We had booked the Baz Bus to travel round South Africa in, which is a backpacker bus service that picks you up from your hostel door and takes you to your next hostel (or hostel shuttle). As we wouldn't have a car and we weren't sure how safe the public transport would be (which we later found out there wasn't any anyway) we thought it would be the safest and easiest way to travel around. The Baz Bus had about 40 stops along the coast of South Africa from Cape Town to Johannesburg, and all we had to do was pick the next stop we wanted to go to. It actually made deciding where you were going next much easier than when we were in Asia as it limited our options!
The bus picked us up from Cape Town at 7.30am and after a 4 hour journey we were picked up by the hostel shuttle and driven to our next hostel in Hermanus.
I got a really nice vibe from Hermanus, I immediately loved the place. The hostel was really nice with loads of sofa's, and its own bar in the garden. We had booked a double room so once we checked in, went for a walk around town.
We had primarily gone to Hermanus for shark cage diving, and although we had a trip booked for the next day we had been warned the last few days had been cancelled due to the weather so were waiting to see if ours would go ahead. Unfortunately shortly after we arrived we were told it had been cancelled and so spent the next couple of hours rearranging the plans we had over the next few weeks so that we could stay in Hermanus longer, and hopefully go shark diving when the weather cleared up. We went for lunch in a really nice 'Zebra' cafe and formulated our plan. Although I really liked Hermanus, apart from restaurants and walks there wasn't much else to do and we didn't want to just sit around wasting time and waiting for the dive, so we organised hiring a car to explore round the area for a couple of days while we waited.
The hostel offered a braai (BBQ) dinner so after we'd got everything sorted we headed back to our hostel for a nap and waited for the massive steak and home made chips to be served up! The hostel was quite busy and that night there was a bit of a party in the garden bar so we spent the evening chatting to randoms, mostly an English couple Chris and Kate, and drinking wine. It was a nice evening.
Something else that Hermanus is famous for is whale watching, whales come right up near the cliff along the coast in the winter so the next morning we went for a walk in search of whales. We had been warned that it was still early season so they may not be many about but we must have got lucky as we saw loads! We found a path that went along the cliff edge and about 10 minutes along the path there were loads of whales, 2 of which were only about 20 meters out to sea, and they hung around for ages. That saved us £50 each on a whale watching boat tour! :-)
After a nice lunch and a bit of shopping I went off to have my hair cut (something I'd needed for ages but hadn't had time!) and arranged to meet Grant at the car hire place later. My hairdresser was lovely, a typical South African, really friendly and quite loud, but didn't listen to anything I said about my hair and cut loads off, saying it would look better!! Surprising actually she was right, and although it was quite short (well short for me) I really liked it!
I met up with Grant at the car hire place and drove off in our little Micra for an explore. We ended up finding a nice pub/restaurant in the new port and a few beers and some sushi snack later we went back to the hostel to cook ourselves a lovely ostrich bolognaise for dinner and catch up on our blog notes.
The next day we were up and out about 11am ready for a day in the car. We checked out of the hostel thinking that it would give us more flexibility of staying somewhere else if we found somewhere we liked and set off. As we knew we'd see quite a lot of the coast over the next few weeks we drove in land to the more remote towns of Stanford, Swellendam and Montagu, where we stopped for a picnic lunch in a national park. It was good to get a different view of South Africa but all of the towns we visited seemed pretty boring, the highlight was probably in Swellendam where we stumbled across a random fairy house, which was basically someone's house and they put loads of fairy ornaments in the garden and turned the inside into a shop that sells everything fairy! A bit random, but was quite funny! Next we drove round Route 62, which is a famous nice drive in the middle of SA but we weren't overly impressed with that either and couldn't see anywhere we wanted to stay so decided to drive back to the hostel in Hermanus. They were pretty busy by the time we got back so we checked into a separate cottage they owned across the road, and were immediately accosted by 2 very chatty saffers who wanted to know all about us! We had planned to go out for dinner in town but they kept asking us what we were up to and did we want to hang out with them. We couldn't really understand what they were saying most of the time which made 2 way conversation difficult (not that they would let us get a word in anyway!) and didn't really want to spend the evening with them but couldn't see a way of getting out of it, luckily they also started talking to 2 German couples staying in the cottage (who must have been able to understand them less than us!) so managed to escape over to the main building. It was pretty late by then and we didn't want to walk into town so booked a taxi, which when it arrived, turned out to be a tuk tuk! Was quite cute!
When we got home the saffer couple clearly hadn't missed us as they were having a party in the front room with the Germans! Sounded pretty rowdy as well so they obviously had got over the language barrier! We managed to sneak past without being seen (how sociable of us) and chilled out in our room instead.
