Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Garden, some Big Rocks and a Monument

Last Saturday we visited Babylonstoren, one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms and now rather famous for its big, well planned and interesting garden (see some good aerial pictures of the garden here on their website). We also checked out Paarl Rock and climbed Bretagna Rock in the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve, then had a lovely full moon picnic at the Afrikaans Language Monument ('Die Taal Monument') with friends.

Babylonstoren farm dates as far back as 1692, and with its eight acre garden as a focus point it is now a venue with two restaurants, a Hotel and Spa, a Farm Shop, etc. The gardens are divided into 15 sections whch contain different fruits, berries, plants and lawns, with interesting features such as a prickly pear maze, a hanging pumpkin tunnel and a Mulberry Meditation corner.

Patterns of lettuce. 

The prickly pear maize - we doubt anyone would try to cheat in here.  

Mom got some inspiration for her future garden. 

And I got some photography inspiration. 

A tiny sleeping hedgehog found in the 'Almonds and Bees' section. 

Family picture with the hanging pumpkins (it really is pumpkins). 

The 'Puffadder', just an interesting shadow tunnel. 

The enclosed Mulberry Meditation corner. 

'Kalkoene en pampoene' (turkeys and pumpkins). 

Then we drove to the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve, where we had a good view of the Paarl from suitably named Paarl Rock.

(Click to view large). 

 Maarten with a canon they used in the old Cape signalling system. 

Looking up at Bretagna Rock. 

My two 'Supermen'. 

Then came the topmost Bretagna Rock and Gordon's Rock. It was a very short but slippery walk up, and we only realized the size of these solid granite rocks when we got there.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Table Mountain, a Castle, and Camps Bay

Last Saturday we once again donned our tourist hats, and set out to explore some of the most popular tourist destinations in South Africa. We climbed up Table Mountain, took the Cable Car down, checked out the Castle of Good Hope, visited the old Company Gardens and even tried swimming in the freezing (but beautiful blue) Benguela ocean current at Camps Bay. 

The most popular tourist destination city in South Africa is Cape Town, but what makes Cape Town so special is Table Mountain, the curiously flat 'Guardian of the South'.

There are many hiking trails on top of the mountain itself, but one first has to get up there... Most people take the easy way out and ride the Cable Car up and down the mountain, but we decided to hike up Platteklip Gorge instead, and only take the Cable Car down. We were very glad about the Cable Car once we were on top though - the climb was only about 3 km, but it took us an exhausting 2 hours! 

Just started. 

About halfway up the gorge. 

The view was fantastic. 

We were very fortunate with the weather; there was barely a breeze, which is unusual for the Cape (and mountains). 

Headed down on the Cable Car, we had a good view of Lion's Head (on the left of the picture) and Signal Hill (which is supposed to be the rump of the lion). We also heard the Noon Gun firing at 12:00 pm from Signal Hill, which it has been doing every day for 110 years (since 1806). 

The mechanics of the Cable Car, imported from Switzerland. 

We made a quick stop at Signal Hill for some pictures. 

Next up was the Castle of Good Hope. Built in the 17th century by the Dutch East India Company, it is the oldest colonial building in South Africa, and is still serving as a military building today.  

This bell tower was added by Simon van der Stel (Governor of the Cape) in 1684 (made from yellow, imported Dutch bricks). 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Both Sides of False Bay

Last weekend turned out most eventful, with 3 different outings Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We were all exhausted and agreed not to overload weekends again, but it was worth seeing both sides of False Bay since we are living here now for 2 months.

Google Maps to the rescue - False Bay (click image to enlarge).

Friday we went for a short 2-hour hike in Helderberg Nature Reserve (which is really close to where we live). It is a beautiful Reserve and we will visit it again.

View over the Strand, Somerset West and Gordon's Bay. 

Stunning King Proteas. 

Saturday we drove along the coast with friends through Muizenberg, Fish Hoek and Simon's Town into the Table Mountain National Park, where we stopped at Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope (these are 2 different places right next to each other, don't get confused between them).

In Simon's Town we checked out a Toy Museum. It was well worth it - everything from trains, dolls and detailed figures to a miniature circus were there. 

Inside the Table Mountain National Park - you can see the Dias Monument as a white speck against the ocean. 

An exhibition at the Information Center. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

New Year's Eve 2015/2016, Cape Town Waterfront

As the end of 2015 approached, we were visiting family in McGregor (whom we will be seeing again soon) and getting ready for the cultural experience of the year. Cape Town is one of the biggest cities in South Africa, and the most popular tourist city as well. The Waterfront was hosting a massive New Year's Festival, and we decided to go. 

Picking up where I left off in the previous post, we left Swellendam on the 30th and visited distant family in McGregor, a beautiful little town in the Riviersonderend Mountains. 

The Tradouw Pass on the way to McGregor. 

Lunch at a lovely restaurant next to the road (effective advertising as 'lunch in a vineyard').

On the 31st we left for Paarl where we had a place to stay after the party.

Many vineyards - the Cape Winelands. 

Once in Cape Town, we checked out the Two Oceans Aquarium.

Quick snack before we start with a look out onto a section of the harbor. 

"Oh hey Nemo".

Box jellyfish. 

Mermaid's Purse (we could see the developing sharks move inside). 

Honeycomb Moray Eel stare competition. 

One mad Samurai Crab. 


Friday, January 8, 2016

Swellendam, Struisbaai and Southern Tip (of Africa) In One

We are on the move again. Names of places in South Africa often get very interesting, considering the variety of languages it originated from – from Hotagterklip to Suurbraak, Barrydale, and Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa. Here is some of what we did and where we were 28 to 31 December, 2015.

On December 28 we left the Kammanassie and drove to Swellendam, where we pitched tent for 2 nights. On the day of arrival, we tackled Swellendam (the third oldest district in South Africa) as proper tourists and visited the Drostdy Museum (check out their website).

The Langeberg mountain range (literally translated 'long mountains'). Picturesque views. 

The massive church in Swellendam. 

The Drostdy Museum's main building - typical old Cape architecture.  

Lock picking - an old safe with 3 different keys and locks. 


The Craftman's Yard, where old trades were exhibited and explained. Did you know that making casks used to be a highly specialized trade called coopering ('kuiper' in Afrikaans)?