Tuesday, September 24, 2013

So great even the whales come!

This weekend I had a special treat.  It was the Whale Festival in Hermanus!  The Whale Festival happens every year in late September.  I was fortunate to arrive in town in time to enjoy it!  Technically, 'whale season' is June through early December in this area.  The Southern right whales show up to the waters of Walker Bay in early winter (remember that's June in South Africa), and they mate and calf here.  They spend several more months in the relatively warm and protected water before heading back to their summer feeding grounds in Antarctica by mid-December.  So, late September is the height of whale season, and the perfect time for a festival that revolves around them!  

I had a lovely weekend enjoying the festival.  Emily came down for the weekend, and we were also joined by Vivian, a nurse from Great Britain who is working with a children's home in Cape Town.  I met Vivian the first week I was in Cape Town, so it was great to see her again!  She is nearing the end of her six months here in South Africa and will return to the UK in November.  I think she was really glad to spend a long weekend on vacation in this gorgeous area where I live!  I was so happy to have Emily to my house.  It was great to be around another American, especially one who has mutual friends in the other YASCers.  Emily and I have been facebook messaging each other ever since I left Cape Town, but I had really missed seeing her face to face!  She's a lot of fun to hang out with for many reasons, including her excellent taste in music, her ability to quote movies like Mean Girls and Legally Blonde, and her willingness to go with the flow and enjoy whatever her day brings.  Needless to say, I was so happy having my two visitors!  

Here are some pictures from the whale festival:

Hermanus is all set up for the festival!  Tents for live music, craft stalls, and loads of tourists around!

Emily and Vivian search for the whales.  They didn't have to wait long before they saw one!

Sadly, this is the best photo of a whale that I have.  Where is the whale, you ask?  On the left side of the frame, you can see its back and its tail as a disturbance and dark area in the water.  I know, I know.  You can't really see much.  I'm sorry, it's just really hard to get a photo mid-breach!  Believe me, I did try!

Gearing's Point is arguably the best spot to watch the whales from.  It's crowded even on a normal day, but you can see how many extra people flock here for the festival!

The whale crier of Hermanus.  His name is Eric.  He is very knowledgable about the whales that live in Walker Bay, and he is absolutely the best at spotting the whales, even at a distance.  Not to mention he's super friendly!  I've met him before, but it was fun to see him during the festival.  When Eric sees a whale, he blows a signal in morse code on his kelp horn.  Many people who don't know any better will tell you that he is calling the whales with his horn, but that isn't true.  He's just alerting you that he's spotted some so you can come take a look!

Do I look happy?  That's because I just saw the whales!

I ran the Whale Half Marathon on Saturday morning.  This 21km race is put on every year by the Whalers Athletic Club, the group that I have been joining for time trials and training runs.  Not my best time, but I had not trained for this race AT ALL.  I was super impressed with myself for just finishing it!  See the cool medal I got?!?

On Sunday we went wine tasting in the Hemel en Aarde valley.  This is a wine route that is literally 10 minutes from my house.  I had no idea there were such great vineyards so close by!  What a pleasant surprise!

Hemel en Aarde means Heaven and Earth.  If you don't see why this area was named Heaven and Earth, then you're blind.

Whalehaven vineyard just opened their tasting room this weekend!  To celebrate, they offered free tastings, and they paired their wine with local jams and chocolates.  It was really fun to experiment with how the flavors in the jam and chocolate changed the taste and feel of the wine.  I absolutely loved this vineyard and I will be going there again.  If you come visit me in South Africa, I will take you too!

Beautiful proteas, the flower of South Africa, at the second vineyard we visited.

Emily and Vivian chose a great weekend to come visit, not only because of the festival, but because they got to stay extra because it is a long weekend.  Today (Tuesday) is a national holiday!  It's called Heritage Day, but most of the people around here call it braii day.  Braiis are a South African tradition, and I've been to two so far.  The best way to describe a braii to an American is a cross between a back yard barbecue and a pot luck.  When you're invited to a braii, you usually bring some meat (or chicken or fish) to grill and a side dish to share.  The actual braii, the grill, uses wood instead of charcoal.  It gives the meat a delicious smoky flavor.  When I woke up this morning, I could already smell the woodsmoke.  I wandered next door to the care center, and this is what I found:

Sheralene and Stephanie are braiing for our patients!  The patients were all sitting outside in the warm sunshine (it was about 65 F today) and watching these ladies work!

The chicken had just come off the braii, and Stephanie is putting the meat and boerewors (sausages) on.

The kitchen staff is buys making salads and cleaning up the dishes.

So you can see what an awesome weekend I've had here in Hawston and Hermanus!  I hope everyone reading this had a great weekend too!  One of the whales I saw kept sticking one of his flippers up out of the water and waving it around.  I think he was trying to ask me to say hi to y'all for him! So, hi from the Hermanus whales, and totsiens from me!

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