Day 265: Good Hope–Great Views

Sun. 5th May 2013

Janet and her new best friend!There is just time to have a last look around Stellenbosch and to admire the angular church and the old whitewashed houses with their distinctive gables and intricate trellis-work before we have to head off again. We are continuing to head west, to Cape Town on the last section of our drive. However, surprise, surprise, we’re not doing it the short way but are going to take the long way round, cut down to the coast to take in the Cape of Good Hope.

Beach huts in Simon's TownWe soon get to False Bay, tucked in behind the Cape. The scenery, as always, is spectacular and we can imagine that this bay must provide some welcome shelter from Atlantic storms. This is clearly very well served by tourists – the brightly painted beach huts on the coast are impossible to miss – and running alongside the coast road is a railway line. We even got to spot the steam train running along the line.

Steam train on its way to Simon's TownThe train, like us, is heading for Simon’s Town,  a pretty little seaside town where we stop for a quick look around. They are proud of their history here too – we find out that Simon’s Town, like Stellenbosch, is named after Simon Van Der Stel the first Dutch Governor of the colony in the Cape. Walking around the town, we also come across a plaque claiming that Nelson came ashore here in the 18th Century – though before he became an admiral.

I'm the king of the castle...Just on down the coast, a little way out of town, there are signs to a penguin colony. Whilst we were in Punta Arenas, down by Cape Horn, we went out to visit a similar colony. As we have driven around the coast we have been surprised just how different the two capes (of Africa and South America) have been from one another. To find that there are penguin colonies in both places is to find a similarity that we weren’t expecting. Even better, we can get much closer to the penguins here – whilst the breeding / nesting area is fenced off the beach isn’t and we come across some penguins sunning themselves on the rocks seemingly happy to pose for photos.

Looking down on the Cape of Good HopeBy now we are heading down into the peninsula and into the Cape of Good Hope National Park. There are actually two capes here (for the price of one!) – the southerly one is the Cape of Good Hope (though not as far south as Cape Agulhas, which we visited a few days ago); alongside it, pointing out is the promontory of Cape Point. The countryside now is like moorland – lots of boulders and scraggly heathers and other sparse grasses. We need to crack on and so we don’t stop for the memorials to Da Gamma and Dias, the Spanish navigators who first sailed around here.

The lighthouse at Cape PointOur first stop is at Cape Point where we can see the old lighthouse at the top of the hill. There is a funicular railway to get up there, but we decide that that is for gringos only – actually, that the queue of people is likely to be too long – and so we walk up the path. We are rewarded by the views from the top and particularly the sight of the Cape of Good Hope laid out below us, jutting out into the green-blue waters. We can see right across the bay (in the other direction) and see the far coastline rising and falling in the distance.

A Rock Hyrax ("dassie") - my cousin's an elephant doncha know There is a further walk out to the tip of the Cape, which again we felt compelled to do. Here we come across our next wildlife in the shape of Rock Hyrax. These creatures are rabbit sized but are apparently more closely related to elephants than to anything else (or are they the elephant’s closest relative?) Either way, it seems rather far fetched but we hear this from a couple of different sources, so it is probably true.

Some poseurs by a signFlowers at the CapeWe are now definitely feeling the time pressure (why is there so much good stuff here?) and there is still quite a bit more to do and to see today. Compared to the other capes we have been to, then there isn’t much of a spectacle at the Cape of Good Hope. The big draw, of course, is the nameboard sign with people queuing to have their photos taken behind it. We get in just after a big crowd of Chinese and just before a group who descend from an adventure truck (probably like the one we will be on soon enough). She Shien to the Chinese chap who took our photo.

Who's a pretty boy then?On our way back from the Cape(s), we pass a group of ostriches. We have passed many ostrich farms on our drive along the Garden Route but not seen ostriches roaming freely before and so, once again, we have to stop for some photos. We are perhaps even more circumspect with the ostriches than we were with the baboons a few days ago – the claws on their feet really do look wicked. (Apparently there is an ostrich farm within the National Park).

The lighthouse at KommetjieNow we are properly on the west coast of Africa and heading north up to Cape Town. The coast road continues to deliver great views – including the Slangkoppunt Lighthouse at Kommetjie. And then we get to Chapman’s Peak and every other view we’ve had over the last week is knocked into a cocked hat. Here we have a road that is carved (literally) into the side of a cliff. As it worms its way around the coast, gradually climbing we eventually get to the viewpoint at the top and our breath is taken away.

The road to Chapman's PeakThere is the sheer feat of engineering to make the road in the first place and there is the golden light of the sun low in the sky making the rocks behind us glow and the sea in front sparkle. We can see across Hout Bay to the outskirts of Cape Town and what must be Table Mountain behind it. And then, there in the bay, is a large pod of dolphins leaping about in the water below. With the naked eye we could see there was something in the water and fortunately Janet’s binoculars weren’t buried too deeply in her backpack and we were able to see them clearly.

Looking out across Hout Bay to Cape Town and Table MountainIts not surprising that we are tired and that it is getting dark by the time we get to Cape Town. Its Sunday evening, none of the local restaurants seem to be open and the hotel doesn’t have our reservation from (the first time this has ever happened to us). Still, we get all this sorted – there is space in the hotel and an open take-away pizza restaurant. What a wonderful way to end our drive along the Garden Route. We weren’t sure what to expect when we landed in South Africa and there is no way that we imagined so many wonderful sights. We now have a couple of days to explore Cape Town. What else can there be to see here? We can’t wait to find out.

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2 Responses to Day 265: Good Hope–Great Views

  1. Stacey Hansen says:

    Beautiful photos.

    • BlogAdmin says:

      Thanks, Stacey. I thought it would be hard to compete with Borneo but Africa is managing to do that.

      Good to hear from you – how is the house-building coming on?


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