Cape Town 2019

Waterfront Cape Town – The South African

It’s fantastic being back in Cape Town! A location that stole my heart during the first visit in 1987. The beautiful coastal city is surrounded by incomparable Table Mountain.

View of Table Mountain from My Gardens Apartment

I arrived on May 2nd after a series of flights beginning in Catania Sicily and passing through Rome and Addis Ababa Ethiopia – including two plane and terminal changes more tiring than the thirteen-hour flight.

Cape Town at Night – wpblink.com

During the flight from Addis Ababa to Cape Town naughty Indian children commandeered the aircraft running wild through the aisles disrupting everything. A passenger complained in a loud way and the children were forced to sit down and behave themselves. Upon arrival in Cape Town, they continued wreaking havoc in the immigration hall, running races through cordoned off lines, clearly undaunted by their reprimand on the airplane. Their parents seemed amused.

Victoria and Alfred Waterfront Cape Town – Rhino Africa

After Berlin, Dubrovnik, Kotor, Sarajevo, Belgrade, and Sicily, passengers on Ethiopian Airlines were more diverse than any of the places visited, except maybe Berlin. I’m still processing the time spent in Europe and the Balkans – a valuable learning experience with priceless memories!

Table Mountain from Melkbos – Discover Africa Safaris

When returning to Cape Town I always notice changes – some subtle, others not. I’ll be here through mid-June and then on to Hermanus, Onrus Beach, and Walker Bay.

Cape Town – Independent.ie

My apartment in Gardens neighborhood is in a high-rise building with retail and parking garages on the lower levels and residential above. I’m on the 17th floor and look out at Table Mountain. It’s thrilling to watch the mountain constantly changing depending on weather, wind, and sky. It almost seems close enough to touch!

Pink in Cape Town’s Sky that Artists Try to Capture

The building is secure and comfortable. Everything is within walking distance including a great choice of restaurants.

Walker Bay Sunset – Unsplash

I have a rental car for day trips and places further away. After seven months without driving, it’s nice to be mobile again – even though South Africans drive on the wrong side of the road :)…

Table Cloth of Fog Over Table Mountain

Today the wind is howling – yesterday it was calm. Earlier the Table Mountain Table Cloth was visible as fog gently spewed over the flat-topped mountain. It’s mesmerizing watching sunrises and sunsets and spectacular scenery changes from foggy to clear and back again. Hiking on the mountain is part of my agenda.

Walker Bay Grootbos Nature Reserve – Robert Harding

The drought crisis is over but water and energy conservation are everyday concerns in Cape Town. Hopefully winter will bring significant rainfall. May temperatures are mild in the 60s and 70s but forecast to reach the 80s next week.

Table Mountain Aerial Cableway – springbokatlas.com

South Africa’s General Election is May 8 with another ANC (African National Congress) victory predicted. Elections are always exciting. South Africa’s economy and social inequalities create an emotional, volatile atmosphere with protests for change.

The Company’s Gardens Cape Town – The Heritage Portal

There’s considerable voter apathy in South Africa, especially among young voters. The ANC disappointed and is under pressure to improve the failing economy, address unemployment, provide better services (especially power), improve infrastructure, and curb crime, violence, and government corruption. All are complicated issues with unemployment, the economy, and a looming energy crisis heading the list.

Views Onrus Beach and Hermanus Bay – Pinterest

One thing I’d forgotten about (almost) is the Hadeda Ibis – known as the “loudest bird in Africa“. With Hadedas nearby, you don’t need an alarm clock!

More later…

Fernkloof Nature Reserve Hermanus South Africa

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)!

Erica Annectens

Cliff Hanger Heath

Mountain Pride Butterfly

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.

Fernkloof covers 7 sq. miles in the Kleinrivier Mountains. The reserve includes 37 miles of hiking trails, 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.

Fernkloof is known for around 500 varieties of Erica. Colorful ericas (Cape “heath“), disas, and proteas are endemic to South Africa.

Trail3

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Fynbos is a “collective name for a myriad of evergreen shrub-like plants with small firm leaves, including woody plants with hard leathery leaves”.

_____________Trail28Uphill Trail

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

Fynbos

Fynbos

Orange Disa

Pincushion Protea

Disa

Fynbos Brush

Protea

Yellow Disa

Fynbos

Fynbos

Disa Uniflora Bergius

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“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.”

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

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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 Cape Mountain Leopard.”

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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!

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.

Flower6Flower7

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”.

Quayside Cabin

Quayside Cabin

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

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“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.”

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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, 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 to 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.

