After all that it was time for a Road Trip!!
The plan was to make our way to the Cape of Good Hope and then tack our way back along the edge of False Bay and finish up at Gordon’s Bay to stay for the night. The plan also entailed John doing some of the driving. This was going to be interesting.
We split the early morning drive with the only drama being the ‘changing of the guard’ – John needed a nice place to stop and Karen giving out that it took us off route. Anyways we eventually got back into the rhythm of things and Karen drove us the rest of the way across the top of False Bay to our first stop. On the way we passed one of South Africa’s largest townships – Mitchell’s Plain. Nearly 300,000 people live here and while there is a strong network of social activists engaged here and it contains one of the largest shopping malls in the region it has recently struggled with gangsterism and drug use.
Muizenberg is famous for it’s beach and it’s surf. It was the birthplace of surfing in South Africa with one of it’s earlier participants none other than Agatha Christie (the creator of Hercule Poirot). Additionally it has historic significance being the site of the main amphibious assault by the British during the Invasion of the Cape Colony in 1795 and hosts Cecil Rhode’s holiday home and his place of death in 1902. The cottage today acts as a museum.
The reason why we stopped here was to check out Surfer’s Corner and it’s magnificent collection of painted beach huts. These Victorian “bathing boxes” evoke a time of bygone days when all of Cape Town would grab the steam train down to the beach and take a dip in False Bay or, like Agatha, catch some of the serious waves.
So iconic are these huts that they are they have taken over from Bo-Kaap as the cover image on the Lonely Planet Guide for Cape Town.
We bypassed the rest of the towns and villages on the way down the coast, all the better to beat the tour buses to our next destination – Cape Peninsula and the Cape of Good Hope – Africa’s most South-Westerly tip.
The entire south peninsula is a protected national park. That means a loving care is used to maintain the welfare of the flowers and fauna but also checkpoints and bottlenecks in traffic.
Driving down through the middle of the peninsula on a narrow road surrounding by rocks and flat wilderness on both sides reminded us of an earlier time when we drove through Connemara. What shook us out of that daydream was when we came across some Chacma Baboons. There are hundreds of them in the park and unfortunately their close interactions with tourists have made them a bit aggressive.
The park also has 4 Cape Mountain zebra, antelopes and ostriches.
We parked up the car and strolled down to the first major landmark – the Cape of Good Hope.
It was not always named as so. After Bartolomeu Dias first rounded the Cape in 1488 is was called the ‘Cape of Storms’. Only later did the Portuguese change it to be the Cape of Good Hope – as it marked the first time in the journey from the motherland to their colonies in the Far East that ships would start to sail east rather than south. The two names eloquently sum up the dichotomous nature of this point in the map with it acting as a navigational beacon in daytime but a menace of undiscovered rocks and storms at night. It is probably this tempestuous nature that inspired the folklore of Adamastor and The Flying Dutchman to be born in the minds of man and for them to be located at the Cape itself.
There are two navigational beacons that the Portuguese Government erected to commemorate Dias and Vasco da Gama (We visited Vasco Da Gama’s burial place in Kochi,India.
As well as a few photos at the landmark we climbed up a small hill to get some photos of the other point of interest nearby – Cape Point.
Cape Point was a riot of activity. Buses and tours everywhere and huge queues for the funicular car (Also called The Flying Dutchman) that went to the lighthouse at the top. We were going to walk anyways but it was a bit mad all the same.
Two key features of the Lighthouse are that is not only has the most powerful flash in South Africa but that it acts as one of the sites for the Global Atmosphere Watch whose mission is to monitor the ozone layer and its affect on climate change.
Back up the peninsula we stopped at Simon’s Town – Home to the South African Navy and named after Governor Simon van der Stel (same cat that Stellenbosch is named after!)
The main reasons we stopped was for lunch and Penguins! Boulder’s Beach (in Simon’s Town) has one of only 3 Penguin colonies in mainland Southern Africa. These penguins are all of the African Species (Spheniscus demersus).
In 1982 there were 4 penguins – now there are 3000 thanks to a reduced fishing activity in the area as the penguins had to compete for squid,crustaceans and anchovies with the local fishermen.
There were two main species of Penguin – African Penguins.For size comparisons African Penguins are abourt 1/3rd bigger than the Fairy Penguins we saw in Tasmania. They have a distinctive pink patch of skin above the eye and a black facial masks.
To protect the penguins and beach from the tourists a wooden boardwalk was built and that allows one to get up close and personal to the penguins.
After Simon’s Town we got caught up in really bad traffic. A 1 hour journey took 3 hours as we snaked our way back up the Cape Peninsula and across False Bay to our final destination for the night – Gordon’s Bay. We even got caught up in the tail end of a protest by Civil Service Worker’s who had blocked the roads with cars and set them on fire. Just what we needed.
But we got to Gordon’s Bay and our funky boutique hotel,which was the main thing but due to our delay we did not have the energy or patience to go down into town and try and find dinner. In a moment of pure kismet our hosts understood our plight and before you could say ‘Cape Town traffic’ we had a candlelit / takeaway fish supper overlooking the entire False Bay region from their terrace.
A great finish to a long day!