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Cape Town and Western Cape, October 2014

We live in Pretoria, which is just north of Johannesburg. On the other end of the country is Cape Town, in the southwest corner of the country. Cape Town (and the province, Western Cape) is a different world than most of the rest of the country... more cosmopolitan, better educated, not controlled by the African National Congress (ANC), and more tourists (*). Heidi and I have both had short trips to Cape Town, but we haven't spent a lot of time in the area. So, when break time came at school, we decided it was time to spend a week down there. After taking the 2-hour flight to Cape Town, we stayed in Simon's Town with the penguins for a few nights, and then moved to Hermanus for a few more with the whales and sharks.

(*) Except for people going on safari, much of which is closer to our end than the Western Cape.


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Simon's Town and Penguins

First stop was the African Penguin (*) colony at Boulder Beach in Simons Town. There are two places where you can see them in town: a large colony inside the national park (no touching!), and a smaller colony on a public beach (where you can swim with them). We went to the national park first.

(*) Formerly known as , although for some reason they've been renamed.

There are hundreds of them here. There's also a nice long boardwalk to visit them.
This pair of fuzzy penguins (I assume babies) was squawking for a long time! 15 minutes later, their parents (I think) came by and visited, but no presents of herring.
Molting penguins.
Only one penguin was inventive to carry something in its mouth: a fancy stick!
NB: When I was young, I saw the penguins at Phillip Island in Australia. Those were well known for running like clocks: at 7:42 PM, the beach will be empty, and at 7:43, it will be covered with hundreds of penguins coming home from fishing to sleep for the night.

I don't know if the penguins here follow any of the same behavior; I didn't notice it.

The colony here is quite new -- 40 years ago, there were no penguins. They're kept safe here, and the numbers total around 2000, a bit down from their high of 3000 several years ago. It's affected by the seal and fish populations.

Here, you see the fancy houses that they live in!

You must not touch the penguins, even if you are tempted.

"Don't touch or feed the penguins – they may look cute and cuddly but their beaks are as sharp as razors and if they feel threatened they have no qualms about nipping the odd finger or nose."

Astro is very tempted.
The penguins are also very tempted.
Actually, they both gave in to temptation. Guess who ended up with the bloody finger?
Swimming with penguins. Or at least, "swimming in the water where penguins were a few minutes ago, watching them above me."

This is on the other beach (the public one), where the birds don't mind if you enter the water with a big camera.

Piper and I are swimming around the water.
Oh -- hang on. No, I'm swimming around by myself, and Piper is standing on a rock saying "It's too cold! OK, I'm going to get in now. No, it's too cold! Can I do it? I know what I'll do : I'm going to wait 5 minutes and then do it. Well, maybe I'll just put a toe in. I don't know... I really want to come in, but -- what do you think I should do? OK, I'll just get -- no..."

Night-time Penguin-watching

Our house is the one with the deck upstairs. Piper and I have come out to walk the 100 yards down to the beach and look for penguins. We don't have to go far.

Apparently they love to sleep in the street drains too, not unlike raccoons.

Penguins are loud! I know that because there are dozens of them in the garden next to us at night! This one has apparently been romping through the dandelions, Opus-style.
On the beach at night...
Check out that kelp!
Clue! What kind of animal made these footprints?
Just some penguins under a palm tree.
We headed down to the Cape of Good Hope. Despite what people think, it's not actually the southern tip of Africa (that's about 100 km further to the east). Nor is it famous for its bad weather that killed hundreds of explorers (that's Cape Horn, in South America). But it is beautiful.

Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope

Astro is very good at imitative behavior...
And they have a mountain train! Finn actually got to drive this one, using the control panel at the right. It's a funicular that goes up and down to the lighthouse on top (previous picture). Finn got to press the buttons, and is extremely proud that he knows how to drive a mountain train.
This is the 'who is taller?' contest. Heidi is trying to hoist Finn high in the air, before Piper's jacket gets blown away.
"The most south-western point of the African continent" -- and probably the most photographed sign in all of Africa.
Some great rocks for playing on at the Cape...
Piperfinn in the Cape of Good Hope tidepools. Not long after this, a baboon the size of a German shepherd came running through, followed closely by a park-employed baboon-guard. And there were ostriches on another beach. And the penguins. And jellyfish! So cool.
Piper found a bunch of blue bottles, which she claimed (rightly) are extremely dangerous jellyfish. Tempting, though!
Heading up on a ridge walk...
I love this hillside!
Name that animal! Hint: its closest living relative is the elephant.
I don't know how far around that neck can go, but it looks like it's already at 450 degrees of rotation.

