Cape and Garden Route

March 19. Cape of Good Hope.

Today was the first day of our touring and Frank, our driver, was challenged to find his way into our complex and through the security check points so we were not surprised that he was not spot on time. He instantly slipped into his broad smile and before long we were all now best of buddies for five days. For today our trip would circle the south Cape area. (Throughout the Cape Town vicinity, we observed the constant presence of security fences and walls, typically topped with barbed wire, razor wire, broken glass, or electricity. Police and private security were abundantly visible.)

We left Cape Town and stopped at a busy port center with congestion and people but steadily escaped farther to the south. We stopped for coffee. Frank was patient. He knew how much ground we needed to cover but allowed us our time.

We head down the road. There, a band of baboons. They were accompanied by a couple guys with paint ball guns to try to hustle them off the roadbed.

After another short break, we continued south. At some point, we rounded a bend and it was as if the shoreline in front of us had simply exploded. The near shore was filled with rows of sea foam moving shoreward. Some waves crashed into boulders and sent plumes skyward. The air was filled with sea spray. This was Boulders Beach. Soon, we stopped and hiked down a boardwalk where we watched the surf boom onto the beach and African penguins, also known as jackass penguins, waddle down to enjoy that surf. These are little guys. Classic black and white. Upright. Just standing around. And lying down or waddling about. Always with that blank stare.

            Onward again, farther south. Wait! There, to our left. Ostriches. A male, a female, and two nearly full grown chicks. They posed dutifully and we took lots of pics. Our first ostrich of the trip. Wow, they are big birds. We moved on, with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other. The beaches became bigger and whiter and more impressive than the previous one. Before long, however, the fun part of the trip ended. This part of the coast is a shipwreck jungle and we were on our way for a close look at our first lighthouse. It was a sturdy uphill climb. Always up. Steep and hot. But we made it. The Cape of Good Hope. Unfortunately, this lighthouse was located too high and it was nonfunctional in foggy weather and shipwrecks continued Another lighthouse was added, closer to the water. We returned to our van and continued on our way.

Here, I must tell a little story. We had just left the light house. We had traveled some 5 or 6 km when we spotted a small group of baboons on the left side of the road. Melba was in the front left seat in front of me. Most of the baboons scattered away but one big guy chose to sit atop a sturdy round topped bush not more than a car width away in a full frontal display. The knees were splayed out and it maintained a calm demeanor as it looked around. A strange pink thumb sized appendage dangled from his lower amidships. We were all busy shooting pics. We probably shot more than 100 frames amongst us all. Slowly, the van moved ahead and, as it was gaining speed, Melba quietly asked, “Now, was that a male or a female?” The interior of the van went deadly silent. It seemed that no one was even breathing for nearly a minute. Quietly, I asked, “You can’t tell?” The interior of the van erupted in a blast of laughter. A voice from the back said, between giggles, “Melba, you have a son!” As it happens, Melba was actually so close, she could only frame about 1/3 of the animal and she said that a branch obscured her view. 

March 20. The Garden Tour. Today we started a 4 - day tour, or, rather, trip. This is not a true tour but a trip with traditional or recommended places to visit. To the south and east of Cape Town.

Frank showed up on schedule and we loaded up. We hadn't gone far when Frank surprised us by abruptly turning off the road he had been following. Whoa! More big, white surf. And many more penguins. Near and far. They were all about the same size. Most were about 18 inches tall and most were bright black and white but some were gray and fluffy and chubby. These were the immatures.

 At the edge of the parking lot, as we were leaving, we discovered a small group of hyrax. These are small brown rodent like animals about the body size of a hare. But they are close relatives of the elephant.

About this time, our group began to gel together and we got to know each other better. There was lots of joking and good humor. Frank, of course, was the wild card (and he was a card, too) but he became the glue. He watched the schedule and the timing, but he was flexible, accommodating, and mellow. He helped us along and patiently answered questions. He has had numerous experiences in a number of countries and all sorts of stories, most of which ended with a blast of collective laughter. He was a good guide and a good driver.

Melba pointed out a small sign that was pasted on a window of the van that read "BEWARE. BABOONS ARE DANGEROUS. Escape Tours and their servants or agents will not be held responsible..." "Oh!" she said, "Frank, are you our servant?" She gave him a bad time. The trip was great, lively, and lots of fun.

            This part of the country is more mountainous than I expected. But in between, it is broad and flowing like the high plains of the US. There is wheat farming, and cattle, sheep, and ostrich farms. Coastal villages and towns offer sport and commercial fishing with boat building and tourism.

We pushed on to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of South Africa where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans actually meet (according to some folks). The roiling surf seemed stronger and bigger and whiter and broader than before. Beautiful and mesmerizing to look at.

            Before long, we passed another lighthouse. A reminder of how dangerous these waters can be. And shortly, an even grimmer reminder. The shipwreck museum. Tidy, neat, and old with innumerable objects, photos, and mementos collected from one shipwreck after another. From the 1700’s to the near present. Sailing ships, steamers, warships and liners. 

April 18. 2014. Oh no. I do not know what has happened to my files or why I do not have more words to describe our experience on the ‘Garden Route… but here goes. I am still struggling to understand where all the words have gone but I think I now get it. As we cruised along on the Garden Route, we started early and ended late. I had little time to type or write.

            One day, we visited an ostrich farm. These are big birds and strong. Remarkably agile though they appear slow moving. They are raised for meat (Quite tasty, in fact.), leather, and feathers. We visited a game park where we each took a turn at feeding an elephant. We fed chopped fruit and they were persistent and hard to ignore. Their snout is all at once strong, agile, super prehensile, rough, and sloppy. Another game park featured petable cheetahs. Melba and Mavis got up close and personal and left the animal purring.