Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Day 454 South Africa 31/01/2012, Somerset West – Simon's Town backpackers. 34.26miles/55.59km, 3hr10minutes, Av10.7mph

As Paul and Penny were off to work and the kids were off to school/University early, we said a fond farewell and then set off up the road. We have had a terrific couple of days and once again have to offer our heartfelt thanks to a lovely family who have shown us great hospitality.


Today, as it turned out, was never going to be the most picturesque of days. Leaving the majority of the traffic behind after the first 5km, we first headed through a rough looking area that we had been warned to be careful in. In typical fashion the back of my bike started to wiggle about beneath me and I looked down to discover a puncture. Great, it couldn't have happened in a better place! With no choice but to fix it, I got down to repairing the puncture as quick as possible.


To make matters a little more worrying, a van then swung round and stopped in front of us. Without all the warnings we probably wouldn't have been remotely concerned, but we couldn't help feeling a little paranoid. Fortunately it was a couple of guys who were making a film in the area. They had seen us as they passed and thought that they had better stop to make sure we were alright. We were once again told that we were in a very bad area and really shouldn't be stopped. With help from the two guys, I soon got the inner tube replaced and we were ready to get back under-way. In the meantime another car pulled up to make sure we were alright as well. This was clearly not the best place to have a puncture! Thanking our good Samaritans, we set off once again passing an enormous township along the road.

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Breathing a sigh of relief when we were past the supposedly bad area, we then had to contend with a headwind and a narrow, hard shoulder-less road. By now we were riding along the coast, but the dirty looking beaches and myriad of dead things that lined the road assaulted both our eyes and our noses. Things took a turn for the better after we turned south towards the cape. Even if the coastline didn't seem that special, the cape with its backdrop of mountains is stunning. The pretty towns that we passed through, added a bit of much needed variety as well.

Having made really good time we stopped for a coffee and second breakfast/lunch in the attractive town of Kalk Bay. While waiting for our breakfast, Debs bought a wire and bead bicycle from a street vendor. We hope that we will succeed in keeping this one in one piece. Toad's wooden one is in a few bits and will require some glueing on our return!

From Kalk Bay it was a short ride to Simon's Town and the backpackers. To save a bit of money we are staying in a four person dorm. So far we are the only occupants, so fingers crossed it remains that way.

As we arrived in good time, we settled in and then wandered down to the Boulder's Beach penguin colony. The area is home to several thousand African penguins, which are the only penguin to breed in South Africa. At the time we visited, it also seemed to be home to several thousand Chinese tourists. When they had finished taking pictures of each other using ridiculously expensive cameras (yes I am jealous) they fortuitously for us, had to leave to board their respective buses. At last we had the place almost to ourselves, so we got to watch the penguins in relative quiet.

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With the lack of a decent supermarket in Simon's Town, we eventually had a nice meal in a nearby restaurant. I say eventually, because our waiter somehow managed to get our order 100% wrong, which is quite an achievement! The error was kindly corrected by the kitchen staff and made up for by two free beers.

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It has been another good day and as we are still the only occupants of the dorm, it should be a restful night.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Day 453 South Africa 30/01/2012, Somerset West. Wine tasting, a spot of lunch and a stroll round Stellenbosch.

Setting off this morning we drove first towards the town of Francshhoek and the Boschendal estate. Boschendal is one of the world's longest established 'New World' wine estates. Visiting the manor house (built in 1812) first, we then had a look round the impressive grounds and then headed for a tasting.

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Having timed our arrival with the start of the cellar tours, we decided to go and have a look round. Our guide was very informative and friendly and it was interesting to go and see the processes involved in wine manufacture. Plus it was much cooler in the cellars!

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Having had our tour, we sat down to sample a selection of the estates wines. Obviously used to tourists being unwilling to spit out any wine that they have legitimately paid for, it was quite acceptable to swallow the contents of the glass! Which is just as well, as to anyone in the know watching, it was perfectly obvious that neither of us have any idea, aside from knowing what we like, about wine. We are both fairly confident that we made all the right sloshing movements and correct noises; I suspect we weren't fooling anyone though.

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Having partaken of the grape, we stopped at a pub for lunch before heading to another vineyard. This time we went to another long established estate, Rustenburg. The wine tasting in a smart, very modern building was a bit more of a serious affair than at Boschendal. Instead of choosing six wines that we liked the sound of, a selection was made for us. In general they were all pretty good and in typical fashion the nicest of all (a red), was also the most expensive. For our 25 rand (£2) we got to keep our tasting glasses, which made the whole experience a pretty good deal.

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Deciding that two wineries was enough we stopped in the town of Stellenbosch to have a look round. The centre, especially around Dorf street, is full of attractive buildings and interesting shops. It would be a good place to sit at one of the many roadside restaurants with a glass of wine, watching the world go by. As it was, we had had a pretty full day so started the short drive back to Paul and Penny's.

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A lovely meal with the family, washed down with some wine, one of which Debs had bought from our tasting sessions, rounded off a very good day.

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We hit the road again tomorrow bound for Simon's Town.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Day 452 South Africa 29/01/2012, Betty's Bay – Somerset West. 30.18miles/48.98km, 3hrs, Av 10mph.

With the wind once again in our favour, we set off on what would turn out to be a terrific ride through truly beautiful scenery. The lovely weather had once again brought all of the cyclists out onto the road as well as the motorcyclists. Our journey along the winding, climbing coast road was accompanied by waves and greetings and continually courteous car drivers.

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Having encountered a bit of a headwind as we rounded the bay, we entered a sheltered section and made the most of the multiple view points along the road. We also got our first view of Cape Point, which seems remarkably close now, not to mention a little hilly!

