Is Knysna back in full bloom?

The resilient residents of Knysna have been through some difficult times over the last year

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The resilient residents of Knysna have been through some difficult times over the last year, with rebuilding efforts taking centre stage after a torrid fire ripped through the travel mecca in June 2017, leaving the rich and poor temporarily homeless

Many homes, from million-dollar mansions to low-cost houses, were affected, while the vibrant tourism sector had to brace for the subsequent down-tick in tourist numbers. Some establishments had to close their doors due to fire damage while repairs could be done.

I visited the areas directly after the fire in June 2017 and the difference compared to July 2018 is unreal. Many of the large burnt-out houses have been rebuilt in double-quick time, with little reminder of the devastating fire. Some of the houses left un-built are those that were uninsured, reportedly, and they are now selling for a fraction of their original value.

Thankfully, the tourists who drive the local economy have returned to this adventure hub with a vengeance, and with the Oyster Festival, major running, mountain biking and cultural events taking place during the year, business is beginning to boom again.

But before setting out for Knysna on the latest visit, I decided to get the famed Isuzu KB300 for the journey. It’s as good as it gets in terms of rugged 4x4s and has arguably the most reliable engine in a very tough class of bakkies, which equates for much of the market in South Africa.

The bakkie was essential, as the N2 highway is not an option with all the road works and I prefer the gravel road less travelled. I took the route down the N1 to the Touwsrivier to get out of Cape Town and then dropped down through the beautiful Seven Weeks Poort, ending up a few kilometres before Calitzdorp on the famed Route 62.

The route certainly has less traffic and I only saw five other cars on 200km of glorious country roads. Being the middle of winter, we were treated to snowfall, which was a real treat after the drought.

The Isuzu held up exceptionally well on ice and muddy sections and left one with a sense of security, knowing it would get you to your destination safely.

After seven-and-a-half hours at the wheel, we arrived at the Knysna River Club, our home for the next couple of days. It was a cosy one-bedroom log cabin, with a comfortable king-size bed and all the amenities you’d expect from a four-star establishment.

The luxury cabins are located right next to the Knysna Lagoon—you can see the mist coming off the water in the morning or you can go far a walk down the lagoon’s picturesque footpath at your doorstep. There are plenty of activities for the young and old to enjoy at the resort and in the area.

A trip to the jacuzzi was a treat on a cold winter’s day, while the sauna is available for extra roasting. Chess, anyone? They boast a full-size chess board and games room. There’s access to the lagoon with their canoes and morning cruises to the famed Knysna Heads.

In terms of restaurants, the area has everything you’d need to satisfy your taste buds, and the fish is normally top-class in the region. During the summer holidays, Knysna’s nightlife comes alive with visitors from around the world who are celebrating life.

Adventure seekers are not short of options in the area: there’s river rafting, abseiling, mountain biking, trail running, outdoor camps and 4x4ing to name a few, there’s something for everybody.

The Isuzu KB300 was at home on the gravel back roads of Knysna that twist through the indigenous forests that survived the blaze due to their moist nature. Sadly, most of the pine forests were destroyed in the fire and the landscape takes a bit of getting used to in areas that have been fully wooded in the past. But change is part of life and nature is rejuvenating in the region with a beautiful green colouring after some winter rains.

The Isuzu was bulletproof for the entire journey and was true to the company’s ultra reliable reputation, while managing 9,7l per 100km fuel economy, which is frugal for a fully loaded bakkie on a variety of surfaces.

Knysna never fails to charm as one of South Africa’s premier tourist destinations. The Knysna River Club delivered a relaxing break from the stresses of city life, which is certainly helped by the prime location and the resorts friendly staff, with nothing being too much trouble.

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