Having a 'whale of a time' in Hermanus, in 'Swell'endam and Mossel Bay
Nov 25, 2010
|FYI readers - we wanted to let you know that we both share in the writing of the blog...sometimes Tracy writes, sometimes Lynda and then we both read/add/edit etc...
As mentioned in the previous email, we had 'bazzed' on the Bus to the town of Hermanus which is considered the best land based whale watching destination in the world - mainly the southern right whale. It is also famous for SHARK CAGE diving expeditions which we did not select to participate in (they are regulated but they still draw the sharks by throwing in blood and fish guts to the water which just seems a little wrong to us). This town started as a small fishing village but is now a large bustling tourist town. The day after our adventure to Cape Agulhas, we woke up and were enjoying a leisurely breakfast, thinking about just relaxing for the day or maybe taking a hike when the organizer of the 'kayak tours' came by to say anyone interested should go THIS morning as the wind was predicted to pick up and last for the next couple of days, making the activity too treacherous. So, Lynda and I said SURE, let's go for it and we are really glad we did. The guide was ultra enthusiastic and the conditions were pretty good, for an ocean area known for windy conditions. We were both in the same sit-upon canoe and we took a little time getting used to kayaking together as we usually just canoe in tandem. We had a great experience - we saw seals really close by and learned a lot about the ocean conditions, kelp and whale behaviour. We even got to extend our trip by almost an hour as the guide did not have an afternoon trip and was excited to show us more of the local area. The scenery was spectacular. We got back to the hostel by early afternoon and relaxed by the pool for a while. At and after dinner, we sat with Lena as the next day she was off to reunion with her daughter in Port Elizabeth (has not seen her since the summer). We were also joined by Chris from the US (trained as a chef and travelling until June when he hopes to be in France and land a chef position on a yacht. He is a very intelligent, serious, nice young man (only 20 but seemingly older). Our other dinner friend was Beatra from Germany. We had a really, long, interesting discussion at dinner and for good or bad, we think Lena is going to consider leaving her husband. She still loves him but they have just grown apart. We had a lot of divorce dialogue and lots of tears. So hard. But we know she will be more than OK.
The next day, Lynda and I got up early to say bye to Lena (or 'till next time' as perhaps we will take her up on her offer to visit Sweden OR she will make her way to Canada). It is always hard to make friends for short times and then say 'adious'.
We then planned on hiking the coastal trail all the way to the beach (about 5km each way). However, the weather threatened - windy and cloudy with just little specks of blue. After waiting for about an hour to see what might change...we decided to pack raincoats, bathing suits and lunches and go for it. We were chilly in parts but managed to avoid the rain which was pretty lucky. We also saw whales right along the coast...about five different sightings. One was really close to shore and so the 'whale crier blew his kelp horn (what a job) and all the tourists came quickly to the spot, hoping to snap the perfect whale photo. We spent a long time there and then moved along...at one point we saw two whales breaching in the distance. Awesome!!!!!!
At the hostel that night, we perused a whale book - all photos taken from the shore and wow, this is the place to go to see whales. Our favourite was a picture of a whale coming up RIGHT below one of the kayaks - lifting but not tipping and then popping its head up as if to say 'Whoops, sorry about that'. Now, that would be a story for the blog.
The next day, up early to catch the shuttle to the BAZ bus. The bus was really late so Tracy spent some time organizing the Hostel's Book shelf and we both read magazines. Eventually, we were on our way to Swellendam...only about 1.5 hours away from Hermanus. It is another very historic town with lots of heritage, culture, architecture, wildlife and outdoor activities. On the way, we stopped for 'breakfast' at 11:30am at Steers (a South Africa chain) and we ate the healthy chicken on a bun and fries...yum!!The Swellendam Backpackers and Adventure Lodge is right at the edge of town, with the Langeberge mountain range in the background. It is an odd little spot...a really nice double room with ensuite, a garden with little cabins (some double, some dorms) and then the kitchen which is like a hunt camp kitchen (little light, lots of dust and spiders and even a picture frame with no picture). But, very friendly and helpful. On our arrival day, we embarked on a horse ride on the afternoon...at the edge of the National Reserve. Neither Lynda and I are much of horse riding experts but we managed to stay on. Tracy's horse was a little friskier with Lynda's being calm and even. The guide was not too enthusiastic or friendly really but the views were awesome and it was really, really peaceful and pretty.
Today, our butts are a little sore from horseriding but the day dawned sunny and warm (still windy though). We bought permits from our hostel for the reserve and set off on a hike up the mountains to the plateau. Very steep up and down (hearts pumping on the way up and knees aching on the way down) but the views overlooking the town of Swellendam and the undulating wheatlands of the Overberg (over the mountain)were sensational. We had lunch beside a babbling brook overlooking the town and enjoyed meeting two couples from Belgium - one of which has already driven from Belgium to Japan in the last six months and are now here, awaiting their vehicle to arrive in Durban where they will again drive overland up Africa and back to Belgium. Amazing or what. Travelers, when meeting, never, never run out of things to talk about (hmmm, like teachers we think).
Next stop...Mossel Bay...a short 1.5 hr Baz Bus ride away...BUT the bus was again late...almost two hours. Luckily, we both had good books and the Swellendam hostel had a lovely setting to wait. The bus finally arrived....and then we had major construction on the road towards Mossel Bay. All told, we arrived 3 hours late...our Mossel Bay hostel was lovely - the room like a hotel really. We had the sole use of the kitchen but because we missed lunch on the bus...we went for Lunner (Lunch & Dinner) at one of the famous seafood restaurants on the edge of the ocean to celebrate our 'HAPPY HALFWAY DAY' which is half way through the Africa/Europe/Asia trip of six months - unbelievable.
The next day we went for a walk in the hopes that the cloud cover would clear enough for our scheduled 'beach day'. The walk was lovely again...all along the cliffside with stunning ocean views and at one point, we saw a large pod of dolphins swimming along...so cool. The fog/clouds did lift enough for us to enjoy a few hours on the sandy shores enjoying the background noise of crashing waves. Not one of our usual November in Canada activities - that is for sure!
Next stop today - off to Oudtshoorn on the Baz Bus...we have a bet about how late it will be today????