Monday, September 28, 2009

Whales in Hermanus

It claims to be the best spot in the world for whale watching from the shore. There certainly is a ton of whales that come here every year. We headed up to Hermanus on Thursday during a public holiday, it also happened to be the first day of the whale festival up there. I love the fact that they have a festival here every year to welcome back the Southern Right Whales to the Cape Town waters.

These amazing giants come to Hermanus to mate, calve, nurse and just rest up and prepare to head back down to the south to feed. These animals are so intelligent I can't believe that people used to hunt these them. The Southern Right Whale got the name for being the "right" whale because they floated when they were dead. Clever....I guess.

There's a blog I read from time to time by a guy named Mark, who is living out in China. (He helped me figure out how to continue posting after the government blocked blogspot.) He posted THIS fantastic article from the New York Times about whales called Watching Whales Watching Us. Here is an excerpt from it:

"Whales, we now know, teach and learn. They scheme. They cooperate, and they grieve. They recognize themselves and their friends. They know and fight back against their enemies. And perhaps most stunningly, given all of our transgressions against them, they may even, in certain circumstances, have learned to trust us again."

It's a bit of a lengthy article, but is really interesting and definitely worth the read.

We also came to Hermanus last year to view the whales, and I have to say, they put on a bit of a better show last year. This year they weren't as close to the shore, so we didn't get any good shots of them jumping. But a mother and her calf did come in quite close to shore, and it was amazing to view them so near.

From this year:

My worst nightmare.


Gorgeous coastline

Mother and her calf

Possible Jaws, but more than likely a whale

Here are some of the shots from last year:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"I bless the rains down in Africa...."

"It's gonna take a lot to
drag me away from you,
There's nothing that a hundred
men or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time to do
the things we never haaaaaaad"

Whenever it rains here I get THIS song stuck in my head, then I think of China. In the small town we lived in, Fuyang, we had one main dig called Music House where all the foreigners tended to congregate. A very large percentage of the foreigners (like 5 out of all 10 of us) were from South Africa, so this song got played a lot in the pub.

Probably the only place in the world you would actually "bless" the rains. I know my friends and family up in the North West curse the rains most of the year. But there's something about Africa (perhaps how it's mostly desert) where the rain is usually welcomed. We get so much beautiful weather here, I find myself really enjoying the dark clouds when I can curl up with a book on the couch and get lost for the afternoon.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lots of Guests

Things are getting pretty exciting here in Cape Town, but all of it is also reminding me that our time here is about to be go into turbo gear and fly by really quickly. Starting next week we are going to have guests here almost right up until the time we leave. I'm so excited and I know that it's going to be so much fun having great friends and family around in such a unique place. But I also know that it means our time here is very short, and we need to make the most of it. I honestly count my lucky stars every day knowing how amazing it's been to see and experience so much this past year and a half (almost). And I feel twice as lucky to have such great friends and family that are willing to come so far just to visit us (well and maybe see a cool place, do you think it's any coincidence that they're all coming in the warm season?).

In addition to a couple new fancy countdown timers to the right here's a picture of my excited face!

I know what you're thinking, you are all kicking yourself now for not buying the traveler's insurance, and suddenly realizing that you are coming to visit this crazy girl. But you're stuck with me and you have no idea how excited I am.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

It's almost Friday!

Enjoy the rest of your week, and your weekend.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lazy days...

So I'm sorry to say there's not much to talk about this week. It rained almost all of last week here in Cape Town (Happy Spring!), and the weekend had gorgeous weather, but we were pretty lazy all around. Saturday we were invited by a friend to help deliver a boat down to Hout Bay. It was a wonderful day for a sail, apart from the wind dying about half way there, and it just really felt good to get out on the water, drive a boat and feel that little rush again. The racing season is about to kick off here in Cape Town with the first big regatta being next weekend. I have a couple contacts and I think I'll be able to get a ride for the weekend. I'll let you know.

We planned on going to Hermanus on Sunday (a great place to see the whales), but Saturday night we picked a friend up from the airport, went out for some drinks and didn't end up in bed until after 2. So our Sunday was quite lazy and we just didn't get moving soon enough to make the drive there and back when we had also made plans to have friends over on Sunday evening for a braai dinner. But it was a good weekend, filled with good friends, food and sailing. Getting out on the water always makes it an automatic 10.

Sorry so few photos this week. I took my camera out on Saturday and Eliot snapped some shots, but sad to say I didn't take any myself. Oh well...

I love the coastline from this angle.

