Colca Canyon Peru

Colca Canyon is still a very vivid memory – incredible hiking adventure! Seems longer ago than February 2015!!!

suemtravels

Colca Canyon Peru Colca Canyon Peru

My trek into Peru’s Colca Canyon exceeded expectations! The canyon’s beauty is indescribable and experiencing the magic of its isolated grandeur was the best. February is off-season for trekking in the canyon but actually it’s a great time since the weather is cooler and the vegetation is green and flourishing.

Chivay Mother & Daughter Chivay Mother & Daughter

I shared the trip from Arequipa with a fun Australian couple – Tasha and Aaron. Our adventure began at 6:00 a.m. driving with guides through high patapampa plateaus surrounded by the magnificent Cordillera de Chila. We passed rivers, volcanoes, mountains, and national reserves with grazing “camelids”. Still have trouble distinguishing between llamas, alpacas, and guanacos, but now I recognize vicuñas.

As we passed through Chivay the terrain changed and became more like Cusco and Machu Picchu. We stopped in Yanque, a small village outside Chivay. For our first outing my Peruvian guide…

View original post 1,392 more words

Fernkloof Nature Reserve Hermanus

Maanskynbaai from Fernkloof

Fernkloof Reserve is one of nature’s bright gems, and it’s a short 15-minute drive away! I’ve hiked the waterfall trail and am learning other routes. Fernkloof trails are gentler than Table Mountain with spectacular views of Walker Bay, Hemel en Aarde Valley, and Maanskynbaai (Moonshine Bay)!

Fernkloof has four “routes” – green, red, blue, and orange. I’m working up to the more challenging orange route and its inner and outer circuits.

Covering 7 sq. miles in the Kleinrivier Mountains, 37 spectacular miles of hiking trails pass flowering fynbos, thick shrub vegetation, forests, and secluded dams where you can swim on hot days.

Sugarbird

De Bos Dam

Fernkloof’s luxurious fynbos is magnificent! The word fynbos derives from the Dutch word ‘fijn bosch‘ or fine bush. It’s a “collective name for a myriad of evergreen shrub-like plants with small firm leaves, including woody plants with hard leathery leaves”.

Fernkloof is known for around 500 varieties of erica – also called Cape “heath“. Colorful ericadisa, clivia, and protea are endemic to South Africa.

The climate is “Mediterranean with cold wet winters, hot dry summers, and strong south-easterly winds”. I can vouch for the extraordinarily “strong” winds!

Caterpillar Photo from Fernkloof Website

_________________________________

“There is no other place on earth where so many distinct fynbos species grow in such proximity. More than 1250 species of plant have been collected and identified in Fernkloof Nature Reserve.”

_________________________________

During my hike yesterday, I didn’t see any large mammals but enjoyed birds, mountain pride butterflies, unusual beetles, and lizards. Hikers are known to encounter interesting species of turtle plodding along the trails. There are several creeks and waterfalls, and I heard, but didn’t see, frogs. It would be thrilling to see a Cape Leopard.

Lizards and butterflies are too fast for photos, but I followed a lizard to a rock outcropping near “Adder Ladder”. Considering the name of the trail, I retreated.

Rock Hyrax – Dassies

Beetle, Locust, or Alien Creature?

_________________________________

Grey rhebok, Cape grysbok, klipspringer, baboon, mongoose, and dassie are present in small numbers. Nocturnal animals in the Reserve are seldom seen but include the porcupine, genet, hare, and elusive Cape Mountain Leopard.”

_________________________________

I plan to hike Fernkloof often not only for the exercise but because the refreshing, pristine environment is uplifting and makes me feel happy and content!

Neethlingshof Estate Cape Winelands

View from Neethlingshof Wine Estate

South Africa’s winemaking tradition began in the 17th-century. Today the industry is an important part of the local culture and economy. The farms and winelands attract thousands of tourists because of their high-quality wine and magnificent landscapes.

__________________________________

“The first wine produced in South Africa was by Dutch explorer Jan van Riebeeck in 1659.”

