The Last African Sunset

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During our second visit to Cape Town we had to cram in everything we’d missed while we were hungover the first time. Plus, we added everything that travelers had told us to see during our road trip. The list was a little extensive for one afternoon.
We dropped our bags at the hostel and drove off to city hall. Check! Photo! Moving on. From there, we drove along to the Castle of Good Hope. It was less exciting than we had expected, so we just did a photo bomb drive by and carried on. Afterwards, we drove through District Six to see the area where the slave trading and markets used to be. The neighborhood has cleaned up incredibly well; we couldn’t find a trace that the slave markets ever existed, and instead, a beautiful university sits in the middle of the district.
After that we tried to search out the slave museum. Unfortunately, it wasn’t on our map, and the parking attendant lady, albeit so very nice and helpful, didn’t understand what we were looking for. When we finally found it hours later by chance, the place was already closed.
And one of our final destinations was Woodstock markets. We’d been trying to track down these damn markets for over a week now, and we were determined to find them. Originally, Nick and Sandy had recommended them to us because they claimed to have “eaten the best food of their lives” there. That is a huge claim. We needed to find this place.
The first time we were in Cape Town we ended up at the wrong markets! We made it to the wrong waterfront and instead ran across a different, but wonderful, food market. This time we were determined.
We drive down towards the Woodstock district. Unfortunately, Woodstock was off the city map that we had and so we were driving blind. All we knew was that they were markets and they were near the water.
Woodstock seems like it would be a pretty dodgy area in the night time. Definitely not the idyllic center of Cape Town that we’d previously explored. We drove up and down the streets aimlessly in search of something that could be considered a market. Finally we gave in. Time to take the car back to the rental office before we got charged another day. We pulled over at the nearest petrol station to fill up. We figured we’d ask the attendant if he’d heard of Woodstock Markets.
“Of course!” He said, “they’re right there. About a half block down across the street!”
Seriously?! How lucky was that! So we booked it across the street and zipped in to the big building that held the markets about 25 minutes before they closed. Also lucky!
Inside we found a whole bunch of little shops that sold clothing, trinkets, food and wine. We walked into a specialty cheese and meat shop to look around.
When we asked about the market, the lady who owned the place explained that they only have a market on Saturdays. All the shops in the little square put together a kiosk and sell their things market style all day long. She says people are even waiting to get in before the gates open!
Sadly for us, it was Monday. So we instead bought a meat and cheese platter, a half bottle of wine and put together a picnic for ourselves for later. We checked out a couple more shops on our way out, then drove off to the airport to drop off the car.
When our bus arrived back in the city center it was nearing six o’clock. We immediately took a taxi up to Table Mountain where we could watch the sunset with our little picnic.
This time, we opted for the cable car. I was not about to hike the hour and a half up the mountain again after such a busy day. But, unlike the first time, we had a spectacular view of Cape Town. The sky was completely cloudless, and the setting sun made for some incredible photos. We ran around like giddy school kids, once again, taking a million photos of the view from every angle. When we’d nearly filled my camera’s memory with photos, we sat down to eat.
The package the lady had put together for us was wonderful, with fresh sourdough bread to go along with the meat and cheese and a salad with a balsamic vinegar on top. We sat on a little rock, way away from the crowds of tourists, sipping on our wine and eating our food. The perfect ending to a perfect trip. We could not have asked for anything more from Africa. From Kenya to South Africa we were blown away by the people and the beauty. This is definitely a place I will visit again.
As we sat on Table Mountain, watching our last African sunset, I felt as though my trip was ending and I was going home. But in reality, we were only half way there. Next stop: India…

