Day Five: Our First Real Spotting of Wild Animals
So those of you who follow the blog are probably asking yourself, “I thought she said they were going on a safari. Where are all the pictures of animals?” Well, friends- they start now. See, Jon and I wanted our typical safari experience to be at the end of the trip. So some of the last things we are doing on our trip are going to two different game reserves, one on the Cape and one in Northeastern South Africa near Kruger National Park. We wanted to see the big game animals like lions, and elephants, and giraffes. And being in these two different climates will help us to see them better. Up until those game reserves though, we have been traveling along the Cape with Pepe, oohing and aahing over the amazing scenery of this area, and seeing smaller but still equally impressive animals on the way.
Today we headed back to the coast to check out Stoney Point, an alternative penguin colony to the over-touristed Boulder Beach, closer to Cape Town. Along the way we took this beautiful coastal road along False Bay called the Whale Coast. Unfortunately, it´s not whale season right now, so we didn´t see any of those marvelous creatures. Shame! But just as we were about to be very sad that we didn´t see a whale, we came upon a family of baboons, just hanging out at a pullout on the curve of the road. Baboons! In the wild! I could have watched the family all day I was so excited, so we pulled over for Jon to get some pictures.
Apparently baboons are quite common on the Cape and are extremely clever and can be very aggressive, jumping on the windshield, and even going so far as to open car doors and steal car keys. So Jon was instructed NOT to open the window and instead took his pictures from inside the glass. In this particular baboon troop there was a baby riding on its mom´s back, one climbing up a wooden sign, and one adolescent hanging out on the stone wall. What looked to be the father of the troop was sitting there daring anyone to invade his family´s private space.
Suddenly we looked to our right and we saw another baboon dart across the road and inexplicably lie down in the middle of the road, licking the pavement. It was not a smart choice because he would NOT move from the road no matter how much we honked at him. Pepe and I decided we didn´t want to see the monkey get run over because he was laying just beyond a curve in the road and there wouldn´t be enough time for a car to see him and stop. We didn´t want to be witness to a disaster and so we continued onward and left the baboons behind.
When we reached the coast, however, we realized it was so windy that the waves were being blown AWAY from the coastline. It was also about fifteen degrees colder than inland, so we rushed back to the car to get our jackets after a few minutes of pretending our T-shirts were going to protect us from the wind.
We have seen penguins a few times in Chile, even taking a two-hour boat ride from Punto Arenas to Isla Magdalena to visit a penguin island. These penguins at Stony Point were a little different. Most of the members of the colony were molting, or shedding their fur before mating season. They want to look their best for attracting a mate, of course. But during the three weeks that the penguins are molting they cannot swim in the ocean because they are not well insulated from the cold water- there is too much space in between their feathers so they would freeze to death.
To make up for this, the penguins binge eat before they begin molting and become very large. During the three weeks that it takes them to become the black and white shiny creatures we associate with penguins they lose over half their body weight. Crazy! Anyway, Jon took some pictures while Pepe and I tried not to get blown over on the wooden walk way. I was amazed that the penguins were able to stay on the rocks the wind was so strong. The penguins were neat, but it was too windy to stay out there long.
After the penguins we headed inland a bit to another wine valley called “Heaven and Earth” in English. I´m not even going to try to pronounce or spell the Afrikaan name for the valley… We had a delicious lunch at the winery, Creation, which had lovely grounds and gardens that we were able to look out on. We had an eight course tapas meal, meaning small dishes, each paired with a little bit of wine. The valley is new and known for its chardonnay and pinot noir. We loved both, especially the chardonnay. I wasn´t feeling so well after typing my blog during the windy car ride, so I didn´t really enjoy the white wine courses. I was also having a “texture sensitive day”, something that has plagued me a lot since my last treatment. When that happens, anything chewy or spongy or smelling strong makes me very nauseous. As a result, I had trouble with the fresh calamari, smoked salmon, and quiche dishes, and was not looking forward to five more courses that would make me feel sick. I normally really enjoy all parts of a wine tasting so this was unfortunate. Luckily my stomach pains magically disappeared and I was able to really enjoy the rest of the meal. Our favorite tapa was this duck meat (that looked like roast beef) served with beets and a raspberry goat cheese. It was absolutely divine and went very well with the pinot. Alright, well I´ll stop talking about the meal now as it was very decadent and I don´t want to sound like the food snob I am, but we really enjoyed the food and wine parings, as well as the presentation. We even bought a few bottles of wine to enjoy along the rest of the trip.
After lunch we headed just past the town of Hermanus to the edge of the lagoon there and to my favorite accommodations so far, Mosaic Sanctuary. Mosaic has six wood and stone huts hidden in the trees. A central lodge and swimming pool is set up for sitting, drinking at the bar, and eating. A plank walkway connects all the different pathways, as everyone has a lot of privacy. When we walked into our room I let out a squeal of delight because it was so beautiful. The bed was big and sumptuous, and at the foot of the bed the windows opened to a private porch and a gorgeous view of the lagoon and surrounding mountains. Jon and I quickly changed into our swimsuits and found the swimming pool, which had the same amazing view as the room. It was truly delightful. Everything at the lodge is all-inclusive and in the main room where the guests take their meals, everything is so nice and the service is impeccable. They think of everything you could possibly need and do it all in such a way that you really do think it´s their pleasure to serve you. And their turndown service- wow! They even leave an inspiring quote on your pillow along with a sweet treat, let down all the mosquito netting around the bed, and create a romantic setting, complete with candle lights and a bottle of champagne. Impressive! Even the most critical of travelers would have nothing to complain about at Mosaic.