Tuesday, March 29, 2011

We have reached the bottom !

Day 5 - 9: Grahamstown - Cape Town - 1052km
We thought we would try compile this blog a little differently putting the pictures up first with captions followed by the blog - let us know what you think :)
Teeny and Allan
Draft servings for your table - check the ice in  the centre to keep it cool!

Cheers - A springbok shooter in Grahamstown

Cat fascinated in our bikes at the camp site in Grahamstown

Huge windmill outside Port Elizabeth

 Getting a better view of the drive into Mossel Bay
 Mossel Bay in the distance

 Khoi San cave at the Mossel Bay point
 Eric and Teeny

 Playing with the dassies

 Mossel Bay swimming beach
 Sitting on a whale skull

 Replica of Bartholameu Dias ship of 1488. This ship was made 500 years later in 1988 and sailed from Lisbon to Mossel Bay on the exact journey the Portuguese explorers would have taken. The ship now sits in the museum - smaller than you would think.

 Posting a postcard in the Boot post box. This spot is where messages were left for passing ships in the 1500's
 Walking the streets of Mossel Bay
 Teeny and Noelene
 Preparing the braaivleis
 Sunset in Mossel Bay
 Eric and Nick catching up
 We really were spoilt rotten

 Stilbaai - where North is actually South (We are on the east coast of South Africa, but this map shows North facing down the coast of Africa!!)
 Stilbaai harbour
 Stilbaai harbour
 Pretty pink tractor
 Lunch stop in Vermaaklikheid - the dog in front of Nick plays fetch with rocks!!
 Waiting for the pontoon to cross the Bree River
 Slowly working its way across
 Yip that is 3 4x4's and a boat in one trip!
 Working our way across
 This is how they pull you across - a chain is wrapped around the cable and then pulled with the harness. Only 4 guys were working the pontoon which took us about 10min to cross the 150m width of the river.
 The beautiful back roads down to Bredasdorp with Nick travelling ahead.
 As we approached an intersection about 6 vultures leaped into the air off what looked like a sheep's carcass. They circled above checking us out before disappearing into the distance.
 Huge, magnificent creatures... :)
 "It's a looonnnggg waaayy dooowwwnn!"

 The sign above the bike reads "Southernmost tip of Africa - 150m" - Nearly there!!!

 We have arrived!!!!!

 Not sure why Teeny got the colder ocean to stand in ;)
 Hell Yeah - Livin the dream

 Woop Woop!

 Lighthouse in Cape Agulhas
 Campgrounds, lighthouse and beautiful sunset

 Watching the penguins off Betty's Bay
 Watched whales playing in the distance from the viewpoints - a much recommended scenic route.

  Cape point was just out of view...but its out there!!

Our departure from Grahamstown was quite chilly and clouded, but we were determined to make the drive to Nick's aunt and uncle in Mossel Bay. This meant that we travelled along the main freeway - N2 - all the way through Port Elizabeth and Knysna.  The wind hit us from PE and we soon figured out that riding like the speed bikes do with their head down by the handlebars was a little easier. As we headed south the skys cleared and we were once again treated to a lovely days ride - albeit long and quite tiring. We arrived at Mossel Bay, and just as Teeny was saying how beautiful the coastline of Mossel Bay is we spotted a school of dolphins playing in the bay! Noelene and Eric greeted us with much enthusiasm about our trip and had a pot of tea brewing before we realised where we were.  This welcome along with the hearty meal, great conversation and comfortable bed were more than enough to convince us to stay on for another day of relaxation.  Noelene and Eric are very well informed about the history of Mossel Bay and surrounding areas, and kitted us out in the morning to go learn more about the Portuguese explorers that arrived in this town in 1448 (we plan to compile a good account of the history we learnt over the next few weeks. Rhonwyn perhaps your class can gather some really good information before then to double check our accuracy :). 
As you would have seen from the pics above, 500 years after the original Portuguese explorers arrived, a replica ship was built and sailed from Lisbon to Mossel Bay.  One of the main reasons why Mossel Bay became a good spot to stop was because of the fresh water stream that flows onto the beach.  
Story goes that Bartholomeu Dias died during a large storm on route to Mossel Bay. The captain that took over the ship wrote a letter warning other sailors of what had happened and used an old boot tied to a tree as the 'post box'.  A few months later another ship came past and picked up the letter, and were very grateful for the warning of the large storms off the coast.  This all happened in 1501. Today they have a boot post box where you can send letters to your loved ones/friends.  Such an interesting museum and town. Today there are still buildings constructed out of the stone dating back to the 1900's. Some of these are still used as homes, whilst others have been converted into curio shops and the like.
That evening we were treated to a good South African always - it was super fantastic!
Eric and Noelene enlightened us about an alternative route following the coastline rather than travelling along the N2. Very gratefully, we departed Mossel Bay with our panniers packed with padkos!! We headed southwards through the towns of Stillbaai, Vermaaklikheid and Malagas onto Bredasdorp.  This was a predominantly well graded dirt road, and we experienced our first pontoon ride on bikes across the Bree River at the town of Malagas.  It only cost us R13 for each bike to be pulled across, and it was amazing to see how busy that crossing is with cars queueing to get across.  We travelled along the Northern edge of De Hoop Nature Reserve and to our amazement spotted about 6 vultures and an African Fish Eagle feeding off what looked like a sheep's carcass. We couldn't help but sit and hope that they would return to their feed - alas they circled above and drifted off into the distance. Such a lucky siting!!
It was at Bredasdorp that we started seeing signs pointing us in the direction of the 'Southernmost tip of Africa'. Teeny got so excited that she burst into song - although her lack of remembering songs lead her to singing "Old Mac Donald had a farm" in Nick's ear!! Must be the cooler air down in the south ;)
Cape Agulhas is only approximately 21km further south of Bredasdorp, and it really felt a lot shorter to us. We drove straight to the southernmost point where we basked in the final rays of the sun enjoying the momentous occassion.  So Mom the Date was the 28th March 2011 and the time we arrived 17:30. Will be exciting to record the date and time when we arrive in Egypt!
Our camping spot in Cape Agulhas was about 30m from the beach overlooking the lighthouse beaming out to any passing ships at sea.  We set up camp, cooked a meal under a glorious Algulhas sunset and played cards into the evening.
We kept along the coastal route through to Cape Town passing the towns of Stanford, Hermanus, Onrus, Kleinmond, Bettys Bay through to Gordons Bay.  The map has it labelled as the "Scenic Route" and it sure is! We went over passes that no pictures or words can truly describe...not to mention the amazing, rugged coastline.  The drive seemed similar to what one would see along Chapmans Peak road, however neither of us have been there and hope to do so before we leave Cape Town.
En route we stopped in at one of the many viewpoints along the road and were amazed to spot what at first seemed like smoke out at sea...only to realise that it was the spray of a whale out its blow hole in the distance. Very priviledge scene considering it is not whale season.
The beach promenade of Gordons Bay was bustling with crowds swimming, walking and generally enjoying the lovely weather.
After an amazing days riding we arrived safely in Cape Town where we were treated to an ice cold Hunters Dry at Quintin's house.  Out to dinner for a half price burger (just as we like it), good catch up and scrumptious dessert (to treat ourselves) before setting our heads down to rest. 
Today was spent collecting our last spares we need for the trip, as well as doing a once over check up on the bikes (thanks again Alex for your help!!).  Tarryn's curry for dinner was delicious and could closely compete with some curries we've had in Durban!
Tomorrow we head through to Langebaan to camp by the lagoon and enjoy some west coast seafood.