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Swellendam is not at all tiny like I said, but a town of just the right size with a lot of character and appeal. I would love to return there for awhile, with time to enjoy the fine museum, browse in the shops, and eat in all the delightful restaurants. Our meals in the Zanddrift restaurant there are now at the very top of the list for fine meals on Odyssey 2000. First, the ambiance: picture a grape arbor, checkered tablecloths, tall candles in big candelabras all surrounded by a flower garden and with the Hottentot Hollands as a back drop. It was a sit down family-style meal, a real treat for us. Starters were loaves of thinly sliced whole grain bread with pots of butter and pate to slather on at will. Oh yum! Salad next, lettuce doused with a homemade dressing; what was it that gave it that special flavor? Then came the entree, a huge, round very hot platter filled with thinly sliced roast sirloin slathered with a delicious mushroom sauce and with boiled new potatoes on the side. There was also a bowl of lamb stew with green beans. Dessert was exquisite, a slice of perfect cheesecake with youngberry sauce. And to our great delight cups of perfectly brewed decaffeinated coffee. I think I have never had a better meal. Breakfast was just as exceptional; choice of cereals, yogurt, milk, scrambled eggs with mushrooms, thinly sliced ham, cheese, smoked turkey, sliced oranges and apples, bananas, juice, bread and butter. There was coffee and tea but the supply did not meet the demand so I didn’t get another cup of great coffee.
The scenery changed today. Gone were the ostrich farms, dairy herds and the rich green fields of crops and pastures. This area was even hillier, the soil poor, thin and rocky. I think it is a grain growing area but the crops had already been harvested. There were herds of sheep nibbling at the stubble and the sparse new growth of something green. Very stark, desolate rocky mountains surrounded the area, cacti grew wild. Farmhouses were few and the farms huge. There were few people on the roads or at work but that may be because it was Sunday.
Checkpoint seemed easy to reach at 60 km. I was hoping that Randy, one of the massage therapists, would be there and he was. I asked him to remove the knife from my shoulder so he went to work and did that ever hurt! He said the muscles are spasming, that I should drink lots of water and Gatorade to replace the lost minerals. I do not like Gatorade or similar drinks but I don’t like pain either so I will comply. I have already had one bottle of Gatorade but the knife blade is back in my shoulder tonight. I guess it will take more than one Gatorade to set me straight.
We had lunch at BJ’s, the restaurant at the checkpoint. The chocolate milkshakes were a big hit, soon everyone was ordering one and even two.
It was a sunny, beautiful day for a bike ride but that changed suddenly at about 100 km. With only 22 km. to go I was telling myself that I was almost there. But then at the crest of a high hill I was hit with a powerful headwind that did not let up until I stopped in Stanford. Put the headwind together with the hills and you have a tough slog. We were riding through an area recently destroyed by a forest fire so even the scenery was ugly. I ran out of energy and stopped for peanut butter and crackers. Russ caught up with me, glad to see someone else out there, he had begun to think he was lost.
We are camped on the green of the city center, sounds picturesque but it is not, it is just another soccer field, complete with chalk lines. The local people have worked hard to prepare a special dinner for us.
Stanford was a Mail Stop so the first thing I did even before setting up my tent was to go for my mail. My Valentine’s Day box from my daughter was here, filled with special heart shaped chocolate truffles. I tried to eat only one but...
to Gordon's Bay
What a glorious day! We rode along the coast most of the day enjoying beautiful views of the Indian Ocean. We had sunshine and fog, salt air and pounding surf. This was a ride better done by bike than by car, so that none of the sights, sounds and smells would be missed. We rode from Stanford to Hermanus to Kleinmond to Bettybaai to Gordon’s Bay where we are camped for the night in Flueur and Hendron Parks, right on the beach. I will go to sleep tonight to the sound of the waves breaking on the shore.
We took the scenic route through Hermanus which has a spectacular setting, mountains behind and the Indian Ocean crashing on the shore just in front. There were many beautiful older homes; Hermanus must have been a prosperous community or a haven for the very rich for a long time.
Unfortunately the disparity between the rich and the poor was overwhelmingly obvious. We turned a corner away from the beach and the beautiful homes, and suddenly there we were in a very poor part of town. They’ve built their tiny houses from scrap materials, there are no yards or landscaping, just litter. Everyone who lives there is black. Many apparently have nothing to do and spend their time just hanging out, watching the activity in the street. So many big and strong looking young men with no where to go, no work, and most likely no future, what a waste.