__________________________________

Neethlingshof Wine Estate

South African wineries produces a “vast array of wines, from red and white, to sparkling, dessert, and rosé varieties”. Wine estates in Paarl, Franschoek, Constantia, Durbanville, and Stellenbosch are some of the best known. Many estates have alluring Cape Dutch architecture and restaurants where you can enjoy a scrumptious meal paired with a wine to compliment your food.

Neethlingshof Wine Estate Manor House

__________________________________

Stellenbosch has “fine examples” of Cape Dutch Architecture.

__________________________________

Manor House

Stellenbosch, known as the “town of oaks”, is the “educational and research centre” of South Africa’s winelands. Stellenbosch University is the “only university in South Africa offering a degree in viticulture and oenology. Many renown winemakers are alumni”.

Stellenbosch University

__________________________________

Stellenbosch University’s Elsenburg School of Agriculture and the Nietvoorbij Institute of Viticulture and Oenology are the two best-known schools for winemakers and viticulturists.

__________________________________

Neethlingshof Farmland and Vineyards

Neethlingshof Wine Estate

Yesterday I enjoyed lunch at Neethlingshof Wine Estate in the heart of Stellenbosch’s Winelands surrounded by the extraordinary Bottelary Hills and Papegaaisberg Mountains. It’s off season and the winery was quiet with only about 15 people enjoying lunch and the scenery. The wine estate’s beautiful historic manor house and vistas are divine, and I sat outside marveling at the sensational surroundings.

Neethlingshof Farmland and Bottelary Hills

Neethlingshof’s history “dates to 1692”. Its “enviable soil and microclimate” produce excellent wines. The Estate is a member of the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI). To highlight their commitment to eco-sustainability, some areas on the wine farm have been set aside for conservation.

Neethlingshof’s “close-knit team” includes winemakers and viticulturists who studied oenology and viticulture locally and traveled abroad to hone their skills.

Map Bottelary Hills

Later, I stopped for coffee at a café in Stellenbosch and visited a few galleries – wonderful day enjoying the Western Cape!

Cape Agulhas and Struisbaai – Tip of Africa

Cape Agulhas Southernmost Tip of Africa

Surrounded by rugged beaches and peaceful De Mond Nature Reserve, the seaside villages of Cape Agulhas and Struisbaai seem to “melt into one another”. From Hermanus, it’s a two-hour drive east via R316 and R319 through rolling hills, sheep farms, and bright yellow fields of blooming canola! It’s hard keeping your eyes on the road, and I pulled over often.

Bredasdorp Dutch Reformed Church

Cape Agulhas

Cape Agulhas headland is the southernmost tip of Africa – where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. The point lies near Cape Agulhas lighthouse at the end of a wooden boardwalk. It’s marked with a stone plaque where visitors snap selfies.

Cape Agulhas Boardwalk

The exact location where the Agulhas and Benguela currents meet is said to “fluctuate seasonally” between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point. But the official meeting place, decided by the International Hydrographical Organisation, is unquestionably Cape Agulhas.” In the past, I’ve visited and hiked Cape Point – another pristine coastal area.

Struisbaai

_________________________________________

“Historically, Cape Agulhas has been known to sailors as particularly hazardous – notorious for winter storms and huge rogue waves that can reach a spectacular height of 30 metres (99 feet). It’s no surprise that the area is littered with shipwrecks. One of which – the Meisho Maru – lies in Agulhas National Park.”

_________________________________________

Struisbaai

Struisbaai is an old South African fishing village with a beautiful natural harbour. Although some development has taken place, “Struisbaai is relatively untouched by the rigours of over-development”.

Many fishermen live in Struisbaai, but it’s also becoming a popular place for tourists and leisure activities like fishing, horseback riding, hiking, paintball, quad biking, diving, and kiteboarding. Paintball and kiteboarding are new to me. At Struisbaai Harbour, I watched kiteboarders, in awe of their nimble moves!

Napier Dutch Reformed Church

_________________________________________

Struisbaai has the longest beach in the Southern Hemisphere, reaching almost 8.5 miles along the coast.