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Cape Point to Cape Town

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Cape Point to Cape Town

The Cape of Good Hope, at Cape Point, happens to be the most South Westernly point of the continent of Africa. UJust another “I’ve been the farthest ____” moment. The cape, located in Table Mountain National Park, is also one of the most stunning points that the Western Cape province has to offer. As well, it’s only a little more than an hour from Cape Town, which makes it a convenient excursion for most tourists. However, despite the plethora of tour buses and the touristy souvenir shops, Cape Point is worth the visit!
Kelsi and I managed to make it to the cape just before the crowds showed up. We took the tram to the top of the lookout point, then hiked our way to the lighthouse at the top. The view from there is incredible! Sheer, rocky cliffs, over a dark blue ocean and a never ending view across the sea. The next stop south is Antarctica!
The tale goes that from the lighthouse you can sometimes see ghost ships sailing through the water. The rocky waters south of the cape have taken many lives and when the route was first discovered, few ships made it through in one piece. Once again, I can only imagine what the place would look like in a storm.
The view from the lighthouse is amazing, but you only get the real picture when you make the half hour hike along the lower path and out to the southernmost point. From there, you can look back on the lighthouse where the throngs of tourists stand to see how extreme the landscape really is. The cliff face that holds up the lighthouse is completely vertical. The jagged rocks at the bottom create a white foam from the rough waters, and the whole thing looks unreal. This was the best part of the entire Cape for me. No one else was around, just the wind and the birds and the view… Oh and Kelsi of course.
From Cape Point we drove along to the Cape of Good Hope just around the corner. We snapped some photos and continued on our way. The park had loads of walking trails to check out, but we were pressed for time and had to limit our sightseeing. Next time for sure!
From the Cape, we carried on north towards Cape Town. We passed through some amazing small coastal towns en route and took a million photos. A little ways down the road, we came across a toll highway that was considered a “scenic route”. We figured we might as well lap up the last of the coast while we could and carried on through it.
Scenic was an understatement. This place had lookout points every 300 meters and Kelsi and I had to force ourselves to stop at only every second one (otherwise we’d STILL be stuck on that road). The road ran right along the cliff face, overlooking the water. Then it rounded a corner and opened up into Hout’s Bay. Hout’s Bay is probably my favourite Bay of the trip. It is just large enough to get a beautiful view, but small enough that you can still see the mountains on the other side. The town of Houts Bay is nestled in at the end of the bay, running along the beach and up into the hilly backdrop. This place is paradise!
We’d heard so many incredible things about Camps Bay (which we drove through about 15 minutes after Hout’s Bay), but the place was overly populated and very touristy. It was beautiful, but lacked the simplicity of its neighbour town.
Just after Camps Bay, we were back in Cape Town. It was early afternoon and we still had a full evening ahead of us! What a crazy last day of sightseeing we’ve had!

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The Penguins of Simons Town

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On our final full day in Africa we were up and on the road by 7am. Throughout the trip, we kept delaying places to see and things to do. “Tomorrow” we kept saying to ourselves. Well this time there was no tomorrow and we had a ridiculously full day of sightseeing ahead of us. Our first scheduled stop was Simons Town.
Simons Town is a little town on the west side of False Bay. It is quaint and beautiful, with amazing views of both cliffs and ocean. The real draw, however, is the penguins!
Kelsi was stunned when she heard I’d never seen a penguin in the wild before. Zoos yes, wandering around the beach sunning themselves, absolutely not!
“What?!” Said Kelsi “Penguins are almost like pests they’re so common in New Zealand”
“Yup, and I remember having a similar discussion about squirrels in Canada!” These penguins were my squirrels… As strange as that sentence sounds.
We paid our small fee to get into the park and walked down the boardwalk to the beach. I was elated.
“Look! Oh my god! There’s one!” I shouted. I got my camera out and started snapping photos of this lone penguin on a rock while Kelsi kept walking.
“Wait! There’s another!” More photos. Then finally I turned to where Kelsi was standing and saw a beach FULL of penguins. Hundreds of them! Old, young, sitting on eggs, swimming in the sea, waddling around in circles, and overall looking adorable.
“Shut up!” This was amazing.
I probably filled a half gig on my camera taking pictures and videos of these little tuxedo wearing balls of cuteness. The northern hemisphere is missing out! Except for the smell…
Yup, hundreds of penguins living on a beach created quite the stench! The novelty of the animals wore off quickly when the wind changed direction, so we wandered to a less populated beach to look around.
The second beach was beautiful. Very quiet, with shallow clear water and lots of rocks to climb around on. When we had finished jumping around on the rocks, we played the “how close can you get to a penguin without it snapping at you” game. Kelsi nearly got attacked a couple times by a curious little penguin, but the video was worth it!
When we’d finally had enough, we moved on to our next destination: Cape Point!

