Day five and six – wine, eagles, and bacon banana pizza!
Day five started early with an amazing breakfast buffet in the Spier dining room. Fortified with freshly made omelettes, Jess and I went back to the room to shower and get ready and Grant headed off for a massage.
After his excellent massage, Grant collected us from the room and we all walked the length of the estate to the wildlife sanctuary at the far end. We each purchased the additional eagle experience.
Immediately upon entering the sanctuary, there were ten or twelve sleepy looking owls tethered to perches. We were told that we could pet them if we wished. Owls are SO FLUFFY!!! Some of them made little squeaky chirpy noises when they were stroked. Many of them would nibble your hands and give bird kisses. So so sweet! It was hard to tear ourselves away and move on to our eagle experience.
These animals are all rescued and brought to the sanctuary to recover. Some are released back into the wild but some are either too used to being handled or are otherwise too damaged to return to the wild. Instead they are used as “ambassador animals” to raise funds and awareness.
One owl’s story in particular really stayed with us. He was a very sweet bird who loved to be stroked and made little chirpy noises when you touched him. Apparently someone evil had duct taped him up and use him as a soccer ball. Poor little dude! I’m still angry just thinking about it!
Once we had patted all the owls, we moved onto the eagle experience. Jess held a smaller eagle which was about as snuggly as a large bird of prey could possibly be. He kept preening her face and giving her bird kisses!
Grant and I held a much larger black eagle. What a beautiful bird. You could feel it’s crop where it held food that was recently consumed. Weird. It was a bit intimidating when the handler took off its hood, actually. Apparently it’s feet were strong enough to break bones should it choose to do so. Their beaks don’t have a lot of power but they certainly can deliver a bite as Grant soon found out when the bird gave his hand a bit of a love bite! We all took about a gazillion photos and moved onto the flight demonstration.
The flight demo was pretty cool as well. They flew a few smaller birds of prey and demonstrated their ability to catch food in the air and how quickly they could catch rats, etc. this part of the program is meant to illustrate how helpful these birds can be in keeping the local pest population down and to discourage rat poison.
They also brought out gizmo the owl who sat on everyone’s head and ate from our hands. Very sweet. She is getting a bit fat so they are trying to entice her to fly more.
After the flying demonstration they brought out Sonic the African porcupine who was absolutely adorable! They showed us how she defends her carrots from enemies by sticking up her quills and backing into her “attacker.” She ran to Grant to get away from the handler who was teasing her about stealing her carrot.
After the demonstrations we wandered round a bit more looking at more animals and Jess tried to catch a rabbit to pat, but no such luck!
We walked back across the estate and stopped for some wine tasting for Grant and some grape juice tasting for Jess and me. Wine here is rediculously cheap – a fact that Grant has been taking full advantage of! We finished the wine tasting, bought a bottle of Grant’s favourite, and had a bite of lunch to eat.
After lunch we jumped in the car and headed off to the cheetah sanctuary. We got turned around a bit due to some bad directions from the front desk and ended up there later than we thought. We were a bit disappointed to find out that all of the smaller animal handlers had the day off so we couldn’t “meet” the meerkats or foxes, etc. still we were there to meet the cheetahs and we bought the tickets to do so.
I honestly didn’t expect too much from this experience so I wasn’t too disappointed, but Jess was a bit let down. For starters, even though we each had to pay a separate fee, they made us all go together to pet the same cheetah. Then they ushered us out of the “catwalk” without even letting us walk down and even look at the other cheetahs – who comprise most of the wildlife on the property and were the whole reason we drove there!
Still, it was pretty damn cool to pet a cheetah! They have super soft fur and they purr almost constantly. It was really hard not to throw my arms around “warrior” and squish him!
Even though the experience wasn’t quite what it could have been, I didn’t feel badly about paying for it at all. This organization breeds cheetahs to ensure a viable gene pool to support the wild population and uses these ambassador animals to raise funds for their sheepdog program that provides dogs to farmers to stop them killing cheetahs. Plus… I petted a cheetah! How cool is that?
After the cheetahs we drove into Stellenboch to have a look around. We JUST managed to make it to the village museum with enough time to dash through.
The museum consisted of four houses from the original village of Stellenboch restored to the period – with objects owned by the actual families where possible. All date to 1700-1800. It was awesome. Lots of the stuff was original. They even told you a little about the families that lived there. We felt bad about keeping everyone there until precisely five pm, but it was worth it!
Afterwards we tried to go shopping but most things were closed. It astounds us how early things close around here. Cape Town waterfront shops closed around six,so we thought we would have an hour or so to poke around after the museum. No such luck. Most shops shut at five! We looked around the few that were still open and decided to drive back to Spier estates for dinner instead of staying in town and having to walk to the car and drive after dark.
We had another absolutely spectacular meal with impeccable service and headed back to the room. As usual I was up later than everyone having a bath in the giant tub and toasting laundry by the fire!
Day six started with another superb breakfast in the Spier dining room. We then headed back to the room to pack and said a very fond farewell to the Spier Estates!
We jumped in the car and, armed with very minimal directions and zero map, we began the hour and a half drive to Hermanus. What a spectacular drive! We went through a few mountain passes and stopped for some photos with the wine lands spread all below us. Beautiful!
The drive was reasonably uneventful and we arrived in Hermanus on schedule for noon. Unfortunately our room wasn’t ready so we locked everything in the trunk, took a few irreplaceable items with us (meds, cameras, kid) and headed for lunch.
Of course, we spent about half an hour on the boardwalk in front of the town before lunch taking photos of the stunning coastline and the rock dassies that popped up everywhere. So cute!
We ate lunch at a little tapas place that was fairly decent. A word here, though, about South African service. I have never been anywhere with such consistently good and genuinely friendly service. Average service stands out a mile here because most places are so wonderfully warm and welcoming and genuinely helpful. Japan had the most polite service I’ve ever seen but these people just make you feel so at home and welcome it’s unreal. Forget South African doctors, Canada should be importing their entire service industry!
After lunch we checked into our quirky little hotel. Again it was difficult to find one that I could book a family room online, so we ended up with a suite with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a small sitting area. That, breakfast, and a view of the ocean for $140 CAD a night. Sweet!
Unfortunately we are at the very start of the whale season and none of them have come into the harbour yet. There also aren’t any babies to see this time of year, so we made the unusual decision to come to Hermanus and NOT go whale watching. Grant wasn’t really into it and, frankly, I’ve had enough of small boats and choppy water for a bit! I suspect we’d have spent hours chasing the few whales that are there and seen the odd fin or back from afar. Been there, done that, and it was much warmer and nicer to meander along the spectacular shoreline, paddle in the ocean, and look for shells.
At about 3:30, we decided we’d better head into town and check out the shops we suspected would close anywhere between 5-6. (We are learning!) I was especially excited about the number of small local galleries in town as most of the ones I’d wanted to see in Stellenboch had been closed. We hit the first couple of galleries only to find out that most of the rest had closed at FOUR and it was now to late to see them! Damn! So we found a series of touristy stalls and poked around there for a little bit. But, this was the same kind of tat they sell worldwide and we weren’t much interested. Even Jess at the worldly age of eleven wasn’t tempted, so we moved on.
Disappointed at the lack of shopping on offer, we headed to the room to relax before dinner. Dinner was a tiny quaint little pizza joint that served all sorts of weird pizza. Jess had bacon and banana pizza. She was in heaven! Wonderful meal, great service, good price – happy family.
We stopped at the local grocery store on the way back to the room and then watched a really stupid movie and hit the hay. Planning to get up early and hit some of those galleries before heading back to Cape Town to drop off the car and meet up with our tour.