Veiw back to Table Mountain
****WARNING **** LONG BLOG ENTRY **** Sorry!
We were excited and a little nervous about renting a car and heading off on our own, but we knew that once we got going we would be fine. We packed up our ever-expanding luggage (a real negative side effect of staying with family and not having to shoulder our packs for two months) and hopped into our tiny rental car - who we called "Daisy" (guess who suggested this name ...). I started off the driving as Peter was not sure he would be comfortable driving on the wrong side of the road (being the left side for those in England and Australia!).
Our first stop was the Table View / Blaauwberg Strand beaches of northern Cape Town. More amazing views of the iconic Table Mountain across Table Bay and yes - more photos! From here we drove up and along this stretch of beach for as far as the road would take us, and then we cut back inland to join the highway which would take us up to Langebaan, our first destination of the road trip. Driving was fairly easy, because you are on super alert doing everything
opposite ... until we reached Langebaan village and I tried to turn into the oncoming traffic. I recovered quickly after Peter queried my move (LAINI - WHERE ARE YOU GOING???). I was fine, but Peter may have had a mild heart attack. Ooops!
After securing reasonable and central accommodation we spent the afternoon exploring the vast beach of the Langebaan Lagoon. We had terrific weather and enjoyed walking on the beach in the glorious sunshine. The following day was set aside for a visit to the West Coast National Park to view the spring flowers. Unfortunately the day did not turn out to be as beautiful as the day before, but we were fairly sure the mist would burn off as the day wore on. It did in certain areas, but not completely along the west coast of the peninsula. The park held more surprises than we expected - from inland sand dunes to wet lands for bird watching. We were taking our time, driving slowly, allowing the tortoises a chance to cross the road and spying the flowers as they open to the heat of the sun. We managed a short walk into the inland sand dunes to
see the amazing diversity of this parkland and we constantly smiled at the tortoises rustling around in the underbrush. We also spent a little time in one of the bird hides watching the sacred ibis and even spied flamingoes off in the distance! One area of the park is only open during the spring flower season (August and September), so we decided we should head up to the Postberg Section and take in the sights and then we would stop at other points on our way back. We had no idea what beauty and wildlife the Postberg section held for us. With the use of our trusty binoculars we were able to spot mountain zebra, ostriches, red hartebeest antelope, springbok antelope, steenbok antelope, and bat-eared foxes. This was all in one spot! We felt truly lucky to see the bat-eared foxes, especially as there were 5 of them and they ran right across the road in front of our car! We pulled up to one of the view points overlooking Langebaan and managed to get some photos back over the village before the mist creeped in and took our view away.
The rest of the day was spent slowing
With wild flowers in the foreground.
making our way back to the entrance and even though the mist and clouds had moved in, we still enjoyed stopping at the west coast and watching the waves crash into the rocks. With the mist moving in, we were unable to stop at the places we passed earlier and determined that a person could easily spend two full days in the park and still not have seen everything. We ended up spending a full 7 hours in the park and felt very blessed to have been able to enjoy this lovely, unique area.
The next morning we packed Daisy up and headed inland toward the mountains. Taking secondary roads was perfect for us as there was little traffic and we could drive as slowly as we wanted and stop often for photos. Heading into the farmlands was very reminiscent of Alberta. There are large, green wheat fields and yellow canola fields that made us feel right at home. We also had a habit of stopping off at wineries along our way to sample some of the fabulous wines being made in this region of the world. On our way to Tulbagh, we stopped in at Kloovenburg Estates and
tasted not only their wonderful wines, but olives as well. Well, Peter sampled the olives, and I tried the olive oils and the jams. We also stopped briefly at Swartland Wine Cellars and tasted (and purchased) a lovely, inexpensive Port and some Pinotage Jam. The Port was a 2005 vintage and cost us approximately $6.00. When we drove into Tulbagh, the clouds had again taken over and we couldn't see the sights of the town. The self-catering cottage that we stayed in was beautiful and the owner such a wonderful, informative and friendly lady.
When we woke the next morning the sun was shining once again and we were astounded at the majestic mountains that surrounded us. We didn't travel far on this day, but we did stop a lot and enjoy the fantastic scenery. Our first stop of the day was Twee Jonge Gezellen Wine (translated from Dutch means Two Young Bachelors) where they have moved from making still wines into sparkling wines. These are no ordinary sparkling wines though, they are using the age old champagne procedures to produce a proper champagne. South Africa (like the rest of the world) is unable to use the term "Champagne"
West Coast National Park
and so to distinguish themselves from other (cheaper) sparkling wines, they have coined the term "Methode Cap Classique" which indicates that their wines are the equivalent to Champagne. We had a fascinating tour of the cellars and enjoyed tasting several vintages and styles of MCC Sparkling Wine. The views from the winery were also fabulous. Twee Jonge Gezellen is the second oldest wine estate in South Africa.
