Other than safaris in Kroger National Park in the eastern part of the country, perhaps the place most frequented by tourists to South Africa is its famed Garden Route. Stretching a few hundred kilometers along the coastline from Mossel Bay in the west to Tsisikamma National Park in the east, the Garden Route is a spectacular journey through old growth forests, pristine white sandy beaches, over mountain passes, along spectacular lagoons and through small villages and tourist-focused towns.
A staple and must stop on Route 62 is the infamous Ronnie’s “Sex” Shop. Ronnie built the building and posted the sign “Ronnie’s Shop” in 1989 with the idea he’d open a farm supply shop just outside Barrydale. Two years later Ronnie was still dreaming and the building with the name just sat vacant a friend took some red paint and added the words “sex” to the sign. Ronnie was a bit pissed, but let it go. For another 5 years the building just became a picture taking spot for travelers on this route. Then in 1997 after much prodding by friends and the fact that the building had achieved cult status, Ronnie opened a bar. Today Ronnie tends the bar and has become a legend.
We left Warmwaterberg and headed for Mossel Bay stopping in Oudtshoorn, self-proclaimed the ostrich capital of the world. Prior to entering this small town of 85k I passed through ostrich farm after ostrich farm for more than 50km until finally being greeted with the town’s welcome sign which begs visitors to Switch to Ostrich. Naturally this sleepy town, which apparantly rocks during an annual arts festival in March/April, seemed a perfect place to sample South African ostrich. A nice lunch of cubes of ostrich on roasted open flame on a skewer with vegetables, it was only the second time I’ve sampled ostrich. Remembering my previous encounter with the long neck and funny shaped bird, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this other red meat. Lean and tasting like a mixture between chicken and beef, the meet was tender, flavorful and exhibited no unpleasant game-type flavors.
My culinary options in Mossel Bay were rather different and my luck quite the contrary. Once again getting hammered by rain and forcing me to take one more night at the lovely Munro Manor. But it may have been that last night that did me in. After traveling nearly 70,000km, through 18 countries and now two continents, I’d never been hit by any digestive problems. Perhaps I’m lucky or my gut is made of iron, but in Mossel Bay my time was up. Waking up the morning I planned to depart I felt off. Nauseated, dizzy and with a tinge of a headache, I was forced to leave the comfort of my bed as my stomach convulsed and caused me to heave what little was in my stomach from the day before.
I met Grant & Jules a bit later and we rode to Knysna, a quaint yet busy town on a beautiful lagoon just a couple hours away. My upset stomach had remissed but now the problem was coming out the other end. All I wanted was to find a place to stay and get back to bed — with a toilet nearby. Backpacker places with shared bathroom, usually down the hall and around the corner, were out of the question. I wanted a real room. I ended up staying two nights in Knysna but sadly not touring the town other than a couple walks to the wharf on the lagoon. Grant & Jules made their way southeast while I made my way to recovery. In fact, during my second night in Knysna I was forced to find alternate accomodation as the guest house we stayed was booked for the 2nd night. I grabbed the first place I could find, Bond Lodge just at the top of Gray Street. The charming owner, Denise greeted me with a glass of wine, secure parking and tips on food and entertainment. I hadn’t eaten anything in nearly 40 hours. Feeling better I took advantage of the towns tourist-focused shopping and took care of some holiday shopping for my nieces, nephews and sweetheart. That night, dinner at Harry B’s turned out to be my first meal and by then my plumbing seemed back in order.