eastern head, we’d have a spectacular view of the ocean on the one side and the entire lagoon on the other.
And, of course, the sunsets over the lagoon are picture perfect …