Whale season is over…

Planning for eight months of travel to places where, for the most part, you’ve never been before is a bit of a guessing game. You’re never sure how long will be too much or too little in each stopping point. The major flight stopping off points are cast in stone at the point of booking but the additional side trips could be left more flexible. Except for the fact that I like to know what I’m doing and when I’m doing it. So, as mentioned in a previous post, the first month and a half of accommodation were booked well before we left the UK.

Thus it was that we left Cape Town on Monday. I had booked three nights in a hotel in Hermanus, a former whaling village and now resort town famed for its whale watching opportunities. We had been warned that we were approaching the end of the season as Southern Right Whales make their way to Antarctica for the summer but we were already booked for Hermanus so we were going. There’s a direct route from Cape Town down the N2 and on to the R43. Looking at the map, however, there is a coastal route that goes around the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, so we decided to try that.

We took the N2 until the turn off for the R44 then hit the coast at Gordon’s Bay before turning on to what turned out to be a magnificent drive. It had been raining for most of the drive out of Cape Town but it had dried up by now, although it was still overcast. The road itself had obviously been recently resurfaced and its sweeping bends and elevated viewpoints, thanks to it having been hewn out of the cliffs, were a joy to drive. One point to note is the number of small, and larger, rocks that had fallen on to the road. We may have encountered a higher incidence of these because of the heavy overnight rain.

On the way along the road, we saw numerous baboons amusing themselves and had to be careful to avoid some of their rambunctiousness as juveniles rolled into the road during their play-fighting.

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On to Hermanus, and we arrived at the hotel at around 1:30. We knew we were a little early for standard check-in time but the manager told us that the room was almost ready. If we wanted, we could pop across the road from the hotel and see the whale that was in the cove there until the room was ready. We decided that was a great idea, and watched the whale (Ishbel’s photo at the top of the page) and her calf for around 20 minutes. The whales made their way off, presumably antarctic-bound, and we returned to the hotel to get our room.

The South African electricity supply company, Eskom, has been undertaking a round of what they call “load shedding” which means regional power cuts. This happened a couple of times while we were in Cape Town and Hermanus was in the middle of a load shed event when we arrived here. We realised this was the case on the way in as all the traffic lights were out. Despite encountering what sometimes seems like manic driving on the part of some locals under normal circumstances, behaviour at non-working traffic lights was courteous and practical with each section of the 4-way junction moving in turn. It meant for some slow progress but it was very safe.

After checking in and a little unpacking, we went for a walk into town. On our walk, we encountered the nearest living relative to the elephant: the Rock Hyrax, known locally as the Dassie.

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The elephant, hyrax and manatee share a common ancestor. These are three animals that have clearly taken very different evolutionary paths.

In town, I found a barber shop where I decided to get a beard trim. Ishbel didn’t accuse me of being a manatee, but she did use the term walrus-y in describing my magnificent mustachios so a trim was probably due. Lorenzo’s barber shop did a brilliant job and I should be fine for a few weeks before Ishbel starts again with the marine mammal comparisons.