Thursday, 7 May 2015

May 2: Passes, forests and gays

We had to get up early to drop off laundry, so opted to drive to Knysna today, using the old 7 Passes Road on the way there. This was the original overland route, built starting in 1867 (the year Canada became a country), that dives through 7 river valleys on its way over the tablelands from George to Knysna. It drizzled most of the morning, making the route even greener than it normally would be.

Memories of the Hana Road on Maui
This road is about 70% unpaved sand or gravel, often washboard and narrow with one lane bridges. It occurred to me that this is what the drive to Hana was like before the road was paved. The road mostly cuts through farm land, but there are/were forests up here. Almost all the indigenous forest is gone, cut down long ago, now replanted (with pine trees from California, because they grow faster and better than the native trees). But…

Along the 7 Passes Road are several places with native forests, and they are full of native birds. One such native forest surrounds the…

Um, what's this way?
And the puppy is a very large specimen of a Outeniqua Yellowwood, a subspecies of yellowwood that can get big. In this case, the tree is 800 years old, 33 m tall, and 12 m across.

Okay, that's a big tree
And a tall tree
Trees often get vandalized with people carving their names in them. The South African solution? Put up a log next to the tree and get people to carve their names in that.

I really like this idea
This forest is actually home to elephants, though there are very, very few living here any more (3?). After puttering along the road a bit further past the Big Tree, passing green farm ponds…

Water covered in pond lilly-type growth 
…we went up to explore a large expanse of Knysna forest in the Goudveld area. There’s a National Park up here with pretty picnic spots…

Green up in the cloud forest
…and a bunch of hiking trails. We followed the Jubilee Creek trail for about 1.2 km of its 3.5 km length. They used to mine gold up this creek, so it’s not a “pristine” forest, but it’s close, because its never been logged.

Jubilee Creek
Stuff living on the stuff that lives on the stuff that lives on the ground
VERY cool fungus
Nice spiderwebs
Tannin-coloured water from the trees
Wild blackberry?
Not a bridge I was prepared to cross
Hiking, South Africa style
Green, green and more green
We would have gone farther but were running out of time and were blocked by a stream ford we didn’t want to do. The birds up there were fantastic. We didn't see many but the forest was a cacophony of birdsong.

From there, we drove down to Knysna, only about 40 min away (across the last of the 7 Passes). Knysna is a town on a huge estuary lagoon, and is very sheltered from the ravages of the Indian Ocean by mountains.
The gap in the background is the Knysna Heads, gateway to the ocean 
Empty docks 
Still waters run deep
There are some (but not a lot) of marsh birds here.
No idea as to who he is, but we see him all over 
African Sacred Ibis
They built a huge resort complex/community in the middle of the lagoon on the islands where these birds live, so there really aren’t a lot of birds any more. What is there are shopping centres, like the Knysna Quays.
Like the V&A Waterfront at Cape Town, but smaller 
Canals to your condo
There’s a nice little yacht club, where they sail Lasers (a good Canadian boat), and in their boat basin were some little fish that I could “conduct” to swim where I wanted by simply creating shadows in the water. Voila, a swirling vortex of fish.
We left the waterfront, and wandered towards downtown. We found a couple of pretty little malls, including one with a bunch of steampunk–style Rube Goldberg machines, including this one.

Eventually, a nice lady, a little older than us, encouraged us to go to the parade that was about to start. What parade? The one associated with this event:
Huh? Really? Cool...
Yes, a Gay Pride and Mardi Gras parade associated with the Mr. Gay World competition (Note: Mardi Gras is associated with the Fat Tuesday before Lent, so is in February, not May. But when it comes to marketing, who cares?). The entire town was into it.
Queen Elizabeth II would not disagree
And sure enough, probably 5,000 people were lining Main Street to watch the parade.
The hoards 
Some of the better looking Transvestites 
Awaiting the parade
The "floats" arrive 
A lot of pink 
Even the dogs are for it 
More pinkness 
Well decorated 
Rainbow balloons 
She was not the parade "Queen" 
Now there's a smile
We even ran into two folks who were on our Adventure Tour in the Cango Caves a few days ago.
Last time I saw them, they were squeezing through the Laundry Chute
I’m not sure that seeing a Gay Pride parade was a fair representation of Knysna, but it’s a fun town anyway. One parade participant was carrying a banner that said “Equal Rights for All”. Great theory, and one I support personally (hey, so did Abraham Lincoln).

But it’s kind of an ironic banner given that 20 years ago, Africa was still labouring under Apartheid, and even now, clearly lacks actual racial equality (kind of like the USA). The gay community may have to wait a while until the rest of the nation sorts itself out.


Today’s Travel Tip: Passes

Where I live, a pass goes over a mountain. In South Africa, they are quite proud of their mountain passes and signpost all that have names, which is a lot of them. But many South African passes in fact go DOWN, not up. For instance, all 7 of the passes on the 7 Pass Road go down through river valleys, not up over a mountain.

South African roads have signs on them depicting scenic routes, just like where you live, I bet. But South African passes are a significant thing to them, and worthy of exploration. Many were built in the late 1800’s, so you get to meet history along them.

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