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Back to Stellenbosch

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The shark diving took up more of the day than we had expected, so it was a good thing we had nothing else planned except for coastal driving and an overnight stop in wine country! Life’s rough.
We wound our way along the coast from Hermanus to Betty’s Bay and then through the Kogelberg Biosphere reserve. It was gorgeous. I can’t believe how each turn can be more beautiful than the next, even after days and days of driving! We stopped at as many lookouts as we could find.
“Shut up! Look at that view!”
“Take a photo!”
“Pull over here!”
We were ecstatic! By the time we rounded the bend into False Bay we were beyond tired. Jake’s sleepwalking the night before and a morning adrenaline rush with great white sharks made for an exhausting afternoon! We took it slow around the east half of False Bay, then had to pit stop in Gordon’s bay for petrol, a coffee and some sugary snacks.
It was just the kick we needed. 20 minutes or so we were our usual wild selves.
“We’re going to Stellenbosch! Wahoo!”
We hooted and hollered our way along route 44 like real locals: moving in and around vehicles like pro’s and shouting at tourists to “get off the damn road!” We’d been driving in the country for a week now, that makes us experts, right?
Unfortunately, even with our expert driving skills, we still made it to Stellenbosch after the wineries closed. Oh well!
After checking in to our hostel, we found a wonderful hookah bar and restaurant to relax in for the evening. We got a bottle of amazing South Africa wine, a steak (because it was the last beef we’d have for 2 months) and spent the night trying their different crazy cocktails!
It was exactly how we wanted to spend our last night of the road trip!

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Shark Diving

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We were up at 9:00am, grabbed Jake, and piled ourselves into the car by quarter past. Today, the three of us were going to cage dive with great white sharks!
I had been so excited about riding an ostrich that the excitement of swimming with sharks hadn’t hit me until the night before. How cool is this?!
It was a 40 minute drive before we pulled up to the Ecoadventure Shark Diving office in Gansbaai. They served us breakfast, gave us a quick overview of the rules and regulations, then we were herded out to the boat.
There were about 20 of us on the tour, which meant a tight squeeze on the lower deck of the ship. Nonetheless, we crammed ourselves on the little benches and sailed out into the ocean.
Our dive point was only about 10 minutes away. The water there was only 12 meters or so deep, so shark spotting was much more likely. When we had anchored, we climbed up to the top deck for a final rundown of the rules.
“You know sometimes we don’t get to see sharks” our guide said, “we can’t guarantee where the animals are going to be, so I’m sorry if that’s what it comes down to”
Before he had finished, the first shark appeared on the starboard side.
“Look!” Someone shouted. And we all piled over to one side of the boat to see. It was a decent sized shark, probably a couple meters long, just barely coming to the surface as it swam around our boat. So exciting!
“Okay, for anyone wanting to jump in the cage, get downstairs and put on your wet suit!” Kelsi, Jake and I ran downstairs and were in the first group of 5 to get in the cage.
The cage was fairly small, only a couple feet wide and long enough for five people to fit in shoulder to shoulder. We all floated in the cage, goggles on, waiting for our queue. Finally, the skipper would yell “Down! Down! Down!” We’d all take a deep breath, pull ourselves down under the water and watch for the shark. If we didn’t see the shark within 5 seconds, we would just come back up for air and wait for the next one to swim by.
We were so lucky. It was never longer than 30 seconds or so before the skipper would call out.
“Down! Down! Down!”
We grabbed the bar in the cage to hold ourselves under water. The water was murky, but still clear enough to see a couple meters away. And there, swimming in front of us was a great white shark!
The captain calls them white sharks. “There’s no difference between a white shark and a great white shark” he said “we just call them white sharks to desensationalize them to the world.” Fair enough. Personally, I’m going to refer to them as great white sharks, because to me, they were epic!
The first few times the shark swam by it just snapped at the bait and then sped away. But eventually it came closer and stayed longer, sometimes swimming right under our feet, or all the way across the front of the cage. Occasionally, it would splash up above the water right in front of us. Kelsi and I were giddy with excitement (obviously). We were having more fun shark spotting than the rest of the group combined!
During our second dive, a larger shark started lurking around the boat. It was huge, at 3.5 meters long. Everything I expected from a great white shark was what we saw. Jagged sharp teeth, fierce beady eyes, scars on its fins and sides from fights past: it was more amazing by far than I ever imagined!
The big shark hung around for a while, lunging for the bait that we threw out on a line from the boat. We hadn’t seen it for a minute or so when the skipper finally yelled out.
“There she is! Down! Down! Doooown!”
We all sunk down into the cage. We could see the shark about 2 meters away come splashing down into the water from above. It had just barely missed the bait again. Then it turned and swam towards the cage, right at Kels and I. If we hadn’t already been holding our breaths, I’m sure this is where we would have started. The shark flew at us with incredible speed, then turned abruptly to the right and it’s side came crashing into the cage. It knocked the cage back against the boat and jostled the five of us inside. Then it swam, a little slower this time, right along side the cage. Its fins were coming into the cage and brushed up along Kelsi’s hands. It swam, still pressed up against us, then finally down into the dark water below.
“Oh my god! Did you SEE that?!” Kelsi and I shouted at each other between schoolgirl giggles. “That was amazing! This is incredible! I can’t believe that just happened!” We were still the most elated people on the boat by far. Nothing could top that for us. And what’s best is we caught the moment on video! (Thank you Gina for your water proof camera!)
Kelsi, Jake and I spent the majority of our tour down in the cage. Some of our group didn’t even get in the cage, and others only wanted to go once. Fine with me!
All in all we saw five sharks, at least two of them female. The smallest was around 2 meters and the largest 3.5. We were very lucky. The captain said sometimes groups wait around for an hour and a half before the first shark spotting. We had a constant stream of sharks from the moment we arrived, until we ran out of bait a few hours later and had to come home. It was incredible!
When all was over, we headed back to the base for lunch and then left for home on an adrenaline high! What an exciting morning!