Before too long we were riding down the hill into Gordon's Bay and from there, it was a shorter than we had expected ride to Somerset West.

In fact having negotiated our way through the town without too much difficulty, we arrived outside Paul and Penny's house shortly before midday. Paul and Penny are friends of Larry and Sharon (who we stayed with over new year), and had kindly offered to put us up when we arrived in Somerset West. As we have said countless times, about so many people, their hospitality has been amazing. A lovely lunch, drinks, the welcome use of their pool, our own room and later a nice meal out, at an Italian restaurant in Stellenbosch, was more than we could have expected.

The evening meal was especially good fun as we were joined by Paul and Penny's children Josh and Hannah. Josh has just started at Stellenbosch university (the best in South Africa? I am sure this may be contested by some!), so we had a drive by of some of the buildings and a brief tour of what looks like a very attractive town. On the return journey, we had a drive past the very smart looking school that Hannah attends and then went to experience 'Spook Hill'. It is one of those optical illusion roads where it looks like the road is descending when it is actually climbing. This was demonstrated by a quick release of the handbrake, where we amazingly found ourselves rolling backwards. It was as the name suggests spooky!

Back at the house, we were made the generous offer of the lend of a car, so that we can visit the wine region tomorrow. We had been planning a visit, but had been unsure how we were going to get there. We have obviously accepted the kind offer, so will be going on a tasting tour at a few of the wineries. It has been a terrific day, we hope that our remaining days in South Africa will be as memorable.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Day 451 South Africa 28/01/2012, Hermanus – Bayside Beach House, Betty's Bay. 29.40 miles/47.68km, 2hr39minutes, Av 11.0mph

Another sunny day this morning; it is going to be a bit of a shock to the system when we arrive back home.

After a slightly later start than usual, with shorter rides we see no point in rushing, we headed off along the coast to Betty's Bay. With the wind, for the main part, behind us we sped along the gently rolling road. The coastal scenery was lovely and we saw a return of the much needed hard shoulder. It was a perfect cycling day and by the amount of cyclists we encountered along the road, they must have thought so to.

Making good progress we stopped at a small café for a coffee and then carried on to Kleinmonde, where we picked up some supplies. We weren't altogether confident that there was going to be any decent shops in Betty's Bay and on arrival, it looks like we were correct.

Accompanied by motorbikes and bicycles we rode the last 10km to Betty's Bay and arrived outside Bayside Beach House. Debs had already booked, so we are checked into a basic room with a lovely view of the ocean. We have no real plans to do anything while we are here except relax, have a dip in the pool and have a round of crazy golf. Yes, the hostel has its own, albeit a little run down, 9 hole crazy golf course. We can safely say that both Debs and I are nowhere near threatening the course record; unless the course record is particularly high! It was pretty good fun though, even if the afternoon sun ended any further play. If it stays this warm, the pool will be getting some further use this afternoon.

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We head to Somerset West tomorrow, to stay with some friends of Larry and Sharon. It should be another shortish day, but we may have the wind in our faces for some of the journey. Hopefully it won't be too strong.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Day 450 South Africa 27/01/2012, Hermanus Backpackers, Hermanus. Sightseeing.

This morning we went for a walk along the rather beautiful cliff top walk; heading first west towards the new harbour and then back east towards the old harbour and town centre. The coastline is very dramatic and had it been whale watching season, I am sure the view would have been even more spectacular. Nevertheless it was a very enjoyable, if somewhat warm, stroll.

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Arriving in the town we had a look round the shops and then stopped for a coffee and light lunch. Hermanus has a very nice feel about it, with lots of nice cafés and restaurant/bars along its seafront. Combined with the very good backpackers, it has been an enjoyable stopping off point for us.

Back at the hostel it was straight into the pool to cool off and then a bit of bike maintenance, while Debs got her CV sorted out. The real world is now starting to firmly intrude upon our journey! With only 13 full days left until we fly home, our thoughts are more often on jobs and where we are going to live. For the meantime though we are trying to concentrate on getting to Cape Town. If all goes to plan, we are only 6 days away.

We have another shortish hop tomorrow to Betty's Bay, so we should arrive in good time. Fingers crossed the helpful tailwind stays with us!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Day 449 South Africa 26/01/2012, Gansbaai – Hermanus Backpackers, Hermanus. 29.11miles/46.00km, 2hr55minutes, Av 9.9mph.

A good night's sleep saw us up and ready to face the day. Beautiful sunshine greeted us as we left the town and started a longish climb towards Hermanus. Despite a strongish headwind, we reached the top without too much difficulty and started the ride down to Stanford, approximately the halfway point.


Leaving Stanford we turned west and enjoyed what was now a tailwind as we rode through some beautiful scenery. There were a few more hills than we had expected, but largely we made good progress towards Hermanus.

The nature of the route that we were riding meant that we could see across the bay to where we had come from. It was strange seeing our day's starting point look so close, having cycled considerably further.


Arriving in Hermanus we began the long ride through the town in search of the backpackers. Having almost cycled out the other end of the town, we resorted to phoning them for directions. Fortunately we hadn't gone too far past and were soon being shown a lovely room in their nearby cottage. So far the staff at the backpackers have been terrific, by far the most helpful we have seen for a while. The facilities at the cottage are lovely and we made rapid use of the pool to cool us down after the cycling.


Heading into town for some lunch we ended up at the old harbour. The tapas bar had been recommended to us by the hostel staff so we decided to give it a go. The food was very good and the beer was very cold.

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Thanks to some friendly customers we ended up staying and as a consequence drinking a lot more beer than we had planned. The walk back to the hostel was a bit of a blur, as has been the rest of the evening. Clearly it is time for bed!