Lighthouses, Penguins and a bit of R&R
July 1 – 3
The Garden Route in South Africa has the title of “one of the most beautiful drives in the world.” So one Kia Picanto rental later, and we were ready to hit the road for a 10-day cruise up and down the famous N2. However, there were two things we knew we couldn’t miss before heading out of town. Taking a scenic drive to Cape Point, to check out its old lighthouse, and visiting the African penguins who surprisingly make their home on the sandy beaches nearby.
After a 45-minute drive through half a dozen lazy towns, known for fishing, surfing and well, basically being awesomely lazy towns, we arrived at Cape Point, nestled in the Table Mountain National Park. With nothing but blue skies and gale force winds, we took the short walk up to the top, stopping to brace ourselves against the wind to take in the coastal views. The lighthouse in the pictures is actually no longer used, due to the frequent fog that would render the beacon invisible. The new lighthouse is at a lower elevation and further out into the water. Another must-see spot (crowded with tourists armed with cameras and peace signs) was the Cape of Good Hope, the South-Western most point of the continent (…however not most SOUTHERN point, as popularly misunderstood, as that distinction belongs to Cape Agulhas, 150 kilometers away). Kind of silly, but also kind of cool. Another fun fact? Nearby, the cold currents of the Atlantic Ocean and the warm currents of the Indian Ocean collide.
And what stop would be noteworthy without at least one incredible meal. Well we found it – at Kalky’s, a tiny fish and chips spot in the small beach town of Kalk’s Bay as we made our way back from the Cape. One of the best meals we’ve had to date, the hot and greasy fried fish had our mouths watering. Plus, watching the local fisherman pull out the day’s catch from out the window left little doubt of the freshness.
Our little Picanto (suited perfectly to its name) wound it’s way back up the coast to Boulders Beach where we hung out with the African penguins, from the grey fuzzy-downed babies to the recognizable black and white of penguins you see during a trip to the Lincoln Park Zoo. It was pretty funny to see them waddle up and down the sand, taking quick dips in the warm False Bay waters. And as Dave is obsessed with all things animals (EDITOR’S NOTE: Sorry I’m not sorry.), we took an embarrassing amount of photos before getting on our way. You can enjoy a small percentage of them below. You’re welcome.
As this adventure took most of the day, we decided to make our bed for the night in the Cape Cod-esque coastal town (popular with retirees) of Hermanus, standing between Cape Town and the start of the Garden Route. Never-ending white washed B&Bs and homes lined the coast, and with a reputation for whale and dolphin sightings, we were charmed by this unspoiled fisherman’s village.
We spent the first day catching up on the blog and reading on the peaceful balcony of our room. The evening continued curled up by the fireplace of our cozy B&B, glass of wine and books in hand. With the sightseeing pace of the last month and what we knew lie ahead, this was just what we needed. The town was just as cute as promised, and shortly after arriving to the main square for dinner, we realized what “off-season” really was like for Hermanus. We were one of 5 tables at the sushi restaurant, and the square was eerily quiet (don’t even get me started about the self appointed “car guards” that emerge out of nowhere from the darkness asking for tips for “watching your car for you” while you were eating…I’m like – watching it from WHO? YOUR FELLOW SHADOW-DWELLING FRIENDS?? Anyway….). We’ve learned that small South African towns are not fans of streetlights, and as we made our way home with only our headlights to guide us, we wondered why “winter” scared people off (if anything, it should be the “car guards”). Yes, it was a bit windy and chilly, but the sun still shone, and the restaurants were still open. Better for us with off-season rates and less tourist traffic; just a helpful hint for future travelers!
The next day, we wandered back into the sleepy town to eat at Oskars, a café with a ridiculous menu, including a bacon-fried banana-pecan-cream cheese-honey sandwich (seriously) and a hamburger and milkshake that made Dave a happy man. We couldn’t resist their highly reviewed Red Velvet Cake (I mean, we’re only human), and left thinking we wouldn’t eat again for days…which of course we did.
We left without seeing a whale (spoiler alert: that comes later), but with our tanks recharged and ready for the weeks ahead.
The Garden Route is littered with picturesque towns, so choosing an itinerary, even with the leisurely pace we set aside, is daunting. Our final decision will bring us to Wilderness, Knysna, Plattsburg Bay, Stormsriver Mouth, Nature’s Valley and Oudtshoorn. Most involving animals, but all involving beautiful views. Rev the Picanto and let’s get going!