South Africa – Cape & Garden Route

Our flight from Zanzibar to Cape Town took us through Johannesburg, or as locals call it Jo’Burg.  When we landed, we were required to collect our bags, go through customs and then re-check them for the flight to Cape Town.  After accomplishing this task – which was much more challenging than it should have been – we set off to change some money and find our new departure gate.  We located a succession of banks within the Airport, when Marcin got to the door he discovered it was locked, inquiring with the serious looking security guard outside, he said that he needed to get buzzed in.

After navigating the complex logistics of entering a bank, we set off to find our departure gate; we needed section B, so we followed the signs when suddenly this very helpful gentleman stepped in front of us and asked if we were ok and knew where we were going.  We said we were fine and were heading to section B; then he asked to look at the ticket which Marcin then showed him.  The man then said confidently, “follow me, I work here”.  So we set off behind him and he led us to Gate B – which was all of about 30 steps in the direction we had been heading.  As we arrived, he stood and faced us and said “$20 dollars American will do” – ahhh our first scam – welcome to South Africa – Marcin confidently declared that the man had been dishonest and we moved on our way.

We landed in Cape Town late, around 10:50 P.M so we collected our car and checked in at a hotel that was only 500m from the airport – we were not about to set off into Cape Town in the dark.   The hotel we stayed at was beautiful – fully sustainable, which is of course was why I picked that particular one.  In the morning I got up and went to the gym, I ran on the treadmill while watching a meter that showed how much energy my running was making for the hotel – which I assure you was not much after the long flight – but I ticked off a few K’s, powered a small lightbulb and burnt off the airplane food.  After breakfast, made by what I can only describe as Chef Ramsey’s doppelganger – based on anger not looks – we set off towards Gansbaai and our Great White adventure.  I won’t talk about that now – although it is tempting – as it is in our previous blog, but Gansbaai was also the beginning of our 5 days on the Garden Route.

Gansbaai although not officially on the Garden Route was our starting point and as we rolled into town my first glimpse of the ocean included a whale leaping from the water and splashing back down onto its back.  I couldn’t believe it, we were so excited that we checked into The Roundhouse B&B and set off to do the coastal walk straight away.  We walked for 30 minutes along the coast and in that time we saw 11 different whales, sometimes only 15 metres from us.  During this time of year the whales are on the coast and they come in close to the rocky shore to eat kelp, so it allows for amazing close encounters without having to book a boat tour.  We finished off the walk at a coffee shop that overlooked the bay.  We both had cappuccinos and Marcin had his usual cake slice,  and we watched whales roll on there backs, bob there heads up and down or slap their tales against the water. It was an out of this world experience to sip coffee while hearing the echos of a whales tale hitting the water.

Our next base on the Garden Route was Knysna (the K is silent – I learned this the hard way when no one knew where I was talking about).  We spent 4 nights in an apartment by the harbour and lagoon.  We didn’t luck our with respect to weather here, a lot of cool rainy days followed, which was a good thing in a way, as we were so tired from our adventures and needed some down time.  We did squeeze in an amazing hike along the coast and lucked out with the only half day of great weather for it.  We did decide though that the Garden Route seemed to contain a high degree of “retired folks” puttering about – not the adrenaline scene Marcin and I are use to.  But the landscape of the Garden Route and the coast is one of the most stunning landscapes we have seen.  The ocean dotted with beautiful sandy beaches, cliffs, bays, mountains, fynbos (which looks like Flynnbob I know but is a catchall for foliage) and wildlife was all spectacular.

After our foray on the Garden Route we were off to Franschhoek in the Wine region – Marcin was very excited about this.  Our drive there was also indescribable, we wound our way through mountain passes until our final long hairpin filled drive over the pass into the Franschhoek Valley.  We found ourselves in a beautiful self-contained villa at the base of a mountain.  Marcin promptly booked a grommet dinner at a restaurant and a wine tour for the following day .  The wine tour would commence in town the following morning – we confidently declared we did not require a taxi to drive us into town and back, we would easily do the 6k return walk ourselves.  The morning came and it was a beautiful sunny day, we set off to town.  We thought we would start off slow, it was only 10:30 , so we hit up the museum first to peruse the history of the town.

Bursting with our newly acquired wine region knowledge, we boarded the bus a mere 30 minutes later and set off to our first wine tasting.  By lunch time (late lunch time) we were on our 3rd winery, so I decided we needed food.  We picked a beautiful winery to eat at overlooking that valley, as we sat down I ordered a water and Marcin quickly ordered to glasses or Red.  We then proceeded to gelatinize ourselves on a ginormous cheese platter and other assorted hors d’oeuvres and drank what I describe as a goblet of wine.  We settled up, boarded the bus and headed off to winery number 4.  Marcin again choose the 6 wine tasting option and by glass 4 I just couldn’t go on, I was done – so Marcin decided to have double and thus by the end he was done – I would like you to keep in mind that at this point it is only 2 P.M.  We dragged ourselves on the bus and realized it would not be prudent to go on, so we rode our buss back to town, got off, then realized we had our 3k walk home.  This may have been the single most arduous walk we have ever done, but we made it home, collapsed and didn’t get off the couch until the next day.  We learned the value of the spit bucket that day.

We awoke and said goodbye to Franschhoek and headed out towards Fishoek -seriously Franschhoek to Fishoek –  our new home for two nights on the Cape Peninsula.  Our time on the Peninsula was brief and the weather a bit less than ideal, but we enjoyed some of the premier attractions.  We meet little penguin friends – which I learned are actually a wee bit nasty and bite, and they have a very definite oder – but that meanness and stink can all be forgotten when you see them waddle up the beach or fall asleep standing up!  The Cape Peninsula point was stunning and in-between swaths of fog we got glimpses of the famous coast that has claimed so many ships.

We decided to do the short 1.5 hour Cape of Hope hike, the weather was clearing and the views from the end point were unbelievable.  On our way back we happened across a tourist from China who was by himself.  He was standing to the side of the trail and was bleeding profusely from the head and nose.  Naturally we stopped to help, he had tripped on the rocky terrain and managed to land and hit the one rock that jetted up higher than all the rest.  He was very nervous and upset and didn’t speak English very well but we calmed him down and explained that the cuts were not that bad, they just tend to bleed a lot from that area.  We started to look for our first aide kit, we needed something to absorb the blood and put pressure on the wounds.  We realized we didn’t have the kit, as Marcin and I searched for ideas our eyes fell to the one thing a women will always keep in her bag – A feminine product.  We had a Maxi Pad – I slyly unwrapped the pad, tucked in the wings – while I was doing so a German women walked by and burst out laughing but managed to communicate it was a good idea.  We gave the man the bandage and vole – perfect absorption, pressure and the cession of bleeding – crisis adverted in the backcountry by a pad!

After our Cape Peninsula good Samaritan act we struck up the coast towards our final destination in South Africa – Cape Town.  Stay tuned for our Cape Town adventure in our next post coming soon!

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