_________________________________________

Napier Farmstall

Napier Farmstall and Restaurant

Like Cape Agulhas, the waters off Struisbaai have traditionally been treacherous for shipping. More than 30 vessels have run aground since 1673. One of them was the Dutch ship “Meermin that stranded in 1766 after a mutiny by the Malagasy slaves she was carrying. Another, the French ship Jardinière, sank 28 years later”.

South African Blue Crane

On the way to Cape Agulhas I stopped at Napier and Bredasdorp and took a few photographs. These small towns are rich in South African history and stories!

Lodge De Mond Nature Reserve

Napier

Napier is a rural village located under Soetmuisberg Mountain between Caledon and Bredasdorp. There wasn’t much happening when I passed through. It’s a “blend of century-old cottages and modern houses”. Historically, blacksmithing was Napier’s primary craft.

Lunch Stop Napier Farmstall

Routes 316 and 319 between Hermanus and Napier are a favorite gathering spot for flocks of the endangered Blue Crane, South Africa’s National Bird. Sadly, I didn’t see cranes.

Gorgeous Cape Agulhas Seagull

Napier was founded in 1838 through a dispute between two neighbors, Michiel van Breda and Pieter Voltelyn van der Byl, over the location of the community Dutch Reformed Church. Michiel van Breda wanted the church sited on his farm, Langefontein, while Pieter Voltelyn van der Byl wanted it built on his property, Klipdrift. Neither van Breda nor van der Byl would give way, so they built two churches.”

Bredasdorp grew around Van Breda’s church, while Napier, named after Sir George Thomas Napier the British governor of Cape Province, developed around Van der Byl’s.

I stopped at Napier Farmstall for lunch. Farmstalls are popular and have delicious home-baked goods and fresh farm produce. The specialty at Napier Farmstall is a black pan breakfast served all day. It’s a mix of beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, onion, herbs, and spices served in a black pan. Several locals were enjoying brunch and the warm, sunny spring weather.

Media Photo Heuningberg Nature Reserve Bredasdorp

Napier has interesting old buildings. During 1810 – 1820, the Feeshuis (Festival House) was used as slave quarters and later a wine cellar. It was restored in 1988 to celebrate Napier’s 150th anniversary. The Napier Dutch Reformed Church was built “in the form of a Greek cross with teak interior and a yellow copper pipe organ”.

Meeriman 18th Century Dutch Hoeker

Bredasdorp

Bredasdorp is said to be the first town or ‘dorp’ established in South Africa. It’s the economic hub of the region and lies on the slopes of a high hill known as the Preekstoel (pulpit), surrounded by giant proteas and wheat fields. The proteas grow on the ridges of the hill and are one of the main products of the district.

Napier Thatched Roofs

Bredasdorp was named after the first mayor of Cape Town, Michiel van Breda (1840 – 1844). Van Breda introduced the animals on his farm, Zoetendals Vallei, and is known as the father of the merino sheep industry in South Africa.

Bredasdorp is best known for its Shipwreck Museum, “the only one of its kind in the country”. The museum has a collection of artefacts from ships wrecked along the Overberg coast, including cannons, china, coins, buoys, and ships bells. Bredasdorp’s parsonage was restored with pieces salvaged from the shipwrecks. A room in the Museum pays tribute to a South African author I’d never heard of, Audrey Blignault, who was born in Bredasdorp.”

Canola Field

The Heuningberg Nature Reserve on Van Riebeeck Street in Bredasdorp is “a must for nature lovers and birders. The Reserve offers short hikes in nearby mountains”.

Cape Agulhas Lighthouse

Sandbaai Adventure Western Cape

Sandbaai

What began as a meander along the Atlantic Ocean, turned into an educational mini adventure. Having been in Hermanus for nearly two months, I’m feeling comfortable and relaxed and becoming slightly complacent. I don’t always plan the day, and on a spur of the moment whim, decided to hike the Cliff Path but extend it by a few miles and begin in Sandbaai instead of New Harbour. I didn’t know there were reasons why people didn’t walk portions of the coastline.