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Hermanus

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It took us forever to find our hostel in Hermanus. We drove around in circles in the suburbs of the city until we finally asked for directions.
“The hostel?!” The lady exclaimed “Well that’s all the way in town!”
What? We weren’t IN town?! God, we are honestly the worst travelers ever.
“Thank you!” We shouted as we drove down the road and hit the city center. We are always amazed at how large the beach towns are here. When we see the word “bay” and “town” with a tiny little dot on the map, we expect to pull up at a small town with a few hundred people and one little backpackers hostel. But in a country with 26 million people, all the towns have become cities, and they all have suburbs and centers and the such. You think we would have learned that by now.
In the end we did find it, just on the other side of town. And the search was worth it! The place was half a block from the beach, and had all the amenities a backpacker could want. We were in a large dorm, but only had one other roommate: Jake, a young guy from England that was just beginning his trip through South Africa. We did intros ad caught up on stories, then Kelsi and I headed out to the “cliff walk”.
We were both ignorant enough to think that the cliff walk would take place on the surrounding cliffs that stood high above the city. Instead, the cliff walk was a walk along the water, on a boardwalk that hung on the cliffs above the water. It doesn’t matter though, the walk was stunning.
Albeit a little sketchy, the wooden boardwalk was an incredible way to see the water. The waves were huge, and crashed over massive rocks below. I couldn’t help but think of how epic this place would be in a storm. We arrived at the cliff walk exactly at sunset and sat on some overhanging rocks as we watched the light disappear.
We spent a little while walking around town, then back to the hostel to grab Jake for dinner. We went to this tapas bar that was recommended to us and sat down to feast. Jake had his heart set on steak.
“Hey, what’s a calamari steak?” He asked Kelsi.
“We’ll you know how calamari usually comes all cut up? This is just all together in one piece”
“Oh ok,” he said, “I’ll try that!”
When dinner came out, Jake had quite the surprise.
“What is this?”
“It’s a steak of calamari” we said
“But what IS it?” He asked again
“Squid.”
Apparently Jake had never had calamari and thought that calamari was just a different cut of beef. We all laughed, but he ate the whole thing and seemed to enjoy it.
“If it’s squid, why wouldn’t they just call it that?” He asked afterwards.
To be honest, we were stumped. I’m not exactly sure why squid is called calamari. It’s just something I always knew.
After dinner we walked back to the hostel, played a couple games of pool and played fetch with the hostel’s crazy dog. Then off to bed.
“I have to warn you,” said Jake “sometimes I sleep walk and sleep talk. But I haven’t done it yet traveling, so don’t worry”
“Ya no problem” I said “we’ll let you know in the morning if you do anything crazy”
Kelsi apparently didn’t hear this, and just went to sleep.
In the middle of the night she was woken to the sound of Jake wandering around the room.
“Who are you?” He shouted, “who are you?Kelsi, Kelsi!” He called out to her.
“What Jake?”
“There’s someone standing by your bed!” He said
“What?!” Kelsi said her heart started pounding as she grabbed her iPod light and flashed it around. “No there’s not. What are you on about. There’s no one here”
“Oh” said Jake “that’s embarrassing, I’m half asleep and half awake right now” then he went back to sleep.
A little while later he woke up again.
“Who are you?! Tell me who you are!” He got up, walked around the room a couple times and then crashed back into bed.
How I slept through all this I have no idea, Kelsi on the other hand spent most of the night lying awake with a pounding heart, wondering what the hell was going on. By the time our alarm went off Jake and I had had a great sleep… Kelsi was in desperate need of a coffee. Another day of adventure ahead of us!

