Journey to South Africa

Day Nine: Our Anniversary in Knysna

Today we began our drive on the Garden Route. I had read about how scenic this drive was, but mistakenly thought it was famous for all the flowers along the route. Actually it´s called the Garden Route because it´s so green. Along with beaches, there are coastal lagoons, lakes, forests and hills. It is quite beautiful.   There are also lots of outdoor sports available in different spots along the route. We first went up one of the hills near Wilderness to see the paragliders jump down to the beach. Unfortunately the fog was so thick that you couldn´t see anything from that side of the hill to the ocean so they weren´t jumping yet and it didn’t look like they’d be able to anytime soon.

We saw some successful para gliders later on but you can tell how bad the fog was


Luckily there was a clear view on the other side of the hill so we were able to see the Map of Africa Viewpoint, a forested area that is surrounded by water and shaped just like the southern coast of Africa. Check it out below and tell me if you think it looks like the map:

The Garden Route
Map of Africa viewpoint

It was still misty over the ocean when we got to Knysna (pronounced Nice-na). The town is along both sides of a big lagoon, but only the eastern side is populated all the way out to the sea. This area close to the ocean where the two sides of the lagoon almost touch is called the Knysna Heads. There is just a small path for boats to enter and exit through.

The fog dissipates from the Knysna Heads
Look how clear the water in the lagoon is

We had a delicious lunch at the East Head Café complete with homemade strawberry daiquiris made from real strawberries, not the mix that is typically used. I also finally got to taste a Cape Malay curry with chicken, onions, sweet potatoes, bananas, peppers, tomatoes, and broccoli. This kind of cooking is typical of what is known as Cape Malay cuisine, which takes its influence from the Spice Islands. When Malaysia and Indonesia were under the control of the Dutch East India Company settlers brought the spices such as cinnamon, curry, coriander, with them when they came to South Africa. Consequently, the food and the people that moved to the Cape were dubbed Cape Malay. They moved to the Bo-Kaap neighborhood in Cape Town and built these small, colorful homes on a hill. No home is the same color, which I find amazing. During apartheid these people fell under the second class racial system called Coloured because they were a mixture of Malay and Dutch colonial blood. They weren´t considered as lowly as the native Africans, but they still were definitely treated as second class citizens compared to the whites.

Delicious lunch at East Head Cafe looking out at the beautiful view
Bo-Kaap (Cape Malay) neighborhood back in Cape Town

Regardless I was excited to try the curry since we didn´t have enough time for our Cape Malay cooking class back in Cape Town.  During our lunch overlooking the Knysna straight, the fog lifted before our very eyes so we were able to admire the view of the other side of the lake in the sunshine. After lunch we headed up the East Head in order to see the view of the two heads from up high. There were lots of beautiful homes up there as well as viewing platforms, and the sight from every angle was stupendous.We also saw the bit of land jutting out into the lagoon called Leisure Island, which was where we were staying.

View of the East Head from up top
My favorite color
Great effect with the fisheye lens of the Two Heads
Leisure Isle with the harbor behind it. You can see our guest house in this pic. It had a great view back to the heads

We headed back to our hotel to check in and rest before our sunset cruise along the lake onboard the old-fashioned paddlewheel boat, the John Benn. After spending barely any time in our large and impressive room, we arrived at the port early because I was hoping there would be some gift shops there.   We hadn´t gotten much time to do any souvenir shopping and I was worried that we wouldn´t in the future. Unfortunately, the shops weren´t exactly what we were looking for and Jon was annoyed that we had left Leisure Isle in order to come early and shop.   We got in a bit of a kerfuffle over it. Figures that the only time we were irritated with each other was on our anniversary. Haha! As Jon was pouting outside, I went into a boutique that had women´s clothes and scarves and signs everywhere that said “No Grumpy Husbands Allowed”.   I laughed out loud and went back outside to get my grumpy husband to pay for a scarf since he had the wallet. He was none too pleased.

Harbor at Knysna lagoon

The one benefit of our promptness was that we were second in line to get a good seat on the boat so we could get good pictures of the lagoon. Unfortunately the cruise wasn´t as romantic as we hoped. The boat was very touristy and lots of people came onboard. After getting such exclusive and personal treatment during the other activities on the trip, we didn´t enjoy being with the masses for the sunset. (Yes, we became spoiled on our trip…) Another impediment to our enjoyment of the ride was this obnoxious group near us who insisted on taking selfies from the boat railing at every possible opportunity. So instead of gazing lovingly into each other´s eyes on our second anniversary as we floated around the water, I was transfixed by watching this girl pose for pictures every other second. She even got many strangers to pose multiple times with her, after plumping up her hair and adjusting her sunglasses, that is. It was absolutely ridiculous! I can just picture that girl five years from now saying, “Remember that amazing time on the Knysna lagoon a few years ago? I can´t quite remember the people in the pictures with me, but that’s probably because I don´t actually know them and will never see them again…” Anyhoo, the cruise lasted about an hour and we were lucky to watch a kayak race near the harbor, which was pretty entertaining. I definitely would not have been able to hang.  Sunset was quite nice as well, once the annoying girl finally stopped taking glamor shots of herself, and I could see the sun.

Kayak race during our sunset cruise
Sunset from the John Benn boat

Dinner was reserved for us at 34 Degrees South on the waterfront, which was good, but not a romantic type of anniversary dinner place.  We ordered the famous Knysna oysters, which Jon didn´t really like again because they were so big. No more oysters on this trip! Jon ordered the seafood jambalaya (which tasted nothing like what he was expecting.. go figure!) Luckily I had ordered a flat crust pizza, which we both devoured along with a delicious Chenin Blanc. Unfortunately after my cocktails on the boat and the wine with dinner I was getting a little tipsy. I decided to suggest that we start a new tradition where we surprise each other with an anniversary present based on the traditional gifts for each anniversary. The first year you´re supposed to get paper, so that could be a card or stationary or a ticket to somewhere… whatever. I couldn´t remember what the second anniversary was supposed to be, so I just gave the example of paper. Jon asked incredulously, “Why would I get you something with paper?”

“Because it´s supposed to be cute and romantic for our anniversary. Plus we never surprise each other with anything,” I replied.

“I don´t really like surprises.  And I don’t really understand the plan.  So you want me to buy you toilet paper or a paper bag to make you feel that our anniversary is special?” he said while shrugging his shoulders.  I could tell he was making fun of my suggestion.

Since my idea was NOT met with positivity by my husband, I started to get upset, as one tends to do after too many glasses of wine.   The conversation grew a little out of control and veered into sensitive topics. Not a good choice when trying to enjoy an anniversary dinner. When Pepe arrived I was crying and I had to quickly dry my eyes and pretend to be happy so she wouldn´t feel too awkward, but I’m pretty sure she could sense the tension.  Oops!  No worries, we didn’t stay mad long- we made up in the morning.  So since I didn´t express my gratitude and love for my husband properly on our anniversary, my message to him is this:

Jon- Thank you so much for standing by me and for dealing with life´s challenges so patiently. I know we´ve had our hard times, and that we’ve both been changed forever.  I cherish all of our amazing experiences together, especially this trip…. Please don’t get me anything made of paper… I love you!  TOO

No this is not a Chinese peace sign. This is for anniversary #2 🙂

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