March 5th; The Cederbergs to Cape Town
Very reluctantly, after an early morning breakfast on the open air patio watching the weavers dart in and out of their nests, we packed our bags, loaded up the bikes and bid farewell to Bushman’s Kloof. We both wished we had more time at the resort, but the bikes were due back in Cape Town by 5 pm and everyone told us that it was a five hour drive back to Cape Town on the direct road, and of course we didn’t want to take the direct road. We had planned our route to head south initially, and then to turn west towards the coast, and then south again on R 27, through the West Coast National Park and into Cape Town.
We left Bushman’s Kloof at 8 am, on schedule. We had to backtrack on the 8 km of dirt road, then the R 364 to the N7. More backtracking southbound until we saw the town sign we were looking for at the bottom of the pass, and turned towards the west.
We had to come through the same construction on the pass and one lane areas that we had driven through on our way northbound. At the bottom of a one lane construction site, a tanker driver first in line pulled over and motioned the entire line of cars past him, and then continued up the hill. Both my sister on her bike and I honked and waved in thanks for the kind gesture. Personally, I have seen more courteous driving practices here than back in my home state of Florida. We were both warned, prior to our arrival, of how dangerous it would be to rent bikes and ride from Cape Town around the Western Cape (ok, so the warnings may have been part of the draw to do it.) We are both convinced that only people who have not been to this area would think like that. Our experience here has proven otherwise. The roads are cleaner, the drivers more courteous and the road crews more prolific than what we see back home. We were treated with respect and kindness at all our stops, even just for fuel.
We enjoyed the drive south, and the area around the westward turn. The scenery started out with red rocks and baboons, and turned into rolling hills, small towns and farmland. We stopped for fuel in Velddrif and then turned due south along the coast. Unfortunately for us, the winds were terribly strong, and would stay that way nearly all the way into Cape Town. In Langebann we pulled over for fish and chips at a roadside take out place. It was true road food, greasy and filling.
Shortly after our lunch stop, we left the main highway to take the alternate through the West Coast National Park. This area is mostly known for its Spring flowers, and the land was rolling sand hills and scrub, but not terribly scenic in the autumn months. We did see some Ostriches, tortoises, and nice beaches and the Atlantic Ocean, but we continued without stopping. We reconnected with R 27 and again were headed due south. The last two hours of our ride were mostly battling strong winds. It takes a lot out of a rider to brace against not only the forward relative wind of the bike, but also a strong crosswind. By the time we reached Cape Town I was utterly exhausted, but I still hated to see the bike go. I could have spent another week exploring the area on that sweet little F650, and was very sad to turn it in. But we did. We dropped off the bikes and took at taxi to the Avis rental car office and picked up a car for the last three days. It really wasn’t too hard to switch driving from the right side of the road to the left, but it was harder to do in the rental car than the bike. I had a mantra that I chanted every time I had to make a turn or change lanes “Look right, keep left.” It really worked. The hardest part of all was using my right hand to signal a turn. I kept turning on the windshield wipers instead of signaling a turn. Eventually, after about one full day, I got the hang of it.
We drove the hour out of town to our home for the next three nights, The Elephant Lodge in Franschhoek. Franschhoek is the gourmet food capital of the Western Cape, if not all of South Africa, and also known for its historic vineyards and wineries. That is why I chose it for our last three days, with good food and wine in mind. We arrived at the lodge at 6 pm, with the wind howling so strong it was hard to stand straight up. It felt cool too, up in the mountains. We checked in and decided to get a quick meal at a pub and call it a night. It took a lot out of us to battle winds for so long on the bikes. We got a pizza and some local wine at the Elephant and Barrel Pub on the main street of Fronschhoek, then headed back to our comfortable room at the Elephant Lodge.