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Hermanus 1

Hermanus was originally named Hermanuspieterfontein after an itinerant teacher from the 1830’s who grazed sheep near a fresh water spring in what is now Westcliff. Fishermen from Hawston started to settle here more than 150 years ago but the town gradually became known as a holiday resort and grew into the main coastal centre of the Overberg.

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I am going to do 2 posts on Hermanus as there is a lot to see and do there and I have taken a lot of photos which I hope you find interesting.

I first started going to Hermanus about 45 years ago and boy has it changed over the years in comparison to a place such as Arniston which is further east along the coast . In those days Hermanus and Arniston had the same kind of feel – holiday, fishing village, sea side places, although Hermanus was even then quite a bit larger than Arniston. Now days Hermanus is a bustling, much larger and more modern town and for me has lost much of the charm that still exists at Arniston.

View of the old harbour from Gearing Point.
View of the old harbour from Gearing’s Point.

Monument housing the roll of honour for those from the area who perished in the 1st and 2nd World wars.

Monument housing the roll of honour for those from the area who perished in the 1st and 2nd World wars.

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Plaque for the Old Harbour which was for many years the centre of a thriving fishing industry.

Hermanus now has a vibrant tourism industry, boasts a large number of art galleries and restaurants and is, amongst others, home to an annual whale festival in September. From June to November, especially the area around the Old Harbour and Gearing’s Point offers excellent opportunities for watching whales which often come to within meters of the rocks.

Gearing's Point which is ideal for whale watching.
Gearing’s Point which is ideal spot for whale watching in season.

Unfortuneatly I was there at the wrong time of the year so this statue had to make do.
Unfortunately I was there at the wrong time of the year so this statue had to make do.

One of the stalls at the thriving open air market.
One of the stalls at the thriving open air market.

There are 3 museums in the Old Harbour area and 1 ticket gets you into all 3.
There are 3 museums in the Old Harbour area and 1 ticket gets you into all 3.

Another of the 3 museums.
Another of the 3 museums.

Part of a whale skeleton at the entrance to the Whale Museum.
Part of a whale skeleton at the entrance to the Whale Museum.

You can hire this guy to give you a guided tour. It was a really hot day and business was slow so he was having a break.
You can hire this guy to give you a guided tour. It was a really hot day and business was slow so he was having a break.

Most of the action takes place around the Old Harbour area and that is where you find all the great restaurants, art galleries and curio shops that Hermanus is well known for.

Some great restaurants.
Some great restaurants.

Part of the main tourist area.
Part of the main tourist area.

There are also many hotels and B&B's in the Old Harbour Area and many more in the older part of Hermanus.
There are also many hotels and B&B’s in the Old Harbour Area and many more in the older part of Hermanus.

As I said at the beginning of this post Hermanus is a really interesting place to visit and there is much to show and comment on. For this first part of my visit I have tried to cover what the average tourist would  get to see if they came for a 1 day visit and will show more in my next post.

Betty’s Bay.

Just a few km’s down the R44 from Pringle Bay is the village of Betty’s Bay which also lies in the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve. Only an hour’s drive from Cape Town, Betty’s Bay is a picturesque seaside village situated along the scenic Clarence Drive Route (R44).  The pretty town is positioned in a narrow strip of land between the Kogelberg Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, and bordered by fresh water lakes and the Palmiet River.

This part of the world is considered the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom due to the exceptional examples of fynbos and has largely remained unspoilt and isolated. Although the Cape Floral Kingdom is the smallest of the world’s six plant kingdoms, it nevertheless has the 2nd largest diversity. The reserve stretches along the coast from Gordon’s Bay through to the town of Kleinmond and inland from the farms of the Elgin Basin through to Grabouw – a total of some 100,000 ha.

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Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens.

Harold Porter Gardens.
Harold Porter Gardens.

The botanical garden of Harold Porter, which stretches from the mountain-top down to the sea, is known as ‘little Kirstenbosch’ and contains some of the best examples of local fynbos, including proteas, restios and over 50 species of ericas.

Because I was trying to cover so much in 1 day I did not have a chance to go in to the gardens and have a walk around. I have been there on 3 or 4 other occasions and it is really worth the time and effort to spend a few hours there and if fit enough take a hike up to the waterfall and pool. Truly beautiful.

My next visit was to take a drive down to Stony Point and have a look at the African Penguin  colony which I had not seen before.

Info on Stony Point Penguins.
Info on Stony Point Penguins.

The penguin colony at Stony Point is one of four mainland colonies in South Africa and declared a municipal nature reserve in July 2002.The best time of day to view them is in the late afternoon, when the penguins return from fishing.

Stony Point.
Stony Point.

They have built a viewing walk way to make it easier to view the penguins.
They have built a viewing walk way to make it easier to view the penguins.
A few of the over 4,000 African Pnguins at Stony Point.
A few of the over 4,000 African Penguins at Stony Point.

It was a hot day so some were taking advantage of the the water showers provided for them to keep cool.
It was a hot day so some were taking advantage of the the water showers provided for them to keep cool.

