Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I brake for deserted beaches...

Cape Town may be a mere two-hour flight from Johannesburg, but it is a different world. I took advantage of Monday-Tuesday meetings at the LRC Cape Town office, and headed for Cape Town on Friday afternoon for a long tourist weekend. 

Upon arrival, I immediately started my drive south along the coast on the eastern side of the Cape Peninsula. The coast road runs right along the water's edge; and the scenery is gorgeous! My destination was Boulders Beach. The beach is located just outside of Simon's Town and is home to a colony of African Penguins

Simon's Town

Boulders Beach
African Penguins
The African Penguins are an endangered species. In the early 1980s, a few pairs started nesting at Boulders Beach. The penguins are now a major tourist attraction. Despite what some might think, I voiced my intentions to visit the penguins long before Bruce Springsteen paid them a visit between his concerts in Cape Town and Johannesburg. 

They are quite clever; some have started waddling up to the B&B to nest in the garden during the night. They hop from ledge to ledge to get over the garden wall and settle in for the night. 

My B&B, Boulders Beach Lodge, was right on the beach. This gave me the opportunity to spend the evening on the balcony watching the moon rise and listening to the surf.The wind is pretty fierce and the temperature drops into the low 60s. Basically I was in heaven (just $75 US a night, full English breakfast included)!

I was so taken with the scenery, I didn't notice there wasn't television in the room until the next morning. 
On Saturday morning I hung out with the penguins until the crowds starting arriving. 

Beach parking is at a premium and the regulations ruthlessly enforced. Anyone else think the national park logo looks like a bikini top?

As I continued driving south along the coast I kept pulling over to look at the scenery. My destination was the Cape Point nature reserve which is at the southern end of the Cape Peninsula. 

I spent the day hiking the Cape Point lighthouse trail and Cape of Good Hope Scenic Walk and driving all the roads of the nature reserve. 

The "flora" was incredibly diverse.

Unlike Skellig Michael, these trails did not require clinging to the side of a cliff. I hiked (walked) up to the Cape Point lighthouse as a warm up. 

At the top, I popped into the shop for an ice cream. As usual, there was evidence of South Africa's broad view of copyright and trademark infringement.

Next I took on the Cape of Good Hope scenic walk. This was more of a scrabble than a walk; although I don't suppose "Cape of Good Hope Scenic Scrabble" would be considered appropriate signage.  

Selfie proof that I made it to the top!

The cheesy tourist photo opt! I jumped in the photo queue just as a tourist bus pulled up! Personally I don't think you should get your picture taken if you don't do the walk/scrabble.
I spent the rest of the afternoon driving the roads of the nature reserve. Along the way I discovered I have a great need for a bumper sticker that reads "I brake for deserted beaches." Since the Atlantic Ocean was a tad cool, I just touched my toes in and kept walking these endless gorgeous beaches.  

As the day passed, I learned I also braked for ostriches,


This baboon stopped two lanes of traffic when he strolled into the road, sat down, lifted a bit of pavement, and partook of his bug and grub buffet. He eventually put the lid back on the buffet and strolled on.
turtles, scorpions, chameleons, bicyclists, and tourists driving on the wrong side of road. I note proudly that for once it wasn't me!

On Sunday I continued my drive around the peninsula; heading back up the west side. There were more gorgeous beaches. 

At Scarborough, I turned to cross back over the mountain to return to Simon's Town. When you are lulled by all this natural beauty, South Africa has a way of slapping you with its reality. Just as I made a turn in a switchback, I passed the Red Hill Township. I don't engage in poverty tourism so I don't take photographs. There are some videos taken of Red Hill on YouTube if you want to see the poverty and hardship of township life

I spent Saturday evening much as I had spent Friday evening--watching the moon and the surf. On Sunday, I spent a lovely day with a family that has a home on the beach in False Bay. In False Bay the Atlantic Ocean is buffeted by the warm currents of the Indian Ocean and for the first time since arriving here in South Africa I went swimming! 

I made the return trip up the coast road to Cape Town and easily found my hotel in Green Market Square. As a major tourist destination, Cape Town is kept swept and cleaned and on-the-ground security is highly visible. 

On Monday evening, I had a a chance to take in my one and only tourist attraction in the city of Cape Town itself. I headed off to Table Mountain; since I didn't have the time to walk/hike the 2 hour climb, I road the cable car. There is a magnificent reserve on the top of the mountain that I wandered around in for 2 hours.  

Walking path. 

A not-so-shy little furry friend.
A new take on grafitti

Every view was spectacular. I loved the clouds rolling in.
On Tuesday, I dropped off "Boris" at Avis and headed home to Jo-Berg. 

Boris challenged my love of all things Italian. Although he had comfortable seating, good visibility, lots of zip, and didn't slow down with the air on, he had one major downside. The top of the steering wheel blocked my view of the speedometer. 
I hope to get back to explore the city of Cape Town. Despite its hyper-tourism feel, there are some gems I have read about that I would enjoy visiting. As Paul Theroux writes in his book, The Last Train to Zona Verde,

"Reading can also be a powerful stimulus to travel. That was the case for me from the beginning. Reading and restlessness -- dissatisfaction at home; a sourness at being indoors, and a notion that the real world was elsewhere -- made me a traveler. If the Internet were everything it is cracked up to be, we would all stay home and be brilliantly witty and insightful. Yet with so much contradictory information available, there is more reason to travel than ever before: to look closer, to dig deeper, to sort the authentic from the fake; to verify, to smell, to touch, to taste, to hear, and sometimes -- importantly -- to suffer the consequences of this curiosity."


  1. I wish I could spend a day with penguins during one of my work trips. That's neat!

  2. Penguins! So cool! I'm glad you're having some fun down there. Enjoy the weather for us, because here we are officially in the snowiest winter ever for Indianapolis. And it stinks.


    1. -Vanessa
      Yesterday on the Gauteng train from the airport, two people were bemoaning the coming of winter here. I kept thinking - "winter, what winter?" The usual 6:45 am opening of the library must be brutal! You have my sympathy. See you soon, Catherine

  3. Penguins and beaches -- what a great trip! I feel warm looking at those spectacular beaches - it has been a very chilly winter back here. Really enjoy reading about your travels.