We also had to visit the Drosty-Hof Wine Cellar, if only because it is one of the better known South African wines in Canada. The Wine Cellar is located in an historic building that is represented on all their labels. The South African market apparently likes sweeter wines, so they produce 'semi-sweet' white wines and also 'naturally sweet' reds. Either of these sweeter wines are easy drinking well-chilled on a hot day.
Before leaving the Tulbagh area, we had (HAD!!) to visit Moniki Chocolatiers. It was a difficult place to find as the signs ran out long before we reached the farm on the outskirts of town, but it was well worth the drive and the difficulty. They are using imported Callebaut Chocolate from Belguim (Yay Callebaut!!) and producing mouth-watering, divine
To our amazement they were on the Road
chocolates. We sat down to a chocolate tasting that included a small glass of Port or Amarula, 5 chocolates of your choice and several nuggets of plain milk, dark and white chocolates. Each one we tasted was magnificent and we quickly headed into the shop to buy some to accompany the wines we had purchased earlier! In the end, we cursed ourselves for not buying more, after we were a long ways away of course. We definitely recommend a stop at Moniki's to anyone in the Tulbagh area! After Moniki's we had planned a lunch stop and then a visit to a local cheese farm. We've been keen to try some local cheeses so we were really looking forward to visiting this cheese farm. Unfortunately we found it difficult to find, and by the time we travelled part way down the dreadful gravel road leading to the farm, we realized they were now closed. We turned around and though disappointed, we vowed to keep looking for a cheese farm in our travels.
Once we finally dragged ourselves away from Tulbagh we headed off to Ceres, our destination for this short day's drive and enjoyed the stunning scenery along the
Wild flowers of the West Coast National Park.
way. Some of you may recognize the name Ceres from the fruit juices that are exported to Canada. The region reminded us of the Okanagan in Canada, as the area is a major fruit producer and of course the wineries are now popping up to also take advantage of the soil and the climate (not that we are complaining!). Ceres is the hub for this mountainous area and therefore is a large town with more shops and people. Ceres is also the place most Cape Tonians will drive to in order to see snow and have a chance to play around in the white stuff. We could still see snow on the tops of the mountains, but there was none on the ground during our stay.
The following day we headed out of Ceres following the directions of a helpful tourism office staff member who suggested we take a less travelled route that would wind through the mountains on our way to Montagu. We spent most of the day driving, but it was wonderful. We drove through at least 4 mountain passes (no, not like Rogers Pass, but still, very spectacular) and were treated to many views of the
farmland below. We arrived into Montagu in the early afternoon and while asking for the directions to the Backpacker Lodge, found an even better place to stay (and cheaper!) with the help of another friendly tourism office employee. We ended up in a little self-catering cottage on a hill overlooking the valley. The grounds of our accommodation were like a garden retreat, and then there was the view from the pool! We didn't swim, but could only imagine how fabulous it would be to sit around the pool in the hot summer.
Montagu is known for it's hot springs, and as the weather had once again turned cold, grey and windy we were pretty pumped about jumping into some hot springs. Unfortunately they were not as hot as we had hoped and the pretty little area that the outdoor pools are in is carved out of rock, it also acted as a wind tunnel that kept cold any part of your body out of the water! Needless to say, we didn't stay long - but at least we can say we've been! Brrrrrrrr ... still makes me cold just thinking about it ...
The next day we were on
our way toward the east coast - destination Cape Agulhas. We had sunshine and blue sky when we arrived in L'Agulhas so after a visit to the top of the L'Agulhas Lighthouse, we decided we would drive out to Cape Agulhas and the famous sign which marks the offiical meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. While we were out there we met two young Dutch girls who gave us tons of pointers for places to visit further up the East Coast and also two French girls who were looking for a volunteer to wear a pair of red sunglasses for a photo. The story is these sunglasses are travelling around the world and have been to over 60 countries so far. The only rule is that the glasses cannot be photographed on a person more than once. We volunteered Peter as we felt he would suit them best!
If you are interested in following the travels of the red sunglasses you can visit: http://lesdeuxfontlapaire.unblog.fr/
We opted to stay in L'Agulhas for the night, instead of heading back toward Struisbaai where the Backpacker's Lodge was. We paid a little more for the night than we would have had
The wild flora is called Fynbos, encompassing flowers, trees and bush. This flower is a vibrant, vibrant pink.
we stayed at the backpackers, but our little white cabin, the view and the whales made it very worthwhile. We lugged our bags and stuff inside, opened a bottle of wine, grabbed two chairs and a side table, the trusty binoculars and headed out to our porch. You will see from the photos that we had a stunning view over the bay. We sat watching whales play in the bay while sipping wine for as long as we could until it got too cold.
