My main reason for being in Knysna over the Oyster Festival was to take part in the Knysna Marathon and while my week didn’t quite turn out like I originally planned, I discovered there is far more to the Festival than the sporting events.
Sunday, 08 July:
As I rolled up to the Leisure Isle Lodge – my accommodation for the week – my dismay at flying solo for the week diminished. Located in the tranquil Leisure Isle community – about five minutes outside of Knysna’s centre – and positioned on Bollard Bay with the Heads right on their doorstep, the Leisure Isle Lodge proved to be the perfect base of operations.
I didn’t get much opportunity to take in my surroundings on my arrival, however, as I had a date with some whisky and chocolate truffles at the Cruise Café. With a nip in the air, I was more than happy to take one for the team.
Whisky and Chocolates
It was perfect weather for indulging in whisky and chocolate and the Cruise Café served as a welcome setting with a roaring fireplace allowing guests to relax as they were guided through the experience by a Macallan representative.
The first whisky – a Macallan 10 year old – was paired with a white chocolate truffle, which really helped bring out the hints of cinnamon in the whisky. Combining the two was a unique experience as I found they really complemented one another with the chocolate taking the bite out of the drink and latter cutting through the creaminess of the truffle.
It was the second whisky that really caught my attention though. The Macallan 12-year-old is their flagship range and it was paired with a dark orange truffle. The 12-year-old was a lot bolder than the previous whisky with a strong, spicy flavour with hints of toffee, dried fruit and nutmeg and again the pairing of a stronger, darker chocolate worked to bring those flavours to the fore.
The final tasting was Highland Park and was paired with a lobster, oyster bisque.
I have to admit it was a strange pairing, but then I am not the biggest fan of lobster – and had never tried oysters until this point – but was pleasantly surprised by how the food offset the light smoky flavour of the drink.
The evening was a good mix of tasting and informative discussion as our host did a good job of selling the product, while enlightening the guests to some interesting facts – none more so than this: keeping a 10-year-old whisky for 10 years does not make it a 20-year-old whisky, it just makes it a 10-year-old bottle.
Monday, 09 July:
Knysna Wine Festival and Night Market:
I had been looking forward to the wine festival, but when my wife had to pull out of the trip, I have to admit the gloss was taken off slightly. Tasting wine alone is not all that enjoyable for a person of my limited knowledge – I doubt it is that enjoyable even for wine connoisseurs.
Combined with the fact that I had my first race the next day and that I was driving, I didn’t really have the opportunity to taste the 200 wines on show, but the few I did manage to get hold of reminded me that I need to drink more wine. The abundance of flavours, different blends and vintages was quite staggering and next year I will definitely look to take better advantage of the Wine Festival and its wares.
One thing that did strike me was how much regulars of the Festival were enjoying the bulk of the festivities being held in close proximity to one another. In the past, events have been scattered across Knysna, but this year a choice was made to bring everything back into town and it proved a wise decision.
I am sure in years to come it will grow, but my only issue was that space was a little limited when the tent began to fill up.
Tuesday, 10 July:
Salomon Featherbed Trail Run:
The Marathon was my reason for being in Knysna over Oyster Festival, but I had heard a lot of good things about the 15km trail run and felt it was more than manageable to do both with the trail run so early in the week.
If you’re looking for a unique way to explore the Heads, the Featherbed may be just what you’re looking for as the route takes you along the top of the Western Head with views across to the sheer cliffs of the Eastern Head and out over the Indian Ocean towards Buffalo Bay.
There is some climbing to be done on the route, obviously, but technically it is not all that difficult, making it a great race for experienced and entry-level trail runners to take part in. You get the climbing over in the first half of the race as well, which is always welcome and the final 8km was made up of a mix of flat and some fast downhill single-track before hitting the Outeniqua Choo Choo railway bridge to the Finish Line back at the Cruise Café.
The trail run is also part of the Big 5 (a challenge that includes both cycling races, the Marathon and the XTERRA triathlon) and while I didn’t find it overly difficult, when you combine those events into one week, it is understandable that some of the Big 5 contestants were less inclined to agree with me.
The Big 5 may be something to take on next year, but for now I can only doff my hat to the guys and girls that took it on in 2012…
Click to page two to find out about how Rob Peters felt after the Knysna Forest Marathon was cancelled.