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Cape Agulhas and the Coast

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Our drive from Swellendam onwards was relaxing. We had nothing planned except to check out Cape Agulhas and drive the coastline to Hermanus.
We stopped at the Spar and picked up a picnic lunch: fresh fruit, some bread, cheese and salami. Then we grabbed a coffee and began driving South.
Cape Agulhas is the southern most point in Africa. It is also where the Atlantic and the Indian oceans meet. Our guide book said it was good luck to pee where the two oceans collide. It followed up with “good luck ladies”. To Kelsi and I, that sounded like a challenge. Well challenge accepted!
Driving down through Struisbaai and finally to Agulhas was beautiful. The sun was shining, there was hardly a cloud in the sky, and the waves breaking on the shore was just as spectacular as ever.
“Shut up! Do you see that?! It’s incredible! Look at that shore!”
It never got old for us. We were just as excited about the view as we were when we stumbled across Sea View point back near Port Elizabeth.
We found the point fairly easily. Had our obligatory photo with the sign that says “You are now at the Southernmost tip of the continent of Africa” and then hopped back in the car to find a quiet spot to ourselves.
Just a little ways into Agulhas National Park, we came across a section of beach with nothing around but an old, rusted shipwreck. We backed up to the shore and sat in the trunk of the car, looking out over the ocean. We cracked a now warm beer and enjoyed the view with some music. This was paradise.
“What do you think everyone else in the world is doing right now?” I asked.
“Whatever it is, it’s not nearly as amazing as this” we cheersed in agreement.
After a bit, we wandered down to the water to explore the shipwreck. It looked like an old, Japanese shipping boat that was cut in half. It was full of water, and too difficult to climb into, but it was a great backdrop to an already stunning view. We tried to find some oysters along the shore as well, but the tide had come in again and we were once again left in oyster-less disappointment.
When we’d tired of the view, we drove down a bit to a slightly different view to have lunch. We sat in the shade of the car and snacked while staring out at the two oceans. Before we knew it, we’d been at Cape Agulhas for four hours. How did that happen?
Before we left we had to complete our mission and pee in the water. It was more difficult than I had thought with huge waves and rocks to maneuver through. These are the times I wish I was a boy. But determined as we were, we completed our goal and jumped back in the car to find Hermanus.
Our drive to Hermanus was entirely down unpaved, dirt roads. The map showed that there was only two turn offs that we could possibly take. No issue with getting lost!
In reality, there were endless numbers of turnoffs. Oh no. We used our gut feeling to find the way, but with such few directional points on our huge map we finally admitted defeat and pulled over for directions.
We stopped at some farm that had banners and tents all set up at it. There was a guy standing next to the road texting on his phone, so we pulled over to see if we were on the right track.
Turns out he wasn’t from around the area, but he could ask someone who knew. He jumped in the car and we drove him down the long driveway towards the throngs of tents and people at the end.
“What’s going on here?” We asked
“It’s a biking festival.” He said “we’ve been going throughout South Africa for days now. I follow the group and do the music for the festival”
Of course Kelsi and I would stumble across the only thing going on in the middle of absolutely nowhere. We ended up getting directions from a local guy. Turns out we were on the right track and just had to keep going south until we hit the water again. Perfect!
We thanked them both and kept driving south. Before long we hit a place called Die Dam. It wasn’t even on the map, and yet we’d been seeing signs for it for the past half hour or so. We felt the need to stop.
It was a beautiful little beach that looked like a popular family camping spot for locals. As usual, we were taken aback with the beauty of the coast, took some photos and carried on. Our next stop was a place called Pearly Beach. More photos, more jaw-dropping scenery and then off to Hermanus.
As we drove North away from Gansbaai, we could see some beautiful cliffs to the West.
“Look how beautiful those are!” We exclaimed excitedly. “I hope that’s were we’re headed!”
Turns out it was…

