Sunday, October 6, 2013

Four days in Hermanus

Map picture

From Franschhoek, we take the road through Stellenbosch, then veering down to Somerset West/Gordon’s Bay, and skirt the east side of False Bay, taking in the perpetually stunning coastal vistas until we reach Hermanus.  A fishing village surrounding the tiny horseshoe “old harbor” before burgeoning into a whale-watching haven in more recent years, today the town sprawls east and west of the small cove, and offers wide beautiful views of the bay from its 10+km cliff walking path.  We’ve arrived in the midst of the whale season, when hordes typically assemble to see the gentle giants(almost exclusively the Southern Right Whale).  The bay is their breeding and calving ground from early winter(about June) til early summer(December), when they return to their feeding grounds in the Antarctic.

Through serendipitous circumstances, we find a wonderful B&B(Hortensia Lodge), perfectly located at the edge of the center, and a stone’s throw from the cliff path.  Our host, Rolf, is a one-man tourist office, brimming with all manner of information and enthusiasm about the area, and with clear recommendations ranging from eateries to drives.  His B&B is a hidden oasis, and his attention to detail as a host comes through with bold colors.  We continue to enjoy the fruits of finding wonderful lodgings—they truly do color one’s stay.

After getting situated, we first head off to see the remaining hours of the local annual flower show at the Fernkloof Reserve.  It’s a small set up, but showcases the mind-boggling variety of plant/flower life presently blooming in the fynbos foothills of the reserve.  It’s run by a local gardening/botanic society--a collection of bustling older ladies, heads bowed together, peering and exclaiming over miniscule flower heads, discussing the minutest details, all the while marveling in civilized tones--.  Outside tables are set up in the sunshine, where generous dishes of sandwiches and cakes roll haphazardly out of the busy makeshift kitchen, accompanied by steaming teapots, tiny milk pitchers and dainty painted tea cups.  Part of me feels I’ve walked in on an English village murder mystery set—but it’s clear that this is an event of local pride. The front room has stunning flower arrangements made with locally growing plants—many of them types of proteas and pincushion proteas.  A worthwhile side-trip.

The spectacular weather makes for wonderful days.  We walk both sides of the cliff path several times.  We hike the Lemoenkop path at the Fernkloof Reserve, and we even go out on a boat to see the whales up a bit closer.  And they are really everywhere.  We spot scores over the days, playful jumpers, whales that simply float and lollygag, and even a few mothers rolling gently in the waves with calves.  We are able to enjoy sitting outside in town, watching the amusing “whale cryer” sport his loud sea-weed horn and sandwich board(sadly, no picture….) and generally enjoy the gorgeous views, the small coves, the tidal pools and being outdoors.  We find commendable places to eat, and time flies as we come to the final days of the trip.

Here’s a compilation of shots of the beautiful cliff path as well as whale pictures—both from land and sea. 

And with those gorgeous full days behind us, we drive back via False Bay, with a brief stop at a penguin breeding colony in Betty’s Bay, cross over the Sir Lowry’s, Viljoen’s and eventually the Franschhoek Pass, for one final night in Franschhoek, before heading to the airport in Cape Town.  We make a final stop in Johannesburg, with only one real goal—seeing the very worthwhile and enlightening Apartheid Museum( before flying back home.