Cape of Good Hope & Boulders Beach

August 19, 2008

Mountains and baboons and penguins, oh my!

This past weekend was full to the brim with new sights!  On Friday, I hiked Stellenbosch Mountain with a few friends and a new South African acquaintance.

The trail was pretty mild and it ended up being more of a relaxing walk than a hike, but it was a great view of Stellenbosch and the surrounding wineries and farm land.  Also, if you look closely, you can see a faint rainbow!  Rainbows are everywhere here, you see them on a regular basis and sometimes it looks like you really could go to the end of it quite easily!

After our walk we went home and made ourselves pretty and then went out to a very nice restaurant in town, then had coffee and dessert at a little place that opened up just a few weeks ago.  Lovely evening!

Sunday was the AIFS trip to the Cape of Good Hope and Boulders Beach.  On the way, we drove past False Bay.  It is so named because early sailors often confused False Bay and Cape Point, where they could stop to replenish supplies.

The Cape of Good Hope is part of the Table Mountain National Park.  It contains Cape Point, Dias Beach, Cape of Good Hope and a bunch of other bays, points and beaches.  Also, and unexpectedly, the area is home to eland (a type of antelope), dassie, lizards and baboons! Whales, sharks, dolphins and seals are sometimes  spotted off the coast, but it’s not prime time for viewing just yet.  A group of us decided to hike along the western side of the park and it was a great decision.

Dias Beach was really beautiful.  It was very small, but completely surrounded by massive cliffs.  It’s the kind of place “private beach” brings to mind if you have a lofty imagination.

We continued on up and down a small mountain to reach the actual Cape of Good Hope, the most south-westerly point of the African continent.

We only had about 20 minutes to make it back to the vans, so we had to run up the mountain and around the trail, which was a little less than fun.  But!  There were lizards everywhere for the duration of the hike, and on the way back we saw eland and dassies.

Dassies, also known as rock hyrax, are believed to be the closest relatives of elephants, believe it or not!  They look like groundhogs, kind of.  Also, when we were hiking in Cederburg one of the South African guys pointed out this substance that looked like tar and smelled disgusting.  Well!  All of the dassies use the same place as a litter box, apparently, over long periods of time.

Gross, yes, but I give you these facts for a reason (and I guess I’ll have to post the picture now, too!).  It’s called hyraceum and after allowing it to harden and “purify” over hundreds of years into a kind of rock, it is “harvested” and used in traditional perfums and as medicine to treat epilepsy.   Usually, it’s served in a tea.  Delicious, no?!

More exciting than poop tea, though! Were the baboons!  We were on our way back to the vans when we heard this really strange noise and out pops a baboon family onto the trail!  We were told at the beginning that they’re actually pretty dangerous and will approach people for food if they see something in your hand.  Apparently one of our drivers saw a baboon jump out of the bushes and actually steal candy from a baby last year.  We sort of shuffled into the bushes and let the family, three adults and one baby, pass by.  They weren’t too interested in us, thankfully.  It was really cool, though!  I could have reached out and snatched the baby with zero effort.

After the Cape of Good Hope we went into Simon’s Town and had lunch.  Then it was penguin time!

Boulders Beach has a huge colony of African Penguins, also known as Jackass Penguins because the noises they make sound like a donkey (really- it’s a terrifying noise coming from a little penguin).   They have few land predators and are therefore rather calm in the presence of people.  They are colored as a form of camouflage, of course.  When they’re swimming, predators looking up see the white, which is harder to identify, and birds from the sky see the black, more difficult to spot in the ocean.

At this time of year, they have “babies” but they were actually more like pubescent teenagers, in my opinion.  They were in the process of shedding their gray baby feathers, so they were all splotchy and awkward.  I like to think that these two are bestest friends…

Apparently they were still learning how to hunt, though, because I saw one parent feeding a baby (it’s the eat then puke method employed by many birds, that noise was pretty alarming as well!).  As many are aware, penguins are monogamous and mate for life, so I saw lots of happy little penguin families!

