Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Chance Encounter with a Rare Species

Ahhhh, another breakfast of mealie pap and toast with apricot jam and a cuppa joe, and we were ready to pack up to leave Hermanus.  Before we left the guesthouse I spent a little while talking to Nora, the housekeeper on site.  She's a funny, young woman who smiles a lot and is married with three children (she only wanted two, but according to her, they wouldn't sterilize her after her second child because they said she was too young).  She was interested to hear about our ride to Cape Agulhas the day before since she's never been out of Hermanus.  She didn't seem upset about it, but it again made me realize that travel is really a first-world luxury and just how fortunate we are to be where we are, doing what we're doing!  We said our goodbyes and left Hermanus to make our way back north.

On our way out of town, we stopped at the gas station to buy another jerrycan for fuel. The woman working the reception desk at the guesthouse said they would most certainly have one. Colin went inside to do the deal, but they did not, in fact, sell gas cans. The gentleman working there took Colin around the corner to what turned out to be a storage closet, found a 5 liter jug that formerly held some type of cleaning product, and asked if that was big enough. Colin said yes, so the man proceeded to rinse it out with water, sell it to Colin for 5 Rand (66 cents), and fill it with gas. Colin was actually giggling when he returned with the prize for my front rack. It's funny enough that it's just a used cleaner jug instead of a specialized, vented container with a flexible spout, but the absolute best thing about it was the word, “TOILET,” hand written in Sharpie marker on the side. So now my bike has a new name: Toilet. I need some help here. people, since I still haven't chosen a suitable name for my bike, but I do believe it is worthy of a far more respectable name than Toilet. 
beeyootiful, isn't it?
We retraced our route along the gorgeous coastal road, stopping once at an overlook to refuel and enjoy the view.  While I was removing my fuel cap, a van pulled up, unloaded a bunch of people, and the next thing we knew, we heard "Are you guys really from Oregon?!?" in a distinctly west coast accent.  As it turned out, the van was carrying a newlywed American couple (who work for Microsoft), the bride's brother and parents, and the groom's South African parents who live outside of Hermanus.  They saw our USA stickers on our bikes as they passed us (yes, people are always passing us, but at least here it's legal and expected for you to pull onto the shoulder to let faster traffic pass) but didn't notice the Oregon license plates (they are from the Seattle, WA area- it's a very small world after all) until they stopped behind us at the overlook.  We had a nice,  roughly, half hour conversation with them and got hugs all around as we said goodbye.  Oh yeah, then we refueled the bikes and got back on the road, this time riding northward inland from Cape Town. 

Our new home for the night at The Baths
We passed through Stellenbosch and the vineyards that cover the area and wound our way to a place called Citrusdal.  As we got to the outskirts of town, the area smelled wonderfully flowery, but I couldn't identify the smell. I kept getting whiffs of the scent as we rode, and finally I realized why it was familiar- the area smells like my favorite beverage from Ya Hala (a Lebanese restaurant in Portland) lemonade with orange blossom water!!! duh. The entire region surrounding Citrusdal is full of citrus orchards (hence the name), and they were all abloom. It's a small town about 140 miles northeast of Cape Town that sounded particularly interesting because of a resort there called The Baths.  It's a collection of old cottages and a campground that is adjacent to a mineral hot spring, and they have baths (they seem rather literal when assigning names to things here). We camped along the stream, cooked a dinner of sausages with apples, with just-picked oranges for dessert, put on our bathing suits, and hit the pools. We soaked for a good two hours, taking the occasional breathtaking dip in the cold pool just for fun, then went to bed under the stars. 
The rare and elusive Pygmy Giant Land Tortoise
The next morning, we got up and had coffee and more fresh oranges for breakfast (a 10-lb bag was the equivalent of about 60 cents), packed up again, and continued north. We rode through orchards and their perfumed air for miles and miles. The scenery gradually changed and got drier but with more wildflowers in oranges and pinks. At one point, Colin hit his brakes and banged a u-turn. I followed him until he stopped, got off the bike, ran across the road, and returned with... the elusive and rare, African pygmy giant land tortoise (that's what Colin said he was.  I however, question his sincerity)! Oh, was he ever cute!!!!  I held him so Colin could take a picture, and like his tortoise and turtle relatives across the big pond, he teedled all over my glove and my backpack. After admiring his darling little face for long enough, we put him down away from the road and forged on. It was hot and we were tired, and we decided to stop earlier than planned for the night in the town of Kamiesgroon. We pitched our tent behind the local hotel and rode into town to look for dinner supplies. Unfortunately, the grocery store is closed on Saturday. There were no restaurants other than the expensive one at the hotel. There was however, a small market next to the gas station, so I went in to see what I could make a meal out of while Colin got the bikes fueled up. Among the various dusty cans of pickled beets and something called chakalaka (according to the label it is a combination of vegetables and onions in some spicy sauce, so I am actually interested in trying it sometime), I found a can of corned meat (beef and beef heart but no pork, said the can) and fresh sweet potatoes. For dinner we had corned meat and sweet potato hash with more oranges for dessert, and it was actually pretty darned good for a scrounged up meal. It gets dark early here, and the sky that night was super clear. We got the binoculars out and laid flat on our backs looking up at the stars in amazement at how many there are! With no light pollution, you can see stars all the way down to the horizon. We even saw the Milky Way! I am so glad we brought the binoculars on this trip- we splurged a few years ago and bought a really nice pair from Nikon that are heavy and bulky, but they catch so much light and give everything so much depth!

1 comment:

  1. WOW what beautiful scenery! What an adventure you guys are on!! Your posts are very descriptive. I feel like I'm there with you. Oh and I have a name for your bike, how about Pygmy, in honor of your Tortoise friend!! LOL Very cute by the way!! Kim