Mossel Bay via Hermanus
On Monday we started our trip out of Cape Town aiming toward the Stellenbosch wine region. We planned to stop there for lunch, and then continue to Hermanus via either an inland route through Franschoek, or via the eastern coast of False Bay. We stopped at one of the first wineries, Spier, which we heard was quite good and included some art and animal exhibits. It was fortuitous, because they had an exhibit called Eagle Encounters which we absolutely loved! They’re actually quite involved in the conservation and rehabilitation of raptors and similar birds, and the exhibit is the public face of the operation. We really enjoyed learning about and seeing up close many of the indigenous big birds. We even got to pet an owl (a Spotted Eagle Owl). This is a different one that was taking a bath.
After a nice lunch, we noted a weird color in the sky to the northeast (towards Franschhoek), which looked like it could be from a fire. We decided to avoid this and headed back towards False Bay. The eastern side of the bay is actually the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, a spectacular landscape, and one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. We were awed at every turn by incredible views. Strangely the ocean was being ripped by tremendous offshore winds, which seemed odd since the other side of the bay was definitely experiencing southeasterlies (onshore).
Eventually we arrived at the small town of Hermanus. This town seems focussed on whale watching, but unfortunately we were there in the wrong season. It was very picturesque, though, and a nice place to have a calm evening (although the wind was still most certainly not calm!). We continued to enjoy the many homes with thatched roofs.
On Tuesday we aimed for Cape Agulhas. It’s actually the southern most tip of Africa, although many people believe Cape Point/Cape of Good Hope hold that distinction. The drive involved some unpaved roads, which were a little rough, but we got to enjoy a gorgeous landscape, and some wildlife and range animals, including tortoises, secretary birds, ostriches, various raptors, sheep, goats, and cattle. Here’s Don “rescuing” a tortoise from the road.
The Cape eventually pulled into view. It’s not nearly as dramatic as the peninsula south of Cape Town, and is surprisingly populated, with a few small towns adjacent. But, it exudes a special power nonetheless. It’s wild to contemplate that there’s nothing but ocean between this point and Antarctica. Generations of mariners have paid the price for not giving this point a wide berth.
After a re-fueling of coffee and cake, we aimed for the N2 highway which would lead us to Mossel Bay and the official beginning of the Garden Route. It’s a somewhat boring stretch of road through dry rolling fields, reminiscent of the Palouse in Washington. However, as we neared Mossel Bay, we spotted our first elephants, and that got us fired up for the adventures ahead.
In Mossel Bay we settled in at a hotel by the point, drawn by the tidal pool, and the Cape St. Blaize Cave, a hideway for prehistoric people. We took a swim in the pool, just barely protecting us from the stormy sea, and then hiked up to the cave. It was awe inspiring to realize that people had lived here 100,000 years ago. We’ll leave you with the view from the cave towards the pool. (Amazingly, when this cave was being used by its earliest inhabitants, the sea was about 100 KM from here, due to the lowered sea level of the ice age!!).