Oudtshoorn (September 3- 5, 2016)

The one and only reason why we came to Oudtshoorn was to ride an ostrich. Though the birds do believe that what they can’t see, can’t see them, the story of them sticking their heads in sand is a myth. The town does have more attractions, like petting a cheetah, but the prices relative to our interest made us not consider the other spots.

Standing on real, but rotten ostrich eggs. These eggs are tough.

Standing on real, but rotten ostrich eggs. These eggs are tough.

We ran into little of a pickle trying to get to Oudtshoorn to start off with. When we got to the bus ticket office, we were told that the only direct bus that week was sold out. So we bought a ticket to the closest town they had busses to, which was George. Everything seemed chipper as we stepped on the bus at 6:30 am at the main station, but when we got off at our destination, we saw people huddled under a shack with no ticket office in sight! Felt like nowhere. Luckily the bus driver took us to the second stop in George, a gas station, which also didn’t have bus tickets for sale. At least there we were able to ask trustworthy staff where to get a ticket and check that the area was safe.

From the gas station, we wandered 20 minutes to the mall, where two grocery stores sell the service we were looking for. The computer system at the first store was kaput, so we had to walk to the other mall section in hopes we were not unlucky. We purchased the ticket, but then realized that we weren’t certain if the gas station we were at was the gas station we needed to go to again to catch our bus. Lesson: Always check the business names. Directionally challenged, uncertainty of mutual understanding with the clerk, and pressed for time, we were getting antsy. That’s when the lady behind us came to our rescue and got her reluctant husband to drive us there. After learning our travel background, he warmed up to us and said he could have driven us all the way to Oudtshoorn and saved us money if he had known sooner. Unexpected kindness from strangers are the best experiences during travels. The point, though, is to remember that South Africa does not have bus stations at every town, but only in main cities (Cape Town, Johannesburg, etc.) and that the bus ticket can be purchased at grocery stores in the town center. The main stores are Checkers, Pick n Pay, and Spar. But this can again vary per town. In one town Spar sells the tickets and in another it’s Pick n Pay. Checkers will be your best bet overall.

Learning the long distance bus life in South Africa the hard way, we finally arrived in Oudtshoorn. Our hostel provided guests with free ostrich eggs for breakfast, which we had to cook ourselves. Perfect for us since eating this egg type was on our to-do list. An ostrich egg serves 12 people and is rich in fat however the bird meat is lean. This is what we learned during our tour at an ostrich farm. They taught much more, such as ostrich leather is one of the most expensive leathers, the birds choose a mate for life, incubation information, and that they are attracted to shiny things. If you plan to get close up to them, don’t wear shiny objects/jewelry. Our guide got her nose ring stolen twice. I even had to take off my glasses before I rode an ostrich, hence I was blind during my ride (I’ve got horrendously bad vision).

I was worried I was going to fall off, since many people do, but I have to disappoint; I am a master rider. The bumpy expedition lasted less than a minute, but was still a thrilling experience, that I’m glad I tried. We also fed the birds. Holding a bucket full of food, slowly and nervously backing up to the fence, the birds stretching their necks over our shoulders to eat. I had five heads flying around my own head. Forcefully pecking at the pellets, causing bunch of their food and their spit to launch into the air and often hitting my face and tumbling down my shirt. The guide called this technique the ostrich massage. Nothing relaxing about the procedure. My facial expressions clearly demonstrated this in the recording my friend took (click here for feeding video). Couldn’t look more terrified. In general, the ranch provided everything ostrich I hoped for. The guide was hilarious and we chuckled the entire time.

To get to the ranch we rented bicycles for $10 a day. The scenery and the cycling were relaxing. The local kids will greet you and if close enough, stretch out their hands for a high five. Arrival took roughly 1 hour with decent speed, not racing, but also not taking our sweet time. The ride back is shorter by 15 minutes due to the slight declining landscape. Our hostel did offer a service to drop us off further away on top of the mountain, from where gravity is on your side and the other attractions will be on your way. After deliberation we decided to skip the other places, so spending more money on this service wasn’t most financially favorable for us. If you plan to stop by more than one location, the driving service might be ideal for you because otherwise you might run out of time.

Oudtshoorn scenery from our bike ride

Oudtshoorn scenery from our bike ride

Oudtshoorn was definitely worth the trouble. If you go to South Africa and have the opportunity to go to Oudtshoorn, go! Well, if you want to ride an ostrich, that is. For us this day ended up counting in our top most enjoyable days backpacking so far. Everything added up perfectly. Up next is Plettenberg Bay, where we went bungee jumping.

Cost breakdown of Oudtshoorn (2 days with total cost of $87.84. Average daily cost is $43.93.)

  • Hostel: $21.78 (2 nights which incl. breakfast)
  • Transportation: $38.80 (initial buses to town)
  • Food: $13.67
    • Meals: $9.53 (2 meals)
    • Groceries: $2.38
    • Snacks: $1.76
  • Activities: $13.61
    • Bicycle Rental: $10.21
    • Ostrich Ranch Tour: $3.40

Price list for activities in Oudtshoorn in Rand with the hostel discount.