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The Long Road to Swellendam

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When the Cango Caves tour had finished, we grabbed a coffee and hit the road. It was still fairly early in the afternoon, but we had a lot of ground to cover. We took a different road back from Outdshoorn to the N2 and drove through Robinson Pass. It amazes me how each road can be more beautiful than the next. Robinson pass was incredible with its dramatic green cliffs and windy roads. We had just enough time to admire the view, and then before we knew it we were at Mossel Bay. Lunch time!
We wanted to find a local place for some cheap, good food. We were looking for some run down joint that was the gem for all the locals to eat at. We drove through the town, a little indecisive about where to go, then decided to head down to the docks to see what we could find.
As soon as we hit the docks we knew where we were eating. It was a shabby looking place from the outside, with bamboo walls and half a thatched roof. There was smoke coming out from the middle of the place and it sat right out on the edge of the water, in among industrial fishing boats and a parking lot full of trucks. A big sign on top read Kaai 4.
“That’s our place!”
We parked the car and walked towards it. As we walked in, we were greeted by the owner, Sean. He was a wonderful man, with an eye patch, a bucket hat and a great sense of humour. He walked around the dirt floor of the restaurant barefoot, meeting and chatting with all the patrons.
“Well hello ladies! How are we this afternoon? Where are you from? Welcome to the only remaining traditional Afrikaans Braai restaurant in town! May I ask how you found the place?”
“We were just driving by and it looked like a great place to eat.” We said.
He laughed “That’s amazing! You just stumbled upon this place?!”
Turns out, Kaai 4 is also the number one most recommended spot to eat in Mossel Bay by the Lonely Planet guide. Well done us, what a find!
Sean gave us a list of his favourite recommendations:
“I don’t much care for vegetables to be honest. But I do have some amazing meat and seafood dishes! My favourites are the mussel pot and the Meat basket. The mussel pot is made to order and everything is cooked over there on that fire. Traditional Braai style!” He stood there beaming at us. He was obviously so proud of his little restaurant, and his enthusiastic attitude was contagious. On top of that, the food was cheap. Probably the cheapest we had seen in South Africa for what you were ordering. We decided to go for both his suggestions and share. Then we sat down along the water and had a cold beer.
When the food came out, we were not disappointed. The portions were huge, and everything looked so delicious. Mussels cooked in a creamy sauce and served with rice, or the South African starch equivalent (the name of it has escaped me). Then there were ribs, and chicken and sausages, each served with homemade bread. Oh wow. What a feast!
We ate and ate and ate until we couldn’t move. Then we used the bread to soak up the leftovers. It was the best meal I have had in the country, hands down.
Sean wandered over to check on us a couple times, and we couldn’t stop raving about the meal. Of all the places we could have stopped at in Mossel Bay, I am so happy that this is where we ended up. If you ever find yourself in Mossel Bay and you DON’T stop at Kaai 4, then you are insane… Unless of course you’re a vegetarian.
When we’d stuffed ourselves as much as we could, we thanked Sean and his wife and carried on.
We started back on the N2, with our next scheduled stop as Swellendam. A little ways down the highway, however, I changed our plans.
“Look Kelsi, there’s this place down by the coast called Witsand. The book here says that there are over 150 whales in the bay every day, and when you’ve had enough of whale watching, you can fill yourself a bucket of oysters from the beach!”
“Oh my god, let’s go”
So we turned off the highway and drove the 35 kilometers South to Witsand. The place was spectacular!
We pulled up at the beach and the view was so pretty that I couldn’t stop talking.
“Oh my god Kelsi, do you see this place! It’s beautiful! Look over there. Oh! And those fishermen there! Do you see any whales? I wonder where we can find some oysters. Ah! Look at this place! Kelsi! Are you going to say ANYTHING?!”
She was laughing at my giddiness. Maybe everyone is right, Canadians do talk a lot. We wandered around the rocky shores, then climbed some nearby sand dunes as the sun was going down. We never saw any whales. Had I read a little further, we would have found out that whale season is over right now. Also, the tide was in, so oyster picking was out. But the place was beautiful.
We climbed up and down the sand dunes with some local kids, and I laughed until my stomach hurt at Kelsi’s limp. In the sand, she looked like either Igor, Quasimodo or Gollum. I kept poking fun at her “yes master, this way master, follow me” until we couldn’t contain ourselves any more.
“If I could move” she said “I’d come over there and slap you!”
We decided to head back to the highway before the sun completely set, so we hopped back in the car and drove onwards.
However, we still had our “no road twice” rule, and so I found us a different route back to the N2. This route was back road gravel streets that went through farmland and vineyards. The place was beautiful in the setting sun with the long stretches of slightly curving hills in the background.
Since day one, I’d been on a mission to get the perfect photo of a single tree in the red, African sunset. It still hadn’t happened. We tried to find one along this route, but none of them worked with my idyllic image. Then we came across a couple of ostriches, roaming in a field.
“Ostrich in the sunset photo!” We both yelled.
Kelsi pulled over and I jumped out to take the photo. Screw the tree in the sunset, this picture was incredible.
We laughed the rest of the way to Swellendam about the silly ostrich-sunset photo. It was more than I had ever expected!
Our directions to the only Swellendam hostel listed in the book were atrocious. We circled the deserted streets, in the dark, until finally stumbling across the street by chance. We checked in, had a lovely supermarket dinner of cheese and crackers and called it a night. We’d covered a lot of miles over the day, and had more exciting things to see in the morning. Oh how I was going to miss South Africa in a few days…

