Hermanus – When the Whales Don’t Come Out to Play

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Hermanus On Tour #HOT

Our team of  bloggers, social media marketers and video journalists descended upon Hermanus to experience the Fynarts Festival 2015 and to discover just how much there is to do when the whales don’t come out to play. It seems our goal was supported by the weather as we were set to start our tour with a boat trip from Gansbaai to view the whales, but due to strong winds, this was not to be. Instead we found ourselves dashing from one sensational location to the next, trying to soak in as much of the Whale Coast in our limited two days and finding it brimming with delightful places to visit.

Windsor Hotel

Checking in at the Windsor Hotel was a treat… experiencing the old world charm and hospitality of this 116 year old hotel combined with all the comforts of being in a seaside bed and breakfast with stunning views of the cliffs and ocean. Our rooms were comfortable and crisply clean with Hermanus’ trademark whales adorning the walls. The staff were ever ready to assist, with one member going out of his way to find the right length extension cord for me to work through the day’s photos from the cozy comfort of my bed rather than at the desk late at night after a full day of activities. Breakfasts were hearty and healthy with a full continental buffet spread as well as a large cooked selection. This was an ideal base from which to start the daily excursions and to return to in the evenings, weary but inspired by the artworks we were exposed to on display during the festival at all of our stops.

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Fynarts Festival – Solo Performance by Selaelo Selota

Selaelo Selota tells us at the beginning of his performance that he comes from a place of storytellers and this is apparent in the way he leads us, with his music, through the journey he has been on and how his songs came in to being.  All of his songs have a story, and Selaelo is well equipped to tell it. One song recounts when he was a boy of 13 years old, seeing the big city lights for the first time. Another, Lela Lela Lela,  sings of a little boy whose parents had died and left him with all the cattle during a time of drought when everyone else’s cattle were dying.

His most popular song, Thrrr_Phaa, was created by a series of connected circumstances throughout his life – the first was when he was 4 years old, watching his grandfather’s way of fighting and the sound effects thereof. A number of years later at 12 years old while watching an old woman in a trance echo similar sound effects, and then as a young adult in France, listening to a crowd singing along without understanding his language, other sounds were created, resulting in this stirring song. We were a little sorry we couldn’t return the next day to hear him perform again with his full band, but also grateful to experience the work of this talented musician and storyteller.

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Panthera Africa

“No breeding. No human interaction. No trading.”

We were privileged to experience the result of the vision of Lizaene Cornwall and Cathrine Nyquist to create a safe haven, or ‘retirement home’ as they call it, for big cats that have been raised in captivity and are too imprinted by humans to be released back into the wild. Captive lions and tigers in South Africa typically live a hard life, being bred for canned hunting, human entertainment or the tiger bone trade. Lizaene and Cathrine are emphatic that in their sanctuary there is no breeding, no human interaction and no trading.

Cathrine, or Cat as she aptly prefers to be called, led us on a tour of the sanctuary, introducing us to the cats and imparting her knowledge on the animals to us, as well as sharing their individual journeys to their current place of rest.

The first we met were the three caracals – Max, Amy and Jack. Caracals are seen as pests to farmers as they are opportunistic hunters that hunt for pleasure as well as survival, and are killed to prevent the loss of livestock. Cat explained how they are working with farmers to help them understand and live with caracals by implementing strategies such as using dogs to protect livestock, and putting collars on the animals – if a caracal can’t get to the neck, it can’t kill the animal. What farmers need to understand is that if you kill one dominant caracal, 3 or 4 others will come in to try and take over the territory.

Next we met Pardus, the black panther. A lot smaller than an average panther, Cat explained that captive animals tend to be smaller due to being taken away from their mothers at a young age and not benefiting from her milk. In the wild, a male leopard can grow up to 80kg and can carry an antelope of 240kg up a tree.

Each of the lions we met had a sad story before being rescued by Cat and Lezaene. Achilles, named as such because he is Lezaene’s ‘Achilles Heel’ had to be castrated at 14 months, and as such lost his mane, leaving him looking rather lioness-like. As males fight for dominance, it was advised that his partner, Jubatas, be castrated as well. Neither of them seemed the worse for wear for this, and wandered over to dribble a ball around their enclosure. Oliver, a white lion, picked Cat as his person the first time she met him – following her and chasing other people and animals away from her. She promised to go back and fetch him, and when she finally could 2 years later, she called for him and he lifted his head and came running. Neptune had become very aggressive in his previous home from not being looked after properly. He is now the epitome of contentment and Lizaene’s blue-eyed boy.