That night I was sure the roof was going to be blown off our humble little cottage as a storm whipped up along the coast. While our cottage remained intact, it meant another stormy day for travelling. We wanted to stop in Struisbaai before we left and walk the longest boardwalk in the southern hemisphere. To accomplish this we had our rain coats and toques on - causing many odd looks from people in town - but hey - we were warm! We also wanted to stop off at the Struisbaai Harbour to see if we could see their famous stingrays. We did not see any stingrays, but we did walk the boardwalk end to
Giving us the evil eye from his nest
end. Just as we were approaching the car park, the rain and wind let loose and we got thoroughly soaked. A warming cup of coffee at a nearby coffee shop and some intermittent sunshine helped to dry us out.
We left Struisbaai and headed inland to make our way down to Gansbaai. We could have taken a shorter route, but that would have meant gravel roads (that we were forbidden to travel on in our rental car, although that hadn't stopped us before!) and also meant that we would have missed the Most Southern Brewery in The World. We headed for Napier in eager anticipation of trying some beer after drinking plenty of wine. As the Brewery is very small and only 2 guys work there, we were very disappointed to find out both were unavailable when we arrived. We left to see if we could find some Napier beer in a local pub. Unfortunately we were unsuccessful in this too. We even stopped at a liquor store to see if we could buy some to sample, but alas no. There appeared to be only one place in town that served Napier and it was closed on Mondays. I
There are alot of ostrich in the park
tell you we tried very hard, but it was not in our cards to drink Napier beer on this day!
Another treat was in store for us though. We chose a winery to stop at and after we purchased our wine the young girl helping us suggested if we had time, we should stop at the cheese farm down the road. CHEESE FARM!!! Cha-huh! Finally a cheese farm! We were not disappointed! We were greeted by a very friendly black springbok in the yard that loved to be petted. The cheeses we tasted were fabulous and of course we left with a package of cheeses to enjoy with our growing collection of wines. On the road again and we passed a brewery. Screech go the tires, a little gravel flies as we turn around and head back. We see from the sign that the brewery tours are over for the day and there is only an hour left for tasting. We know that we will pass by here the next day on our way out of town, so we decided to come back earlier in the day and try out Birkenhead Beers. Looking at the map, I determine that
Bat Eared Fox
He stopped to look back at us after he and his mates crossed the road in front of us.
Birkenhead is the Second Most Southern Brewery in the World, and therefore deserves our attention.
We arrived into Gansbaai and stayed in our first "Backpacker Lodge" of our trip. The lodge is in a little hamlet of Gansbaai, is very homey and looks out over the rocky beach and ocean. We shared this lovely accommodation with one other couple, James and Chloe from England. We found out through James and Chloe that Gansbaai is the world mecca for shark diving. Ooops - we just wanted to stay in a quiet little place by the ocean! It was James' life dream to shark dive, so they were prepared to wait out the nasty weather to fulfill this dream. Peter and I actually talked about doing this, it looks quite fantastic and you don't need any diver's qualifications to participate. I think that if it was summer time it would be more appealing to me, and so we agreed that we would pass on the shark diving at this time. After we left Gansbaai, everyone who heard we stayed there assumed that we had gone shark diving. We really didn't know that Gansbaai was so recognized for it's sharks!
we were interested in was seeing the whales. In winter, the Southern Right Whale and the Humpback Whale visit the coast line to mate and give birth. The Southern Right is so named because it was deemed the "right" whale to kill during the whaling era due to it's large fat body and slow movements.
On leaving Gansbaai we stopped at a place called De Kelders and watched the whales frolic right in front of us, without even leaving the car! The day was brilliant with blue sky and sunshine and we discovered that we could watch whales all day long when the weather cooperates. Our destination on this day was Hermanus, the major hub of the area and known as having the "Best Land Based Whale Watching In The World".
Of course on our way, we will stop at the Birkenhead Brewery and finally have a taste of some micro-brewed beer. Except that it was not to be. When we pulled up to the gate, the security guard told us that the restaurant and tasting room is closed due to renovations and there are no tours at this time either. Sheesh! Oh well, no beer then - FINE!
Lookout FromThe Park
From the Postberg Section looking back toward Langebaan.