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Cango Caves

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Just 15 minutes up the road from the ostrich farm are the Cango Caves. We made it, once again, just in time for the tour to begin. Don’t know how we keep lucking out that way.
There are two types of tours at the caves. One, is the normal walking tour, and the other is the adventure tour. The difference is, on the adventure tour, you are taken to the end of the caves and then you get to crawl, shimmy, and squeeze your way through a labyrinth of tunnels to get back. Although normally this would have been the chosen tour for Kelsi and I, we had a limited time schedule, and with Kelsi’s busted knee, we were not about to crawl through any cave tunnels.
Either way, the caves were incredible. The first cavern that you enter is huge. It has stalactites and stalagmites, such as Cleopatra’s Needle, or the Giant Organ Pipes, that date back to 650 and 800 thousand years ago respectively. They are massive! Apparently the Cango caves holds the records for larges stalactite formations on earth. Very impressive.
In the first cavern, they used to set up full orchestras to play inside. The music would echo throughout the cave and the audience could either sit, or wander around, hearing the music from different areas. Unfortunately, the orchestra music had to be cancelled in the 90’s. Too many people were exploring the back caverns of the cave and vandalizing the area. They pulled off stalactites that were thousands of years old, and etched their names into walls. It’s sad when just a few people ruin something for so many others. I imagine the orchestras must have been incredible!
From there we continued on to the second cavern. There we came across the petrified weeping willow tree which was the oldest formation in the cave at 1.5million years old.
We continued deeper into 10 different rooms, until finally our tour came to an end. Each room had something amazing to see, and some sort of story behind it.
All in all, the tour was an hour and we were glad to have done it. We weren’t even sure that morning if we could fit in the caves and still drive all the way to Swellendam by evening. But the stop was worth it!

