Agulhas to Shelly Beach via Cape Town

I confess that I have been very bad. Robn wrote several group letters that I did not post to here. My flimsy excuse is that I was trying to find time to add photos. The way I do it it is fiddly and I seem to keep putting it off, but just to post her email is easy, so here we are.

Robn’s post was written about Sept 11.

I was trying last night after going to bed, to sort out some memories. I remembered a particular ocean front place (no sand) where I dipped my foot in the water curious as to how cold it was. But where, oh where, was it? It was more by process of elimination than actual memory that I decided it was most likely to have been Still Bay. Google Maps satellite took me on a visual tour of Still Bay, and, sure enough, that was it. Confirmed. Memories can sure blur together and get confused. Least ways, mine can, and from what I read and hear, I am not alone.

The water was cold but not too cold. I am sure that a younger me would have been willing to swim in it briefly. Rather like swimming in Washington where there is a bit of shallow still water able to get warmed by the sun. Warmer than Puget Sound. On the other hand, like the shallow still water in WA, the water in which I dipped my toes may have had that same chance to warm up even though there was some activity from the surf flooding and ebbing onto the rocks. All in all a totally useless test of whether the equatorial water coming down the east coast of Africa was still warming the waters.

I was just rereading an e-mail from my sail in 2011 where I mentioned the water temperature dropping from 85 degrees off Durban (!!!) to 55 degrees off Hout Bay. At Agulhas I dipped my foot in the Indian Ocean, walked a few feet, and dipped in the Atlantic – at least according to the plaque there that claims it to be the meeting place of the oceans. Both chillier than Still Bay. I don’t believe I would have ever chosen to go swimming there. I think my brother, Gerry, would have in his polar bear swim days. Don’t know if he still does them.

From Agulhas we had to go inland to stay on paved roads as the dirt roads are simply too full of washboards, pot holes, and gullies. We stopped at Bredasdorp and visited the shipwreck museum. It was mostly your typical collection of stuff retrieved from ship wrecks. But is did include maps with the names of famous shipwrecks and showed how dangerous that entire coast was, with large numbers of wrecks along all of it. I wonder to what degree the sailors feared that coast and to what degree the dangers were so much a part of life that they did not concern themselves. As we do when driving on our highways.

Once heading west again, we spied a column of smoke, dark brown, and called 112 to report it. The drought here is still severe with water levels in the Cape Town reservoirs down to about 32% and the last 10% unusable. They expect one more, hopefully decent, rain before the dry season hits again and lasts until next June or so! With the Knysna fire still fresh in memory, but even if it hadn’t been, it was prudent to verify that the fire authorities were aware of this fire.

The 112 phone was answered by Johannesburg and it took a while to get it rerouted to someone more local who told us that they were in the process of responding to that fire. Not long after, while we were still in range, we saw the smoke turn white, indicating steam. The route was through farm lands with canola or rapeseed probably the most common crop.

We rejoined the coast at Gansbaai. But then had to go back inland again, to get around Marina da Gama which was a huge project to create a housing development with shallow water ways out of a previous ‘lake’ or ‘swamp’ or ‘wet lands’ – I’m not clear what was there before.

Settled into another AirBnB for a couple of rainy days and caught up on computer stuff. Then drove around False Bay, had lunch in Simon’s Town, and continued towards Cape Point, known to sailors as the Cape of Good Hope. Belatedly noticed that our gas tank was getting low but it still said 180 Km to go or thereabouts. We still had 30Km to the point, another 30 to get back to our present location and maybe another 30 to get to a town with a gas station. (We were assuming there was nothing available in the park). So that should only use about half of our fuel and surely they would be conservative and leave you with a reserve, wouldn’t they?

We decided to take a chance and drove another 200 meters to discover a previously unseen entrance to the park. The entrance fee was more than we felt like paying so we changed our minds and headed for Hout Bay. Arrived at the first gas station several Km past where the gas gauge started flashing and no longer gave an estimate and the bars were below the Empty line! We sure won’t trust that info any more. The gas station was closed as they were out of gas! The next one was still open, however, and we tanked up with only a couple liters short of the tank’s capacity. That’s cutting it close.

On the way to Hout Bay we had to travel a toll road. Part of it is carved into the side of the mountain with a rock ceiling and cantilevered out over open space. I think tolls were justified for that road! Tourists in Hout Bay pay the toll just to go up to the view point! Jenny had taken me to the view point so memories were again coming back.