The biggest challenge for big cats in captivity is lack of stimulation, which can often be seen in zoos by their constant pacing. Panthera Africa is focused on the welfare of the animals and enriching their lives. As such, they are in the beginning stages of building an enrichment “playground” with a moveable passageway so that each enclosure has access to it. They plan to have a pulley system so the animals can run after their meal as well as climbing and balancing apparatus. As part of their corporate teambuilding workshops, delegates will be able to build an enrichment course for the animals, enjoy a lunch at the centre, and then implement their course. As a non-profit organisation, funds from these types of ventures will help to sustain the centre.

Panthera Africa also relies on funds from their volunteer programmes. Volunteers live at the property for 2 weeks to 1 month and learn to feed, clean enclosures and about enrichment of the animals.

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Creation Wines

“At Creation Wines we welcome all creatures great and small”

“Don’t get stuck at Creation Wines, you have four other estates to visit,” we were warned as we left the Windsor that morning. Little did we know how difficult heeding that warning would be. It turns out that Creation Wines is a place you want to get stuck at, one where you need to reserve a whole day just to indulge and soak in all that is the Creation experience. From the moment you drive through the gates, you are overwhelmed by the beauty of the hemel-en-aarde valley on this estate that is proudly predator friendly. Creation forms part of a corridor from Onrus river through the mountain range to the Hermanus lagoon protecting the remaining leopards in the region, ensuring that they are not trapped, caged or shot. Harold, the ‘Angry Leopard’ standing on display at the entrance as part of the Fynarts Festival, was created from 200 gin traps used to trap leopards in the Baviaanskloof mountains.

Owner, Carolyn Martin and her team, took us on a taste exploration to experience how food and wine affect each other. As a vegetarian, my experience was obviously a little different to the rest of the groups. We started by pairing their Sauvignon Blanc with a gazpacho and then tasting the same wine with a cucumber canapé. This was followed by Chardonnay paired with a pastry topped with avo, egg and sweet mayo savouring how the nuttiness of the avo and the richness of the pastry match the layers of the wine. We also tasted this same Chardonnay in a different glass, becoming acutely aware of how the right glass for a wine is crucial in bringing out the best in the wine. The next two pairings were a tomato, onion, olive and lemon juice bite paired with Rose, and goat’s cheese topped with beetroot and lentil paired with both the estate- and reserve Pinot Noir. It was the next pairing that got a number of us, if not all of us, more than a little wide-eyed… Phillip Marais brought out their surprise food and wine to taste, telling us “Don’t believe everything I say, trust your own palate.” Well my palate said “More please!” Both the estate- and reserve Merlot paired with the most delicious cauliflower and Gorgonzola soup was without a doubt my favourite combination. I have since made this soup at home with the recipe generously provided on Creation Wines’ website. We ended off with a Cabernet Sauvignon paired with  mushroom (or beef for the carnivores) and valley greens, Syrah Grenache paired with a cracker and cheese, and Viognier (to cleanse after the reds) paired with an apricot and almond biscuit topped with coconut and carob mousse. If we thought it was time for a siesta after that fabulous spread, we were mistaken. Creation was just wetting our appetites. The lunch and desserts that followed were out of this world.

The little ones are also catered for with a playroom and children’s food and drink pairing. The wheelchair friendly layout and bathrooms, and tea-pairings for the non-wine drinkers ensure that there is something for everyone at Creation Wines. We even met their tiniest member of staff – the little chameleon living on one of the table plants and keeping flies at bay. This, together with their natural environment that is open to visits from the areas mongooses, buck, porcupine, baboons and indigenous birds bear witness to their motto of “all creatures great and small are welcome at Creation Wines.”

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Anthea van der Pluym

www.antheavanderpluym.com

While at Creation Wines, we had the honour of meeting Anthea van der Pluym. Anthea, who has a powerful story of her own, is a pioneer in taking people out of fire-hazard shacks in the Zwelihle informal settlement, Hermanus, and helping them to build safe homes using 2-litre cooldrink bottles filled with sand as bricks.

With the help of volunteers, the community gets taught and involved in building these homes. The bottles are stacked and cemented to make 4m x 4m rooms. They are also fitted with a converted geyser and furnace where children can’t get burnt. It takes around 3 weeks to erect a home but they are trying to get this down to 2 weeks. The only criteria for a person to have one of these homes is that they are willing to get involved in building their own.

Currently Coca-Cola donates bottles, and children are also collecting at school. The community are also being paid R2 per bottle to fill them with sand, and Anthea recalls fondly how one tiny child came proudly with his four bottles to get his R8 pocket money for the weekend.

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Bouchard Finlayson

“I believe that a passionate and competitive spirit is essential in the making of great wines” ~ Peter Finlayson

In existence for 25 years, Bouchard Finlayson is the second oldest estate in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and specialist producers of Pinot Noir. Nearing the end of the day, but not wanting to miss out on visiting one of the oldest estates in the valley, we popped in for a wine tasting on our way home and also got to view some fantastic barrel art – or Tondo exhibition – on display for the Fynarts Festival. With the only rule of the competition being that the piece must fit on a barrel, the art took many forms with just as many themes – absolutely delightful to peruse. This year’s theme was connections – how you would connect life, love and laughter.

