Tuesday, May 28, 2013

South Africa 5: Garden Route: Of Knysna, Paragliding and the Horror

Our stay at Knysna. Argentinian team stayed here during World Cup
The place we stayed at Knysna was a former Manor house and we truly loved the wooden floors and the wooden architecture. After having a filling breakfast at the Manor house, we left for a boat ride to Knysna Heads. We had booked ourselves on Threelegs Rivercat boat of The Featherbed Company as this was the only boat departing at the time suitable to us. This ferry took us on a 75 minute cruise to the heads and back. Also, there was a guide on board who was continuously announcing interesting info over the microphone. Even though we had to take Threelegs Rivercat, I would recommend people to make it more fun by taking either the Heads Explorer or Princess Lee. The Knysna Heads is a must visit place in Knysna considering their interesting history and their significance in bringing down many ships coming in to Knysna from the Indian Ocean in the past. If you have time, a visit to Featherbed Nature Reserve is also highly recommended. 

Knysna Waterfront
After we came back from the boat ride, we spent some time hanging around at the waterfront and then left for Gaansbaai where we would stay for the night. While moving towards Gaansbaai, we planned to spend some time at the Gericke's Point. This is actually a beautiful beach with one of the highest fossil sand dunes along it. Its best to go here when the tide is going back as at that time, you can find lots of sea life like crabs, shells, anemone in the rock pools. We spent over an hour here and I would recommend anyone visiting this place to carry a camera along which I sadly didn't. 

The narrow entry into Knysna, Knysna Heads
Back from Gericke's Point, and seeing so many para-gliders in the sky, we also decided to do it. We called up some local shops whose contact numbers we found using Google on our phone. Thankfully, one paragliding shop agreed to host us and asked us to reach the take-off point which is on a hill right above the fields besides N2. The drive to this point was very good as its on a single lane gravel road with dense woods to either side. We were pretty happy for having decided to para-glide here when we reached the actual take-off point. From this point, we had a brilliant panoramic view of entire Sedgefield with Indian Ocean in the distance. 

Who wouldn't love to paraglide with such a view?
As none of us had done this before, we needed a pilot to fly us. We also hired wide angle cameras mounted on a rod to help us take pictures while flying. Considering that the pilot was to do all the hard work negotiating the winds, we actually had nothing to do there but sit and pose for the camera changing angles once a while. The flight here in Sedgefield was very beautiful and worth every penny we paid for it or so we thought till now.

Take-Off point
As two of us were probably too heavy or the winds didn't suit them, they landed on the fields below and not at the point from which we had taken off. So, we waited for them to come back up and then left for Gaansbaai. It was already 6 pm by the time we left Sedgefield. The drive further ahead was comfortable and beautiful with various Bays and beaches passing by on our left. The vast blue ocean keeping us company while we moved is surely a surreal feeling. However, once it got dark, I focused totally on the road as I wasn't really comfortable with the idea of driving in unknown areas when dark. We stopped by at a petrol pump somewhere to have coffee and some snacks to fill our famished stomach around 8. The drive further ahead from here was just around 2 more hours. 

Me in the air
We were moving comfortably when we reached an intersection on the road where I saw a car coming perpendicular to us. By the time I saw it, I was sure that I wouldn't be able to avoid it no matter how hard I brake. I guess the other driver thought the same as he didn't brake either. My attempt to speed past him was almost successful when his front hit the trunk of my car leaving the car rotating horizontally on the road while moving ahead. The car finally stopped after having completed 4 rotations probably and having moved 100 meters ahead from the point of impact. Our first reaction was calling each other's name to find out if everyone was okay. I thanked heavens for everyone was indeed okay with minor bruises. Then we got out of the car to check on the other car involved. Even though the people in the other car were more injured than us but even they didn't suffer any major injury. In the meantime, the guys in the car a little distance behind us had called the emergency number. I was really pleased with the prompt response of South African police after this. Within about 15-20 minutes, there were over 5 police vans, 2 ambulances and 1 fire-fighting vehicle present at the accident site. Comparing this to India, where even police doesn't arrive for hours, this was a pleasant surprise. Upon his arrival, the investigating officer took everyone's statement regarding the accident and then left after analyzing the situation. 

State of our car
In the meantime, we were looking for our stuff that was strewn all over the place as the trunk opened due to the impact throwing all our bags and loose items onto the road and even 50 meters into the fields besides it. Later, everyone left except for two police vans that were probably there to provide us security as South Africa is still pretty prone to thefts during the night. One of the police officer was kind enough to provide us a torch to look for our bags in the field. We couldn't leave for our hotel yet as we were waiting for the towing vehicle of the Car Rental company of our car to come and take the car with it. The same police officer helped us again by calling her husband to come over in his private car to drop us to our hotel at 2 in the night.  He did charge some money for that, but we would have willingly paid him that in any case. Our hotel in Gaansbaai, The Roundhouse Guesthouse wasn't a very big hotel and there was hardly anyone to be seen there when we reached. Thankfully, the owner lived next door only and we disturbed his sleep by calling him up. Once inside the comfort of our rooms, we analysed the damages to find that the biggest damage was that my Macbook Pro was broken into two pieces. But, we were lucky to be alive after what we had just experienced. 

Gaansbaai with its choppy waters
We slept around 3 am hoping to be able to go for Shark Cage Diving next morning. When we woke up next morning, we found out that the choppy seas and strong winds meant that their would be no Shark Cage Diving today. Disappointed, we just called our Car Rental company to provide us a new car. This car was to come from Cape Town but it took quite longer than expected. When we called up the company again, they told us that the car had left CT on time, but there was a big fire in the nearby town of Hermanus due to which the car had to go back and take a different route to come to us. At this point, we felt like anything that could go wrong was going wrong for us now. Finally, the car arrived around 2 pm and we immediately hopped onto it to drive to our final destination of the trip, Cape Town. 

The fire rages on as we drive to CapeTown
Continue reading to next part: Of Scuba, Sharks and Penguins


Wallaby said...

Great adventurous tale..cross a few million miles more

recommended for you - 'Long way round' and 'Long way south' :)

sachin dixit said...

Haven't seen these documentaries yet. Shall see them soon!!

Nikhil said...

Paraglyding with a view .... d photograph looks professional ......

sachin dixit said...

I need to buy this camera which these people provided for 100ZAR. Any idea kaun sa hota hai? Really small with a wide angle lens, almost a fish eye lens!!

Anonymous said...

its a GoPro camera

sachin dixit said...

Hey Anonymous friend...I have already bought this camera!! :-)