But first we had to navigate the mountain pass. It began peacefully with stunning vista and inviting photo stops but it was on this stretch of road that we discovered how crazy Saffer drivers are. Single lanes with precipitous falls over the ledge and maniac 4×4’s driving up your rear. As we passed Pringle Bay we were treated to a second lane and a bit of respite. A quick driver change at Betty’s Bay was the only other event on the road as we bypassed another African penguin colony to make it to our lunch break stop – the fishing village of Hermanus.
Shortened to Hermanus in 1902 by the Post Office historically famous for it’s whaling industries. Today that is continued in a more environmentally friendly way with whale watching and shark diving replacing the traditional industry.
Hermanus was a very picturesque town. Plenty of artwork adorned the seaside promenade and it even had a number of small museums dedicated to its past.
The main one was situated on the site of the Old Harbour and together with an old de Wets schoolhouse and a section of fisherman’s shacks make up the museum. There is also a sea-wall and historic fishing boats.
Inside everything from a mini-sub to whale skeletons and harpoons to deep sea diving suits are stored there. The deep sea diving suit reminded us of one of Scooby Doo’s ‘ghosts’.
The whale skeleton itself had an interesting story. After struggling to find a suitable skeleton an already deceased Sperm Whale washed ashore in 2003. Its body was in an accelerated state of decomposition so bones had started to fall away and had to be retrieved by divers. Three and a half years later the skeleton was put back together again with expert help.
As we walked up the slope back to the town we spotted a small creature that we had not seen on Table Mountain. The Rock Hyrax (or Dassie) looks like a guinea pig and was quite fast darting across the grass.
Hermanus is also home to a number of art galleries and that love of art has overspilt onto the streets as there are a number of impressive pieces on the promenade.
We were sad to leave Hermanus but we still had many kilometers to go on our journey. Our journey was full of uninterrupted farmlands and wheat fields as we made our way inland to our final stop that day.
Our stop for the night was in South Africa’s 3rd oldest town. Following the handover of the Cape Colony to the British Crown many Boer farmers emigrated inland to escape the new regime and to find pastures new. Swellendam would have been on that route backs that claim with over 50 heritage buildings in the small town (mostly Cape Dutch architecture).
Named after South Africa’s first natural Governor Hendrik Swellengrebel in 1743 it soon gained importance as the last outpost on the eastern border of the dutch frontier. A short lived Republic of Swellendam existed from 1795 before the British Administration took over.
We spent an afternoon uncovering the rich history of Swellendam by exploring it’s main museum – The Drostdy. In 1747 it started as the official residence and official headquarters of the landlords of the town before expanding to include a courthouse, gaol, a mill, the Mayville House and various other buildings – each of which we had a butchers at. The main building has been restored to look just like it did with 1844 with it’s whitewashed clay and lime mortar walls and thatched roof. The furniture inside is a mixed of early Cape Baroque and the neo-classical and Regency elements of the British styles made of local yellow-wood, fruitwoods and teak.
Our favorite section was the stables with all the big carriages or the Ambagswerf (Trade Yard) with all of the tools and equipment of artisans from yesteryear. It was also this spot that we had a spot of bother from a group of Belgian tourists who kept ruining our shots. “Pardon…merci” was soon replaced by “bouge de là”!!
After a long day on the road and a sensory overload between Hermanus and the Drostdy Museum we had a relaxing late afternoon. Our accommodation was basic but it had a pool and a large garden to relax in. Our host (a German lady) was the best and sorted us with an amazing restaurant for dinner – The Koornlands, where we gorged on more red meat and fish from the multi-coloured chalk menus.
So two days down and 450km on the road. Day 3 would bring us further west and bring us back to the coast.