Campus News

Cape Town Diary: August 13. By Kathryn Spirer, Colby College ’03

Story posted August 15, 2001

A Weekend Exploring the Countryside

So far, since we’ve been in Cape Town, we have immersed ourselves in the community by living with families, sightseeing, hiking, attending classes at University of Capetown, etc., yet we have not really been outside of the city. For me, last weekend was the first time I got a chance to experience other parts of South Africa. I had an amazing time driving through the countryside, and it was clear from the beginning that physically, South Africa is as diverse as the people who inhabit the country.

Claire [Cuno] and I took advantage of Women’s Day (Thursday, August 9) and planned an extended weekend trip through the countryside to Montague, Hermanus, and back to Cape Town.

On our way out of Cape Town, along the highway, we passed an enormous mall and fun park, which could easily have been in the US, but, luckily, from there the rest of the ride was beautiful. Montague, about 1.5 hours northeast of Cape Town, was our first destination and is known for its natural hot springs. As soon as we left Cape Town, the rest of the drive took us through mountains, vineyards, and farmlands. With maps and guidebooks in hand, we passed through small towns, which consisted of no more than a winery, a general store, or a gas station.

We stopped for lunch at a bed and breakfast/winery in a tiny town called, McGregor, then continued on to Montague. There we found another bed and breakfast on a farm about a mile away from the hot springs. Here, away from Cape Town, we felt more like foreigners since all the signs, directions, and menus were in Afrikaans. While we found that most of the people spoke English as well, we found it interesting that the primary language seemed to be Afrikaans. We were disappointed by the springs because, while they were incredibly refreshing (about 100 degrees), we were expecting natural springs in the middle of the mountains, but instead we found a huge resort with swimming pools. It turns out the pools were actually the springs, complete with waterslides and fountains. Despite our disappointment, it was worth the trip and from there we headed towards Hermanus.

Hermanus is also about 1.5 hours outside of Cape Town, yet unlike Montague it is on the coast and known for its abundance of whales. Our drive from Montague to Hermanus was even more spectacular than the drive to Montague and we stopped about a dozen times along the way to take pictures of fields of bright yellow flowers, farm animals and the mountains. When we reached Hermanus, we were disappointed at first by the development that had taken place—one block alone had four fast food restaurants. However, as soon as we reached the coast, we knew why everyone had spoken so highly of Hermanus. The cliff walk along the coast was amazing and every few minutes, a whale would show its tail or its back just a few meters away. August and September are the prime whale-watching months and all of the tourists were not let down. Like Montague, Hermanus was well worth the trip and after a long ride, we were glad to return home (Cape Town).

While I did not expect to do any more driving that weekend, my host parents had planned a ride up the west coast of South Africa in search of wildflowers, which, like the whales, are at their peak in August and September. It turns out there was a positive side to the three weeks of rainfall we suffered through in July, as the flowers were incredible.

It was worth the four hours of driving to see fields and fields of flowers—yellow, white, purple, blue, red, orange, and pink. We were told by the locals that this was the best flower season they had had in 10 years. We returned home the next day, exhausted, yet completely satisfied.

While I have had a great time exploring Cape Town since I’ve been here, my trips last weekend opened my eyes to the rest of South Africa, which in many ways could not be more different from Cape Town.

-Kathryn Spirer, Colby College ’03

Additional information on the Cape Town program is at CBB Cape Town
Other Cape Town Diaries:
Cape Town Diary: July 3. By Julie McGee
Cape Town Diary: July 14. By Julie McGee
Cape Town Diary: July 27. By Kristen M. Heim
Cape Town Diary: July 27. By Rachel Meiklejohn
Cape Town Diary: August 6. By Paul Min
Cape Town Diary: August 6. By Heather Finn.
Cape Town Diary: August 10. By Chris Reigeluth.
Cape Town Diary: August 10. By Philip Drake.

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