Oudtshoorn - South Africa
Oudtshoorn is a town in the Little Karoo about
350 kilometres from Cape Town.
It is the holiday playground of the Little Karoo
and owes its growth to the Cango Caves and Ostriches
There are a number of ways to reach this Karoo town.
For this article we will travel from George, a coastal town on the
Garden route which is about an hour and a half's drive from Oudtshoorn.
To reach Oudtshoorn we travel over the Outeniqua Mountain Pass.
This is a spectacular drive with fantastic views looking down into
large valleys and up at soaring mountain peaks.
On the coastal side of this mountain range the vegetation is green
and lush but once over the crest of the mountain the vegetation
and climate changes rapidly.
At the top of the mountain pass you normally enter a large bank
of fog or low cloud and when you exit it on the Oudtshoorn side
the scenery has changed.
No more mountains but low hills which stretch for
miles covered with the Karoo bush and rocks.
This desert area is dry and hot.
George's car registration no's start with CAW (cold and wet)
and often when you leave George it is cold and wet.
On the other side of the mountain it is hot so summer
dress is required.
You will definitely have to shed a few garments by the time
you reach Oudtshoorn if you dress to the weather in George.
Oudtshoorn has many places to see and you will be
hard pressed to do it all in one day.
There are a number of Ostrich farms in the area and
you can visit them to take a tour and ride an ostrich.
Riding an ostrich is great fun.
The ostrich is placed in a stockade with a sock
over its head while you climb on.
Imagine you have a chicken in front of you except it
a hundred times bigger and has a much longer neck.
To ride it you must lift up its wings and get onto
its back hooking your legs around the drumsticks.
Your legs are under its wings.
Its skin is warm and feels slightly sticky to the touch .
Keep your legs tightly clamped and use the
wings as handles to stay on board.
The ostrich has a long supple neck covered in feathers.
This is your handbrake.
Once you are ready to go the sock is taken
off and the bird released. It will take off for the nearest batch
of ostriches it can see and try and hide itself among them.
To stop it reach out and grab hold of its neck and pull it towards
you. It's not likely to stop and with a bit of luck you might not
fall off as you let go of its wing to try and stop it.
Have your friends video the ride as you most probably will make
a real nana of yourself when you land on your butt between
50 ostriches and a crowd of tourists.
You will be the laughing stock of your tour for about a week.
Ostriches are very versatile birds and are used for many things.
Their feathers which came into fashion during the late 19th Century
put Oudtshoorn on the map and made many farmers very rich.
On the farms you visit you will see some of the Ostrich
baron's palaces that were built during the feather boom.
Ostrich meat is very low in fat and has no cholesterol so is
becoming an important product for those who like meat but
have heart problems.
Its skin is used as leather for clothing and ladies handbags.
An ostrich is a bit like a woman. It has beautiful big
eyes and long lashes and long legs. It also has a nasty kick.
Of course it has a couple of female wiles as well.
The male has to do a mating dance before he is accepted
by the female and this can take a while.
Once they have eggs the female looks after them in the
day and the male has to look after them at night while she roams.
Don't pick a fight with an ostrich and then try and outrun it.
You will come off second best!
While visiting a farm why not try an ostrich steak in their
restaurant. They are delicious!
Another place of interest is the Crocodile farm which is on
the road to the Cango caves.
Some of the crocodiles
The Crocodile farm has a number of very large crocodiles in a pool
where they mainly lie and sleep in the sun.
There are other pools with different sizes of crocodiles in them.
Also on display are a number of Cheetahs in an enclosure nearby
and you are allowed into the enclosure to stroke them and have
your photo taken with them.
I wasn't brave enough to do that. I value my skin!
There is a cheetah farm close by for those who would like to see
cheetah cubs and how they breed them in captivity.
In the Crocodile farm complex is a snake park where you can see some
of SA's most dangerous snakes. Snakes such as the Mamba and the cobra
which are both deadly poisonous.
Luckily they are behind glass so there is no danger of being bitten.
The next port of call in Oudtshoorn is the
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