It was a festive week in Hermanus. Enthusiastic Heritage Day celebrations continued into the weekend and annual Whale and Wine and Food Festivals. September is peak whale season, when visitors and locals watch the glorious creatures carousing in Walker Bay.
Wine and Food Festival
I spent Saturday hanging out with locals at festivals and enjoying the people, music, and food. The Wine and Food Festival in Sandbaai was fantastic, with a diverse crowd, relaxed but electric atmosphere, and an African marimba band.
Food, wine, spirit, and beer tents were hosted by local chefs, foodies, brewers, and winemakers from Hemel en Aarde, Stellenbosch, Elgin, Franschhoek, and other areas. Many I talked with had visited the US. One woman ran in the New York Marathon, traveled through the Midwest, hiked in the Grand Canyon, and ended her trip on the West Coast.
I talked with winemakers whose families have operated farms in the area for generations. They were charming and happy to answer questions about wine making and specialties. Each wine estate has interesting history and distinct personality. Winery themed names are humorous, like Nymphomane Bordeaux and Seduction Pinot Noir from La Vierge Wine Farm.
Craft Gin Distilleries and Beer Breweries
Craft distilleries create gin infused with botanicals from the Cape Floral Region. Craft gin has “become a growth industry in South Africa, thanks to an easing of liquor laws that reined in the power of Big Liquor to favor local craft operators”.
I chatted with the fun owner of Six Dogs Distillery. Located in the Karoo, Six Dogs makes a beautiful blue craft gin “derived from the flower of the Blue Pea Plant”. In additional to the Blue Pea flower, other endemic botanicals in their gin include Rose Pelargonium, Coriander, Juniper, Naartjie, and Angelica.
Children’s Petting Zoo
There was a children’s petting zoo with goats, lambs, sheep, guinea pigs, rabbits, and exotic chickens. I couldn’t resist and shamelessly joined the petting group. The children were gentle with the animals and enjoyed the experience.
“Over decades this group of wild horses and their ancestors have adapted themselves remarkably well to their marshy vlei habitat. There’s a fascination about the Botriver horses. They’re like ghosts of the past.”
Botriver Wild Horses
I’ve caught glimpses of Botriver horses inhabiting the coast from Rooi-Els to Botriver Lagoon and Kleinmond wetlands. There’s folklore about the wild horses and how they came to inhabit the area. From what I’ve heard, the most likely scenario is that they’re “descendants of horses hidden from the British who commandeered animals for their army during the Anglo Boer War 1899 – 1902”. Some say the mustangs are “descendants of cavalry horses that swam ashore after the Royal Navy’s ill-fated steamer HMS Birkenhead sank in 1852″.
Locals look out for their general welfare, but they’re wild, free-roaming animals. It’s not wise to get too close to the edgy stallions. They’re aware of human presence in the vlei, including riders approaching them on horseback.
My neighbor’s daughter is a horsewoman and active observing wild horses in Fisherhaven, a nearby community. They keep an eye on the horses and address the rare health issue. A new foal was born two days ago! So, when we heard that the horses were grazing in the open, we drove to Fisherhaven and saw the foal – frisky and cute!
I’ve grown weary of photography :( and took a few poorly focused photos, none worthy of sharing. Taking photos of the wild horses and new foal was difficult, as the mare was very protective of her baby.
After a satisfying day, we ate dinner at Moltenos – a popular local hangout. The restaurant serves delicious food and was packed with a fun, happy crowd.