A Great Way to Start the Day at Oribi Gorge, South Africa

A Great Way to Start the Day at Oribi Gorge, South Africa

farm fields, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

After leaving Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, Bob and I found that the rural landscape quickly reverted to hillsides covered in a patchwork of cultivated fields.  On the outskirts of larger urban centres, small buildings clustered together in kraals were still common.

highway N2, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

From Mtubatuba, we took the fastest route available to drive to Margate where we would stay for one night en route to Port Elizabeth.

a rondavel and sacred cow, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Highway N2 allowed speeds of 120 kilometres/hour, but we had to be ever mindful of errant cattle wandering onto the tarmac, hitchhikers, locals crossing the 4-lane highway, and fruit vendors set up on the shoulders of the road.

roadside vendor, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

We pulled over briefly and negotiated with a lady for a pineapple…10.5 rand ($1.30).  I was shocked to see not one but 5 pineapples in the bag that she gave me!

pastel-coloured houses, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

As we neared Margate, the landscape was brightened by houses with colourful facades.  They had transitioned from earthy brown to pastel shades of pink, green, mauve, yellow and blue.

a room at Beachcomber Bay Hotel, Margate, South Africa

For one night, we stayed at Beachcomber Bay Hotel in Margate where a grandiose room awaited us.  A multitude of glass windows and doors in the sunroom afforded unobstructed views of the Indian Ocean.

bob at the indian ocean, margate, south africa

Bob and I needed to stretch our legs, and despite a light drizzle falling, we descended a steep set of steps to the beach for a little walkabout.

fog over the indian ocean, margate, south africa

At 4:30 a.m. the following morning, I peeked out the drapes hoping for a sunrise over the ocean, but instead the sea was hidden by dense fog, and a dark brooding sky completed the ominous picture.

pineapples, margate, south africa

With so many pineapples on hand, I cut up one to hold us over until breakfast was served at 7:30 a.m.  By that time, the fog was slowly beginning to drift onshore.

jean at beachcomber bay hotel, margate, south africa

As we scanned the horizon, mega cargo ships drifted into view and sluggishly proceeded across our line of sight.  While spying on them through the binoculars, we caught glimpses of whales that popped up, catching their breath as they made their way toward the Cape of Good Hope.

oribi flats, south africa

Our day was going to consist of about 10 hours of driving, so we decided to sacrifice a bit of time to explore the Oribi Gorge before getting underway.

oribi flats, south africa

A short 21-kilometre drive inland from Port Shepstone had us there in no time.  The Oribi Gorge is named for the Oribi Antelope that live within the Gorge.

oribi gorge, south africa

Oribi Gorge is on the Umzimkulwana River.  It has carved the eastern gorge of two gorges that cut through the Oribi Flats.  Our drive first took us up through the river valley that was shouldered by sheer cliffs and craggy mountaintops.

 

overhanging rock, oribi gorge, south africa

The Oribi Gorge is within the Lake Eland Game Reserve.  Hiking trails are provided on the plateau, so we set off to find Overhanging Rock.  From that viewpoint, Bob and I had spectacular views of the Gorge and river.

lantana flowers, oribi gorge, south africa

Lantana provided bursts of colour where it grew in tangles next to the lookouts.

lantana flowers, oribi gorge, south africa

It is a flower that we often purchase from a garden centre at home to add to a mixed planter in the summer.

lehr's falls, oribi gorge, south africa

A myriad of waterfalls tumble from the lip of the plateau into the Oribi Gorge creating beautiful vistas of lush green vegetation.  Lehr’s Falls is one such cascade dropping 300 metres down the escarpment with a plunge pool mid-way.

plung pool at lehr's falls, oribi gorge, south africa

There is a rough trail that hikers can use to descend to the plunge pool.  We did not undertake that owing to time restraints.

footbridge above lehr's fall, oribi gorge, south africa

The walkway above Lehr’s Falls took the form of a simple wooden boardwalk across the stream that feeds the falls.

baboon's castle, oribi gorge, south africa

One overlook was planned with a view of Baboon’s Castle, our reward for walking the short 1-kilometre trail to the edge of the Gorge.  Over eons, erosion has shaped the formation out of the sandstone cliffs.

suspension bridge, oribi gorge, south africa

What a delight to find a suspension bridge!

a suspension bridge at oribi gorge, south africa

Seen from a distance hovering 130 metres above the floor of the Gorge, the bridge was intimidating.  We had to brave it for the excellent views it provides of Lehr’s Falls and Baboon’s Castle.

bob on the suspension bridge, oribi gorge, south africa

We almost needed sea legs because of the sway of the bridge.

jean on the suspension bridge at oribi gorge, south africa

As we hastened across the 80-metre span, Bob and I paused only long enough to snap a few quick photos.

zip lines, oribi gorge, south africa

From our vantage point on the suspension bridge, we noticed zip lines available for use by more adventurous visitors.

a bungee jumper at oribi gorge, south africa

We were onlookers when one tourist elected to bungee jump into the Gorge from the top of Lehr’s Falls.

anchor for zip lines, oribi gorge, south africa

Although the structure supporting the wild swing looked very safe and secure, neither Bob nor I could muster up the courage to try it out.

Our video provides an overview of our experience at Oribi Gorge.                                    Music “Ancient Worlds” by Ferenc Hegedus, courtesy: Neo Sounds.

australian chestnut tree, oribi gorge, south africa

I was really taken with the colourful and ornate flowers of an Australian Chestnut Tree.  This evergreen tree is native to Australia and other Pacific Islands.

flowers on an australian chestnut tree, oribi gorge, south africa

Also known as a Blackbean Tree, the seeds have been harvested by aboriginal people for some 2,500 years, but they require strict methods of preparation otherwise they are poisonous.

south africa's eastern escarpment

After leaving Oribi Gorge, the drive took us south from Kokstad.  For hours, we drove through the Drakensberg Mountains.  Tracing South Africa’s Eastern Escarpment for 600 miles, the Mountains are composed of a stunning, largely unpopulated wilderness of alpine grasslands and pockets of forest, waterfalls and rivers.

drakensberg mountains, south africa

The escarpment marks the point where the high veldt plateau plunges down over 1,000 meters before spilling out onto the eastern low veldt, forming a dramatic knot of soaring cliffs, canyons, sweeping rounded hillsides and shaded valleys.  Literally, around every corner are spectacular vistas that left us breathless.

a south african family enjoys ice cream

Near Mthatha, we had to fill our gas tank.  This lovely family gave us the brightest smiles as they savoured their ice cream cones.

a rolling bank of fog, south africa

The mountains eventually became barren and treeless, and flocks of sheep could be seen dotting farmland as well as the sacred cattle.  Our progress was hindered when a rolling bank of fog engulfed us and forced traffic to a crawl.  It was a relief to break into the clear at Butterworth.

gray clouds near east london, south africa

As the afternoon light was swallowed by dark brooding clouds, we continued to make headway.  Nearer the coast and East London, the hillsides became more populated with trees and the grass grew greener.

gray clouds near east london, south africa

For the last 2.5 hours of driving, we were plunged into darkness save for a full moon that fooled us into thinking that some car’s headlight was beaming in through the rear window.  We sped along near-empty highways and finally drew up to the Radisson Blu in Port Elizabeth at 10:30 p.m. This was our longest driving day of the trip.  We were glad to hang our hats that night!

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