The next day we were up early for another day of driving. We had booked a dorm room for the next 2 nights to make up for spending money on the car, and so moved our stuff into a dorm in the main building and headed off in the car. Today's trip was along the coast after discovering that inland was boring, ending up in Cape Aguilas the southerly most point of Africa. On the way we took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up down a dirt track doing 20km an hour for about 2 hours so although we got to see some of the countryside it took us slightly longer to get there than we planned! We had to have the car back by 5 and didn't want to give it back in the state the dirt track had made it so went rain chasing on the way home to wash it off! Quite funny! Luckily it poured down just as we were getting back, then stopped when we had to walk back to the hostel! Lucky us :-)
For dinner we headed back to the pub we had found in the harbour. Last time we were there we had noticed it was half price pizza's on Sunday evenings so thought it would be rude not to give it a try! We sat by the fire in the pub (was still pretty cold) and ate lovely massive pizza's while people watching. There was a live band and everyone in the pub seemed to be having a whale of a time, most of them were completely battered!! We weren't drinking as we had shark diving booked in the morning so after our pizza's grabbed the tuk tuk back home for an early night.
We got up in the morning full of excitement to go shark diving only to find out it was cancelled again!!! I started to think someone was trying to tell us something and we should just give up on the idea all together! Grant still really wanted to do it tho, so once again we spent the morning rearranging plans and booked to stay in the hostel for another couple of days. By this time we'd actually become quite good friends with the owners and all the staff and didn't really mind hanging around for a few more days anyway, it had started to feel like home! :-)
Trying to find something to do now we didn't have the car anymore, the owner suggested a nice walk along the edge of a hill not too far away. Doing some exercise sounded like a good idea so he gave us a lift to the start of the walk and we headed off. The hill walk took you round the back of Hermanus then back into town, it was a pretty nice view and well worth doing. To reward ourselves for the walk when we got into town we had a nice, and large, lunch in the local bakery before heading home for a nice relaxed afternoon and evening in the hostel.
Finally the next day we managed to go shark diving!! It was well worth hanging around for. I wasn't planning on getting in the cage and was just going to watch from the boat but somehow watched myself get changed into a wet suit and line up to get in the cage! After hanging around for a week, and having to pay the full amount to go on the anyway, I thought I might as well! The water was freezing and as soon as I got in it hit me that I was in a cage, hung onto the side of a boat in the middle of the sea which was god knows how deep, and god knows what was under me! I've never been a fan of deep water, or the sea in general and so when I suddenly realised what I was doing I had a mini panic attack in the freezing water!! Not wanting to ruin Grant's experience luckily I managed to fairly quickly snap myself out of it and waited in the cold water for the sharks to try and get me! In reality the shark part wasn't scary at all, they don't tent to come that close and they pay no attention to you in the cage, they just want the bait. After about 20 minutes, and 3 shark sightings later, we'd had our turn and were told to get out, but to stay in our wet suits if we wanted another go later. One time was enough for me tho and I was out of my wet suit as soon as I got back in the boat! You actually saw more from the boat anyway, you can't see much under water so I quite enjoyed sitting on the top deck watching the sharks round the boat. I thought I'd find that scary too, but I didn't at all! After a while it was Grant's turn to get back in the cage while I stayed up top and took photos. The best sighting was right at the end when a shark took the bait and then got stuck on the side of the cage right in front of where Grant was! We were all screaming in the boat as we couldn't see what was going on and didn't know if someone had got in the sharks way or what! Luckily everyone was OK, and all got out of the cage feeling very exhilarated! I got a brilliant video of it all! :-)
The shark tour gave us lunch back on shore while they tried to flog us a video, after which we headed back to the hostel full of beans, to spend a lovely chilled afternoon in the sunny garden before eating steak and chips from the braii and drinking the evening away by the fire with the hostel workers we'd got to know quite well and some other guests.
In the morning we treated ourselves to a nice lay in. We couldn't leave Hermanus as the Baz bus didn't go every day and this was one of the days it didn't go so we had to hang round for another day. We went for a walk and tried to find more whales, but there wasn't any about, we obviously were lucky to see them the first day!
When we got back from our walk we had a nice surprise when the hostel owner gave us a free upgrade for our last night as we'd been there for so long! Bless them! They said we could pick any room we want so after a quick look at them all we went for a nice double en suite room in the garden.
In the afternoon we went on a town ship tour to see how people lived in the shanty towns. We were introduced to Willie who was an elder in the township and was shown round by him. It was good to see how people lived, but I did feel a bit awkward. Everyone stared at us, they left us alone as we were with Willie (I was sticking to him like glue!) But I felt very out of place. It was like I was saying 'hi, I'm just here to see how poor you are! Oh and do you and if I take a photo as proof?' I tried not to take too many photos, but the kids in the township loved it when you took photos of them and showed it to them on the screen so I ended up taking loads! Every time kids came near us Willie told us to take a photo! We were paying for the tour, we paid Willie directly so we knew the township would get the money, but I'm not sure what Willie does with it. Presumably as he is an elder, and the township people put up with us traipsing through their town, it must do them some good somehow! The tour went on for longer than expected and it was getting quite dark by the time we got picked up by the hostel shuttle, I was pretty relieved to be leaving!!
That evening we wanted to make the most of our last evening in Hermanus so went into town for dinner at a place that had been recommended by the hostel, before going home and packing, ready to actually be able to leave!!