Checkpoint today was at Bettybaai. While there I spoke with a shopkeeper who pointed out the way to Stony Point where there is a protected colony of Jackass Penguins. These penguins are named for the braying sound they make but they were quiet while I was there. They are small, black and white, with pink on the face above the eyes. They are flightless of course and from what I observed their little wings serve no purpose on land. Getting around on the big boulders required careful little steps and a hop across to the next stone.
I had a late start from Stanford having taken time to trace a missing UPS package. That worked out well and the package will be delivered to me in Cape Town. The bad news is the duty and VAT tax due, about $140! The lesson learned here is that when shipping via UPS or DHL and a customs form is required, value the items at used prices and write ‘For Personal Use’ and ‘Used’ on the customs form. The supervisor at the UPS office will appeal the charges for me to the Customs Office but any refund will be months in coming.
Today’s ride was the most beautiful we’ve had. The ocean views, the red cliffs and boulders reminding me of Petra the Rose Red City, the variety of shrubs, trees and wildflowers, and the birds; I saw two blue cranes standing beside a pond. I finished the ride just in time to pitch my tent before walking to dinner at The Gazebo restaurant on the beach. The staff there were overwhelmed with the numbers of us to be served. Dinner was a long time coming but there was a beautiful pink sunset over the Indian Ocean to watch while I waited.
Bay to Cape Town
This was to be our last cycling day in South Africa but because there was so much to see and so little time, 24 of us opted for a day on a bus instead. (Actually only 60 or so rode today of the 237.) Last night the tour company, Day Trippers picked up our bicycles at the campground in Gordon’s Bay to store for us until this evening. They returned for us at 7:15 this morning and we made a day of it. We traveled along the shoreline of False Bay all the way from Gordon’s Bay to the Cape of Good Hope. One highlight of the day was a stop in Simon’s Town to see the penguin colony on Boulder Beach. These are Jackass Penguins and today we were lucky enough to hear a few calling; they do sound just like braying donkeys! Loud donkeys! They are adorable fat little things with black freckles on their white tummies. They were not at all afraid of us and stood about watching us or grooming while we watched them. If someone ventured too close, closer than about 12 inches, the penguin would reach out and peck at that person. One woman had warned that they could bite your finger off but these were much more gentle than that. Some played in the shallow water on the sandy beach. These penguins have a more comfortable home than the colony I saw at Bettybaai yesterday. They have been so successful in fact that some people consider them a nuisance, too smelly and too noisy. The Jackass Penguins live only in South Africa and are classified as ‘vulnerable’ or likely to become endangered.
It was not a clear day at Cape Point, the southwestern-most tip of the Cape Peninsula, the jagged rock that sticks out into the Atlantic was shrouded in a foggy fine mist making it useless to climb to the top for the view. But we liked to think that we could see where the waves of the Atlantic Ocean meet with those of the Indian Ocean as they roll onto the shore. (Of course you can’t actually tell one ocean from the other. I wonder if there is a boundary on a map?) Our guide explained that the the vegetation in the Cape area is known as fynbos or fine bush, (pronounced fanebos) and that there is more diversity per square kilometer in the plants there than there is in a tropical rainforest.
We saw ostrich there and two species of antelope. One reader has come to my aid with relevant information about the ostrich. A group is called a wobble and the plural spelling is the same as the singular, ostrich.
Enroute to Cape Town we enjoyed more beautiful coastline, this time of the Atlantic Ocean. In Cape Town we found the famous Table Mountain to be covered with a tablecloth of cloud although we had a beautiful view of Cape Town itself. We ended our day with a walk through the Kirstenbosch Gardens. There wasn’t time to see it all so I chose to visit the Cycad section. Cycads are ancient plants that were in existence even before the age of dinosaurs, they look something like short palm trees yet are very different. I also visited the Protea Garden but there were few flowers because Proteas bloom in winter and spring. It is summer now. I had seen more in bloom while bicycling than I did in the garden. The King Protea is South Africa’s national flower.
We stopped at the best fish and chips fast food restaurant for an outdoor picnic complete with seagulls and even squeezed a stop at a bicycle shop into our busy day. Now we are checked into the Airport City Lodge Hotel looking forward to one full and amazing day here in Cape Town tomorrow. This trip is so awesome!
Cape Peninsula and Cape Town
Hout Bay and Hermanus Sunset
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