“Out of Africa”

After our wonderful lunch at Zorgvliet on Friday, we headed further east.  Here is a shot of the beautiful Franschhoek Valley from partway up the pass that is north east of the town.   On the way up this pass, we finally got to see our baboons on the side of the road!  We didn’t want to get too close like some of the bear spotters do back home, so we couldn’t get a great photo… but it was still very cool.  In 3 separate groups there were about 20 of them.

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After we dropped down many switchbacks on the other side of Franschhoek Pass, the land became much drier – you would never know you were in the heart of wine country just a few miles away.  Some of the terrain even looked just like Southern Alberta!

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We spent the night in a small town called Riversdale, about 350 km east of Cape Town on the N2 highway.  It’s basically at the beginning of the Garden Route which unfortunately we won’t be visiting on this trip.  Saturday morning we headed over to the Garden Route Game Lodge, which is a private game reserve and basically the closest thing you can get to a safari within driving distance of Cape Town.

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Just like so many other places we’ve visited on this trip, they had a great kids playground.  Approved!

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We had a leisurely lunch in their classic safari lodge style restaurant.

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We visited their reptile center, which had a number of interesting local snakes and lizards, crocodiles, and a grumpy tortoise who appeared to be stuck in some bushes!
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Alright, this is why we actually came here:  a game drive!  This is not a real safari like you’d get in Kruger National Park, but like I mentioned it’s the closest you can get to a safari near to Cape Town, and it was non-committing.  The drive was 2 hours long, and we got to see wildebeeste, springbok, a cheetah family, lions, a rhino family, zebras, elephants….
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This was a test for us to see if a real safari would be something worthwhile in the future.  We really enjoyed it!  Being driven around not knowing exactly what we would see at any given corner of the bush was fun, and the 2 hour drive was enough for Elinka.  Unfortunately day visitors only get to go for drives during the day time (overnight guests get the classic times of late evening or early morning when the animals are most active), and it was a hot day so most of the critters were just laying around napping except the 5 cheetah kids who were being silly at one of the man-made watering holes.  We’d love to do a real safari in 5 or 6 years!

We had a choice of going to the beach or pool back at our guesthouse after the game drive.  Elinka picked pool.

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We were staying at the Fynbos Guesthouse in Riversdale which included both homemade breakfast and dinner, hosted by a very friendly Afrikaner couple.
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The next morning we slowly headed back towards Cape Town.  Our first stop on this sorta grey day was Cape Agulhas – the most southerly point of land in Africa.  We had lunch at the “Southernmost Pub in Africa” in a quaint seaside village that felt kind of like Nova Scotia.

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After lunch we visited the lighthouse on the point.  Visitors can climb to the top, but it’s not like others where you get a nice spiral staircase – it’s ladder style, very steep stairs, then a nearly vertical 20 foot ladder to get to the top!  Elinka made it halfway up that last ladder when she decided it was time to go back to the platform and settled for the window view.  She was very brave to make it even that far, but she made the right decision.  You had to drop into a hole in the floor to get back into that ladder!
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Next up we ventured over to the actual southern tip of the African continent, which is also the demarcation point between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.  There was a nice raised monument of Africa at the point that kids loved running around on, thankfully none tripped on the mountain ranges while we were there.
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Our last night on this trip was spent in another seaside village called Hermanus.  It’s famous for whale watching basically any time of year except for summer.  We went for dinner at an amazing seafood restaurant called Harbour Rock.
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The town is raised above the beautiful, rough sea on rocky cliffs.  It’s a great place just to watch the waves even without whales.
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Another gorgeous South African tidal pool….I saw people swimming laps in here earlier in the morning when I went out to get coffee.
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Hermanus has a trail on the western section of the cliffs called simply The Cliff Path.  A lovely place for a walk through the fynbos.
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We took a very scenic route back to Cape Town and stopped at the “other” penguin viewing area: Stony Point near Bettys Bay.  It was awesome!  We loved it here.  Just like at Boulders, we could just watch these cute guys all day and we took way too many photos and videos here.  We thought it was even better than Boulders Beach as it was completely uncrowded even at noontime, no jockeying for parking, you could get closer to the penguins, and the admission price for us was 65 rands vs 400 at Boulders!  This penguin colony and the drive there are a must if you come to this area!  I’d say it’s better than the combo of Boulders Beach and the Chapmans Peak Drive.
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Our final stop on our tour of the Western Cape – you got it – more penguins – back to Boulders Beach!  We had some spare time in the afternoon so we went back there to exchange some shirts at the gift shop that we’d purchased the previous weekend without trying first (oops!).  What a contrast to Stony Point – there was a lineup for parking, crowds of people waiting to get in…. but somebody got a new stuffy!

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Well, this ends another amazing adventure.  We’re at the Cape Town airport now where our air journey home will begin in a couple of hours.   This trip has been so full of “favorite parts” that none of us are really sure what to pick what was the best – the penguins seem to be coming out on top though.  We have all loved this part of South Africa; what a diverse country in terms of geography, scenery, and people.  And we’ve only just scratched the surface of this corner of the country!  We could easily come back and stay 4-6 weeks just in the Western Cape.  There is so much to do here and all of the people we met have been pretty amazing.  South Africa has a reputation for being extremely dangerous and plenty of people think that you’d might as well be murdered or at least mugged as soon as you get off the plane, we found the absolute opposite.  The times that we felt uneasy or sketchy were less than we would have if we’d spent the same amount of time in downtown Calgary; we didn’t even experience aggressive begging. That being said, we did hear about and see some of the conditions in South Africa that aren’t all roses:  there is still plenty of poverty to go around, the government is broke and corrupt, and it sounds like a lot of the “systems” are more or less set up for failure.  It must be very sad for South African people who have the ability to do so, to seriously consider leaving the country if things continue down this path.  It’s such a beautiful place.  A real gem of the world.  We are extremely grateful that we had the opportunity to visit this place at least once.

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