On our way home we stopped at a winery that was more like a wine resort and then I came back and slept really well!  Next weekend promises more amazing days!  Can’t wait!  This whole “going to class” thing really gets in the way. =)


7 Responses to “Cape of Good Hope & Boulders Beach”

  1. Aunt MA Says:

    And the adventure continues.
    Where to start… mentioned using CE instead of BC etc. When does CE start? I need a reference point.

    I never heard of Khoisan. Lets have a little more info on that.

    Do all the kitties you’ve been seeing have tails?

    Are you completely saturated with beautiful scenery? You’ll certainly have lots of soul calming places to go, should the need arise.

    I can’t BEGIN to tell you how sad I was to hear that your shark diving was canceled. OH DEAR!!
    (may there always be BIG waves on your ocean.)

    Your classes sound facinating. Seriously. One of my very favorite classes was political science. I would have majored in it if I could have thought of a job to do afterwards. Are you having trouble understanding their “English”? How do they do with you? Also I’m very interested in your jewelry class. What’s ya gonna make?
    Love ya!

  2. Mom Says:

    NO BABOON BABIES NEED COME TO PORT CLINTON; again, customs will notice!

    Was surprised to see the rip tide sign at Dias Beach in English only-(at least what I could see of it;) are all signs?

    Re: BC/AD switching to CE…a Nat’l Geographic book on SA uses BC/AD and it was published 2008. How’s that?

    In the “bestest friends” penguin pic it lookes like berries on the bush; anything in season right now?

    Luckily, you are too busy for me to miss. Love you, tho!

  3. Kathy Says:

    So, who was the first person to look at Hyraceum and think “food”!
    Much less perfume-
    I know photographs don’t do justice to the real sites, but the pictures are great! Can’t imagine seeing it all in person. Keep ’em coming.
    As to your sissy mom and aunt— THIS aunt thinks it is cool you might get to swim with the sharks!!
    (Just keep all hands and body parts INSIDE the cage!)

  4. jessicakania Says:

    BCE v. CE is the same in time period as BC and AD, same dates, so it’s 2008 AD or 2008 CE right now. And yeah, it’s not a blanket change yet, some people still use both, though I’m surprised National Geographic isn’t on the boat. It’s just a general academic movement and I venture that it will be almost exclusively BCE and CE in a few years.
    The kitties are still about 50/50 with and without tails, and I still don’t know why! But they’re 100% strays and don’t let me pet them. =(
    It is really beautiful, my whole view is framed in mountains and the clouds hang really low. I can’t wait until springtime when the flowers start thriving. That will be incredibly beautiful.
    English isn’t much of an issue. I’ve adjusted I guess and the accent isn’t a problem ever anymore, and I seem to be understood. Mostly the language problem lies in that everyone in Stellenbosch speaks Afrikaans first and all of the signs here and advertisements for events are in Afrikaans. But in general in South Africa it’s English first, which is why the sign is in English. Plus Cape Point is an international touristy place, so English is the best bet.
    I’m really really excited about jewelry! So far, we’ve just made chains (“just”, melted silver into a block, the rolled it until it was wire size, then made rings, then shaped the rings, then fused the rings, then made the chain) but I’m looking forward to a project where we “find” an object then make a mold out of it. I’m hoping to find something really awesome on the Garden Route tour we’re doing over the semester break.

    And thanks, Aunt Kathy. I WILL go shark diving. I was actually trying to go again tomorrow but they canceled already. I’m rescheduling again. I’ll make sure to post LOTS of scary pictures!

  5. Martha-her mom! Says:

    Someone in the universe thinks they are funny–JAWS, all versions, has been on almost nonstop since all this shark diving talk has started. Personally, I can’t wait for all the scary pictures!

  6. Cousin Jane (Kania) Schulte Says:

    Hi Jessie, i am sitting at home with your Grandma Kania, and just read her your blogs and showed her your pictures. Grammie was very happy to see where you are living and enjoyed seeing and hearing about Africa. She says to tell you to “take care of yourself and she loves you”!


  7. Emily Says:

    Your mom is cute!

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