48 Hours on the Garden Route

2012-04-30 10:26
 Ever since reading Dalene Matthee's masterpiece Kringe in ‘n bos (Circles in a forest) I have day dreamt about the magic of the Knysna forests, the Outeniqua mountains and oceans beyond. Even when listening to disgruntled travellers saying that the Garden Route, "isn't what it used to be", I covered my sensitive ears.

As if trying to protect the pimpled bookworm still hiding somewhere inside me, I made my plans in resilience. Unlike Santa Clause and the many other things life takes away from you when you grow older, I wouldn't allow this childhood dream to be dashed!

When a friend recently planned on going to Knysna for a few days, I thought - "this was finally it!"With only an aptly ‘out of season' timed weekend to spare I was looking for the ultimate way to explore, in the words of the Matthee herself, the "tawny magnificence of Africa".

Et Voila! Enter the Pezula Resort Hotel & Spa's adrenaline packages.

Day 1 - Friday.

18:30 - Arrive at Pezula.

To be honest, I have never heard of Pezula. However, I discovered why I was looked at with contempt when I told friends that this would be the base for my weekend as soon as I, in all senses of the word, arrived. The infomercial on the in house advertorial channel echoed my thoughts exactly: "Pezula brings a whole new meaning to... (Insert dramatic pause)... Luxury!"

I'm not going to bore you with the run-of-the-mill-review vibe here. Two years ago our Ed visited what she called "Knysna's Palace on the Hill". My experience in 2011 still lives up to the opulence she described - the likes of which my Pretoria farm boy roots would likely not soon see again! Read her version and take my word for it; it's still palatial without being stuck up.

19:30 - Dinner at Zachary's.

When the words ‘Boutique' and ‘Resort' go hand in hand with titles like ‘Best international property' and ‘Zachary's - One of SA's top 20 restaurants' you might gather that this isn't exactly budget central. That being said, excellence doesn't come cheap. So save up and spoil yourself because it is worth every cent. Or in the praiseworthy words of our hostess at Zachary's, Jacky: "Some places pretend like they are doing you a favour, when in actual fact they should be doing everything to make you feel welcome." View their full menu and bible of a wine list here.

Day 2

8:20 - Drive to Plettenberg Bay.

For someone who hasn't seen the area before, the breathtaking views of rolling mountains and river canyons weren't to be my only delight. Pezula's version of a road trip included taking care of the driving and even a lavish picnic basket. I could get used to this!

9:15 - Whale Watching Tour

Image by showme.co.za

"Wow! Even I have never seen so many!" our tour guide stops mid joke as he amazes himself at the amount of dolphins playing in the early morning sunshine. Amidst cameras flashing and people's cries of excitement, a school of 50 or so dolphins protrude from the waves as if being unveiled from underneath a big blue blanket as the waves roll over them.

We enjoyed our 2-hour whale cruising safari with Ocean Blue Adventures, who welcomed us with refreshments before sending us on our way on "a rare and beautiful experience". With a charismatic guide and friendly skippers in tow we were off.

But be warned! If you don't have your sea legs just yet, like so many others, your breakfast might end up feeding the fishes. This sea sickness may also intensify when you realize you won't be seeing any whales this time. Luckily in my case, any feelings of disappointment were vanquished by the jolly dolphins and literally hundreds of cape fur seals and their pups sunbathing on the cliffs of the seal colony island.

11: 30 - Drive to Tsitsikamma for our Canopy tour at 13:00.

Image by canopytours.co.za

There I finally was. Not quite trekking through the forest that was the home to some 600-year-old endangered Outeniqua yellowwoods, but quite literally flying from tree top to tree top depending on nothing more than a harness and a cable! Saul Barnard eat your heart out. At 30m high, this was quite a thrilling way to see the forest of my dreams.

This was our next stop - Tsitsikamma National Park. It is one of a few uninterrupted pockets of forests left of the once 3100 square kilometre wonder. Sad yes, but luckily the forest is in good hands.

