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Steve and Emma's Travel Tales

Along the Garden Route from Cape Town to Bathurst

SOUTH AFRICA | Saturday, 4 April 2015 | Views [450]

The lighthouse at Cape Agulhas.

The lighthouse at Cape Agulhas.

We didn’t rush off the next morning as we were only going to Hermanus to meet up with Jason and Jeannie.  That said we were on the road by 9am giving us loads of time to take in a longer scenic route.  We began by hugging the peninsular coastline and passing through Chapman’s Peak and entering Cape Town via the back door as it were.  This also looked like the most straight forward way for us to get onto the N2 which took us through the city beyond the suburbs with minimum road and traffic negotiation.  As soon as we left the built up areas behind we also said goodbye to the N2 and used the scenic coastal roads.  Once again the weather was fantastic and we were awarded with wonderful views pretty much constantly.


The day’s picnic lunch spot was a Betty’s Bay – lovely piece of coastline in its own right but with the added advantage of another protected penguin area.  We were amazed that they only charged R10 (about 60p) entrance as it was just as well organised as the second beach we’d enjoyed at Boulders Bay.  Again there was a raised wooden walkway giving the penguins the space away from the interference of people that they need.  This bay sees about 2000 penguins upon its shores and once again we enjoyed watching them getting up to their penguin business and reading more about them.  There were also lots of information boards explaining about the whaling history of the area and other important flora and fauna we could see.


We continued along the coast and finally found ourselves in Hermanus where we quickly tracked down the gaff Jason and Jeannie had rented outside the main drag.  It took us a little while longer to track down our friends as they were not surprisingly enjoying themselves on the beach. Within minutes we spied them wandering up the hill to find us and no more than half an hour later we all wandered down the hill to take in the coast.  I was the only one sensible enough not to go into the very cold Indian Ocean but at least the sun was still strong so they could all warm up again.  Just in time to retreat to the local beach bar for cool drinks and of course lots of banter.


The next day we walked into Hermanus along a wonderful coastal path and we spotted hyrax at regular intervals and noticed there were loads of sea birds around.  In fact on closer inspection we realised they were concentrated in one particularly dark spot in the ocean.  A local resident kindly informed us that the birds were after the fish and in fact we were witnessing a sardine run.  I could only hope this would attract larger predators but since we were too early for the whale and dolphin watching season didn’t dare raise my hopes to high.  Then I did spot a shape emerging for some air and was instantly convinced in was a whale.  Steve and Jason wouldn’t believe me until we stopped for a while to all gaze out at sea – sure enough there it was.  Bryde’s whales are residents of the area and with Hermanus being billed as one of the best sights in the world for land based whale watching I had been hopeful.


All too soon we were in Hermanus itself which is quite a nice seaside town but I always find these places have something brash about them.  The cafes etc lining the front were predominantly part of chains rather than locally run independents so a bit formulaic.  We found a place with seats overlooking the sea and could still see the sardine run so it made for good natural viewing.  The whale put in another appearance before the dolphins arrived and we had great fun watching about 200 dolphins organising the shoal and hunting.


Hermanus itself isn’t a place I could get wildly excited about but would love to visit the area again in the winter to watch whales without spending a fortune.  To be honest we would do just as Jeannie and her family did and rent a place outside town.  The rest of our time there revolved around catching up with J&J and getting to know some of Jeannie’s family.  They, and her friends, warmly welcomed us and it was lovely they allowed us to gate crash a family get-together for a couple of days.


The next morning it was time to head off further east along the Garden Route with our destination being Bontebok National Park for our belated anniversary treat. However, along the way we managed to take in Africa’s southernmost point, Cape Agulhas.  This is where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet and it is a very scenic part of the coast. There is a lighthouse with an interesting museum and you can climb the steep ladder to get to the top of the lighthouse for magnificent views.


Bontebok is one of the smallest Sanparks and does not support vast herds of animals but it is set in a wonderful location on the banks of the Breede River with a mountain backdrop.  It was rather hazy while we were there so the hills were not as clear as we’d hoped but we still got good views of the river and the immediate park area.   Although it was a peak holiday weekend we felt that not all the chalets were occupied but the campsite and caravan park were very full.  It’s a great park for families as splashing about in the river, short walks and bike rides keeps the children entertained whilst enjoying outdoors.  It’s got to beat plonking them in front of a TV or computer screen.


Our chalet was as perfectly situated as we could have wished for with lovely views through the hedgerow down to the river.  The bird life was excellent and we enjoyed watching kingfishers, weaver birds and hoopoes a matter of meters away.  As well as a private decking area there was space to eat inside should the elements conspire against you.  The kitchen was small but had all that we needed to chill a bottle of fizz and rustle up a tasty meal.  Luckily we were in a sheltered spot so managed to celebrate and dine alfresco.


The next morning the mountains still weren’t clear but it was dry so we set off on their circular game drive route.  Obviously it wasn’t extensive due to the park being small but we found plenty of bontebok antelope so felt a promise had been delivered on.  Exiting the park basically marked the end of our mini holiday as we were now basically on our way to Bathurst.  Before setting off on a longish drive we had a quick potter around Swellendam (very close to the park) and declared it a rather picturesque town with lots of settlers’ history.  With it being on the already well established Garden Route there were lots of guesthouses, B&B’s tea shops etc, etc.  We had a brew in one of the few places open since it was Good Friday in a lovely garden cafe with a stream tinkling past their wooden decking area.


With the weather not being brilliant, most places being shut and a drive to Knysna ahead of us we didn’t linger long.  As we continued along this scenic section of the N2 we were taking note of other places that looked like they’d be suitable journey breaking spots.  Sedgefield and Storm’s River seemed likely candidates and we’ve already tried and tested Plettenburg.  Knysna is based around a marina rather than the ocean and I have to say we weren’t very taken with it.  Still it was literally just a stop over to break up the long drive and we know to try other places in the future. 


We were up bright and early the following morning as by now I was very keen to get back to Bathurst and see Morley House again.  We made it back in good time and the rain stayed off long enough for me to tour the estate and take in all the changes.  Steve had done loads of great work and I’m very impressed with his ever improving handyman skills.  The rain soon started so we made ourselves comfortable in the cottage.  It was just as well we’d popped into the supermarket on the way home because it didn’t stop raining ALL day Sunday


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