The weather was perfection – high 60s with crisp, clear blue skies. It’s easy to become mesmerized by the beauty of a hypnotic South African seascape – the powerful surf, white sand, sky, wildflowers, fynbos, and sweet sound of birds and frogs. As I walked, it was clear there was no well-defined hiking trail. I thought the rugged coastline would eventually connect with the more civilized Cliff Path. The small rocky coves and beaches were gorgeous with dramatic surf along some of the points.

It’s early Spring, and wildflowers are beginning to bloom. I walked along relishing in thick luxurious fynbos on one side and coves, beaches, and ocean on the other. Continuing for about an hour I passed beaches strewn with the remnants of a high tide – large intact trees uprooted from their base, a car carcass, and tons of oyster and mussel shells. I passed a small homeless encampment near the dunes and saw the red roofs of houses in the distance.

After reaching the houses, I discovered impenetrable security walls surrounding them, so I kept walking until I found a paved road and a guarded gate. The gatekeeper advised it was a private community and only invited guests could enter. He said to continue down the road, and in about a mile I would reach New Harbour and could connect with the Cliff Path there – my goal from the beginning! While walking, I passed an industrial area with businesses and warehouses. Laborers in blue jumpsuits were walking the grounds speaking Xhosa.

I didn’t feel threatened, but it was strange. I tried to take a shortcut and turned off before the mile point only to realize the entire coastal area was cordoned off by large, guarded industrial complexes. There was no way to get through except jumping into the ocean and swimming or backtracking and following the security guard’s recommended route.

 

The businesses I passed were part of Hermanus Marine Aquaculture, a developing industry in South Africa, especially along the Atlantic Ocean coast. The focus is on mussels, oysters, abalone, seaweeds, and prawns. Some of the businesses included:

The Abagold complex – logo shown in English and Chinese – took up several blocks.  Abagold “cultivates abalone in close harmony with nature, at the southernmost tip of Africa”. The plant’s location on the cold Atlantic provides the “necessary nutrients and environment for producing the highest quality Abalone”.

Aqunion Whale Rock Farm is described as an “aquaculture value chain”. In addition to abalone farming, they process, market, and export South African abalone”.

_________________________________________________

“South African abalone is cherished around the world for its excellent quality, taste, shape and texture. The Haliotis Midae species is unique and enhanced by the pristine waters of the Atlantic Ocean.”

_________________________________________________

New Harbour

Friday is a happy, festive day in South Africa – people are ready for a weekend break and the atmosphere is light and fun. Africans I met along the way were singing and laughing and clearly enjoying themselves. I noticed small, close-set makeshift housing in the surrounding area and realized the beach I had walked was bordered by a township – Zwelihe. The name means “beautiful place”.

Finally in bustling New Harbour, I took a break at a small, popular restaurant – Quayside Cabin – next to whale watching, deep-sea diving, and shark cage adventure businesses. The area was hectic with an eclectic crowd of locals and tourists going on or returning from boat-based whale watching trips. The restaurant was busy, but they found a place for me near a table of rowdy locals. Everyone seemed to know each other and they were speaking Afrikaans.

South Africa is an ambiguous country with many faces – at times it seems like it could be part of the US or Europe – but that’s an illusion. South Africa is a unique country with many levels of complexity.

Rather than finding my way back to the parked car, I called Uber. A Zimbabwean driver picked me up and drove me back to the car. His Shona name – Munashe – means “with God”. Munashe seemed surprised at where my car was parked and the area I had hiked. He advised it wasn’t a safe area for a woman walking alone – ha. How many times during my travels have I heard that?!

Munashe’s English was excellent and we talked about Zimbabwe which I’ve visited several times. Like many Zimbabweans, Munashe and his wife and two children moved to South Africa so he could find employment. If things improve politically and economically, they will return to Zimbabwe. Munashe wasn’t overly optimistic about returning to his home country, but he seems happy in South Africa.

