Sunday, June 20, 2010

SOUTH AFRICA - Garden Route


Map of the GARDEN ROUTE area

The Garden Route is a popular and scenic stretch of the south-eastern coast of South Africa. It stretches from Heidelberg in the Western Cape to the Storms River which is crossed along the N2 coastal highway over the Paul Sauer Bridge in the extreme western reach of the neighbouring Eastern Cape. The name comes from the verdant and ecologically diverse vegetation encountered here and the numerous lagoons and lakes dotted along the coast. It includes towns such as Mossel Bay, Knysna, Oudtshoorn, Plettenberg Bay and Nature's Valley ; with George, the Garden Route's largest city and main administrative centre.

It has an oceanic climate, with mild to warm summers, and mild to cool winters. It has the mildest climate in South Africa and the second mildest climate in the world, after Hawaii, according to the Guinness Book of Records. Temperatures rarely fall below 10ºC in winter and rarely climb beyond 28ºC in summer. Rain occurs year-round, with a slight peak in the spring months, brought by the humid sea-winds from the Indian Ocean rising and releasing their precipitation along the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma Mountains just inland of the coast.

The Route is sandwiched between the aforementioned mountains and the Indian Ocean. The Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma indigenous forests are a unique mixture of Cape Fynbos and Temperate Forest and offer hiking trails and eco-tourism activities. Nearly 300 species of bird life are to be found in a variety of habitats ranging from fynbos to forest to wetlands.

Ten nature reserves embrace the varied ecosystems of the area as well as unique marine reserves, home to soft coral reefs, dolphins, seals and a host of other marine life. Various bays along the Garden Route are nurseries to the endangered Southern Right Whale which come there to calve in the winter and spring (July to December).

Although the most popular exploration of the Garden Route is by car, it is also the site of Africa's last remaining passenger steam train, the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe.

GEORGE multiviews

The city and part of the Outeniqua Mountains, outdoors actvities, botanical gardens.

GEORGE aerial view

Overlooked by the Outeniqua Mountains and only eight kilometers from the sea, this town with its rural charms, abundance of flowers and stunning setting is undoubtedly one of the prettiest towns in South Africa.


George is a city with 203 253 inhabitants in South Africa's Western Cape province. The city is a popular holiday and conference centre and the administrative and commercial hub of the Garden Route.
The city is situated halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth on the Garden Route. It is situated on a 10 kilometre plateau between the Outeniqua Mountains to the north and the Indian Ocean to the south. The coloured township of Pacaltsdorp lies to the south.

Outeniqua Mountain

The Outeniqua Mountains are a mountain range located in the Western Cape of South Africa. They run in a north-easterly direction from the George area.

In 1668 the first European explorer, Hieronymous Cruse, penetrated Outeniqualand with its dense indigenous forest. The highest peak in the Outeniquas is Cradock Peak (1578 m) and the prominent George Peak is 1337 metres high.

The name Outeniqua is derived from the Khoi word meaning "man laden with honey". The slopes of the emerald-green mountains were covered with heather and swarming with bees, according to the reports left by early travellers. "Nature has made an enchanting abode of this beautiful place", wrote the 18th century traveller Le Vaillant, when he entered the foothills of the Outeniqua range in the Southern Cape. A great deal of that enchantment and delicate beauty still captivates the modern traveller. For instance, there is the rare George lily (Cyrtanthus elatus), found near water in the deep ravines of the mountain, and a variety of ericas and proteas thrive on the fern-clothed slopes. Carpets of pink watsonias are a common sight during summer.


Tootsie' the 30-year-old Class steam locomotive is one of the trains on this line between George and the Wilderness - where it journeys on to Knysna before returning to Mossel Bay.

The Outeniqua Choo Tjoe was the last remaining continually-operated passenger steam train in Africa, ending operation in June 2009. The railway was completed in 1928, and links the towns of George and Knysna in the Western Cape, South Africa. The 3 hour journey also stops in the towns of Wilderness, Goukamma, and Sedgefield. The scenic 67 km route hugs the rugged coastline of the Garden Route before ending by crossing a bridge over the lagoon in Knysna.
It was declared an officially preserved railway in 1992, carrying about 40 000 passengers per year at the time. A decade later, it carried 115 000 passengers per year, 70 % of whom were foreign tourists.
The trains are usually pulled by SAR Class 19D steam locomotives, of 4-8-2 wheel arrangement
with Vanderbilt-like "torpedo" tenders, although the task is occasionally handled by SAR Class 24 steam engines. When dry conditions in the summer increase the risk of wildfires, diesel locomotives (SAR Class 32s) are used instead.
During August 2006 the line was damaged due to heavy flooding. From November 2006 is has be rescheduled to run between George and Mossel Bay (with a stop at Hartenbos) until further notice.

Bloukrans Bridge - Tsitsikamma

The Bloukrans Bridge (Afrikaans: Blue Ridges) is an arch bridge located near Nature's Valley, Western Cape, South Africa. The construction, which was completed in 1984, stands at height of 216 m above the Bloukrans River, making it the highest single span arch bridge in the world. Its central span is 272 m and the bridge is 451 m in length in total.

Its primary use is that of a road bridge, carrying national route N2, but it is also the site of the world's third highest commercially operated bungee jump, at 216 m. Macau Tower operates the world's highest commercial bungee jump, at 233 m.

The Bloukrans River below forms the border between the Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces and is located in the Tsitsikamma region of the Garden Route.


The Tsitsikamma mountains are a mountain range located in the Garden Route region of the southern South African coast in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces. Stretching just over 80 km from the Keurbooms River in the west just north of Plettenberg Bay, to Kareedouw Pass in the east near the town of Kareedouw. The range consists almost exclusively of Table Mountain sandstone which is extremely erosion-resistant. Peak Formosa is the highest point in the range at 1675 m. The climate of the range is extremely mild, with temperature variations only between 10 °C and 25 °C generally and rainfall exceeding 1000 mm per annum, thus the region supports verdant fynbos and Afromontane temperate gallery forest habitats. Snow sometimes occurs on the highest peaks in winter.

The topography of the mountains is interesting, in that the range rises abruptly from the south at a very defined line that runs almost due east-west at the 34° south latitude. This is due to the very regular nature of the rise of the Table Mountain Sandstone in a anticline fold structure above the grade of the surrounding Tsitsikamma coastal plateau.

The Tsitsikamma National Park lies just to the south of the range on the Indian Ocean. The region between the range and the ocean also bears the name Tsitsikamma and is characterised by some cattle farms, sparse settlements and dense Afromontane (Temperate) gallery forest. This region sits on a 200 m high plateau between the mountains and steep cliffs which drop into the Indian Ocean. Bloukrans Bridge forms the boundary between the Eastern and Western Cape provinces, and sports the highest bungee jump in the world.

Tsitsikamma means "place of much water".


Postcards sent by Cecile, as "ptaloblue"
Private swap - References ZA001-ZA002-ZA003-ZA004

First photo : cover of a booklet about Garden Route

Then 4 postcards :

GEORGE multiviews
GEORGE aerial view
Bloukrans Bridge - Tsitsikamma


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