Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Penguins and Capes

Visiting the most southerly point of Africa was a must for Chris so we made a detour off the N2 to Cape Town to visit Cape Agulhas and stand astride where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean.

For our final day in Cape Town, we toured the peninsula sights, visiting.....
The fishing village of Houte Bay.

Travelled along the scenic Chapman's Peak Drive that clings impossibly to the steep mountainside as it plunges into the ocean.

The African penguin colony at Boulder, where we enjoyed watching the antics of these funny waddling birds.

The Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. We hiked from Cape Hope to Cape Point along the cliff top in very blustery but sunny conditions giving poignance to the nautically significant capes.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

On Safari

To get our safari fix in Africa, we spent a night at the Garden Route Game Lodge to break up our return journey to Cape Town. We stayed in a thatched roofed chalet overlooking the game reserve.

A late afternoon and early morning game drive were the order of the day. The game reserve is actually farmland that is being reverted to wild status and is stocked with wild African animals. the reserve is as close to self sustaining as can be managed with cheetahs controlling the ungulate and ostrich populations. We saw many types of ungulates including eland, springbok and gemsbok and learnt many facts and figures about their weight, how fast they run and how high they jump

Majestic giraffes

Elephants at sunrise

Dangerous looking rhinos, our guide quickly moved our landrover if these beast got too close!

Ostriches on the run

Lions and cheetahs, although not in the the self sustaining reserve as the reserve is not large enough to support the lions. We did not manage to see the cheetahs in the reserve so the consolation prize was to see them in rehabilitation pens.

Supper and breakfast were served in the large thatch roofed lodge complete with a roaring fire to warm up after the cold game drive. Dinner included such delicacies as ostrich steaks and eland sausages. We tried not to think too hard about the amazing animals we had seen while eating!

The Otter Trail

A highlight of our stay in South Africa has been the five day hike along the Otter Trail. The Otter Trail is South Africa's equivalent to the West Coat Trail of Canada but on the Indian Ocean, hugging the coast along the Garden Route region of the Cape.

The hike was beautiful and varied, alternately running along the coast over rocks, beaches and grassy ledges or through steep coastal forest or along flat cliff tops covered in Fynbos heath. My favourite mini biome was the Fynbos, maybe because it was easy and flat hiking with commanding views along the cliff tops and out to sea, but the shrubby plants of the Fynbos are truely weird and wonderful and unlike anything else I've seen - Proteas, pin cushions, rush like restios and many I could not identify.

Each of the four nights we stayed in simple but very clean and tidy huts on a rocky shore above the pounding waves or right on an idyllic sandy or pebbled beach.

Only 12 hikers are allowed to start the trail each day. We shared huts with 2 young guys from Jo'Berg and a lively family of 6 also from Jo'Berg were our other companions on the trail. We all shared lots of laughs and watched out for each other along the trail and we also got to learn a bit about life in South Africa.

As with the West Coast Trail, timing arrival for low tide at crucial estuary crossing points was a must. The crux of the route was at Bloukrans Gorge, where the sandy estuary can only be crossed safely one hour either side of low tide. We had to leave the hut and walk in the dark for an hour to ensure we reached there on time. Even then, with a full moon and a very high neap tide, we still had to run from sandy inlet to sandy inlet when the wave went out and hop up onto the rocks when the waves came in. And still there was some scrambling over the rocks to get out of the Bloukrans Gorge.

There was lots of wildlife to see. We saw whales and large pods of dolphins just off shore, a verbet monkey, antelopes, cute rock dassies (that are actually related to elephants!), timid genets (a cross between a cat and raccoon with a ringed tail, striped back and spotted sides) and iridescent sunbirds feeding on the nectar of Protea flowers.

The waves rolling into shore were huge curlers tens of feet high, ideal looking for the expert surfer except for the rocky shoreline. While sitting on the balcony of our hut, sipping tea, coffee or soup we were mesmerised by the massive waves as they came crashing and booming on to the beaches and cliffs, there were many 'wow's! When the trail dropped inland to a shady canyon, a still quiet descended, out of the earshot of the constant nose of the waves.

Our favourite lunch spot was Bloubaai, a beautiful curve of yellow sandy beach with the ever pounding waves and a tideline of colourful shells.