The Lion's Head

Oh and one last thing, Sunday morning I woke up and checked my facebook to find this posted on my wall:

In case you can't read it, it says "Hi Ash! We (heart) you." A nice shout out from two of my bestest sailing friends in Bellingham, Sarah and Derrick. It really made my whole day, thanks guys. I (heart) you back! And I wish I was out enjoying that beautiful Bellingham day with you.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Table Mountain

We've been talking about it since we were here last year. You can see it from anywhere in Cape Town it's so big (and everywhere else is so flat). It really is the icon of South Africa, and I can just imagine the first Dutch settlers seeing it on the horizon and deciding to come here. A huge plateau protruding out of what is relatively flat land. We've been waiting for a clear sunny day on the weekend to do it, and I'd been checking the forecast all week to make sure it wasn't going to change. When we woke up on Saturday morning we checked the mountain from our window and saw just a few clouds wisping around the base, not enough to keep us away today.

We chose to climb up Platteklip's Gorge. Looking at the mountain face on there's a crack that goes up it just to the right of the center. That's the gorge and it happens to be the most direct route up to the top, it is also the steepest. So we chose the quick and painful way.

Eliot with his long legs seemed to be a lot quicker up the mountain than me. I felt like every step up the boulders I had to pull my knees up to my chest to make it. My lower half felt like jelly, and there were times I wasn't sure my legs were going to work on the next big step. But they didn't fail me on Saturday and we made it up to the top in pretty good time. I have to say, climbing Table Mountain was a bit easier than I had expected, it was really steep like Huangshan, but it was more of a trail rather than like Huangshan being steep steps straight up a mountain for 7km. It's not quite as big as Huangshan, but the view is absolutely breathtaking. The haze that had set over Cape Town in the morning had dispersed by the time we made it to the top, and we could see for miles in every direction.

~At the bottom, looking up~

~I never appreciated that blue sky enough until I spent a year in China~

~Just (gasp) stopping (gasp) to "read the (gasp) map"~

~We didn't write this, but we were definitely sharing in the sentiment right about this time.~

~A little friend~

~Getting higher~

~Last little bit of the hard part.~

~View at the top: The 12 Apostles~

~The much easier/much more level path up to the highest point: Maclear's Peak, it was about another 45 mintues away~

~Moss encroaching on the path~

~I think you can tell my legs haven't seen the sun in a while~


~Tired and taking in the view~

~The Lion's Head with a little fluff on top. Taken from the bottom of Table Mountain~

Monday, September 7, 2009

Waves, Water, Wind and Music

It seems like since I started feeling better I can't seem to get back into the swing of things. You know when you feel like life is flowing and organized, and then something happens (like getting sick) and you feel like it takes you while to get back to life? Maybe it's just me, but I'm working on getting things back on track this week.

We had such a fun weekend, but as always, 2 days just isn't enuogh time. Saturday we started it off in the water, body boarding. Shortly after we got in the water, the waves really started to build and they went from the gentle rolly waves that I love to the big crashy waves that frighten me a bit. There's nothing like standing in the water and seeing a huge blue wall over the top of you, about to send you through a washing machine filled with sand and saltwater. So after fighting it for a bit I decided my time would be better spent on the beach with soft serve ice cream.

Saturday night we were invited to go and see a gig by a friend of ours. The band was playing at the casino, so we were excited to also do a bit of gambling. On the way out it was Eliot, our friend Mike and I in the car. The guys were really excited and talking about hitting the tables and playing the "real" games. Then they asked me what I was going to play, and both laughed out loud when I told them that I just liked to play the penny slots. Well in the end I was the one laughing when they had lost all their money and I walked away with R1000 (over $100) just playing the penny slots.

The band we saw was called Just Jinger, and I thought they were great. They are a local South African band who I thought sounded a lot like Dave Mathews. Really good beats and easy to listen to having never even heard of them before.

Sunday Eliot and Mike were finishing up their last kite surfing lesson and I decided to go along with my camera and watch. There is tons of kite surfing around where we live, but their lesson was about an hour up the coast at a place called Langabaan. It's a really nice protected cove where the wind comes up, but the waves don't, so they had lots of flat water to learn in. I'm also thinking of taking some lessons, but I want to watch for a bit and see if it's really something I'm interested in. At the beach in front of our house the kite boarders there make it look quite easy, but after spending a day watching these guys trying to learn I can see that it's actually pretty tough. It's a big kite and I think keeping it under control takes some getting used to. But the guys had fun and were thoroughly exhausted by the end of the day.

In other exciting news, my dear friends Ben and Jen from Seattle, who I've done a lot of racing with on their Moore 24, have decided to come and visit Cape Town! I'm so excited to see these guys and play tour guide in such a beautiful place. There's so much to do and see around this place and I can't wait to share it with them. So I have that to look forward to at the end of November :-D :-D :-D

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