De Rust (South Africa)

Not all of the trip was along the coast. We spent two days in a small town called De Rust, which is in the Klein Karoo. We stayed at a lovely guest house there, the Housemartin Guest Lodge, owned by Jan and Theresa, who treated us like old friends, making us feel very welcome and feeding us delicious home cooked traditional South African food. It was a real shame to leave.

De Rust was our base for a couple of local sights; the Cango Caves and then an ostrich farm, as well as some spectacular red rock scenery.

In the morning, we headed out to the Cango Caves. Our drive there wasn’t without incident though, as we actually started driving in the wrong direction. This did lead us through some gorgeous scenery which we returned to later in the day to take photos. We also deliberately took the scenic route, via some gorgeous open countryside, and numerous olive farms.

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Eventually we arrived at the caves. If I hadn’t been to some caves in Vietnam a few years ago I probably would have enjoyed them more, but they were still impressive. They actually used to be used for concerts, until the authorities realised that the concerts were causing damage to the caves, and stopped them. One of the guides treated us to a mini concert though, by singing to us all. She had an amazing voice and with the acoustics it was a pretty special start to our visit. Concerts there must have been wonderful.

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It was a guided walk though the caves, from one small cave to the next, and we weren’t allowed to wander where we wanted. It turns out we were on the easy walk. There is a much harder walk visitors can do, but it involves climbing and squeezing into some very small gaps. I guess the rewards (ie caves seen) of doing the harder walk make it worth doing, but as we did see some impressive stalagmites and stalactites, I have no complaints with what we did.

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After we had finished at the caves, we headed out for lunch, which was eaten somewhere pretty special – another small safari park, Buffelsdrift Game Lodge. It is possible to stay there, but we just called in for a truly delicious lunch. The main restaurant overlooks a lake, and we were treated to more animal sightings – some elephants, rhinos and more birds. I’ve definitely had worse lunches, with worse views!

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After lunch, we headed to what would prove to be an unexpectedly good visit to an ostrich farm.

I’m not really sure what I was expecting to see, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to feed the ostriches, but that is exactly what I did! The visit started with a brief history of ostrich farming, and their uses, both in eating (the meat and the eggs) and for the leather. This was then followed by a walk around the farm, where we saw many, many ostriches of all ages and sizes.

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We then had the chance to feed them. First by hand – you put some feed in your hand and hold your hand out and they will eat from your hand – it feels a bit weird as they dip their heads down quite quickly to get the feed pellets from you. It doesn’t hurt as they don’t bite, but you can feel their beaks as they repeatedly take the pellets until they’re are all gone. Then, we had the chance to feed them from a bucket, which involves you holding a bucket in front of you, and then walking a few steps backwards towards the fence where they are standing, waiting. The ostriches will then reach over your shoulders to take the feed from the bucket. It did all feel a bit like a performance, and the ostriches were expected to play along, but it was all good fun. They have stopped ostrich riding, which is probably a good thing.

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After that, we headed back to our little detour of the morning, to take some photos of the beautiful red rocks we had driven through. They actually reminded me of Utah in the USA, and Zion National Park, with similar shades of red. The road winds its way through a valley between the mountains, and there are several places where visitors can pull over and take photos. One of these places also has a short walk up to a waterfall, which we all went up to. It was a lovely last place to visit that day.

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