Cape to Addo tour begins

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August 26th 2012
Published: August 27th 2012
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Today is the beginning of our backpackers tour of the southern part of South Africa. We’ve called this our “safari” trip, although only one day will be spent doing traditional safari type activities. Officially, the tour is called “Cape to Addo”, and the online itinerary looked amazing. I’m pretty sure that this tour is what sold Yi Jiun on joining me for the beginning of my trip to South Africa. We signed up and received confirmation of our registration. After that, thought, we didn’t hear much else. We’ve pieced together some of the miscommunications, but as of the day before the tour, we didn’t know much more than what we had seen online when we booked.

The online booking information indicated that we would be picked up between 7-8am, and it suggested that we would get a call 1-2 days before to give us a more specific time. We didn’t receive this call. (It turns out the front desk received a message regarding our pic-up time, but the person who received the message forgot to tell us or anyone else. Oops.) So, because we are so compliant, we were ready to go at 7 am just in case. Yi Jiun called down to the front desk to let them know that we were waiting to be picked up by our tour guides, fortunately she got the one woman who had taken our earlier call. She pleasantly told us that we would be picked up at 9am. What?? So, we were completely ready two hours early than we needed to be. Yi Jiun took a nap. I read. Then, we were ready for our tour.

Upon our pick up, we learned that there would be two vans with 8 people each traveling together. We had two tour guides: Martin and Michel. After a quick rest stop (where I bought 2 coke lights, 1 jungle energy bar, and jelly tots), we headed to the town of Hermanes. Over the two hour drive to Hermans, the sun worked hard to break through the clouds, which means that we were treated to a rainbow. The water was pretty rough, so Martin hypothesized that we would likely be out of luck with whale watching.

About 4 seconds after he said that we were out of luck, he exclaimed “Ok, there are 3 whales”. We spent the next couple of hours whale watching. We spotted a restaurant right on the water, where we could continue to watch for whales. The experience was totally awesome. However, it was very hard to capture on the camera. You would see something pop up above the surface and enthusiastically frame your shot, but by the time you could click you camera the whale was gone. Yi Jiun definitely did the best. I loved whale watching, and I am hoping for another chance later in the week. During this stop, we also saw a seal and a rock hyrax. The rock hyrax looks like a mutant guinea pig, but we’re told that its closest living relative is the elephant. Hmmm.

We then had a short drive through the countryside, which is breathtaking, to Birkenhead Brewery, where we had a beer tasting. Birkenhead had spectacular views, decent beer, and a young husky running around. This is also where we met up, for the first time, with the other van. When our group was all assembled, it included the following: Martin and Mickel (tour guides), two young women from England who were both traveling alone, a family from Canada (Mom, Dad, two daughters, and one of the daughter’s husbands), 4 older ladies from Malaysia, two men (one from New Zealand, one from England) about my age traveling together, and then our three. I liked them all immediately, and I look forward to spending this week with them. Furthermore, the ladies from Malaysia didn’t really drink, so I had to help them with their beer. Excellent!

Since this was our first day together, they wanted us to have a relaxing time. The days that follow will be more action packed, but they felt like that was enough action for our first day. We headed to our hostel, which turned out to be totally my taste. It was warm, bright, and colorful. There were 3 dogs that ran freely about the property. It was located about 1.5 blocks from the longest beach in southern Africa. They had a homey bar area with comfy couches and chairs, complete with a fireplace. I loved it. We took a long walk on the beach, joined by 2 of the dogs. One of the dogs was extremely well behaved and one was a total troublemaker. Naturally, we took to calling them Gus and Charlie.

We got back just in-time for a dinner that had been prepared by Michel. Both of our tour guides teased us about being vegetarians in South Africa. And, it’s true that there don’t seem to be many of us. Further, for a meat-eater, Cape Town would probably be amazing. There are so many different kinds of meat on every menu – it’s seriously impressive. But, despite the teasing, Michel made us an amazing meal. We had two different kinds of stuffed squash, homemade bread, and a delicious salad. Paired with African beer, it was a real feast.

A walk to see the night stars followed dinner. My grandpa suggested that we take a good look at the night sky to appreciate the differences between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Cape Agulhas was an ideal spot and the stars were plentiful and bright. (Also, the dogs came with us to guard us and herd us back to our hostel, which delighted me.) I played a few games of “Shithead”, a new game to me, by the fire with Alistair, Sean, Ella, and Jennie (the New Zealander and the Brits). Then, we all went to bed. Apparently we were supposed to get an email about our accommodations, which we did not. So, we didn’t have the opportunity to upgrade to a private room. As such, it was bunk beds again. There were 7 of us in a room, and I fell a sleep to a symphony of snoring.

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