Travel to the Western Cape, South Africa

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I have just returned from Cape Town, South Africa!  I spent two amazing weeks there, during which very little knitting-related activity took place.  The Executive MBA programme at the Henley Buiness School has a required module on Reputation and Responsibility, for which the entire class travels to Cape Town to work with NGOs and Social Enterprises.  My team was assigned to work with Shonaquip, a company which designs and manufactures wheelchairs and seating support solutions for disabled people, and which also provides assessments, fittings, follow-ups, maintenance and training.

We were blown away by Shonaquip, and the other NGOs involved in this project.  It was an extremely emotional week for all involved, as we came to grips with the enormity of the problems facing South Africa, and the determination and talent and heart of its people.  We were humbled by the dedication and boundless energy of people and organizations determined to provide dignity and solutions in the face of overwhelming poverty and the legacy of apartheid.

I saw very little of Cape Town, I’m afraid.  Tourists to Cape Town usually go to the top of Table Mountain for fabulous views, and to Robbin Island, where Mandela was imprisoned.  I didn’t manage either of these, nor did I get much of a chance to experience Capetown’s nightlife or great food.  For the first 8 days that we were in South Africa, I spent virtually all my time either working with my team in the hotel or at Shonaquip or its clinics in hospitals and townships.  I did manage some early morning walks with Doug along the sea wall and two lovely seafood meals with classmates.  The rest of the time was late nights working and room service.  I wouldn’t have missed the experience for the world.

After the presentations and the closing party with our NGO sponsors, Doug and I took off with four friends for 5 days exploring the Western Cape.  This was amazing – the scenery is breathtaking!  The rest of this post will be rather photo-heavy.  We first went to Cork Bay (Kalkbaai), where we stayed in a fabulous B&B with a view to False Bay.  We explored from there, first visiting a wild penguin colony along the coast:

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We almost missed this little guy who was tucked away just inches from the foot trail:

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The coast is beautiful and rugged, and around every corner is another breathtaking view.  We drove through the National Park to the Cape of Good Hope.  Yes, I went to the Cape of Good Hope!!!!!  It’s an incredible experience as you stand on a spit of rocky promontory with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other.  13-IMG_0157

The photo above looks down on a gorgeous beach along the Atlantic side of the Cape; if you follow your gaze out seaward from there, you can see a long line of white breakers where the two oceans meet:

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We were there on a gorgeous day, very warm and sunny, but the wind and surf were quite rough.  You can readily imagine why so many ships wrecked along this point.  For those of us who grew up reading books about the early ocean explorers, this is a very romantic and powerful place to be.

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The views across False Bay towards the Indian Ocean side were softer, and almost mystical:

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Some of you may know that I am afraid of heights.  I balked at walking out to the end of the Point.  Doug said “No way are you going to come all of the way to the Cape of Good Hope and not walk out to the end of the trail!”  He was right; I only had a few bad moments and the experience was totally worth it.

I asked our friend Kevin to take a photo of Doug and me at the bottom of the trail.  He took about 20 and they all looked like this:

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Once he stopped laughing, Kevin showed me the photos, I had a little scream, and then I asked Doug to hold my hair down for a photo.  That didn’t work out too well either:

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And this is what happened when he let go:

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Oh well!  I stood on the Cape of Good Hope, and I have the wind-swept hair to prove it!

We spent the next morning shopping in the very funky little shops in Cork Bay (it is a very bohemian town and the shops are much better and cooler than you will find in the bigger towns).  We then drove along the coast to Hermanus, with a brief stop at Pringle Beach, a very beautiful spot with interesting rock formations:

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Hermanus is widely-acknowledged as the best land-based whale-watching spot in the world.  You don’t need to hop on a boat to see the whales here; you sit on the rocks and the whales play in the bay, sometimes just metres away.  Southern right whales spend part of the year here – calving takes place in August and September and the males arrive for mating in October, when the season peaks.   We were there past the peak season so we missed the sight of dozens of whales; nevertheless we sat on the rocks the first day and watched three whales, including a mother and her calf, play in the water just fifty metres or so from us.

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I can tell you that it is very difficult to get photos of whales actually breaching the water.  It takes great patience; kudos to Doug.  He snapped this photo the next morning of a whale a little further out from us.  This whale was slapping his tail in and out of the water and taking jumps for quite a long while.  It was a joy to watch.

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Sunsets in Hermanus are especially lovely.  As the sun sinks, the rocks on the other side of the bay are bathed in beautiful shades of pink:

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We left Hermanus in the morning and drove up north, through gorgeous scenery, to the lovely town of Tulbagh.  There we stayed at the Rijk’s Wine Farm,  which comes as close to perfect as any place I have ever stayed.

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Tulbagh is in a wide valley, perfect for growing grapes, surrounded by mountains on all sides.  Rijk’s is an award-winning winery that arguably makes the world’s best Pinotage.  The hotel is beautiful, the wine is wonderful, the scenery is lovely – it was so peaceful and gorgeous, I didn’t want to ever leave.

What should one do while sitting in the shade of grape arbors, drinking in the frgrance of 1300 white rose bushes, and looking at the mountains, while your husband pours you a glass of fantastic wine?  Why, knit of course!

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Kevin, Carola, Chris and Mike – thanks for the company!  I never thought that I would see Africa.  Now that I have, I know I will return.

8 thoughts on “Travel to the Western Cape, South Africa

  1. Wow. Double wow. Thanks so much for sharing your trip with us. This is the first time I’ve forwarded a blog post to my DH, and I know he’ll enjoy it. Now I want to go to the Cape!

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