We drove down to the marina and got permission to walk the docks for my memory lane trip. The attendant said that he remembered me and mentioned that there was another widow there on another boat at the time I was there. That rang a bell, although I don’t believe that I ever succeeded in meeting her. The docks were in much better condition than in 2011 and quiet. I have strong memories of a heavy surge for a day or two that was bad enough to make it very dangerous to try to ‘walk’ (lurch) on the heaving docks. This day was calm like the day that I did my first solo – from the fuel dock to my slip, almost a straight shot in perfect conditions.

Then I went looking for Hout Bay Holidays run by Jenny (mentioned above) who had been yet another friend, with whom I have lost contact. She stopped answering my emails about 2012. I found the building, now used by an architect, but no info on Jenny. I then went to my favorite health food place but they were already closed for meals. Lunch only, no dinner.

Continued to yet another AirBnB up in the Cape Town suburbs, which served its purpose, but where I did not feel at home. She said welcome welcome, but all the interior doors including the living room door and the dining room door were closed all the time. We were asked to use the dining room for meals rather than eat in our rooms, which I have no problem with, but somehow that closed door to the dining room made me uncomfortable. Maybe it was because she had also said that we were welcome to use the kitchen – for salad or sandwiches – but not for cooking. She made a point of asking us to conserve water due to the severe drought in Cape Town and then told us to flush the toilet after every use which is the single biggest water waster. We also were not allowed to meet, let alone be friendly with, her 5 dogs!

As I said, the reservoirs are down to almost 30% after two years of drought and the last 10% is not accessible. They are hoping for one more rain before the next 9 months of dry season! One more rain? That’s pretty severe. The town she lives in has the highest rate of ignoring restrictions and the utility is having to install regulators to cut off supply to those who abuse it the most – some consuming 10 times the permitted amount! I ignored her flush every use rule when I felt I could get away with it. To top it off, she has faucets that drip if you aren’t very careful and really should be seen to by a plumber. We did not shower there – figuring we could wait until we were soon back east where there was more water available.

We went to the Slave Lodge Museum, the Botanical Gardens, the Natural Science Museum which were all worth seeing but probably not worth describing unless you need to know whether to go yourself. Also drove north to “view the flowers” which were not as spectacular as we had expected. Kind of like seeing “little brown job” birds that birders get all excited about. Perhaps it just wasn’t ‘our cup of tea’.

Then we went up Table Mountain which certainly does have a lot of spectacular views. They say it is older than the Andes (and Rockies, and Alps). Used to be under water. Mostly granite and some still remaining sandstone.

Needed a couple more days in Cape town than originally planned and our current hostess was only available for one, besides which I’d rather stay somewhere I felt more at home. So we moved a bit south near False Bay and found a much friendlier place where we even got to go for a row on one of those canals mentioned above in Marina da Gama.

Time to head back east. Decided to do it in 3 legs with stops in Plettenberg and East London. First leg was 520 Km and I found driving with the necessary concentration to be tiring, so I’m glad we didn’t opt for longer. Second Leg 510 Km, third 530 Km – all approximate, but worked out well at dividing it fairly evenly. Someone told us that all the little towns are “one day apart by horse and buggy.” Had lunch at Delish Cafe and the dishes were indeed delicious as indicated. Don’t remember any other stops so it must have been an uneventful day.

Day Two we went to the Garden of Eden, had lunch at a Vegan restaurant – 120R for all you can eat but it was Indian. Most options too spicy for me. Still enjoyed it. Visited with our hosts at the AirBnB and relaxed.

Day Three. Did a bank errand before heading off on the next leg. I’m not familiar with local banking practices so I went to the counter to deposit cash into an account. I was informed that there would be a 6% service fee but that I could do it outside at the ATM for far less!!! Huh?? Depositing CASH costs money now? She took the time to find some crisp bills that would give less trouble in the machine and spent MORE time advising and assisting than it would have taken to simply make the deposit! What a crazy world we live in. So I made the deposit outside with the help of yet another bank employee.

Then we were off. Stopped at the “World’s highest Bungee Jump” Google maps says: Bloukrans Bridge Bungee is the world’s highest commercial bridge bungee at 216 meters (709 ft) above the Bloukrans River. It is situated at Bloukrans Bridge on the N2 Highway at the border between the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape in the Tsitsikamma area of South Africa’s Garden Route.

Not far east of there was Stormsrivier bridge. WOW! What a view! The sedimentary layers had been turned upright and worn to create a very uneven landscape but then an earthquake must have caused the deep crevice at right angles to the layers. River at the bottom of the surprisingly narrow cleft. Absolutely stunning.