Simon's Town and Headed North

I've recently been reading The Worst Journey in the World, a really well-written first-hand account of Robert Scott's disastrous 1910-1913 Antarctic expedition. Sure enough, the hotel that hosted them and other Antarctic explorers before they headed south is still around, on the main street just a half-block from the water.
Chocolate sauce, oilve oil, salad dressing, crayons. But come on -- it's an Italian restaurant, and we want to paint with red sauce!
Astro goes for the multi-colored look.
Finn, Astro, and I are taking the Metro train up to Muizenberg from Simon's Town. It's short (30 minutes) but awesome.
On the ferris wheel at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.
A green-screen... how tempting!
Astro navigates the playground well.
A short trip around the bay on a catamaran.
Cape Town and Table Mountain behind us.
Finn strikes his 'bathing beauty' poses...
And another...
And another...
Heading back to the V&A. On the right is Signal Hill. We ran into someone who had biked up from Franschhoek to watch the cannon firing at noon. Sure enough, right on time, a puff of white smoke came out of the cannon (and then a few seconds later, the boom). It's been fired daily since 1902... not unlike the ball dropping on the Naval Observatory in Washington DC, it was originally used as a time standard to set clocks by.
I've been assigned the job of taking Astro potty. I'll let you know how it goes.

Hermanus for Whales

We've driven a couple hours east to Hermanus for a few days, where Astro is feeding a non-existent animal.
We partake of an unmarked geletaria in Stanford. It was run by a guy who had just moved here from Italy.

"I used to run a gelateria in Italy. Northern, near Venice. What we used there -- oh, it didn't compare. Everything there was from a mix. Powdered. Here, it is so fresh -- you have the eggs, you have the milk. Here -- you wait -- I bring you some milk. You try it. You tell me that this is not the best, freshest milk you have ever tried. Now how could you make gelato from that, and not have it be the best? There's no comparison. The ingredients here on the Cape are the best in the world."

Where are we now? Oh -- a whale watching expedition! That sounds fun -- I love whales. We all do.
People told me that we saw at least a dozen whales. I really don't know though. I must've seen at least two-dozen puke bags, if you count the ones from all of us.

Our last whale-watching trip, in Sri Lanka, ended very similarly.

After recovering from several hours of puking and a 50-km trip across the water in 10-foot waves, we headed to the pharmacy to stock up on Dramamine, since guess who had already made reservations to go shark-cage diving tomorrow?

Back in Hermanus (actually, Stanford).
PiperAstroFinn are driving the submersible.
Despite our effort to get close to whales on the boat, it turns out that you can see a ton of them very easily while standing on a sidewalk in Hermanus. No medication required.
Cape Town and Hermanus are in the heart of the wine area of South Africa. We went to one vineyard (Piper has drawn them a sign) and had a great afternoon as Piper and Finn ran around. We attempted to order a wine flight too, but for whatever reason, it never came beyond the first half-glass. Oh well -- everything else was good!
The restaurant is 'The Tasting Room' in Stanford, and they have a lot of boats.
Finn is big fan of the escargot he's just eaten (different restaurant). Maybe he'll turn out French instead of Mexican.
Astro got to select a present at the end of our trip. She really wanted a penguin, so she got one. Its name is 127 (pronounced phonetically, "one two seven"). Maybe sometime Astrid will learn to stay away from those beaks.

Towards Home

Finn is very much into following the rules. I promise you, he knows exactly how to escape from a 737, whether it is on fire, in the water, or broken in half.
Astro just wants to talk on the phone.

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Henry Throop

Last modified Thu Jan 22 20:48:21 2015