The Sweaty Dutchman and the shy petrol station
The trip between Knysna and Port Elizabeth, that came to include the last stretch of Route 62, the Sweaty Dutchman and the shy petrol station. As we had already planned to come back along this section of the N2 and spend a day or two exploring the surrounds we opted to drive straight through to PE without stopping, and we did, kind of.
After a decent plated breakfast at Lake Pleasant Living we packed the car and left Sedgefield late that morning, the forest mists still hanging heavily over the road. We passed through Knysna and onto Plettenberg Bay with its backdrop of majestic mountains stretching from horizon to horizon, past Polo fields and winding through the Crags. The road started opening up as we approached the Toll Gates, we paid the fees and got ready for the stretch of road that cut through the Tsitsikamma National Parks. Tsitsikamma attraction billboards flashed past on the side of the road as we passed over bridges suspended high above impressive cliff faces and rivers far, far below.
One of the most scenic places well worth a visit is Nature’s Valley, it is 29 km from Plettenberg Bay on the Port Elizabeth side next to a beautiful lagoon on the Indian Ocean, enfolded with mountainous forest with rich fauna flora and a bird watchers paradise. Nature’s Valley sits at the mouth of the Groot River, at the bottom of the Groot River Pass and alongside the Groot River estuary, it forms part of the Tsitsikamma De Vasselot nature reserve. The local community minimizes inappropriate development in the area in order to manage the environmental impact. The famous Otter trail ends here and most hikers seek accommodation in Natures Valley after doing the Otter trail to rest up before moving on.
The Knysna loerie is plentiful in the forest and bottle nosed dolphins can be seen in the waves with whales visiting frequently, especially the southern right whale is common here in early summer. Arguably the most beautiful part of the Garden Route in South Africa, Nature’s Valley is unique in that it lies nestled in the Tsitsikamma National Park coastal forest, – the only residential area within a South African National Park. Southern Cape Bushbuck, Bushpigs, and wild birds can frequently be seen in the gardens of Nature’s Valley village. There are plentiful scenic walks and you can be revitalized by soul inspiring walkabouts in this true garden on the Garden route.
An escarpment on the one and the Indian Ocean on the other side and forms part of the Tsitsikamma National Park flank Natures Valley. The Kouga, Kammanassie and “Groot Swart” mountain ranges stand guard over the valley. The Groot River flows into the Indian Ocean and the estuary forms a lagoon where swimming sailing and canoeing is very popular with holidaymakers. The ecology is closely monitored and managed. The population varies dramatically with the seasons, from less than 100 off season to an estimated 2000 excluding day visitors, during peak season.
The highest bungee jump in the world is about 20km away, another 10 km on will take you to the Storms River where the famous Otter trail starts. The Bloukrans arch bridge is the highest on the entire continent of Africa with a deck 708 feet (216 meters) above the bottom of the gorge. Located on the N2 Garden Route near the Pacific coast on the southern edge of South Africa, the two-lane route also has several other spectacular and high concrete arch bridges including the Van Stadens, Storms river, Groot river and Bobbejaans river bridges. This is also the only highway in the world outside of China or Italy to have 3 bridges in excess of 500 feet (152 meters) in height. When it opened in 1984, the Bloukrans also held the record for being the world’s highest concrete arch bridge. Since then it has been surpassed by the Jiangjiehe bridge in China and the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman bridge that bypasses the Hoover Dam near Las Vegas, Nevada in the U.S.
The bridge made news in 1997 when the Face Adrenalin Bungee operation opened. As the highest commercial bungy jump operation in the world, it has turned the bridge into a major tourist attraction for South African visitors. You can also zip along under the arch on a cable slide called the Flying Fox or just go for a more sedate walking tour. The operators once owned a bungy jump at the Gouritz or Gourits river railroad bridge located west of Mossel Bay on the N2 Garden route before it was closed in 2009 from structural deterioration. It is one of 3 wonderful side-by-side bridges at the site including a traditional cantilever and a modern strut frame bridge. The two older bridges are approximately 215 feet (65 meters) high.
After Storms River Mouth we decided to look for a petrol station and seeing the first sign we turned left onto the R402 for Kareedouw. The petrol station signage on the N2 doesn’t indicate how far it is, as we took the road through the mountain pass and eventually came across the town of Kareedouw as we reached Route 62. The town is small and the Route 62 forms the main road, we past the Sweaty Dutchman (Coffee Shop & Bistro) and found our petrol station at the end of town, since we could get back on the N2 a bit further down the road we decided to do this stretch of Route 62, rejoining the N2 at Humansdorp and making for Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay.
We booked into Brookes Hill later that afternoon, it feels like a block of flats met a hotel. The rooms were clean and reasonably spacious, after a quick clean up we went looking for an early dinner at The Boardwalk Casino & Entertainment World on the beach road.