Cycling the Cape of Good Hope

Trip Start Nov 14, 2009
Trip End Dec 11, 2009

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Penthouse on Long

Flag of South Africa  , Western Cape,
Saturday, December 5, 2009

Got up early today to take a daytrip to the Cape Peninsula, including the Cape of Good Hope, the most 'south western' point in Africa (clever PR people huh?).  Did the trip with Daytrippers.  I set off with Sophie, a French born, German reared, Vienna residing Austrian airlines flight attendant, who is sharing the hostel room with me.  The other two on the tour were two jetsetting Americans from New York, who by all appearances have touched down everywhere I can think of.

The first stop was Hout's bay, whose main attraction is a boat ride to see an island of fur seals.  The actual bay is ringed by mountains and communities climbing up the slopes, but the bay is chock full of tourists (Chinese today) and souvenir sellers.  The boat ride is really pleasant with a stiff breeze, and the seals are lazing about.  You first smell them--a stench of rotting fish and then you see all these buoy like things laying in the water, with a flipper out.  Apparently, they like to lie on their sides, head underwater with either the right of left flipper standing straight out of the water.  Not particularly in a playful mood, most of the seals lay sunbathing, in typical Cape Townian fashion, on the rocks and watching us watching them.  One of the more amazing things is the clarity of the water.  You can see down to the bottom, white rocks with kelp forests sprouting from them, looking like sea snakes.

From Hout Bay, we drove over Chapman's drive, a snake-like road halfway up a mountain barely staving off rockslides, to an overview of Hout bay.  I have to say that Cape Town is an improbable place for a city, as it's bascially carved out of the slopes of Table Mountain and Devil's peak. But people have settled the area and it makes for some amazing sights, of the secluded bays and isolated neighborhoods.

Next we headed to Simon's Town, a retirement area filled with rich houses and a naval base to boot.  The local celebrity was a dog that became part of the Navy and whose 'marraige' and funeral were attended by a wealth of celebrities and state officials.  But the draw now is the jackass penguin colony.  For all those looking to commune with the penguins, there're two sections of Boulder's beach where the penguins live.  The first is the park section which you pay and the penguins are fenced away.  The second is down the road a bit, a small community park where you can see the penguins up real close.  There are fewer penguins at the second sight, but you can literally stare face and face with them (they have disconcertingly pink eyelids).  And it's free.  It was so disorienting walking into the park and almost stepping on a penguin hiding in a bush.

From Simon's Town, we headed into the Cape Point national park, which extends down to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope.  From here, we cycled some 5 km to Cape of Good Hope, over some gorgeous shrubby paths.  The park is a sanctuary for Cape baboons, which we saw only one of (outside the park), but we're told some days you're overrun.  Plus, baboons, as our guide liked to day, can be really spiteful and take over cars, so we kept a keen eye out in case they flocked to us to steal our cell phones.  But we did see some wild ostriches (who knew they lived here?) to Cape of Good Hope, which was overrun by tourists.  We got the prerequisite photo op and hiked up an 1.5 hr path to the overlooks and then the lighthouse at actual Cape point.  On the way, there's a totally secluded beach called Dias beach--white sand, accessible only by a staircase from the hiking path, but we didn't have enough time to go.  Too bad, next time.

All in all, a particularly great day out in the sunshine and seeing all this nature surrounding Cape Town.  It's a like a totally different country here, with winelands outside, peaks all over the place and barren brush, nature reserves and sandy beaches all within an hours drive.  

Totally dozed off on the way back to town, but had a great day.  Tomorrow, biking around the Winelands, near Stellenbosch.
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