The only way I have to describe Knysna is to imagine the Alps suddenly deposited on the shores of the Indian Ocean. Not as high as the Alps, these densely forested mountains run along an immense lagoon fed by the Ocean. Pines and poplars crowd the slopes like sentinels self arranged in endless rows. The sight is as beautiful as it is unexpected.
We are now on the Garden Route after having traversed mountains passes and miles of flat, agricultural land. Rather than people, it was sheep, cows and ostriches we encountered. I haven’t had the pleasure of tasting ostrich meat just yet (am not too sure I will get around to it) but I am told it is similar to beef, just a bit more gamey. Beautiful ostrich purses in pastel colours can be found everywhere but after seeing so many of the thin legged birds I am not so sure I could sport one on my arm (the purse, not the bird…).
A walk into the thick forest once again reminds me how far I am – if pines and poplars are familiar, ironwood and stinky wood not so much (the stinky wood tree apparently emanates a foul odour when cut). I tried hard to spot wild elephants between the thick branches but none was kind enough to come have breakfast in my vicinity. As the sun was setting, though, egrets were walking so lightly on the lagoon they looked as if they were treading water.
Despite the crystalline blue sky, it is still winter and there is something a bit forlorn and melancholic about visiting a seaside resort in winter. The ocean looks angry, slamming its waves against the rock, reminding us of the power we sometimes forget when placidly dipping in Summer. I like being here now, with no crowds, just the locals and the wealthy retirees who bought homes in this paradise. Inside the lagoon there are a few islands where beautiful waterfront homes have been built – manicured gardens, shuttered windows, no children at play, it’s idyllic and, like many times before during my travels, I find myself scouring real estate placards and ads for the perfect home of a hypothetical future. At the equivalent of $200,000 for a 3 bedroom, it’s no wonder that some Europeans and wealthy South Africans purchase second homes here.
Last week, I had never heard of Knysna, it wasn’t even a name on a map or in a guide-book (all the travel arrangements were left to Sue, the only person on earth I could ever trust with such a task). And now, it’s the center of my universe, if only for a couple of days. It’s this full immersion that travel mentally and emotionally requires I am so attached to. The focus of my day is finding the perfect bakery, how to get from A to B and what the weather will be like. If only…