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"How would you like your ostrich, Sir?"

During mid November the Africa Section both managed to wangle a week's holiday with intent to visit the South African coast and the famous Cango Caves at Oudtshoorn, Cape Province.  A letter from the Town Clerk/ Cave Manager, Michael Schultz, had informed us that trips to the spectacularly well decorated extensions of Canga 2 and 3 would not be possible but that we were welcome to drop in for a chat.

On November 15th, suffering from the usual severe hangover, we left Naseru and drove for a day and a half across the desert like plains of the Gretat Karoo to Oudtshoorn.  Situated in an attractive, fertile valley the town is sheltered by the Outeniquas and Swartberg mountain ranges.  Apart from these rugged, interminable peaks the scenery is almost English – with plenty well-stocked, green fields.  The major difference is that English fields have cows and those here have ostriches!  These vicious and enormous birds are bred and converted into feather dusters, bone meal, high quality leather, souvenirs and ostrich steaks - which the B.E.C. tried and found to be superb - just like a good beef steak and more tender.  On a visit to an Ostrich show-farm we were shown how to ride the birds.  To put an ostrich into reverse gear you grab its neck and twist down and backwards, as in a car.  The bird then hurtles along in reverse!

On Monday 17th we visited Hr. Schultz, who is also a member of the African Spelaeological Association and South Africa's representative for the I.U.S.  He offered us a trip to Cango 2 on the Wednesday (with a high court judge's party).  Unfortunately we could not wait for this, but were given complimentary admission tickets to the show cave instead.

 

Seen in Oudirshoorn Town Clerk’s office.  S.A.

We drove up to the cave which lies in a dolomite hill below the Swartberg range, about 16 km north of the town.  Feeling most important we joined a throng of weegies, presented our free pass to the guide and spent the next couple of hours in one of the world's most beautiful show caves.

This lengthy phreatic system of roomy galleries was used as a pre-historic habitation site and the entrance chamber contains Bushman paintings and other remains.  In 1780 a herdsman discovered the entrance and a local landowner, Van Zyl, organised the first explorations - exploring much of the present show cave.  This consists of a series of large halls, all filled with huge flowstone formations, columns, palettes, helictites, etc.  Despite their dryness and light coating of soot from early visitors lamps these are very impressive.  At 762m, the system ended in a draughting choke which was pushed in 1972 by cave guides and S.A.S.A. members to reveal the incredibly beautiful 270m extension of Cango 2 ( Wonder Cave).  Photographs section show it to contain superb helictites, crystal formations, etc.  A streamway at the end was pushed by S.A.S.A. in 1975 into Cango 3 - 1600m of cave with even more extensions beyond which are still being explored.  At present the whole system is over 4.5 km long.

The tourist trip has its own South African peculiarities.  There are set times for white and non-white trips (imagine that in Goughs!) the guide gives his spiel in English, followed by Afrikaans, and at the end of the walking section is an undeveloped round trip of tight crawls and chimneys for the more adventurous.  It is quite amazing how many standard weegies go through this area complete with high heels, clean white skirts and no idea what they are in for! The British system of 'over safetyfying' every¬thing would not allow for this - a pity as it is good fun for all.

Our next few days were spent boozing in a wet and windy Cape Town, wine-tasting, sightseeing at Cape of Good Hope, visiting the Sandloper caves on the coast at Storm River Mouth and driving along the picturesque Garden Route for two days of festering and swimming in the Indian Ocean at Port Elizabeth.  It was here we came across a superb 'blue' folk/country/rock group who would go down well in the Back Room!

Tony Jarratt and Colin Priddle.