A view of the Kaaimans Grotto from the front - on the left are the ablution facilities.
GEORGE NEWS - George Herald journalist Pauline Lourens visited Kaaimans Grotto and met the unique owner, Cliffie.
The Kaaimans Grotto is a natural cave situated between Wilderness and Victoria Bay that was transformed into a restaurant a few years ago by Fancourt.
Many years ago, I was one of the lucky guests who was taken by rail to this unique entertainment venue, where we were hosted to a dinner dance on raised platforms. Since the demise of the George to Knysna railway, it fell into disuse for a while until an unusual man, 'Cliffie', took up residence there.
Of late the grotto has become an unofficial tourist attraction, which backpackers and hikers
find out by word of mouth.
The cave can be reached on foot by hiking along the railway line. Two visitors to the Kaaimans Grotto cave were tickled pink on Sunday to be given a friendly reception and viewing of Cliffie's fussy decor in the 11 bedrooms, dining and seating areas. The 'rooms' are separated with wooden partitions, which presumably keep the winter chills at bay.
When you mention the words 'cave man' and 'man cave' it conjures up images of macho furnishings and the ultimate macho man.
However, Cliffie is a real fusspot who loves nothing more than to decorate his cave dwelling with hundreds of shell mobiles that hang from the cave roof.
Other decorative touches to give the cave a 'homely' feel are feathers, bedspreads, pillows and masks as well as candles and dolls.
On Sunday, after a group of us hiked from Wilderness to Victoria bay along the railway line over the most photographed Kaaimans railway bridge, we braved the legendary highway robbers (struikrowers) and could not resist a quick stop.
Cliffie give us a tour as we walked along the maze, where he had lit candles to lighten up the dim interior.
Caveman Cliffie is camera shy and found himself a human shield from the glare of the camera.
Shelter for the homeless
Our own 'cavemen', Peter Steininger and JP Lourens, waited impatiently on the former railway platform as they were not in the least bit interested to view this unique tourist attraction.
Cliffie explained that he gives shelter to homeless men, and very occasionally couples.
"I did stop serving three meals a day because this encourages people to get extremely idle. I now only make supper. Fortunately, visitors are generous and leave donations."
Some of the inhabitants make themselves useful by catching fish (we observed fishermen
arriving with their fishing rods. The kitchen built by Fancourt and the toilets are still intact, so all in all Kaaimans Grotto is not too uncomfortable, but there is no electricity.
The wooden platforms are well maintained and the one situated on the ocean side offers a scenic glimpse of Victoria Bay. And no there haven't been any attacks on unwary tourists along the railway line for a long time.
Visitors are nonetheless advised to go for the 'safety in numbers' option, wear hiking boots, and carry a torch so as not to trip and fall in the two railway tunnels. If you have a fear of heights stay home.
The views across the Kaaimans River along the railway line between Victoria Bay and Wilderness.
Kaaimans Grotto has been transformed into a wonderland of shell mobiles and fussy soft furnishings to drive out the winter cold. Helga Steininger grins with delight at discovering such a unique tourist attraction along the railway line between Wilderness and Victoria Bay. Photos: Pauline Lourens
ARTICLE AND PHOTOS: PAULINE LOURENS, GEORGE HERALD - JOURNALIST.
'We bring you the latest George, Garden Route news'