South Africa - Spring 2006 travel blog

scenic drive

more great scenery

full service gas

look me in the eye

male ostrich

doing the tourist thing

don't fall off

ostrich race

ostrich shelter with eggs

ostrich farm


The day started in cold fog as we left the seashore and headed into the mountains. Every so often we passed a picnic area and our fellow travelers stopping to stretch their legs. Our gas stop made us reminisce as our wind shield was cleaned and the attendant offered to check the oil. He even took our cash and ran into the station and brought us change. When we arrived in Oudtshoorn, our final destination, the route listed in our logbooks was blocked off. Although Easter is over two weeks away and the holiday season has begun. Oudtshoorn is hosting a festival and it feels as if the rest of Africa has joined us here. The streets thronged with people as Ken threaded our rig through the streets and the navigator tried to figure out how to get back on our route. By the time we found our campground it was 97 degrees and the unheated pool looked very inviting.

The major event today was a visit to an ostrich farm. This farm had been in business for 150 years supplying feathers and meat. The eggs are incredibly hard as you can tell from the photo of me standing on them. Each egg equals about two dozen chicken eggs. The birds are very territorial and kept two to a pen. The males mate for life; the females do not! The female lays eggs until the pile is big enough for her to comfortably nest upon. This allows the farmers to stop by every so often to steal a few. She does not notice and keeps laying. The stolen eggs are incubated and given to non productive parental units to raise. The eggs are so hard the chicks cannot break them open with their beaks. The egg includes an oxygen sack which allows the baby to fill its lungs and exert enough pressure from the inside to burst them open. Workers keep an eye on the incubated eggs and break them open if they see the chick is ready. The birds we saw today were remarkably congenial compared to other ostrich I've seen. They allowed us to sit on them, ride them, have races on their backs and manipulate their agile necks and demonstrate their three eye lids. The top one is to keep the sun out of their eyes, the bottom is closed for sleep, and one sweeps from the side and covers the eye, but is translucent enough to allow the ostrich to see in sand storms. Ostrich have two toes, but one has a giant claw. If you meet an angry ostrich, you should lay flat on the ground so it cannot kick you, puncturing your skin and ripping it with that giant claw. The bald men in our group were told not to try this technique because the bird would think that the head was an egg and would sit on it for forty days. Ostrich in captivity can live 40 - 50 years. Now I've probably told you more about ostrich than you ever wanted to know. The tour ended with an ostrich feast. The liver pate was delicious and the steak was lean, flavorful, and tender. We saw it for sale in the grocery store and may have to try it again.

We've had fun looking around our campground at our fellow campers, most of whom are in tents. They bring many major appliances and set them out on the grass. Rugby matches were featured on the TV sets I saw. Their tents have multiple rooms and awning extensions. They end up with more living space than we have in our RV at home. The men do much of the cooking on massive communal grills. One man had a head lamp as he worked long after dark on his family's feast. We did spot one RV that would look typical of what we see at home. Turns out it was. The owners had toured the US for five years in a motor home and like the lifestyle so much, they imported all the components of an RV in a container from the US and had them assembled on a South African chassis. If they had simply imported an RV, a 60% tax would have been assessed.

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