“So. What plans did you have for today?”
Eight words. A question. An endless supply of possibilities.
We were just after finishing breakfast when our friendly host posed an enquiry. An opening gambit on the chess board of our new adventure. Before we could formulate a response constructed from our lists and research she followed it up with eight more words.
“It’s a nice day. Go up the Mountain!”
We had landed in Cape Town the night before. Late and tired after an incredible journey that involved two flights, one long and stuffy the other short and sleepy. We had negotiated the roads of Africa and the plethora of questions from our ‘airport transfer’. Karen had the additional challenge of falling on the wrong side of an Angry ‘Jessica Fletcher’ type with glares as sharp as her digging elbows on the flight from Sydney to Johannesburg. (Long Story!).
But we had also arrived to a brand new country (South Africa), a brand new continent (Africa) and to love-heart confetti, balloons and a bottle of champagne. A great end to the first day of our honeymoon.
But back to that mountain.
Table Mountain (Tafelberg) dominates the skyline with it’s flat top and its looming heights that form a dramatic backdrop to the city below. It’s actually more than just one mountain – merging with Lion’s Head, Signal Hill and Devil’s Peak to form a natural amphitheater around the stage of Cape Town itself. To get up to the Mountain we would need the help of Swiss Engineering and use the Aerial Cable Car they built in the 1920s. The Cable car operates a rotating floor to give everyone a 360 degree view of the journey to the summit. Quite a different journey to the one António de Saldanha undertook in 1506. As the first European to complete that feat it was he who got to name it.
The journey was a bit scary for some, *Cough* John *Cough* but the views at the top were spectacular. Cape Town, Table Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. At over 1000m above sea level we could see for miles and the views were breathtaking. At this height we could make out the Green Point Stadium, the Victoria and Albert Harbour and in the distance – Robben Island. It was interesting to see the island that once held Nelson Mandela as a prisoner considering that for many years he held the opposite vantage point…
“During the many years of incarceration on Robben Island, we often looked across Table Bay at the magnificent silhouette of Table Mountain. To us on Robben Island, Table Mountain was a beacon of hope. It represented the mainland to which we knew we would one day return.” – Nelson Mandela, 1998
We spent the best part of the morning walking along the pathways the wind around the top of the mountain. Stopping occasionally to take another photo or admire the flowers and fauna. Karen spent a bit of time chasing lizards too.
After hiking around the top of the mountain we decided to check out the local beach down below in Camps Bay. Named after a dutch sailor Frederick Ernst von Kamptz this area of Cape Town only really became part of the city at the turn of the 20th century when the newly built Victoria Road opened it up to day trippers and tourists eager to check out the beaches and the growing number of tidal pools and picnic areas that began to spring up. That economy is still alive and well with a number of restaurants, shops and a weekly market competing for Real Estate along the beach front. In fact after our stroll along the promenade we had quite the choice to make.
Before we left the area we went onto the beach once more to get a good look at what was behind us.Above the beach is rugged plateau connected to Table Mountain called the Back Table. Consisting of a series of interlocking sections it is known as the Twelve Apostles and stretches south to a place called Hout Bay. Getting back to our guesthouse in nearby Tamboerskloof was easy since Cape Town had embraced the wonders of Uber.
We saw the Bosch.. it was the Kirstenbosch
To round off our first full day we decided to check out the Cape Town Botanical Gardens – the Kirstenbosch. It was established in 1913 (after the lands were bequeathed by Cecil Rhodes some ten years earlier) to preserve the unique flora of the region it has grown today to over 1300 acres encompassing a conservatory, walking paths and thousands of specimens of plants and trees.
There is also an impressive sculpture garden with a collection of Mambo sculptures and near one of the entrances there was a pair of amazing pieces by South African sculptor Dylan Lewis.
We also managed to work out that Cape Town was pretty much half way between Glasgow and Sydney!
There’s a single bust next to a pepper-bark tree that was quite interesting at the bottom of the main lawn. In 1996 he visited the Kirstenbosch to plant that tree. The man was Nelson Mandela and it would only be our first encounter with his legacy during our stay.
4 years ago as the park celebrated it’s centenary year a special walkway was built. The boomslang (tree snake) is a winding tree canopy walkway that slithers amongst the treetops before bursting up to the sky above. As we descended back down to the forest floor the air started to tingle with the opening chords of Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. That could mean only one thing – the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra were playing one of their concerts. We were treated to a wide range of classical treats as we negotiated the rest of the walkways and it was with more than a hint of irony that the song that was playing as we legged it for the exit (and our uber) was Rossini’s William Tell Overture.
And with that we were done. Jet lag began to claw at our eyes and we decided to stay local that night for dinner. Not a bad introduction to Cape Town.
Sometimes all you need is eight words to get you going.