Zwelihe Children

Zwelihe Township

Zwelihe Township

Zwelihe Homes

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

Cape Overberg Nature Reserves South Africa

The entire Overberg is an exquisite nature reserve and floral kingdom with richer fynbos than any other area in the Cape. I arrived in July – the heart of winter – but the weather was dry and warm. During August, we’re still waiting for winter and have only had a few significant storms. The reservoirs aren’t as dry as Cape Town’s, so Overberg’s drought isn’t as severe. I’m adjusting to fynbos pollen, sea air, and the all-encompassing rogue wind which rattles all and rises and falls as it pleases!

Most buildings in Hermanus don’t have heating systems like we use in the US – they don’t need them except during a few winter months. Interior heat comes from fireplaces and portable room heaters. Yesterday it was almost 80 degrees, and last night I didn’t need to build a fire!

Sculpting Old Harbour

Cape Overberg Nature Reserves – Atlantic and Indian Oceans

Nature Reserves on my exploration list include nearby locations spread out along the coast of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The biggest decision is which direction to go – east toward Betty’s Bay or west to Gansbaai. East or West, both directions delight the eye:

If you enjoy nature, the communities in these areas have much to offer and are ideal for a peaceful, active retirement. I’ve considered relocating on a permanent basis but am not ready to commit fully. My renewable visa expires in 2020, and I have no idea if there will be more restrictions. Obtaining the first long-term visa was arduous.

Other than Hermanus, these are some areas of consideration. They offer interesting people, outstanding inexpensive restaurants, diverse outdoor activities, volunteer opportunities, hiking trails, and white-sand beaches:

Hermanus Cliff Trail, Beaches, and Whale Watching

This hiking blog – Walking the Cape – written by locals describes easy and challenging hikes. It would take months to complete them all! Yesterday I spent time hiking the Hermanus Cliff Path that begins at New Harbor and hugs the Atlantic coast to Grotto Beach and Klein River Estuary. If you hike the whole trail, it’s about 8 miles. The path isn’t difficult and the coastal scenery is gorgeous – photos attached.

Now I have several new “favorite” beaches for warmer weather, including Kwaaiwater, Voëlklip and Kammabaai. There are many small private coves and beaches along the Cliff Trail but getting down to them is dicey. I stopped for a few minutes to ponder the sea and saw surfers climbing up from the beach – boards in hand – on an almost invisible path hidden by fynbos.

Watched a group of 7+ whales for over an hour near Dutchies Restaurant at Grotto Beach. The whales were having fun – no breaching but lots of spouting, pec slapping, and tail fluking. With binoculars, it was amazing watching them!!! Locals say whales can sense a crowd of spectators and sometimes show off for their audience. Like humans, you see more whales on clear sunny days during mid- morning or afternoon.

A woman from Hermanus told me about an experience she had at a small sheltered beach when suddenly a mother whale and her calf appeared near the shoreline. She said the calf looked about the size of an elephant and seemed to be getting a lesson from its mother on how close to get (or not get) to the beach. It was listening to its mother, and after a few practice runs could come close to the shore and then gracefully steer itself back out to sea.

Map of Cape Nature Reserves

Onrus Beach South Africa’s Whale Coast

Rooi Els Whale Coast

There’s nothing better than a South African beach – except maybe the surrounding mountains! I spent some time at Onrus Beach yesterday and fell in love with the sky, surf, dogs, shorebirds, surfers, and children playing in the sand – a gorgeous place! This time of year you need a pair of binoculars to help with whale watching.

Milkwood Bistrro

Milkwood Bistro

The area is known as the Cape Whale Coast. It’s pristine white sand beaches and easy-going atmosphere are popular with an eclectic crowd of beach bums, locals, retirees, and tourists from all corners of the earth.

I had lunch at Milkwood Bistro – a cozy neighborhood restaurant on the water. The service was great and food delicious. “This pristine stretch of the South African coastline surrounded by mesmerizing mountains and the Atlantic Ocean runs from the coastal hamlet of Rooi Els in the west to Quoin Point in the East.”

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“Close to the very tip of Africa, just outside Cape Town, you will find the Cape Whale Coast –  a place that can easily be called ‘Heaven on Earth’.”

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The main towns of the area are Kleinmond, Hermanus, Stanford, and Gansbaai. The Cape Whale Coast is made up of a collection of villages, farms, rivers, bays, coves, and valleys – each filled with its own special magic. Explore the whales, sharks, wine routes, fynbos, birding, golf courses, penguins, mountain biking, kayaking, hiking trails, and adventure activities in a beautiful region of South Africa, the Cape Whale Coast.”

Sea Birds Quoin Point