Garden Route --- South Africa
The so called "Garden Route" in S.A. is a term used roughly to refer to the scenic spots along the stretch of highway on N2 (equivalent to an interstate) from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. There are indeed literally dozens of places worthwhile to visit along the approximately five hundred miles of highway. There are plenty of beaches, cities with shopping areas, resort hotels, B & Bs, restaurants, mountains, gorges, farms, rivers, plantations, caves, and forests, just to name a few. It can fulfill the needs of all tourists. With the prices of food and lodging just about half of what they are in the US, it would be the most favored vacation place for Americans, if it was half the distance away from the US.
Clearly we could not see all we wanted with only four days and three nights. We checked quite a number of tour operators on the web in the Cape Town area and called three of them when we got to Cape Town. We decided finally to use 'Africa Mosaic Tours'. They are operated by Moosa and Chris (021-434-9298). They planned an exclusive one way tour for just the two of us. We left Cape Town on Wednesday morning at 8am, and ended our tour at the airport in Port Elizabeth at 2pm. on June 19th. The first night we stayed at Oudtshoorn and the next two nights in Knysna, all in nice B&Bs. At Outtshoorn our hostess baked goodies for us to take with us for a snack the next day!
The following is a list of the places we visited during those four days: Sir Lowry's Pass, Cape Agulhas, Mossel Bay, Cango Caves, an ostrich farm, Outeniqua Pass, the town of George, a boat trip to Knysna Heads and Lagoon, Plettenberg Bay, Nature's Valley, the bungee jump bridge, the Big Tree, Tsitsikamma Nature Reserve and Port Elizabeth. Tom decided to try every fish dish in S.A., so every night he would order a different kind of fish dish. Many of them we had never heard before, such as hake, yellow tail, butterfish, kingklip. In S.A., they sure know how to cook calamari in almost every restaurant, even Janice liked them, whether they were fried or cooked some other way.
Our guide for this trip came with a BMW and told us that his name was Mohammed Van de Kleek. What a name that is! His mother was from Indonesia and his father was Dutch. He told us stories about the apartheid years and about how much life has changed for the 'colored' after 1994 when apartheid was outlawed. For one thing, he was not allowed to be a guide before 1994, as that profession was reserved for whites only. He knew the area very well, and was a good driver, but could not answer questions about things such as " what's the percentage of people with a high school diploma in S.A.?", and "what's the name of the purple flower on the side of the highway?"
Before we came to visit S.A., Tom was a bit hesitant because of the possible residue of the apartheid years. After only a couple of days, our conclusion was that the character of race relationships in S.A. may be better than that in the US. The reason is that the whites are the minority here - while they are still controlling the basis of all the infrastructure they must pay attention to the political power gained by others, while in the U.S. the white majority does not need to change its behavior to ensure its continued existence.