The drive to Hermanus is short and scenic. We arrive in town with plenty of time to sightsee and whale watch. Hermanus really does live up to it's reputation. There are a multitude of benches, walkways and rocky outcrops from which to whale watch. We were not disappointed with the whales. We saw many whales and at one point Peter said, wouln't it be nice to see a whale breach? Not five minutes later he guides me to look way out in the bay and through our binoculars we watch a large whale breach over and over again. Even from this distance it is amazing to watch these massive sea creatures launch themselves out of the water and land on their backs. The resulting splash is easily seen from the shore with the naked eye. In the late afternoon we made our way to our second backpacker lodge and find a very different environment to the one we left in Gansbaai. This large hostel is busy, noisy and almost full. The best part was over breakfast the next morning we met two American couples travelling. The first couple, Russ and Phyllis, are seniors and have travelled the world extensively.
Our Reliable Daisy
Parked at Tsaarsbank on the west coast.
Their stories were fascinating and inspiring. The second couple, Mike and Julie, are a young couple who are on a round the world trip. We enjoyed sharing travel stories, but we enjoyed hearing their stories more.
We reluctantly leave our new friends and head back to town to see if we can find an internet cafe for some much needed email action and of course, to see if we can spot a few more whales. I will be honest, there are MANY more photos of whales then we have here ... you can once again thank Peter for keeping them to a dull roar!
Since our next and last destination of our road trip (now dubbed "Driving Miss Daisy") is not far, we decide to take a little side trip up into the nearby wine region. We do not go far, and only stop at two wineries in this beautiful valley. Named the "Hemel-en-Aarde Wine Wander" this route takes us through the Glen Vauloch mountains with stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Hemel-en-Aarde means Heaven and Earth and we think this is a very apt name for this picturesque valley. After we visit two wineries and take some
photos, we stop at the largest wine boutique in South Africa and taste even more local wines and even find some Birkenhead Beer for sale. Even though we are a little bitter about the brewery being closed we buy some beer for tasting regardless.
We arrive into Betty's Bay to find the Backpacker's virtually empty. Apparently there were two other fellows staying there, but we never saw them. So different from the hubbub of Hermanus. We essentially had the place to ourselves. It is situated on a hill that has fantastic views of the ocean out the front. And in the back, the mountains are so close you feel as though you are in a mountain retreat, not near the ocean. We had a lovely sunny day and spent some time driving through the little village and also visiting the penguin colony. I learnt that the reason the African penguins are called "Jackass Penguins" is because of the braying sound they make that sounds similar to a donkey (the things you learn when you read the signboards!). The colony here is very large and vocal. We again walked along a boardwalk that wound through the colony. It was early
Endangered , Slowly making a come back
evening, with the sun low in the sky, making it hard to get good photos, so I suggested to Peter that we should come back in the morning and take more photos. Not like we need more photos of penguins ....
The night brought a massive storm in that we were sure was going to blow the lodge apart. It was vicious and it brought driving rain. YUCK. We lingered by the fire with cups of coffee waiting for the storm to blow over, but it wasn't going anywhere so we had to get all our gear together and when the odd break in the rain came we dashed out and packed up Daisy. As you can well imagine, we did not go back to visit the penguins in the nasty weather. This was our last day with Daisy and so we slowly made our way back to Cape Town, driving along the beautiful seaside drive between Betty's Bay and Gordon's Bay. The road was upgraded in the late 90's and they put in a ton of pull-offs so that we could stop and enjoy the view (when it wasn't raining) as well as pull off the road to
let the faster moving traffic pass by.
When we got to Gordon's Bay and started chatting about our weekend plans over lunch, we decided to call the rental car agency and see if we could keep the car for a few more days. Being the slow winter season it was no problem to extend our contract. The reason for the extension was we wanted to be able to get around and visit family on the weekend to say our goodbyes, as it is time for us to leave Cape Town and see the rest of South Africa.
We managed to see the whole family over the course of a very wet, windy, wintery weekend and saying goodbye was harder than I ever imagined it would be. Peter's family has taken us in, fed us (too much), taken us around and overall took very good care of us. For me it is a little reminiscent of leaving Calgary, we are leaving family again, except that we don't know how long it will be before we see our South African family again. Yes, I shed a few tears, and I'm sure I'll shed a few more before we leave.
View From Twee JongeGezellen Wine
It Means something like "Two Young Bachelors" one of the oldest winerys in South Africa.
We have been lucky to spend as much time in Cape Town as we have. We know most visitors to South Africa don't get the luxury of seeing Cape Town the way we did. The city and the people have left a mark in our hearts and we will never forget our time here.
As we bid adieu to Cape Town, we begin to pack up our endless belongings and look forward to many more adventures in South Africa.
I apologize for the long blog, I hope you sat back with a coffee or a glass of wine/beer and enjoyed our road trip tales.
Until next time,
Lots of love,
Laini and Peter
p.s. If the photo spot is blank, just click on the space and the photo should show up in an enlarged view. We're not sure why some of our photos are not presenting as normal.
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