The old concrete tower that housed the light to guide the boats into Stony Pint Harbour.
The old concrete tower that housed the light to guide the boats into Stony Point Harbour.

All that is left of the "Una" which was built in 1890 and was scuttled here to form part of the jetty.
All that is left of the “Una” which was built in 1890 and was scuttled here to form part of the jetty.

There is also a Cafe come restaurant come meuseum come art gallery at Stoney Point and well worth a visit.
There is also a café come restaurant come museum come art gallery at Stony Point and well worth a visit.

Fritz Von Wustenhoff who owns the Southern Cross Cafe is a mine of information about the area.

Fritz Von Wustenhoff who owns the Southern Cross Café is a mine of information about the area.

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There are some pretty sizeable houses along the road at Betty's Bay

One of quite a few galleries that I spotted.

One of quite a few gallery's that I spotted.

As I said of Pringle Bay I just wish I had had more time to explore  as I know that there are some beautiful beaches and many guest houses in the area.

Silver Sands and Hangklip dunes lie to the west of Stony Point offering a beach of over four kilometres and great kite surfing opportunities. The beach is also good for picnics, swimming and surfing. Jock’s Bay and Shelly Beach, close to the Harold Porter garden, offer the younger generation better paddling and shell collecting opportunities

Alexander Bay to Elands Bay – The Lows

I have been back in Cape Town for a week and had some time to think about my trip through the Richtersveld, Namaqualand and the West Coast. There are still so many more places that I want to visit on my voyage of discovery as my original aim was to travel the whole of the SA coast over a 3 year period. So after 2 months of my journey is this still what I want to do?

I am going to start with the lows as most of these occurred  at the beginning of my trip and, apart from one or two problems later on, the majority of my journey was great.

The biggest low for me was the problem of my new deep freeze which just did not do the job. I had bought a lot of frozen food before I left Cape Town as I was not sure what would be available, and at what cost, in some of the small towns I was going to. Having to throw away over R500.00 worth of food was a real downer. This  happened at Brandkaros which is 27 km’s from Alexander Bay. The drive to Brandkaros was also a low as the road was terrible for towing a standard caravan and caused some pretty heavy damage.

My site at Brandkaros

My site at Brandkaros

One of the worst problems I had at Brandkaros was the troop of about 30 monkeys that came into the park everyday and caused chaos by over turning the rubbish  bins  and jumping on the caravan and tent. The first time it happened I just wanted to pack up and leave.

Not one of my favourite animals.

Not one of my favourite animals.

I did find out, after a day or two, that they did not like the crackling sound of the shock-stick that I had with me.

I found that some of the caravan parks were badly run down and poorly maintained with the worst part being the ablution blocks. Some of them are appalling and here I think of Brandkaros, McDougalls Bay, Lamberts Bay and Elands Bay. If only the managers or owners of these parks knew how much caravanner’s talk amongst themselves about the parks and basically judge them on the ablution facilities. A prime example of this was Kamieskroon that everyone raved about, which had very average sites but fantastic ablutions.

Brandkaros ablutions. Really bad but I was told just before I left that they were budgeting on spending quite a bit of money to upgrade them.

Brandkaros ablutions. Really bad but I was told, just before I left, that they were budgeting quite a bit of money to upgrade them.

McDougalls Bay Holiday Resort.

McDougalls Bay Holiday Resort?

McDougalls Bay ablution block.

McDougalls Bay ablution block.

What a place of contrasts. The site was the most run-down and yet was the most expensive  on the first night that I stayed there as it was “in season” and cost me R123.00. You can not leave anything outside as people just walk up off the beach and steal. They also have a big problem with beggars. Even when I went back there after Brandkaros they wanted to over charge me. McDougalls Bay itself is stunning and it is such a pity that they do not do more with the caravan park.

Lamberts Bay Caravan Park.

Lamberts Bay Caravan Park.

Elands Bay Caravan Park.

Elands Bay Caravan Park.

I stayed at Lamberts Bay but not at Elands Bay and have put them together as they both fall under the same name and telephone number for information and management. Lamberts Bay is bad but from what I saw Elands Bay is shocking. Sadly both have been badly neglected. I say sadly because with good management and an injection of funds by the municipality both have the potential to attract a lot of people into the area all year round.

Lamberts Bay Harbour

Lamberts Bay Harbour

I enjoyed the town of Lamberts Bay but found the street sellers and beggars to be very aggressive and make life very unpleasant.

Something that I can not understand is the inconsistency of  pricing at the  parks. I paid from a low of R45.00 per night at Kamieskroon to R123.00 per night at McDougalls Bay. As I said Kamieskroon was great McDougalls Bay not!! One thing I did pick up on was that where there was competition  the better and less expensive the sites were.

Overall not too many lows and I know that when I post the highs they will be strongly in the majority.

Strandfontein & Caravan Park.

The thing to understand about Strandfontein is that it is not a town but a holiday resort. I found it quite a strange place as a result of this. Nothing was quite real, it all seemed a bit false,  too perfect. Maybe the 2 photos below will illustrate my point.

