Disclaimer…So, the wifi in South Africa hasn’t been the best and it has been hard to all get on the computer to do our posts, plus I am picky about which of the thousands of pictures that I put in my posts, so it takes me longer to put things up than the others. Sorry…. Anyways, enjoy the posts as we are in better wifi land now!
We packed up the car and plugged in the coordinates for our next destination, Hermanus. However, we needed to make one more stop in the Cape Town region as it was highly recommended by our African travel consultants, Evelynn and Larry Funston.
That place was Chapmans Pass and Chapmans Peak. This was a cliffside costal drive that snaked along the Table Mountain National Park. There were a number of hikes up the side of the mountain range which would have led to spectacular views, however, the winds were once again ferocious, which would’ve blown us right down the side of the mountain into the ocean below.
So, we opted to just look at the hikes from below. Chapmans Pass was a beautiful drive along the coast to Hout Bay, which is a small costal cottage town. There wasn’t much between the edge of the cliff and the edge of the road, so when buses are coming at you it was a bit nerve wracking.
Additionally, there were a number of cyclists going along the pass, which was probably not something that I would have done given my history of falling off of bikes. Part of the pass reminded me of riding on Zwift, which is a virtual bike riding program that we ride on during the winter months.
We reached the top of the pass and parked at the view point which offered breathtaking views of the winding coastline. It was ridiculously windy up here, so we decided not to hike to the top for the supposed great view.
We thought that this would have been a great place to have a geocache, and we weren’t disappointed when we learned that there were two caches at this spot…so off searching we went, which meant climbing down off the edge of the cliff a bit.
Of course, Dad was sent first so if I fell, at least Deb had the insurance policy to cash in.
While we were geocaching, Wilson spotted some whales down in the bay at the base of the cliff, so we sat down and watched the show for a while. It was great to see these massive mammals having fun as they were jumping and splashing around and flipping their fins and tails up out of the water.
Lulu trying to feel the spots…We took off towards Hermanus, and stopped halfway along at a Cheetah Sanctuary, where Deb and the kids were able to go in and pet a cheetah and have an up close and personal Q&A session with the cheetah handler. This was exciting as cheetahs are Wilson’s favourite animal.
The kids and Deb got the chance to go into the enclosure where the cheetahs were, and all was good as long as the kitty didn’t see you and you remained behind them, supposedly. It was so nice to be able to get up close and personal to these big cats, and Wilson was in 7th heaven.
After the quick stop at the sanctuary, we took off towards Hermanus which promised to be the start of a “slowing down” part of our trip, where we could just start to live. Don’t get me wrong, there was still a lot to do around the area, but not at the blistering pace that we have been travelling for the first two months. This was a place where we could do laundry, get our hair cut, and get back to exercising without the fear of being chased by a lion, cheetah, or getting mugged.
Hermanus is largely a retirement community for Cape Towners, and it is roughly the size of Huntsville, so we enjoyed the pace of this community.
Over the next couple of days, Deb and I got out to run along the costal path that followed where the whales could be spotted splashing around within 100m of the rocky cliffs that were along the shore. It led to a start and stop run as you were stopping frequently to watch the whales that were popping up all over the place.
It was hard to believe that these massive creatures were so close to the rocky shore where the wind was blowing in some pretty big waves that were crashing against a rugged shoreline full of sharp sandstone rocks. In fact, they were seeming to enjoy it (some a little too much as it was mating season too!).
The Southern Right Whales can grow up to 15m long, with men being a bit smaller, and on average weigh 40 tonnes. Their gestational period is 12 months, and when they are born, they are about 5.5m long. The process of birthing a whale is pretty cool in that it involves the mom and a midwife whale. The mom swims in a tight circle on her side, and then the midwife uses her face to help push the baby out.
They feed off of plankton as they are a baleen whales, meaning they don’t have teeth, but they have a big sieve for a mouth. They eat all summer down in Antarctica, and then migrate northward to this area to breed where they don’t feed much, if at all.
They were whaled extensively during the 1800s and early 1900s but became protected in 1935. Despite a soviet whaling spree in the 1950s, the population has been growing about 7% a year.
