Inland to Franschhoek

Originally we had planned to go whale watching with Dyer Island Cruises the day after we did the shark tour. Unfortunately we got a call the morning of our shark tour to say that all the whale watch tours for the next 3 days had been cancelled. They said it was due to impending bad weather. It was a bit disappointing as it would have been cool to see the whales up close. However, after a rather long afternoon on the shark tour, and having been fortunate to see quite a few whales from shore, we didn't feel too badly. Instead, we took our time leaving Whalesong Lodge and De Kelders and were glad to not be rushed on our journey to Franschhoek.

The first thing we did was to go back to the Great White House in Kleinbaai. I had wanted to visit the gift shop, but it was so late when we had returned on the boat the night before that I had opted to skip it at that time. It all worked out rather well as everything was quiet and we had the place to ourselves. They had quite a few nice locally made art and craft items. Since the weather didn't look that bad I inquired about their cancellations out of curiosity. They said it was due to be very windy. Having experienced the swell when the wind was moderate, I could see that it would be untenable if it were really windy. Afterwards, we set off around the bay and through Hermanus on our way to Franschhoek in the winelands. Along the way we stopped briefly in the town of Stanford and picked up a snack to take along.

Stanford

The drive turned out to be very scenic and the weather got steadily better as we went. It was indeed windy, but the sun was shining and the wind lessened as we turned inland. We went over a couple of smaller mountain passes and past some large reservoir lakes enjoying the views as we went.

Then came the Franschhoek pass which was spectacular. The views were simply stunning as we dropped down into the Franschhoek valley. Franschhoek is a small town about an hour from Cape Town. It is in the heart of the wine country and the setting couldn't be more picturesque. Vineyards are everywhere with roses and bougainvillea blooming. Mountains rise steeply from the valley floor.

The Franschhoek Valley

We found The Coach House, our B & B, easily and checked in to find a lovely garden oasis with a pool and a small patio off our room.

The Coach House

Proteas

The proprietress was very nice and confirmed our booking for our private tour the next day as well as gave us suggestions for restaurants. After a little lazing about we went for a walk down the main street. It was nice to be able to leave the car behind and simply walk. There were lots of shops, art galleries, and restaurants lining the road for several blocks. We stopped at a small park where there were some vendors selling crafts and did a little bargaining. After our wanderings we went back to our B & B for some more lazing about before going out for dinner. It was Friday night and our B & B hostess had warned us that many restaurants might be booked up. She had called one we were interested in and they were full, but there were so many restaurants that we figured we'd be able to find something. We did have her book us a table for the following night but took our chances that evening and found a decent place without too much trouble.

 

 

Mossel Bay and Onwards

Michael got up early our morning in Mossel Bay to meet Darryl at 6 a.m. for surfing. The conditions weren't very good but he enjoyed getting wet anyway. I elected to revisit the inside of my eyelids. After chatting with our hosts for a bit we packed up and went on our way. We had some driving ahead of us and I wanted to visit the Dias Museum first. Bartholomew Dias arrived in Mossel Bay in a caravel in 1488, having sailed from Portugal. A replica of his ship, built in 1988 and sailed to Mossel from Portugal as well, is housed in a maritime museum there. The first exhibit we saw was one on the history of South Africa. It was good to get another chance to absorb the complicated mix of peoples and cultures that have inhabited and fought over this land. Then we went next door and found the replica of Dias' ship. There were lots of other maritime artifacts as well and you are allowed to actually go on the ship, so it was pretty good.

The replica of Dias' ship

When we finished at the museum we found some coffee and fruit to take on the road with us and made our way out of town.

On the way out of Mossel BVay

Our next destination was De Kelders, on the coast in the Overberg region. That area is known for its whale watching and shark viewing. The first half of our 4 hour journey was a bit dull except perhaps for the cows, sheep, and ostrich farms we passed. As we drew closer to Swellendam the scenery got more interesting. We could see mountains and the terrain began to roll a bit more. We stopped in Swellendam for a spot of lunch at the local pub. The town seemed quiet. Not long after Swellendam we turned off the main highway onto a smaller road and drove over rolling hills that were being farmed. Michael snapped a couple of photos of the cool patterns in the fields.

As we drove over some mountains on a small pass and began to drop down toward the coast. we started to see some wineries. Next thing we knew we had reached the Walker Bay Reserve with it's sweeping sand beach and dunes. On the cliffs adjacent is the small village of De Kelders. We turned in and found Whalesong, our lodge for the next 2 nights. Situated along the cliff directly facing the water and looking across the bay toward Hermanus with mountains in the background, it had a spectacular view. The sun was shining and almost immediately we spotted whales in the water just off the cliffs. As we were waiting to check in and standing on the deck, Michael called me over to see whales breaching offshore. What a sight! The Southern Right Whale visits Walker Bay in South Africa from June to November to breed and raise their calves. It is one of the best places in the world to see whales from the shore. In the summer the whales move back to Antarctica.

The view from the deck

The Southern Right Whale

I got a call that afternoon from Marine Dynamics that our Shark Cage Diving excursion for the following morning had been delayed until noon because of impending bad weather. This was not entirely unwelcome as it meant we didn't have to get up early, but we were getting a little tired of bad weather. In any case it did make us fully appreciate the gorgeous evening and sunset on the water that we were experiencing. We walked down the way to dinner at what I would call a “house restaurant”. Some enterprising folks had opened a small restaurant serving a limited menu in what appeared to have been a lounge or family room. The food was pretty good and the ambiance quite nice if a little tightly spaced. I'm sure they are booked up most nights as there isn't much within walking distance of the small hotels and guesthouses in De Kelders.