The day started on the side of the road waiting to meet the owner of Meerkat Adventures, a guy who is both loved and reviled in Tripadvisor reviews but who has habituated several groups of meerkats to the presence of humans without using food – his secret is apparently to spend months around them reading books out loud. The end result of his work is that he can bring groups of fifteen people out to their dens, allowing them to sit a few feet away as the little guys wake up and start their day. Since the girl loves small, cute animals, this seemed like a must-do activity, and we trudged out to their burrow, folding chair in hand, as the sun came up. The first meerkat emerged shortly thereafter, and sure enough paid no attention to the people sitting nearby, and the remaining members of the mob came out a few minutes later. The girl was happy, I got a few photos, and the host of the event was someone we’ll remember for a while – think Crocodile Dundee, but with a South African accent and without the leather vest.
From there we were off to one of the many ostrich farms in the area since it’s such a unique thing to see, despite the fact that we knew it would be touristy. The tour was definitely touristy, although feeding the ostriches was exceptionally fun as they practically barreled us over in their rush to the food pellets. Riding an ostrich felt borderline wrong – the South African Animal Welfare Association has apparently given its OK to riding ostriches in farms subject to several rules (weight limits, not during hot weather, etc), but PETA would clearly not be happy. The experience starts with the staff putting a bag over the ostrich’s head to keep it calm, and you then hop on its back, tuck your legs under its wings, hold on, and then they remove the bag and the ostrich takes off running. Having done it once I wouldn’t want to subject the birds to carrying me around again, but from this day forward if anyone asks Audrey or me if we’ve ever ridden an ostrich, both of us will answer in the affirmative.
Tonight we’re in the town of Montagu, home to the “Ibis Tree”, which is my favorite tree in South Africa. The tree is lousy with birds, and I’ll be back tomorrow morning to try and photograph some of them in good light. The drive here included a stop at the former “Ronnie’s Shop”, a bar that was attracting almost no business until the owner got drunk, walked outside with a can of spray paint, and added three letters to the storefront, thus changing the name to “Ronnie’s Sex Shop”; now it’s a bar that just about every car on Route 62 has heard about in advance and stops to visit. Our plans for tomorrow are still TBD, but we’ll definitely be continuing to head in the general direction of Cape Town since we’ve only got one night remaining until we fly to Johannesburg in preparation for the next phase of the trip, aka Operation Lemur Recon.