So when we first got our cars, Will and Aaron spent two hours learning how to drive stick in the parking lot of the travel agency. One of the workers was nice enough to give them some advice (and let them practice with her car while we were waiting). I honestly did not think we were going at first… standard just seems SO much harder than automatic and this is a foreign country with different traffic laws. AND they drive on the left, of course. Luckily, as soon as we left the parking lot they seemed to be getting the hang of it. And except for a few badly timed stalls in the middle of the road, they did a really good job with it.
As soon as we got on the highway the townships appeared. It really is hard to understand the amount of inequality in this country; literally five minutes outside the beautiful city of Cape Town are these sprawling, dirt poor towns. What is strange is that the areas don’t become poorer gradually. They literally just appear, right next to strip malls or on the side of the highway. They are typically fenced in and there are rows and rows of colorful but dirty and beaten down shacks. Dirt roads wind through them, and usually kids are playing in the streets. I found myself wondering what it was like to live in one of these towns. I feel like we are so closed off from that side of South Africa, and I don’t know how I feel about that yet.
Our destination for Tuesday was Hermanus, a town that has incredible land-based whale watching. We took a route called the “Whale Route” which travels through the mountains along the coast from Gordan’s Bay to Hermanus. This was easily the most stunning drive of my life. The road winds through these beautiful mountains and rock formations and it is literally right on the cliff. The sea is absolutely gorgeous…deep blue green. It is impossible to describe this drive and do it justice. Even pictures can’t really do it. You just have to see it.
When we got closer to Hermanus we drove more inland through a pretty desolate looking area. It reminded me of the badlands and except for an occasional house in the hills, it was pretty deserted. When we got into Hermanus we checked into Hermanus Backpackers, which was a really cool place. It was my first hostel so I don’t have much to compare it to, but I was impressed. The guys who worked there had dreds and were really awesome. There were some people from Norway and Australia staying there and it was fun hanging out with them that night. The place was colorfully painted and had shark and whale posters all over the walls. The hostel had a small pool, a bar, and a pool table. The town itself was nice but since whale season hasn’t started yet, there wasn’t too much going on. From June to October, the Southern Right Whale comes to Walker’s Bay (where Hermanus) to breed, so during that time the bay is literally filled with whales and you can see them right from the shore. They have this guy called the ‘whale crier’ (my dream job) who runs around and blows a horn to tell people where the best whale watching is. It was disappointing not to see any, but I did get to sit on a bench shaped like a whale’s tale.
Today when w e woke up we just kind of walked around the town. We left around noon to go to Crystal Pools (the point of the whole trip). The pools are supposed to be incredible…it’s a short 45 minute hike into the mountains and then I guess there are these natural pools with waterfalls that you can swim in. Sadly though it was really really windy despite the sun, and the lady suggested that it might be too dangerous to make the hike. Since we had time we decided to stop at a beautiful secluded beach with really white sand, but the wind was violently blowing the sand around and it hurt like hell, so we left. We drove to Stellenbosch (a huge wine town) and walked around the town a bit before getting dinner. The town is really pretty and is pretty much build around the vineyards. The architecture is Dutch and there are a lot of cool shops and restaurants.
On the way back we saw the sun setting for the fist time. It was the strangest sunset I have ever seen; the sun was blood red and looked absolutely enormous as it slid behind the mountains. There was also a huge fire so a lot of Stellenbosch was covered in thick smoke. We saw springboks, ostriches, and zebras on the way back running in a big fenced in field, which almost made the whole trip worth it. Overall it was fun, although going to Crystal Pools would have made it a lot better. Now it’s time to get ready for school to start.