28/01/2013 - 06/02/2013
So, after four lovely days in Cape Town we climbed aboard the Bazbus (our ride across the Garden Route), and headed for Stellenbosch, a pretty university town where a new batch of students were diving head first into Freshers Week. As Stellenbosch is famous for its wine, we really had no option but to check out one of the local wineries, especially as we were charged only 35 rand (approx. £2.50) for an hour wine tour and a tasting session. We visited the Bergkelder, a small winery on the other side of Stellenbosch, where they produce a wide range of white and red wines and make many of them available for tasting. South African wine is so good I'm even developing a taste for red; no mean feat considering I'm a dedicated drinker of white wine.
The next day we moved on to Hermanus, a tiny coastal town whose claims to fame are their whale and shark watching opportunities. We were booked in for shark diving the following day, so chose to spend potentially our final hours walking an hour-long scenic route along the coast to the beaches of Hermanus. The views were beautiful, though blighted slightly by the gigantic forest fire that was raging on the horizon.; the South African Fire Services seem to take the view that as long as a fire isn't near houses, it can do what it wants.
Our last day in Hermanus was spent cage diving with sharks in Gansbaai, an area famous for its shark population, but unfortunately they must all have been on holiday that day. The conditions weren't ideal, and consequently we only saw two sharks, but it was exciting to see them from the cage!
We then moved on to Mossel Bay, where we were excited to finally encounter some warm sea water, and then to George, where our hotel owner very kindly transported us to Cango Caves, a limestone landmark about an hour away near Oudtshoorn. Humans lived in these caves as far back as the Middle Stone Age, much more recently they were used for opera concerts due to the excellent acoustics, and eventually access was made available only for tours due to the amount of damage done to them by the public.
The rest of our visit to George was plagues with rain, so we were glad to escape to our next destination; Plettenberg Bay. We didn't arrive until evening and therefore ventured out looking for a restaurant. After a long walk down a very steep hill we found a lovely restaurant balanced right on the beachfront, which John seemed to remember left a great impression on his dad back in the day. The outside deck is treated to sprawling views of sand dunes where the ocean ends, and due to the angle of the beach the waves come in from the side. The added bonus is that you can work off your meal climbing back up the hill...
Our final stop on the Garden Route was Nature's Valley in The Crags; our hotel was in the middle of nowhere and it was lovely to be surrounded by quiet for a couple of days. John quickly made friends with every dog, cat and horse to be seen, and the only small interruption of our tranquility was an incident one night when the door of our dorm was rattling and we thought it was a baboon. Turned out to be a cat. We enjoyed a day of wandering around the surrounding countryside, finding spectacular views, a beautiful waterfall and a camper pitching his tent in a giant treehouse.
Oh yeah, we also did a massive bungee jump. More on that as soon as I get my hands on the photos....