Hit the road for a Cape adventure

June 10th, 2010 in African travel by Terry Lee 0
At the Cape of Good Hope

I’m away in Thailand this week – more to come on that later. But I’m very excited about the start of the World Cup (have you made your score predictions in our competition yet?). I’ll be watching the first few matches over a Singha beer somewhere between Koh Chang and Pattaya. But with the start of the football finals just around the corner Terry details one of our greatest South African experiences here.

To get straight to the point, South Africa is the most incredible country out of the 50-plus I have visited. And if travel is about the journey as much as the destination South Africa has it all, with some brilliant opportunities to take to the road. Just one of the great trips we undertook was from Cape Town along the Cape Peninsular to Cape Point – a journey of some 65 kilometres encapsulating awesome landscapes.

Our adventure began on a bright sunlit mid-morning as we climbed into our hire car for our first drive on the African continent. Leaving Cape Town we followed the western coastal road, which perfectly revealed the beauty of the rugged coastline. Vast tracks of greenery were interspersed with small hamlets and expansive empty beaches were lapped by the Atlantic Ocean.

From  cool Camps Bay, to homely Llandudno (not too dissimilar to it’s Welsh namesake) and the sweeping views of Hout Bay, the imposingly drama of Chapman’s Peak and the lonely lighthouse at the rocky inlet of Kommetjie the coastline proved ever more seductive and yet strangely calming.

Arriving at Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope we hit a wholly different landscape that was wild and intoxicatingly beautiful. Suddenly the bright sunshine of the Cape faded  while the remaining light flitted and flirted in a sweeping Viennese Waltz across the barren land. As we drove deeper into the park ostriches appeared feeding alongside the roadside, as if to add to the surrealness of the experience.

Parking up, we strolled to the famous Old Cape Point lighthouse to take in the vast view, feeling as though we were at the ends of the Earth – the next land mass is Antarctica – 6,200 kilometres away. Meanwhile the roaring Atlantic whipped up an angry cauldron of marine trouble far below the lighthouse – many of the greatest seafarers have fought a losing battle with the ocean and it’s driving tides here over the centuries.

As deadly a witches brew as it was it was also enthralling watching the tides ripping and rushing over the deadly rocks below. Stealing ourselves away from the view we drove on to the Cape of Good Hope, posed for the obligatory touristy photo at the sign declaring it the most south-western point of Africa, stopped to acknowledge the vast ocean before us, then headed off again on our return to Cape Town, on the eastern coastal road.

Once again beautiful views and charming towns such as Simons Town chartered the way. But one essential stop-off was to see the penguins at Boulders Bay, where they nestle in their thousands on the warm sandy beach. These African penguins proved fantastic characters, waddling their penguin walk up the beach, diving into the sea on their stomachs and digging holes to keep their eggs warm and safe, but there were two things that stood out – first the smell – naturally penguins eat fish and the air was heavy with the smell of stale sardines. Then there was the noise – at first a startling but funny braying that has given them the name Jackass penguins.

Heading onwards we journeyed through quaint Simons Town stopping in Kalk Bay for dinner at the marvellous Cuban restaurant Cape to Cuba, that had been recommended to us. Having been to Cuba I loved the authenticity of the memorabilia making it feel more like Havana than the Western Cape while the chef also served up excellent food.

Driving back towards Cape Town on the M3 motorway, we made up for what we lost in scenery in speed and were soon beneath the shade of Table Mountain again. Our Cape Peninsular road trip turned out to be one of the most memorable days in many, many great days of travel so if you’re in Cape Town for the World Cup you’ll definitely score with this trip from the city.

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