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The Ostrich Farm

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When I heard that it was possible to ride an ostrich in Oudtshoorn I was ecstatic! I have always wanted to ride an ostrich; even before I knew it was a real thing. It just sounded like so much fun! Then a couple years ago I found out it WAS actually possible. People DO ride ostriches (Not to get from one town to another of course, but that’s not the point). In fact, people actually RACE ostriches! Oh my god, too much for my little brain to handle.
So we drove up from Wilderness, to a place called Cango Ostrich Farm just in time for a tour to begin! I was beside myself with excitement.
First, we were inundated with ostrich fun facts. An ostrich has 3 eyelids, and 19 neck vertebrae (which allows it to move its neck in so many different directions at once it’s freaky). One ostrich egg is the equivalent of 24 chicken eggs! It could comfortably feed a family of 12; that is insane (Not to mention, they are incredible strong, later on in the tour we got to stand on one and it never cracked). As well, ostriches only have 2 toes and one toenail on each foot. That one toenail, however, is 10 centimeters long and razor sharp. It could rip a mans chest wide open if it got the chance to. That, combined with an ostriches 75 kilometer an hour speed and its ability to kick 1.8 meters in the air, makes the ostrich a bird you don’t want to mess with.
Our first ostrich encounter was with a bird called Dusty. Dusty is a fluffy, feathery little bird that probably could be mistaken as a feather duster… She is also a dwarf. At a full grown size, she still barely came up to my waist. But she was adorable. We got to feed dusty some grains as our guide explained about the different birds we were going to see.
After dusty came Betsy. Betsy is 7 years old, and the only friendly ostrich on the farm. Apparently, you can’t tame ostriches. And usually, they are mean. Betsy was the only bird that, on her own, decided to like people from a young age. Ever since then, she loves to hang around, give kisses, and neck hugs. No one knows why Betsy decided to be friendly, but she sure is an attraction for the tourists!
“Who wants a kiss from Betsy?” The guide asked.
Everyone hesitated. Betsy was still pretty large for a 7 year old, and after the ‘ostriches are naturally mean’ speech we were all uneasy.
“I will!” Kelsi stepped up to the plate.
“Very good!” Said the guide.”Alright, put this pellet in between your lips. Okay now, I must warn you, you are doing this at your own risk. Sometimes she misses and nips at your face. Sometimes you get a bleeding lip or something, but nothing serious, okay?”
Oh great, well now it doesn’t sound like such a great idea. But Kelsi did it anyways. The ostrich saw the pellet, and with one, extremely swift movement, lunged towards Kelsi’s face and plucked the food from between her lips. The ostrich did peck at her lips, but no blood was spilled so it was okay.
I tried soon after and the same thing happened. A quick snap, a semi-sore lip and the food was gone! Both our lips tingled for a while afterwards, but not many people can say they kissed a bird bigger than themselves!
We were shown a few more ostrich tricks, then off to the races… The ostrich races that is. We all sat down on some bleachers and watched over a large pen full of ready to ride ostriches.
“Who would like to ride one of our ostriches?”
Everyone was quiet, not sure exactly if they wanted to it not.
“I do!” I jumped up with an excited smile on my face.
“Okay! Perfect.”
So the two ostrich wranglers went out to hook me y very own ostrich while Shane, our guide, straightened out some ostrich myths. Apparently, ostriches don’t hide their head in the ground when they’re scared. However, when their head is covered, they do have the ‘I can’t see you, so you can’t see me’ mentality. So when the men caught me an ostrich, they slipped a bag over its head and the bird calmed down immediately.
Then they marched him over to a wooden stand, and helped me on it.
It was a weird feeling, sitting on a bird with all my weight. I had to tuck my legs under its wings and wrap my legs tight around its belly. Then I had to push myself back to the birds rear end, hold on to the wings and lean backwards for balance. It was so awkward..
“Ready?” Asked Shane
“I guess so!” I said, kind of scared about what was about to happen.
“Okay. Go!”
The men pulled the bag off the ostriches head an pulled him out of the wooden stand. That’s when the bird realized I was on his back and started to run. The men ran with me, shouting and hollering at the bird. I’m pretty sure I was screaming at first, then just trying to hold on for dear life afterwards. Oh my god, I’m on an ostrich!
The bird came zooming around a bend when it reached the edge of the pen, then ran straight along to the other side. I thought for sure I was going to fall off the thing when the two men grabbed me under the arms
“Let go! Let go!” They yelled.
So I let go, just as the ostrich ran into a group of other ostriches. I fell backwards into the arms of the two wranglers and safely hit the ground with my feet. Ha! I rode an ostrich!
The entire ride only lasted about 12 seconds, but it was amazing, and hilarious!
Kelsi managed to get a video, and it’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. For the rest of the afternoon I was beaming.
“Hey Kelsi, guess what I did today?”
“What?” She asked
“Rode an ostrich!!” Then we’d high-five.
Later I was in the car, “I think I burnt my face today Kels.” I mentioned.
“No, it’s probably just wind burn from how FAST you were going on that ostrich!” She said. Then we laughed for a solid five minutes about how stupid I looked on that bird.
For the rest of the afternoon I kept finding little ostrich feathers in my pants. And every time I picked one out I laughed. Another bucket list dream checked off the list!

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