I find geology fascinating and beautiful. Every where I look I wonder how it all came to be. Makes me wonder what happened in a past life to make me so interested. The sea water seems to be in my blood with my love of cruising, but geology seems to be there too.

We left the highway at Port Elizabeth to go to the Grass Roof Cafe again. On the way (according to Google Maps routing even though we had a sense that it was not the best way) we came across a fire. It was a grass fire just getting started at an intersection, but already a couple hundred square feet. Mostly smoke and embers rather than flames but definitely dangerous and likely to spread given the high winds and dry conditions. Dave tried to stomp it out but quickly realized it was growing faster than he could stomp and came back for water. Meanwhile I was calling 112 and, again, having to wait to get put through to the correct jurisdiction before I could report it. They have no idea where you are calling from. You must tell them a nearby city.

Another car also stopped and attacked the fire with water bottles and several local people showed up on foot with branches with which they beat the fire. By the time I finished telling the fire department about the location I was able to tell them that we appeared to have gotten it out but that they should double check that it didn’t reignite.

So we continued on. A few hundred meters on was another fire! This one was much bigger with actual high flames and we were out of water. Dave went to get the attention of people at the house just downwind of it and I called the fire people back and had to clarify that, yes, I had called before, and no, it was a different fire and much more alive. Then I joined Dave at beating it with branches. Eventually the neighbors joined us but we never got as many fighters as at the previous smaller one. Go figure.

After a while, Dave decided that the bigger threat was now amongst the bushes next to the burnt and burning grass and went inside stomping on flames with his shoes since there was no room to swing a branch. He asked me to point out anything I saw since his view was obscured. Yeah, right next to your foot! Where? Right there. Where? It must be under that branch. From where I was, it looked like it wasn’t under it but it was apparently on the opposite side of his line of sight. Got it out. Then the fire department showed up and took over. So we went and had our lunch wondering if the universe had sent us by that route to be sure we could help with the fires. Boy, did we smell of smoke!

After lunch we had the usual driving of everything from 20Kph to 120Kph depending on whether we were stuck behind a heavy truck on a steep hill or not. Then it got even slower! Decided there must have been an accident. Yup. Luckily I don’t think anyone would have been severely hurt by what we saw. It was a regular truck (not semi) but was pulling two trailers. It was loaded with a lot of huge empty water storage tanks and the windage exceeded the ballast. It had flipped over onto its side in a one vehicle accident but was across the entire 2 lane road. Cars were able to go (carefully) onto the slanted shoulder to get around it but the bigger rigs were stuck waiting for the wreck to get cleared.

Between the empty water tanks and the fires, it was after dark by the time we arrived in East London so we stopped for supper before the restaurants all closed since the remainder of the drive would be in the dark whether we ate or not. We still stank of smoke so we were even more appreciative of our showers than usual.

Day four was pretty uneventful. Animals were in the road occasionally as usual but not a problem. This time through the Transkei we could see gardens so that answered my earlier question as to whether we didn’t see any simply because it had been winter.

Settled into a different AirBnB that turned out to be no closer to my friend’s new place than if we had stayed at the first place but it was, at least, cheaper. What I can’t figure out for the life of me is why it had NO towels nor soap – especially dish soap. We were warned that dirty dishes would cost us 200R (15$) and we were not warned (contrary to the host’s claim) that we would need to buy (or bring) soap. AirBnB clearly said that towels and soap are included.

They did notify me that there were no towels provided – after the booking was confirmed – in an email attachment I had not noticed, attached to the key instructions. The place had all sorts of extras like plastic picnic table settings as well as regular. There were plenty of good pots and pans, 30 clothes hangers, a vacuum cleaner, an ironing board and iron, etc. Even a washing machine! But no towels. When I e-mailed the host (in another city) she seemed miffed that I expected any. She stated unequivocally that they are not included and she had told me so. But, I had to go to the earlier email and discover that there was an attachment. Can anyone provide any logic for this? They did provide sheets, which would need to be laundered, and toilet paper. Most places give us about eight or ten pillows. For what? We have to find a safe place to store them.

The previous place in this town had also not come with towels until asked, but they did happily provide them on request. I still don’t understand the lack of default inclusion. No where else, only in Shelly Beach.

That was back on the 2nd, so I am still a week behind but this seems a good stopping point. Dave will try to get the photos more up to date. We have Internet here and the phone internet is much less expensive here, too, in Cairo.

Robn and Dave


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