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Fynarts Festival – Sculptures on the Cliffs

The sculptures on the cliffs were a showcase of the work of nine South African award-winning artists. The theme for this year’s exhibition was “Biodiversity is the totality of the variety of life on earth” and the sculptures were selected in keeping with this theme and the rehabilitation of part of the cliff park which meets the Biodiversity Walk.

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SA Shark Conservancy

 

SASC [SA Shark Conservancy] is an NGO not funded by anybody and relies on donations and their internship programmes to keep running. SASC was founded in 2007 and is trying to develop a holistic view of the shark species and trophic interactions in the Walker Bay area through a number of different research projects. Some of these projects include the Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) project, the Walker Bay Stable Isotope project, and Marine Debris Sampling project, among others. Through these projects they aim to develop better ideas of management and how best to propose management strategies to government.

With their biggest challenge being funding, SASC relies heavily on their intern project. Interns from around the world spend one to three months on the research team. During this time they learn about SASC, do experiments, and go out into the field for a lot of hands on experience.  Interns are allowed to explore, set up objectives and protocols, and apply knowledge learned at college and how it is applicable in the real world.

During our visit we were introduced to a shy pyjama shark and taken in detail through the various projects and the why’s and how’s of what they entail. SASC has partnered with Southern Right Whale Watchers, a whale watching boat, to gauge how whales and dolphins are using the Walker Bay area and monitor population dynamics and bay ecology. SASC are also focused on conservation. With shark-finning being the biggest threat as they are fished faster than they can breed, another project involves catching, measuring and tagging of sharks, skates and rays in the area. Tags include a number to call if the shark is caught to be able to inform SASC of the location and condition etc.

This was without a doubt a most informative and eye-opening visit to learn just how much is involved in conserving our ocean and its inhabitants.

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Romantiques

“Our shop isn’t about us, our shop is for our customers”

This delightful shop is a collector’s dream, one where you could lose yourself for hours exploring treasures of yesteryear. From toys to clothing, Romantiques has something for everyone and every age. What adds that special touch is their little cinema offering ‘Movies on a Platter’. At no charge, or at minimum a voluntary donation towards the movie licenses, customers can watch anything from a 10 minute 1920’s silent comedy to booking the venue for a children’s birthday movie viewing. Our group enjoyed the first option, reveling in a few giggles as the black and white reel rolled.

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Fynarts Festival – Jazz Concert by Delft Big Band

www.delftbigband.co.za

Interviewing conductor, and legendary trumpeter, Ian Smith, we learned that this was the first time in Hermanus for the band and they were wonderfully surprised with their reception. They experienced a good turn out and people were excited about the music with standing ovations, running 1/2 hour into overtime and requests to come back. Smith speaks highly of the band, and while trying to remain objective, is confident they are the best big band in country as they have their own unique intrinsic energy, excitement, enthusiasm and youth of the players which is infectious and moves the audience. The band members echo this sentiment, feeling that they project a spirit of Ubuntu on stage and emphasising the personal role Ian Smith plays in their lives.

Being in the audience I can attest to the above – the band had us tapping our feet to pieces like Michael Buble’s I’m feeling good and Earth, Wind and Fire’s September, and by the time Ian Smith took to the stage with his trumpet and performed his party piece, Mac the Knife, the energy was roof high.

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Whalehaven

“When Pinot Noir shows up at a party it isn’t there to tap dance… it’s there to Rock ‘n Roll”

Not on our original itinerary, but organised at the last minute by Frieda Lloyd of Hermanus Wine Route, Whalehaven was the perfect end to a #HOT weekend. Indulging in a unique wine pairing with chocolate, jam (and would you believe, perfume), Qhama Zweni enlightened us through our tasting room experience and introduced us to the wine portfolio of the Bottega family. The family’s collection includes Idiom wines in Stellenbosch, Whalehaven in Hermanus, and Vinotria wines imported from Italy.

Wine and Floral Chocolate Pairing

* Idiom Viognier paired with White Chocolate & Orange Blossom

* Whalehaven Pinot Noir paired with Milk Chocolate and Rose & Rooibos

* Idiom Zinfandel paired with Milk Chocolate and Lavender & Rosemary

* Idiom Cape blend paired with Dark Chocolate and Fynbos Blend

Wine and Fruit Jam Pairing

* Idiom Viognier paired with Orange Blossom & Pineapple Jam

* Pinot Noir paired with Strawberry & Rose Geranium Jam

* Merlot paired with Blackberry, Viola & Merlot Jam

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Also on display for the Fynarts festival, were intricate sculptures by André Prinsloo.

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