Journey Jotters

Bitten by the travel bug

I covered the first part of our morning in Knysna in this post. We spent it at the Featherbed Nature Reserve. The plan was to lunch at one the Thesen Island restaurants, then head to the Knysna Waterfront to meet our hosts for the township tour.

silvery white waters on a golden sand beach with children playing in the distance
Brenton Beach

Thesen Island is eponymous with one of the well-known families that settled in this region. In 1904, Charles Thesen bought this land from George Rex, another founding father of Knysna. The Thesen family was involved in the timber industry and its shipping for many decades. As time went on, they replaced the old wooden jetty on the island with a concrete pier, extended and buttressed the seawall around the island.

In 1924, the family moved their sawmill operations onto the island, manufacturing a variety of wood products. They also diversified to include a boat building yard and an oyster farm. The family, as well as the workers, lived on the island. Eventually, the operations changed hands. The new owners realized that the pollution from their factory was not eco-friendly to Knysna and its surroundings. So they invested in an ecologically balanced renovation of their island, which we can enjoy today.

A portion of the original hardwood mill called the Sawtooth building retains its sawtooth shape and has been refurbished. The peeling plant, where hardwood veneers were sliced off logs, has now been converted into a multistory parking garage. The rest of the island has many unique shops, restaurants, real estate offices, parks, and a variety of businesses.

white painted buildings with sawtooth roof
The Sawtooth Building

The drive from the Featherbed ferry terminal to Thesen Island is under ten minutes. We left the car in the parking shed and went to explore the island. Our first stop was at the famous Ile de pain restaurant. It was crowded when we reached it. We had to sign in and were asked to return after half an hour. We were already hungry from the exertions of the morning but had to wait a little longer.

mounted whale replica
Knysna Whale

We used the time to walk around Thesen Island. The island is an excellent spot for window shopping a variety of boutique stores. Knysna is famous for boat-based whale watching, marine eco-tours, and explorations of the Knysna Heads. We explored the area from where the boats launched, then headed to Thesen Park to watch some of the young ones at play. Finally, we ventured back to the restaurant and were soon seated outside, under the towering trees.

storefront with unique dresses, shoes and bags
Boutique at Thesen Island

Ile de pain, as the name implies, is famous for its breads. We got to taste a slice of their bread with our soup but couldn’t buy anymore as they were out of stock.In addition to the soup, we chose the butternut falafel, and two varieties of their flatbreads. The ingredients were fresh, very flavorful, and just perfect for satisfying our hunger.

Christmas bread-tree at the Ile de Pain
One of our flatbreads, Ile de Pain

By then, it was time to leave for the waterfront. We were to meet Penny and Ella for a tour of the township. It would be an opportunity to connect with children and adults from the sprawling local town, interact with them as they went about their daily life and get a glimpse into the Xhosa culture. It was an amalgamation of food, literature, music, people, and their way of life. Missy JJ, was especially excited, this was an experience that, as a budding journalist, she anticipated eagerly.

boats and yachts seen anchored at the waterfront, as seen from the pier
Knysna Waterfront

Once at the waterfront, we waited patiently for the tour guides to show up. Once our 2 pm appointment came and went and my many emails to them went unanswered, we realized the tour wasn’t going to happen. So we took a walk around the waterfront and enjoyed the merriment of the area. Eventually, we drove back to Brenton Haven, stopping along the way to enjoy the beautiful vistas.

view from high above of lagoon below, with homes and mountains
View of Knysna en route to Brenton Haven

At the resort, we were delighted to find our luggage waiting for us. The kids, of course, were delighted with this. It meant we could take a trip to the beach, which is what we did!

The sandy beach by the resort was hot and sunny, very sunny! But after the rains and damp of the previous day, we were ready to soak in the sun. The beach was busy but not overly crowded. The kids swam in the waters, played in the sand, poked fun at one another and swam some more. We watched people paragliding with their equipment. Little children ran around; teenagers hung out, parents sunbathed. The whole atmosphere was so mundane and yet so unique.

Brenton Beach

As we sat at the beach, I got an email from Penny with Emzini Tours. She had been involved in a motor vehicle accident that morning involving a motorbike driver and her car. While getting him to the hospital and dealing with the police, she and Ella completely forgot about our tour. She was very apologetic about the whole episode and offered to make up for it the following day. But we were leaving town the next morning day and promised to catch up with them the next time. We were disappointed we couldn’t take the tour but happy that everyone involved in the accident was safe.

Brenton Beach at sunset

That evening, we decided to drive back into Knysna for dinner at the Thai Eatery. It was a small restaurant, with about 7 or 8 tables. The service was excellent, but the food took a long time to arrive. The food tasted delicious, and we enjoyed the Panang curry, noodles, and rice.

Our Thai dinner

Knysna, as I have mentioned many times, is a very happening place. We were there for about 36 hours, in all. We barely scratched the tip of the iceberg, but we liked what we saw and experienced. We know the next time we are in South Africa, we will stop in to do a more thorough exploration of the area.

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