Long Street, Penguins, and the Southern Most Tip of Africa All in a Matter of Hours

Well I was in Cape Town for an entire 12 hours and managed to experience Long Street, the famous street known for its nightlife in Cape Town.  We got into Cape Town around 8 and by 8:30 we were out the door and headed to meet some of Anne’s friends to spend most of the night with them.  Anne is going to a language school (to learn English) in Cape Town and had been here before we met volunteering two weeks ago so she already had a sense of the city and knew a lot of people from her language school so she invited me along for the night as they had their reunion and such—it was nice to finally put faces to the names and stories I had heard about for the last two weeks.  Everyone was so excited to see Anne again and she introduced me to all of her friends which were from all around the world—many from Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, Germany, the list goes on and on.  To celebrate her return we headed downtown to Long Street where we walked around for a bit before heading to a local club for some dancing and such.  It was a lot of fun hanging out and meeting everyone… not to mention it was awesome seeing a bit of downtown Cape Town (and my future city!) as well!

Tired and with only a few hours of sleep, I had to get up far too early as I was being picked up for my week tour of the Garden Route.  Fortunately the backpackers was extremely accommodating and it was not a problem to leave behind some luggage that I won’t need for the week trip there at the backpackers.  Machiel, my tour guide for the next week, picked me up right on time and I was introduced to the couple I’d be traveling with for the next week.  Being as it is winter here in South Africa, the tourism is in its slower season so there are only three of us and the guide on the tour… this definitely has its pros and cons.  The couple (who are also from America) is older but fortunately they are extremely nice and we get along great so far—nothing awkward or anything which I was initially a bit worried about!  My guide (Machiel) is a complete surfer dude—he even has the long, shaggy blonde hair that accompanies the very stereotypical surfer look.  He is awesome though—completely laid back, very informative, and younger so full of energy and a lot of fun!  With such a small group, we are also able to have a big portion of the say in what we do or how long we wish to stay somewhere which is pretty nice!  We also aren’t crammed on the bus what-so-ever as we have a 14 person bus for the four of us… best of all… I got shot gun :)!

With so many activities and so much information jammed packed into each and every day on the tour, I’m going to try my hardest to update this everyday and stay on top of everything!  Essentially we are traveling up the coast of South Africa from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, stopping at a lot of tourist attractions and seeing most of the Garden Route while on our scenic tour of South Africa.  And so far it has been completely awesome!  So onto the first day’s activities…

First we traveled from Cape Town and headed to Betty’s Bay passing by Gordon’s Bay, the Hottentots Holland Mountain Range, and Falls Bay along the way.  Most of the drive for the entirety of the day was next to the ocean, specifically the Atlantic Ocean, and the views were literally mind-blowing… it is completely unexplainable in words how picturesque the scenery here is and to be honest pictures don’t even do it justice!  It is something that you will just have to see for yourself to believe and understand!  It’s currently the rainy season here in South Africa through the end of July so all of the vegetation is lush and green making the views even more pretty!  We saw a pod of dolphins floating and wading in the breaking waves—surprisingly close to shore.  Can you picture the images seen online of great white sharks jumping completely out of the ocean… well, that is referred to as shark breaching and it occurs here in Falls Bay, one of the only places in the world.  There is a large seal population of more than 2,000 that are found in the bay and the great white sharks have learned to completely jump out of the water in order to hunt and catch them.  We got to Betty’s Bay, our first destination which is the longest village in South Africa, stretching for more than 13 kilometers.  Betty’s Bay is home to one of only three mainland penguin colonies in Africa.  The penguins found here in endemic species to South Africa and are formally known as the African Penguin, but they are more commonly referred to as the Jackass Penguin as they make a noise similar to that of a donkey.  They usually have an average life span of 10 years and are extremely social creatures living in large colonies.  The traditional white and black looking fellas were everywhere on this small plot of conserved land—there were even plenty of baby penguins to be seen despite in being pretty late in the breeding season.  Baby penguins are born fuzzy but as they mature, they lose the fuzzy fur… those penguins that are in the maturation process are a bit funny-looking as half of their body is covered with fur and the other half with the black and white.  They are colored black and white for camouflage purposes and the black portion of their coloring is able to absorb the sunlight, keeping them warm during the winter.  Unfortunately the African Penguin is labeled a vulnerable species as the penguin population in South Africa declined by more than 90% during the twentieth century.

The next stop for the day was Hermanas, best known for its high density of whales during the peak of whale season… unfortunately we didn’t see any whales today however as it is a bit too early (whale season starts in early August).  We had plenty of time to explore the city and have a quick lunch before heading out on the road again.  There is a lot of driving involved in the tour as we are taking the very scenic route the entire way but the driving portions are actually very enjoyable.  In Hermanas we also saw dassies, a very small animal that is similar to a squirrel.  Surprisingly enough, the closest relative to a dassie is an elephant… not sure how that works however!  A short drive down the road from Hermanas, we stopped at the Birkenhead Estate and Brewery attached to the Walker Bay Vineyards for wine (or beer) tasting.  We got to try a bunch of different types of their homegrown wine, made from the rows and rows and rows of grapes.  The wine here is sweet because the grapes are exposed to so much sun and the excess sunlight (compared to normal) gives the wine a very sweet taste.  I loved the remarkable views of the vineyard and the countryside (horses and all!) that we took in as we sipped our wine!

As you may be aware, Cape Town (along with most of the coast) is known for its wind.  The seemingly constant wind is actually appreciated and it is referred to as the “Cape Doctor” here in South Africa as the steady wind blows just strong enough to blow away and eliminates most of the pollution from the city.  Like I said, it is currently the rainy season here in South Africa so the wind and rain combination can make the days quite chilly.  It was drizzly for most of the day today before the rain picked up in the evening.  The rain here is very bipolar though as it will rain for a few minutes then it will clear up and be beautiful and then will repeat this throughout the day.  They have a saying here in Afrikaans that translates into “A wolf is marrying a fox’s lady” for when it is raining but the sun is shining as rain with sunshine is a combination that isn’t suppose to happen.  Fortunately the heavy rain held off for our visit to Cape Agulhas, the last stop of the day.  Cape Agulhas is the most Southern point in Africa where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet.  I thought it was pretty funny as many of the local businesses milk the whole “most Southern point” thing as they have the most Southern restaurant, the most Southern petrol station, the most Southern hotel, and just about everything else you can think of!

The rest of the night was pretty laid back as the four of us enjoyed dinner along with sometime around the fire and such.  Despite being completely awesome, the best thing about Machiel (the tour guide) is his cooking… oh so good!

I hope you all enjoy the Fourth of July… shoot off a few fireworks for me!

~Susan

Falls Bay

Penguins 🙂 

Mommy and baby penguin Cape Agulhas

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