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Issue 3
Africa Travel> Issue 3
UPDATED: August 27, 2014
By George!
South Africa's coastal Garden Route is one of the most scenic drives in the country
By Jo Kromberg

Secluded Victoria Bay, George, provides the perfect getaway for leisure seekers (COURTESY OF HERIOTMANOR.CO.ZA)

The Garden Route is a popular and scenic stretch of the southeastern coast of South Africa. It stretches from Mossel Bay 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 neighboring Eastern Cape.

The Outeniqua Transport Museum is one of the major tourist attractions on the route, housing a variety of steam locomotives, including a narrow gauge, the Emil Kessler (Johannesburg's first steam locomotive), the impressive GL Garrett together with carriages such as a coach from the Royal Train of 1947, Paul Kruger's coach and private saloons as far as the eye can see. Various models of steam locomotives, a brilliant collection of steam locomotive number plates, maker's plates, a model train room, road motor vehicles and a private vintage car selection complete the impressive display. The museum offers hours of exploration and intrigue while your children can enjoy a ride on the miniature steam train.

We are summoned in military fashion to get aboard the Outiniqua Power Van (similar to a tram) by our guide Annabelle for a trip up the Outeniqua Mountains.

A unique experience awaits you when you travel on the Outeniqua Power Van. The stunning beauty of the mountains unfolds as you travel up one of South Africa's most scenic routes. As we slowly amble up the mountain, Annabelle tells us that the Outeniqua Power Van travels on the main train line that connects Cape Town and Port Elizabeth via Oudtshoorn. She speaks in a mesmerizing staccato: "The line from Cape Town to George was completed in 1907. The link from Klipplaat, near Port Elizabeth, to Oudtshoorn was completed in 1904. At this time there were extensive ostrich farms in Oudtshoorn. Timber was being extracted from the forests behind Knysna and brought by wagon to George. A railway line needed to be built between George and Oudtshoorn. In December 1908 work began on the line from George to Oudtshoorn. Initially 250 convicts were employed. Six months later 700 convicts were working on the track. Some of them were housed at Power Station. During 1911-12 approximately 9 to 10 tons of dynamite was used every month to blast through the rock.

As fascinated as I am by Annabelle's talk, my frozen feet and the snowy mountain scape around me are beginning to cut through her voice and interrupting my synapses.

An hour later, after having travelled to 720 meters above sea level through the snow-covered Heidi mountains, we are back at the station and on our way to exploring the next jewel of George – cheese.

At Silver Lily, owner and renowned cheese-maker Marianne has been making cheese for 23 years. She makes handmade Dutch style farm cheese in 10 flavors and you can watch the interesting process of cheese making, then sample some in the form of a cheese platter lunch accompanied by a glass of wine or fruit juice in the tranquil surroundings of the Outeniqua Mountains.

Redberry farm is our next stop, led by our resident expert and member of George Tourism, Melanie.

If you are looking for a fun and original day out, there is nothing that rivals the Redberry Farm experience.

We are in the farming area just outside George on the Geelhoutboom road and immediately in awe of the rows and rows of strawberries in what is now known as "Strawberry Country." Redberry Farm is the first beacon that greets tourists along the beautiful Outeniqua Country Hop Route. Once you've made a choice of what container to use, you will be guided to the "pick your own fields," taking a carefree walk though the farm with the majestic Outeniqua mountains in the background. Owner Jonathan and designer Marc keenly answered all my questions and shared the inner secrets of the strawberry. Redberry Farm is perfect for kids in all respects with a mini train, pony rides and 'bubble ball' on the dam as well as play areas and the much-anticipated maze opening shortly!

They are open from Monday to Saturday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. (Note that the pony and bubble ball will only be available on Friday afternoons and Saturdays out of season.)

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