Everything looks perfect...
Everything looks perfect…
Untill one looks closley.
Until one looks closely.

Is this to make money or keep certain people out?

Is this to make money or keep certain people out?

It is a gated community – pay to  get in as a day tripper and there is even a boom at the entrance to the resort  which to be honest was up all the time I was there but I bet in season they make use of it. Maybe its just me and everyone else loves the place but I found it bland with no soul or spirit. My feelings were confirmed when I had a chat to people who live just down the road at Doringbaai as they had heard others  say similar things. As I said I am sure most love it!

Living on the edge?
Living on the edge?

Some of the rock formations were fascinating.
Some of the rock formations were fascinating.
Looking accross the beach.
Looking across the beach. as you can see most of the houses are pretty modern.
Looking accross the beach from the othr side.
Looking across the beach from the other side.

Being from Cape Town I got quite homesick when I saw these name. I actually live in a suburb called Noordhoek. This is about the only shop in the resort.

Being from Cape Town I got quite homesick when I saw these names. I actually live near Kommetjie. This is the only shop I saw in the resort.

The caravan park is laid out in 2 sections. On the beach front is block “A” which is the most expensive and then further back is what is call “Perdeskoen” (Horseshoe).

The section of the park I stayed in.

The section of the park I stayed in.

The park is laid out at different levels in the shape of a horeshoe.

The park is laid out at different levels in the shape of a horseshoe.

My set-up.

My set-up.

As you can see nice green grassed site and the little white building on the right was my own private ablution block. The prices over weekends are pretty steep for someone like me travelling on my own at R125.00 per night but reasonable during the week at R75.00. I worked out later that the only reason I got  private ablutions was that otherwise they would have had to open the main block just for one person. One complaint is that they spent quite a bit of money setting this up and then go and use the cheapest, nastiest plastic toilet seats they could find. Also, if you do end up at Strandfontein, make sure to check the ablutions before you set-up as a few annoyed caravanner’s  had to move when they found they had no hot water.

View from the sea front "A" block of the park.

View from the sea front "A" block of the park.

Not so safe bathing?

Not so safe bathing? There is however a tidal pool.

There are also some nice looking chalets for hire.

There are some nice looking chalets for hire.

So would I go back to Strandfontein, if after reading this they would let me back in, yes if I was travelling with 2 or 3 others who were paying there own way. I am really starting to get annoyed at the inconsistency of pricing in the caravan park industry. For me 2 of the nicest parks I have stayed in, Springbok and Kamieskroon, have charged me R60.00 and R45.00 per night respectively as they have concessions for people on there own and also if you are over 60 years old. I stopped in at Clanwilliam on my way through to Lamberts Bay and was told I would have to pay R150.00 per night and no concessions. Something is not right!!

The Springbok Caravan Park

There are 2 caravan parks in Springbok. The one I mentioned in my first post here is the Kokerboom Motel and Caravan Park and the other is The Springbok Caravan Park. Both are situated just outside of Springbok but that is where the similarities end.

The Springbok Caravan Park is by far the more popular of the two and the main reasons are position – not smack bang next to the national road – and the really nice clean, well functioning  ablution block. The manager is a young guy who seems to keep a beady eye on what is going on, not like many of the other park manager who don’t seem to give a damn, and they are upfront about what is and is not tolerated regarding noise after 10pm. The rules of the park are in bold typed notices stuck up in the ablution blocks for all to see and read.

The Entrance.

The Entrance.

As you can see there is a laundry which has 3 washing machines and a tumble dryer. I got the impression that some of the residents of Springbok also make use of these facilities. I did 2 loads of washing for R20.00 and had my ironing done by one of the friendly ladies who would only charge me R35.00 for the lot. The door on the right is to a small self-contained flat which is also for hire.

The Ablution Block.

The Ablution Block.

Everything was keep nice and clean, toilet paper was supplied – it took me about 2 days to get out of the habit of taking my own – and the showers not only had plenty of hot water,  hooks to hang your things on but also had sliding shower doors so that all your goods did not get sopping wet. What a difference compared to the other parks  I had been to previously.

Well maintained and clean swimming pool

Well maintained and clean swimming pool

Popular section of the park. Check out the back drop!

Popular section of the park. Check out the back drop!

The  set up closest to the camera on the right hand side had a rig worth over R800,00.00.

My set-up.

My set-up.

If I had to criticise one thing it would be that I thought the sites were a bit cramped and close to one another.

They also have chalets/rondawels most of which were occupied all the time I was there.

They also have chalets/rondawels most of which were occupied all the time I was there.

Old converted ox wagon.

Old converted ox wagon.

Spoke to a young couple who slept one night in it and they said it was fine but a bit cramped.

View of caravan park.

View of caravan park.

This shot was taken mid morning so many of the campers had already left.

I enjoyed my 5 day stay at the Springbok Caravan Park. A lot of people only come in for one night on their way to or from Namibia or the Richtersfelt but there were a few, like myself, who used it as a base for a few days to explore Springbok and it’s surrounds. If I had to rate it out of 5 stars I would give it 3½.

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