My adventurous weekend away to Hermanus, South Africa

By: Claire Dinnie

August is peak time for calving and August and September are the months you will find the most whales in the bay. An incredible site that cannot be missed!

Boat based whale watching is offered from Hermanus where one can get within a few metres from the whales. The Whale Show is offered, a unique whale and dolphin audio-visual presentation that runs twice daily (10h00 & 15h00) at the Whale Museum - A worthwhile show that provides you with detailed, fascinating information on our gentle giants.

Not too far from Hermanus is the Great White shark cage diving mecca, Gansbaai. Six nautical miles away is Dyer Island, possibly the best place in the world to view these magnificent predators.?The island is a bird sanctuary and a breeding site for the African penguin and many other coastal birds. Adjoining it is a second, smaller rocky island called Geyser rock, which supports a large seal population. Separating Geyser and Dyer is a channel aptly named "Shark Alley", arguably THE prime spot in the world for encountering the Great White shark. The cage diving is an exhilarating experience and a “must do"

Blue Gum Country Estate kindly invited me to come and stay for the weekend. Accepting the offer with glee, I disappeared from the hustle and bustle of the city driving only 2 hours to arrive in the Overberg region. Blue Gum is situated on the slopes of the Klein River Mountains just outside Stanford only 20min past Hermanus. It offers a luxury country lodge feel, superb service, great food and beautiful surroundings. After arriving in the late afternoon, I was invited to the cosy lounge area to enjoy tea and scones with jam and fresh cream.

Unfortunately I chose the worst weekend to get away. The weather turned really grim and 3 consecutive cold fronts bringing massive amounts of rain, hit the western cape.

Thousands of people were left stranded, homes washed away particularly in the poorer rural areas. The Klein River, which Blue Gum Lodge overlooks, came down in flood and completely washed the bridge away between us and the outside world! I must have arrived at about 16h00 and by 17h30 water rushed over the bridge preventing the remaining guests from joining us for the night. They were forced to retreat to Stanford.

Rain belted down during the night, thunder and lighting created a dramatic atmosphere. The guests huddled inside around large cosy fireplaces after a great 3-course dinner, the friendly staff offering nightcaps. I got chatting to a fun English couple, Douglas and Nicky who were visiting the area hoping to go Shark Cage diving. Much to their disappointment this was called off due to the bad weather. Douglas was celebrating his 40th birthday this day so we enjoyed a couple drinks over a game of Trumps, a card game introduced to us by Douglas. Louise the lodge manager joined us and merrily served us more and more tequilas and Jagermeister as the night went on. I retreat to my luxury spacious room before things got too out of hand!

In the morning we heard about a back route out from the lodge to Stanford that travelled through farmlands at the base of the mountain, a rough gravel road crossed by 3 little rivers that tested our off road driving skills in our low laying city cars. Nic, the owner of the lodge, led the way in his pickup truck assisting us where possible. The largest river at one point was approximately 25cm deep at its deepest point and about 6m wide, all very well if you were driving a 4x4, but most of us weren’t! After a couple of knocks and bumps and much adrenalin racing through our bodies, we made it! Only to return again later in the afternoon once we had enjoyed our days excursions.

Blue Gum offers a number of activities although all weather dependant, such as horse riding, mountain biking, quad biking, tennis, hiking and boat cruising on the Stanford River. The Birkenhead Brewery is just down the road. From Wednesday to Friday at 11h00 and 15h00, one can enjoy a tour of the brewery and learn how the beer is made. The tastings can be enjoyed everyday at the restaurant and it is nice to combine it with a pub lunch.? After enjoying the good service at Blue Gum, I was disappointed with the service here though.

I returned to the lodge for an afternoon nap, happy to see that the rivers had subsided a bit making the road a little less of a challenge. At 18h00 I awoke with a knock on my door. Delicious snacks and an aperitif were brought to me. What a nice surprise! I sat in the quietness of my room enjoying cheese and biscuits and fresh fruit served with white sherry while looking onto the beautiful Klein River Mountain.

Although Blue Gum Lodge is a lovely place to get stranded, we were all hoping that the rain would ease off. If more rain fell, even the back road would become a problem. All the rivers subsided nicely by the morningHealth Fitness Articles, I checked out and said my farewells to everyone at the lodge and commenced my journey home.

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