What an interesting and educational day in Hermanus! Can’t believe I didn’t understand the importance of abalone farming in the area.

Hoy’s Koppie Hermanus

View from Hoy’s Koppie

Hoy’s Koppie is a historical contour hiking path with panoramic views of Hermanus, the Fernkloof Mountains, and Walker Bay.  It sticks up like a big bump near the main part of the Hermanus business district. The rock outcroppings are stunning and “because of the koppie’s orientation”, different varieties of fynbos grow on either side.

Klip Kop Cave

Formerly known as Klipkop (Stone Hill), Hoy’s Koppie has an old cave of the same name. “Artefacts and debris found by two archaeological expeditions put the age at between 250 000 and 50 000 years old. Rudimentary scraping tools from the Middle Stone Age were found in both scientific excavations.”

Fernkloof Nature Reserve

Hoy’s Koppie is part of Fernkloof Nature Reserve. The natural environment of the Koppie and its spectacular views are magic! Well-maintained hiking paths are managed by Cape Nature, so it’s a safe hike in just about any weather.

Hoy’s Koppie has two parts:

  • A sloping lower area with luxuriant fynbos
  • An upper area with rocks and stones eroded from steep cliffs

Selfie

Sir William Hoy

Sir William Hoy was one of the most charismatic figures in Hermanus history. A Scottish-born head of the Cape and South African Railways in the 1920s, he fell in love with Hermanus and visited repeatedly for the fishing and relaxed, restful lifestyle. Hoy regularly stayed at the elegant Marine Hotel.”

Sir William Hoy

“One of Sir Hoy’s greatest pleasures was climbing the Koppie with his gillie (hunting or fishing companion) Danie Woensdregt, of an evening and looking out over Walker Bay to plan the next day’s expedition. On his death, his wife, Lady Gertrude Hoy, informed Woensdregt that Sir William wished to be buried at the crest of the Koppie. Woensdregt planned the first formal hiking path on the Koppie. Later, Lady Gertrude was buried along her husband and both graves remain preserved at the highest point of the koppie.”

Marine Hotel Hermanus

Known as “a remarkably able and meticulous organiser, Hoy controlled the movement of supplies to the British troops during the Anglo-Boer War, for which he received knighthood”.

The Koppie is safe and perfect for a spur of the moment solo hike almost any time of day. I ran into a young African guard patrolling the koppie who offered to hike with me. The best part is an observation point at the top where I saw my first breaching whale! Nothing less than amazing watching such a huge animal gracefully lift itself out of the water!!! It was too fast and far away for a photo but the vantage point and a good pair of binoculars make the Koppie an awesome location for whale watching – something Sir Hoy knew!

From Rotary Way Higher Up

Hook Line and Sinker Pringle Bay

Hook Line and Sinker

 

Hook Line and Sinker is a funky, rustic Pringle Bay seafood restaurant an hour northwest of Hermanus. I heard about it from an acquaintance in Onrus. It’s small and popular, so reservations are a must.

At Hook Line and Sinker, the food they serve is fresh from the sea and handpicked in local markets. The menu is seasonal and includes yummy desserts like crème brûlée!

Chefs and owners Stefan and Karl cook in plain sight over an open fire. They’re not only good cooks but also tons of fun! It was like having a meal at a friend’s house.

“At Hook Line and Sinker, the atmosphere is as important as the food. First time visitors quickly become friends and there’s always a piece of wall (or ceiling!) and a marker pen available to write about your experiences.”

Pringle Bay

There were about 15 people enjoying Sunday lunch, so I had some entertaining conversations with the other guests and Stefan and Karl – both cheeky but charming guys! Their wives were taking the day off so it was a chance for them to misbehave. Stefan is a pilot and enjoys flying a Jabiru airplane, an Australian designed aircraft popular in Southern Africa.

After lunch, I drove around Pringle Bay – another beautiful beach community – and walked the shoreline. From Point Road, there are splendid views of the Bay and surrounding mountains all the way to Cape Town. The beach houses are wonderful.