While we were in Hermanus, it was Lulu’s much anticipated tenth birthday. The big one – oh. She has been talking about this since, I don’t know, her last birthday! So, we needed to make sure that this was a big deal. The night before, Deb and I decorated the kitchen with pink balloons and streamers, and we were going to make sure that our princess was given the full royal treatment as she was not going to have a birthday party with her friends back home.
The day started with breakfast in bed, complete with Fruit Loops., and some birthday presents. She couldn’t have been happier. The morning was spent chillaxing and, not to break routine, a bit of school. Then we headed out an did a bit of geocaching along the shore line while watching some whales before we headed off to the mall for haircuts, lunch, and a bit of shopping.
Wilson and I dropped Deb and Lulu off at a nail salon to have manicures as we went home to get ready for the big birthday dinner of pizza and cake. Lulu wanted me to make my homemade pizza, which was going to be hard as I am a bit of a pizza snob and perfectionist. As you can imagine, when you stay at a rental house, you are completely at the mercy of the owner as to what equipment is in the kitchen. Usually the knives are small and dull, and you may have a pan that is all scratched up or charred from the previous renters. So, I didn’t have a hot oven with a pizza stone, and I wasn’t going to buy a container of yeast just for the one pizza. In hindsight, I should have. The store-bought shells didn’t cut the mustard, and they don’t have “pepperoni” here in Africa, but I found something close to it thank god. At least I found pizza mozzarella which makes or breaks a pizza in my opinion. Stupidly, I tried to make the pizzas in the “wood fired oven” which was really a barbeque, but there was no stone base to put the pizza on. So, it ended up being cardboard pizza with burnt bases.
Oh well, at least we had cake and ice cream. And that was hilarious. I bought trick candles that didn’t blow out. I was the only one that knew this and resulted in a hilarious candle blowing session with Lulu and gang. Eventually, I had to put the candles out with my fingers.
Bellies full of sugar, we headed to bed for the next day full of adventures…
Lulu had decided to go for a horseback ride for her birthday present. She could have gone shark diving, a whale watching boat ride, paragliding, or ziplining, but she wanted to ride a horse, so we headed to Heaven and Earth Trails for the afternoon. Deb got to go for a run since she and horses don’t get along too well, and often there are communication issues that result in the horse taking off into the woods and Deb getting pummeled by tree branches along the way (circa Dominican with John and Jen).
The kids got saddled up on their horses, as did I, and we did a test walk in the ring. They said that they had ridden horses before, and that they had gone to horse camp a couple of years ago. I found out, according to the kids, that at horse camp, they didn’t actually ride the horses. This may or may not be true, but that is what they remember. So, when it came time to actually ride, communicate, and steer the horse, they didn’t know what to do or how much force to exert when they needed to confidently maneuvre the horse around.
It got to the point that Lulu’s horse started to pull a Deb. It started to head off into the apple orchard that we were walking through, and the guide had to take the reins and Lulu’s horse was led for the rest of the ride. No worries, as this was a beautiful part of the area that we hadn’t known about. Most people come here for whales when visiting, and they don’t go into the valley that is just inland from the town. There is a beautiful valley that is flush with vineyards and fruit orchards that you could spend eons visiting at the base of some beautiful rocky peaks.
After we got back and got off the horses, we realized that we still had 40 minutes to go until Deb came to pick us up, so we found a tree fort and rope swing to play on in the woods beside the barn. In the kids eyes, this was more fun than the horse ride. Free fun versus paid fun. Free fun won again!
Not to venture far from the “speed travelling” theory that we tend to fall into, we booted over to the local theatre where we watched the cartoon movie “Small Foot” in a super fun beanbag theatre.
This is something that we need in Huntsville! Huge overstuffed beanbags on a floor in a small room with a screen and projector, and a kick ass sound system…plop the movie on and bingo, there you go. It was lots of fun and set the bar high for future movie going adventures on this trip.
Well, that is it for Hermanus….we are headed over to De Hoop now where we can watch more whales, and play around in a new park along the southern tip of Africa.