"Responsible tourism is very much the in thing right now," explains Michelle Petzer who co-manages the adventure course. "The Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour company is celebrating its tenth birthday this year, meaning that even before all the ‘cool' agencies were doing it, we have made it part of our company profile to conserve the forest and educate the community from the word go."

Knowing that the R450 fee is not only getting you 3 hours of forest time and a meal, but also supporting a community and a threatened natural wonder, makes you feel it's totally worth it in more ways than one. Not to mention getting a view that, until a few years ago, was privy only to Tarzan and the Knysna Loerie!

16:00 Depart for Pezula.

With tired bodies it was back to Pezula, where a huge calabash shaped bath fit for two and another 3-course dining experience awaits, for plenty of opportunities to reminisce over the eventful day...

Day 3

7:30 - Breakfast at Zachary's.

From Amuse Bouche to Petit Fours, Zachary's always pulls out all the culinary stops.

8:30 - Pezula is your oyster.

Image by Ehrard Vermaak

After yet another sumptuous breakfast, the morning before check out was left at leisure to explore Pezula's 1 000 hectare fynbos and forest-covered estate. Whether you choose to explore the field of dreams for a game of tennis or catch a final dose of rejuvenation in their world famous spa, the choice truly is yours. I decided to spend the morning on the enchanting Noetzie beach,where of course, Pezula owns and manages three private castles - one of which, you know, might just have housed Nelson Mandela for his first night as a free man...

11:30 - Depart for Oudsthoorn.

Before heading home, Pezula had one more surprise for us in Oudsthoorn - Crocodile cage diving!? At least the transitory landscape of the impressive Outeniqua mountain pass is the perfect backdrop on which to contemplate what exactly facing doom's teethy grin might be like...

13:00 Cango experience.

Image by Ehrard Vermaak

Arriving at the Cango Wildlife Ranch in Oudtshoorn, I wasn't happy. My weekend of teenage dreams was coming to a close and now my body wasn't playing along. Whether it was rejecting the transition from Golf resort to my Citi Golf, I don't know, but the sight of those beasts didn't exactly help!

Fortunately enough, the crocs were refusing to swim! Choosing instead to make the most of the rare winter sun and warming up their cold-blooded bodies in defiance of the snow covered mountains in the background.

In their place, we got the much warmer big cat experience. For as little as R160 you get to make a real live Cheetah purr, or play with a baby white tiger. And if you are channelling your inner Britney Spears, you can even drape yourself in an 80kg python (Pics included!). If that really isn't your thing, the Ark of animals, from African claw frog to the piglets in the petting zoo, Cango truly has something for all ages.

The quality of the experience came quite unexpectedly, as I am not a fan of zoos and cages.

"People sometimes make big scenes. ‘How can you keep these creatures in cages?' To which we say: this is primarily a rehabilitation facility. These animals were found abandoned or the offspring of captive animals. This is their safe haven, which also gives us the opportunity to educate the public" executive assistant Melonie Steward shooed my reservations away, before doting her affections on George the Red River Hog.

With strong links to the African association for zoos and Aquaria and the Cheetah Preservation Foundation, I felt more at ease with the fact that this was more than a mere money making scheme.

15:00 Depart for CT via Route 62.

The experience at Cango had me feeling much better. Although I was dreading the four hour drive ahead of me, the silent giants of the Karoo and a long overdue chat with that pimply adolescent I told you about earlier, would make for a fitting ending to 48 truly unforgettable hours.

Image by Ehrard Vermaak

Pezula runs three all-inclusive adrenaline packages starting from R1 999 per person per night. And if you stay for three nights, you only pay for two! Check out of each of our galleries or our booking page for more info on these unforgettable deals. Or alternatively visit pezula.com.



The Bungee and Tree Top Experience.

The Ocean Experience.

The Cage Diving Experience.

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